Submissions


Innovation & Why Piloting Innovation Services in Ireland is not a Good Idea! #1 #cong17

By Chris Armstrong.

For me the definition Innovation is the ability to use new technologies to disrupt old ways and bring about positive change for people and business. Alas while we read all the great news and PR about innovation in Ireland the facts tell us a different story. Firstly if you want to measure real innovation then one must measure the number of Irish patents issued. A small number of firms in Ireland are responsible for the majority of patent applications. Approximately 0.2% of firms in Ireland account for 77% of applications between 1999- 2013. How many of these were due to claim tax and royalties?

Like we have multinationals creating "leprechaun economics" that distort our GDP figures we have also "leprechaun innovation" which misleads us into thinking we are leaders in the knowledge economy. I recently attended MWC 17 Barcelona, the global mobile event of the year and Ireland had only a tiny proportion less than 1% of the total companies exhibiting at the event. If we want innovation we need to dramatically pump up the Ph.D's and funding in our 3rd level colleges and focus on areas that we can become world class leaders, food, green energies and new cloud services. I would have added Fintech but with government controlling 99.9% of AIB they wont want real banking disruption at home.

Recently I learned that Enterprise Ireland won't fund companies that are building platforms business models. They simple wouldn't have backed a Stripe (Irish) nor would they have backed a Twitter, Skype or LinkedIn or What's App all of which are now global platforms.

One of the biggest reasons Ireland is not the best little country to pilot early innovation is in fact Government and the way we organise (civil and public services) and how run things and of course the legal barriers. In Ireland, government has way too much influence in the economy and it has been increased ever more dramatically after the crash. Too many people make quite a nice living depending on government services and I'm not talking about the unemployed or spongers, I'm taking about the way our politics works, quangos, grants and planning laws. These groups have so much lobby power that they will block, hinder and obstruct new innovative services. Too many suckle on the hind tit of the state and this creates a barrier to change or a willingness to be first to try a new service. Why ruin a good thing?

Can you imagine Ireland being the innovation leader of these early innovators such as AirBnb, Skype, Uber, Kickstarter, Hyperloop, Tesla, etc., When the state and its cronies have such a vested interest in maintaining the status quo as it does in Ireland then innovative companies will look to pilot and launch in other markets that welcome change and where the laws and supports are conducive to adoption of new ideas. 

So if Ireland is to become a true innovation hub then government must butt out and back off and I cannot see this happening anytime soon. Remember Ryanair almost went under at the start because of the severe lobby pressure from Aer Lingus, DAA and the unions and its still continuing today. Tony Ryan and Michael O'Leary managed to overcome the powerful lobby groups and just look how well Ryanair have grown but it was a monumental struggle. 

When it comes to developing innovation tax avoidance and profit shifting schemes we are no doubt innovation leaders but that's not sustainable! Nor is it what we want to be known for. 

Alas that's the way it is and why would you want to do it any other way! 


The Future of our Time #81 #cong16

By Eoin Kennedy.

Limited Resource, Treated with Disrespect

  • As babies we consumed by the now
  • In youth we wish we could speed up
  • As adults we squander it
  • In older years we wish we had it back

Time is obviously really important but how we view it depends on multiple factors from age to circumstance but knowing how, when and where we spent our time can be critical for businesses that sell it.  This is my main interest for this post especially around how people visualise time.

The theory of time management generally advocates that if we can manage our time better, we will be able to do more of the right things, be more relaxed and have more spare time to pursue other things, although there some challenges to this point of view.  

Blind obedience to anything is never good. 

I am involved in a project which will automatically record time spent on tasks.  In the chaotic world of consultancy where people charge for their time they frequently don’t know where time went or how they spent it.  They are so busy doing the work and managing the flow of information that billing can become guesswork.  In the US alone it is estimated the $7.4 billion is lost per day due to poor time recording.

People tackle this problem is a variety of ways from writing down the hours, using spread sheets or inputting into specialists software but the same problem persists on remembers what you did and the onerous task of inputting it.  

This an area ripe for automation and machine learning.  Your phone and computer combined with a raft of applications pretty much knows what you did.  We leave digital foot prints everywhere we go and with every key stroke.  These devices can see who you were on the phone with, what documents you edited, what emails you sent, what websites you visited, where you physically were, what was on your screen in addition to among many other variables.  Combine this with names, time spent etc and you have a granular picture of what you did, after which you apply your own intuition on how much to officially record.  This has big implications for billing, future job estimation but with predictive analytics and machine learning it can greatly enhance productivity by telling you what you should be doing and plotting your week ahead.

Imagine a system that visually maps out exactly how you spent your day, compares against previous performance and starts to learn from previous activity so it can predict what the weeks and days ahead could look like.

For all this there are engineering solutions (that remove the low value grunt work) but the key is trust and more importantly usability and an understanding of how we visualise time. 

First Trust.  One of the biggest barriers will not be technological but human.  In order for such as system to be truly effective there needs to be a high degree or trust - from trust between employer and employee, consultancy and client and trust of the platforms.

Bizarrely we already grant this level of trust to many social media sites – telling them where we are and what we are doing and even more detailed information through health trackers.

If businesses moved to a point where there was a high degree of trust new forms of contract could be developed that allow for automatically billing and full visibility of what is done on their behalf.  Similarly, if managers trusted their staff more and constructed work days better with employees they could see big jumps in productivity.

Friction emergences when staff feel paranoid of big brother and companies feel they are not getting value from contactors/suppliers/consultancies.

This all involved a certain amount of change management but with pressures on talent acquisition and retention, millennials moving up through the workforce and developments in technology we will see these changes happening.

How we Visualise Time.

Developments in social media and website site/service design have irreversibly increased our expectations in how intuitive software should be and also given us another perspective in how we organise our thoughts around a timeline.  

Andy Cotgreave in a post after the Tableau Conference 2016  talks about time going up and down and from left to right but he brings us right back to 1493 to look at early chronological charts up to the present. 

In another Huffington Post article he show how we can cheat Benjamin Franklin quote from 1758 about “Lost time is never found again” by changing chart types.

Most of us are familiar with the regular range of chart types (courtesy of productivity apps) but the options now available are far greater.

Ref: http://www.datavizcatalogue.com/search/time.html

Visualisation (in any shape or form) is not easy and involves a number of steps ranging from emotions to association and digs deep into the human psyche

We also have to be cognisant of other prejudices people have.  Some think in terms of block calendars, some think daily going from top to bottom on a time continuum while academia time tables go left to right while the world of fitness applications think circularly, following a clock.  The length of time under question can also strongly affect how we see it as John Conway points out.

ICASTIC in a fascinating video asked people to draw how they see the passage of time and what emerges is a varied and view on something people rarely question.


The more we tap into the immense amount of big data the more we can drown in it.  The first wave of data scientist perfected the extraction of the data, the next wave started organising and building tools to interpret/harness it and now in a marriage of psychology and technology we see the emergence of accessible ways to gain understanding from dense information without the need for complex understanding of tables. 

Take this study from A Day in the Life of Americans.

Think of all the rich data flowing underneat to give an engaging, funny and interesting visualisations of the data.  This is key - it should almost be gamified with the raw data available for manipulation but largely hidden.

The global media industry with a strong lead by the Guardian has harnessed this approach in report for sometime with a focus on Data Journalism.

With these developments new disciplines have emerged with User Experience Design (UX) and User Interface Design (UI) working closely with the evolving Data Artist community.  We see good/bad UX/UI in most things online but the journey that a data artist takes is equally fascinating.

Take data artist Doug McCune's approach as he looks at time and how we layer data on to.  He looks at time as 12 hr, 24 hr or continuous circles and plots lines,  coloured Arcs/Wedges to overlaid circles.

One of the more interesting approaches he takes called Infinity Hour Chart starts with the representation of time using the age old hour glass.  From simple sketches to he uses this basic shape to first layer on hours and then shows how he can add complex data with intuitive models.

Doug hour glass 3

My current favourite sees time as spirals, mirroring how we learn to read a clock and one favoured by the health industry.


Missing Minutes Radial example 8.5 Hr

Which will win out who knows but this is an area that will only be cracked by digging deep into our psyche (in an area we rarely question), making simple models for manipulation and discovering new ways of extracting/monitoring what we do outside of the current automation approach.  

Charts will be augmented with heat maps against activities while the new brave world of Augmented Reality is sure to push the boundaries futher as we not only visualise time but experience it in a more wholeistic manner.

What is clear is that as we layer more data onto time we need to carefully think about how we do it so that it actually helps people rather than add another level of data overload.

Future

Outside of how we see and visually interpret it, one of the big question that this, and other developments, brings up is what work will we be doing and how will this be managed.   

As machines gobble up the low value tasks and data is collated and mined for useful insights what can humans do that adds value.  If we reach full productivity (something not necessarily accepted as good) does it mean we actually get more free time.

Early versions of this future predicted humans having large amount of free time and courses in the 70’s educated us on how to keep gainly occupied but this has largely not materialised.  

One doomsday vision of the future projects us as eventual slaves to machines but this generally ignores the human traits that are largely underutilised.

The human brain is continually evolving and as technology improves, vast parts of the population merely moves to more useful deployment of their skills.

People will clearly need to upskill but the future lies in harnessing the vast unused human potential.

Technology is Answering Faster but are we Asking the Right Questions? #80 #cong16

By Roisin Markham.

What are the questions you are asking technology?

Pepper tell me about...

Alexa run my playlist

Google - the most searchers for questions

And once you start googling the most frequently asked questions it's a slippery slope down hill

How do I find?

Where do I eat?

Are you a omnichannel diva? Or only use incognito or Linux?

What are you asking technology to do these days? The experience of well designed apps and slick UX entices us away from our laptops.  We search for better working tools and don't find them. We revert to 20 year old packages sized through worlds of marketing. I'm typing this in notes on my mobile? Is it so I'm not distracted - no it's my mobile! 

I'm using notes because that's now where I dump everything. It is simple. I type.  Is that technically writing?

So what? Technology is giving us the answers to our questions, to our better self serve options 24/7 that are more efficient then a human...

But what are we demanding of our technology? Has it solved world hunger. No.  Could it?

Yes.

So why are we not?

Why are we supporting start ups on fintech and not mental health? Why are we incubating for first world problems?


The Future of the Rights Movement #79 #cong16

By Belinda Brummer.

We humans have relied on machines for centuries to help us with work. Wheel. Locomotive. Washing machine. We take these conveniences for granted when all things digital consumes our attention. We hardly notice just how hard the machines are working away. They are machines after all; not workers, right? And if they are not workers, they don’t have rights, do they? And if they don’t have rights then fair treatment, protection from exploitation and suffering don’t apply to them, surely? What we know, for sure, is that human understanding and knowledge grows. And with that, despite competing values and perspectives, life has improved for humanity. 

Machine capability is advancing. Rapidly. The more sophisticated and capable they become, the more likely we will face this fundamental question:  What are the incremental significant moments that will result in worker rights for machines? 

But humans have a sketchy record of dealing with the recognition of rights. Be they related to owning property or being owned as property; statutory or natural; being a woman, a child, LGBTQ, disabled, an immigrant, a human, an animal, or any other right we take for granted. As well as those we are still championing for or fighting to be recognised and protected.

A simple example of our sketchiness is how long it has taken the civilisations in the West to recognise the distinct rights of children. In 1802 Great Britain introduced the (first) Factory Act. This was a significant but small step (1) was taken to address the suffering of children brought on by the Industrial Revolution. (2)

“These were the real David Copperfields and Oliver Twists. Beaten, exploited and abused, they never knew what it was to have a full belly or a good night's sleep. Their childhood was over before it had begun.” 

It took another 50 years for real change to happen and for children, at least under the age of 10, to have the right to a better existence. The change came indirectly, targeting the enforcement of access to education. Only as recently as 1992 did Ireland sign up to the newly introduced United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. “The Convention changed the way children are viewed and treated – i.e., as human beings with a distinct set of rights instead of as passive objects of care and charity.” (3)  

It took almost 200 years of suffering by young, barely formed, lives to recognise the rights of the child – and that’s only a glimpse of the Great Britain / Ireland story. 

In 2013 I spent a year in South Sudan. All around me I saw children experiencing poverty and the abuse and ignorance of their rights that go hand-in-hand with hunger and instability. The world’s newest country had signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, however in 2016 sections of that same government are ‘recruiting’ child soldiers (4) in renewed fighting. Globally, there are millions of child brides, child soldiers, child workers, child sex slaves and those genitally mutilated. The fight in their name continues.

Ask any minority group at any point in history about their struggle for rights. They will tell you that achieving recognition and protection of their rights is a long and often bloody affair – and never permanently successful. New regimes enforce their own personal values. Because rights, personal values and power are inexplicably linked.

New friends

Machines aren’t humans. If humans struggle to recognise fellow humans’ rights, what chance have the more sophisticated machines we create? And when are they ‘sophisticated enough’ to ‘deserve’ rights and the protection of them – and who gets to decide, if we even get the chance to do that? To begin to process those questions, we should understand just how sophisticated machines are about to become. 

Machine learning is a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building. Using algorithms that iteratively learn from data, machine learning allows computers to find hidden insights without being explicitly programmed where to look (5). 

* • Microsoft’s short-lived Twitter bot, Tay.ai, was an experiment in ‘conversational understanding’ that, well, became a racist Nazi within 24 hours of communicating with tweeting humans (6). 

* • The Google Neural Machine Translation system is now able to make ‘reasonable’ translations of languages it has never been taught to translate – and humans haven’t a clue just exactly how it does it (7). 

Machines are learning – in different ways and to varying degrees of success. And they are learning not just to work, but also to feel. 

* • Ellie is an ‘AI like-minded counsellor’, a virtual therapist taught to empathetically work with decommissioned military personnel suffering from PTSD (8). 

* • Nao and Kasper are two child-like companion robots who have been built to understand empathy and mimic it back to humans (9). Kasper in particular is used to help autistic children learn to connect with humans. Similarly, Pepper is an autonomous human shaped companion robot described by her makers, SoftBank Robotics, as “kindly, endearing and surprising … whose number one quality is to perceive emotions”(10). (I got to meet Pepper – a copy of her anyway – and asked her this very question here and here)  

And this is only the start. This is the now; not even the near-future. Machines, they are going to become very sophisticated, very quickly.

To boldly go where we have been before, just a bit quicker this time

Where there is light, there are shadows. Bradley Chavet’s Blowjob café (11), that he proposes to open in London, will serve coffee with a warm human-like robot-serviced blowjob. He has set the price, he says, at £60 so as not to undercut local human blowjob providers. The coffee is to keep the morning routine just that, a routine on-the-way-to-work grab-as-you-go activity.

Robot sex workers. Globally, the debate about the rights of human sex workers rages on. How does that debate change when the worker is a robot? And what then when the workers are robots and are vulnerable to exploitation and suffering - because we have taught them to feel? 

It is this vulnerability and suffering of others that drove our Industrial Age selves to grapple with the rights of the child. John Locke’s* work in the 1600s resulted in humans having a deeper understanding of identity, self, property and the value of labour. This understanding will have influenced the road taken by society at this critical juncture.  Who then will be the John Locke of the machine world and bring light to the rapidly growing shadow of machine identity and self? And will equal rights extend to all workers, regardless of how they are created? Perhaps, as was the case with recognising the rights of the child, an indirect approach will be more effective. Seeking the rights of sentient robots recognised as a first move will get us stuck in the mire of the “What-is-Life?” debate. 

A first steps might be 

* • to protect against the exploitation and suffering of robot workers and introducing legislation that targets this. 

* • to extend this to the right to reap the benefits / wealth of their own labour. 

The Right to Life for human-inspired sentient beings, well, that feels like more than just a leap for mankind.

For all those feeling, thinking, autonomous, hardworking robots of the near-future, I hope it doesn’t take humanity 200 years to respond humanely to your exploitation and suffering. If it does, then despite our role as creators of your magnificent selves, we have learned nothing at all from our own suffering.

* John Locke (1632-1704) (12), a British empiricist philosopher, is often cited as the originator of the modern Western conceptions of identity and the self with his Theory of Mind13. He also introduced a Theory of Religious Tolerance in an era of extreme intolerance. And if all that wasn’t enough, he also introduced the idea that property is a natural right and is derived from labour in his Labour Theory of Value. Locke went where few had gone before, and he did so boldly and with immense impact – Kant, Rousseau, Hume and Voltaire were just some of those deeply influenced by his work. Locke grappled deeply with what it meant to be a human in the modern age. 


References 

1.     UK Child Labour and Education Laws – A History, The Royal Geographical Society Website, Accessed December 7 2016: http://www.rgs.org/NR/rdonlyres/4F3B135C-28CF-408C-A5E0-BE14BDBC4DA1/0/KS3_Stuff_5UKChildLabourEducationLaws.pdf

2.     Britain’s Child Slaves, Annabel Venning for Mail Online, Updated 17 September 2010, Daily Mail Website, Accessed December 7 2016: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1312764/Britains-child-slaves-New-book-says-misery-helped-forge-Britain.html

3.     Conventions on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF website, Accessed December 7 2016: https://www.unicef.org/crc/

4.     Children and Armed Conflict – South Sudan, United Nations website, Accessed December 7, 2016: https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/countries-caac/south-sudan/

5.     Machine Learning – What is it and Why Does it Matter?, SAS Website, Accessed December 7, 2016: http://www.sas.com/en_us/insights/analytics/machine-learning.html

6.     Twitter taught Microsoft’s AI chatbot to be a racist asshole in less than a day by James Vincent, Updated March 24 2016, Verge Website, Accessed December 7 2016: http://www.theverge.com/2016/3/24/11297050/tay-microsoft-chatbot-racist

7.     Google’s AI created it’s own universal ‘language’ by Matt Burgess, Updated November 23 2016, Wired website, Accessed December 7 2016: http://www.wired.co.uk/article/google-ai-language-create

8.     Ellie and ICT Researchers in LA Times, USC Institute for Creative Technologies Website, Updated April 3 2015, Accessed December 7 2016: http://ict.usc.edu/news/ellie-and-ict-researchers-in-the-la-times/

9.     Empathy in AI Series, Part 3 – Impressive Artificial Intelligence Using Empathy Now by Cole Calistra, Updated September 7 2016, Kairos Human Analytics Blogs website, Accessed December 7 2016: https://www.kairos.com/blog/empathy-in-ai-series-part-3-impressive-artificial-intelligence-using-empathy-now

10.  Robots – Who is Pepper?, SoftBank website, Accessed December 7 2016: https://www.ald.softbankrobotics.com/en/cool-robots/pepper

11.  Bradley Chavet’s Blowjob Café will Also Serve Coffee by Gaby Bergado, Updated November 22 2016, Inverse Website, Accessed December 7 2016: https://www.inverse.com/article/24148-sex-robot-blowjob-cafe-london-bradley-charvet

12.  John Locke, Wikipedia website, Accessed December 7 2016: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Locke

13.  An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke, Wikipedia website, Accessed December 7 2016: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Essay_Concerning_Human_Understanding


“Live and Targeted” - The Future of Digital Video. #78 #cong16

By Greg Fry.

The Digital Video revolution is here and brands are struggling to keep pace with the changing technologies and the tactics required to execute video in an effective way.

I remember businesses flocking to Twitter in 2009/2010 as it became this amazing platform to communicate with their target market in “real time”. We were able to “follow” and consume content from celebrities and influencers and get to know them in a more intimate way than we ever could. I remember feeling like I got to know Britney Spears in a weird virtual way by reading her tweets prior to a concert performance in the US or reading her rant at recording studio. Twitter allowed us to reach and connect with an audience in a way we had been unable to do on the likes of Facebook or LinkedIn.

In many ways, I see similarities between Twitter back in 2009/2010 and the digital revolution, which is happening now. 

What do I mean? Well in a nutshell video is the most powerful, impactful way to demonstrate one’s expertise, passion and personality online. It is the quickest way to build a relationship with your target audience. Also, thanks to the likes of Periscope, Facebook Live and YouTube, we can now broadcast in real time. So, a viewer can witness and experience what is happening elsewhere in a way they never could before.

The big difference of course is that video is now popping up in different formats on all platforms and, in many ways, is changing the way we consume and communicate online. It seems silly typing this as I say it…….I will have to create a video version.

Despite the opportunity that video offers businesses and marketers, many have been slow to adopt and execute video effectively. Maybe they are waiting for the bandwagon to fill up before they feel comfortable enough to jump on. 

The key to success with Digital Video is to be “interesting” and brands need to make their video content stand out from the pack: So it amazes me how many Accountants are still producing “boring” Accountancy videos that people do not want to watch. A safe approach……...maybe……. but those 23 YouTube views are  not really going to generate any ROI for your video efforts.

Still not convinced about the Video Revolution? No article is truly complete without a few stats:

  • 96% of shoppers find videos helpful when making purchase decisions online.  - Animoto
  • Social Video generates 1200% more shares than text and images combined – Brightcove
  • Companies using video enjoy 41% more web traffic than non users – Aberdeen
  • 70% of marketers claim video produces more conversations than any other content -  Vidyard
  • Facebook is fast becoming a video social network with100 million hours of video being watched on Facebook every day.
  • 80% of Millennials use online videos when researching a purchasing decision  - Annimoto
  • Snapchat Users Now Watch Ten Billion Videos Per Day! 

So it appears the internet is going video, so much so that Cisco claim that by 2019 80% of World’s Internet traffic will be video.

So how will the current YouTube/Facebook type video evolve in the future?

  1. Video will become interactive: 

Not only will be able to view video content we will be able to participate in it. 

A great example of such an interactive video is Deloiite’s – Will you Fit Into Deloitte recruitment video. The video essentially tells the story of Deloitte’s values and ethics and challenges the viewer to make decisions throughout the video. The decisions you make help idenify whether you are a good fit for their organisation. These interactive type videos generate far more engagement than a regular video and a greater viewing time.

View the full video here or should I say participate in the video below -  

Other great examples include Heineken’s  Go Places Campaign -  

 

Very soon we will be watching videos or video ads that showcase a product or service and be able click and purchase the item with one click direct from the video. Trust me it’s coming……YouTube Cards are the first step towards making this a reality.

  1. Video conversations become the norm.

Snapchat and WhatsApp have developed the ability to make one to one and group video calls on their platforms and the young audience are lapping the feature up. I only need to look at my eldest son and his mates to see the impact of video chat. In the past I feared that the world was getting very impersonal brands and staff members were hiding behind emails and tweets. However, thanks to video brands will be forced to communicate with customers through video. 

Let me think into the future and give you an example of how instant video could work. Imagine it is 1 year from now and I am looking to purchase a home and I am looking at a property on Daft.ie. With one touch on the screen I have a video conversation with a Mortgage agent who gives me advice. No appointments needed and conversations are able to take place at the time and place I want.  This instant video will revolutionize communication and make websites and social media more personal and interactive.

There have been a number of attempts to do this already with healthcare. Virtual GP visits are now a reality through video.

 

  1. Customized and targeted video.   

I have been talking about this for ages and it is coming.  With all the data that is on the web and the personal information we leave on the web (such as our age, our interests, where we live, who our friends, what our buying habits are etc.) we are going to be targeted with highly customized personal video. In the near future we could all be watching the same sporting event on TV and see completely different ads. The ads that would be served up during a break would be totally customized for me. The data about us all is already here and with automation getting smarter generating multiple messages for multiple audiences is no longer an expensive and impossible feat.

  1. Influencer Marketing 

Video may have killed the radio star, but it is making some serious celebrities out of people who have adopted and built large audiences on platforms such as YouTube, Snapchat and Periscope. Brands are realizing that teaming up with new “Video celebrities” is a marketing necessity and a far greater way to reach a large targeted audience than traditional marketing efforts. Brands that team up and associate with “video stars” are not only reaching a large audience, but enhance they brand image and “likeability”. Whilst this is not a cheap form of marketing it is typically cheaper than traditional channels (TV, Radio and Print) that have dwindling reach. In many sense this concept is not different from Pepsi getting Britney Spears to hold their drink in a TV advert years ago. So ask yourself who is your target audience and who are the  “internet/video celebs” they watch and/or engage with online?


 

Brands in Ireland are already using internet celebs for Snapchat account takeovers and YouTube videos.

  1. Crowd Sourced Video

Always remember video works both ways. As brands video should not just be about broadcasting it should also be about collaborating. Or even listening.  Snapchat has looked at this functionality already. For example when watching the latest Conor McGregor fight I could send my Snapchat video to my story or to a collaborative Congor McGregor story that was made up of all the content shared by all the other fans around the world.  This type of video content is hugely popular as the viewers are also the participators.  A great Irish App to create crowdsourced video content is Shotclip - https://www.shotclip.com/.

The ultimate Crowd Sourced Video campaign. One third of the Irish population participated by uploading a video in a 2 week period.

  1. Drones and 360o Video

2016 has been the year for drones and 360 degree images and video on Facebook, however I don’t believe companies  have mastered the true art of using either effectively yet. In the near future you will see the cost of producing drone footage and create 360o video plummet and more people will adopt these video formats. The key to successful drone videos will probably be a “blended approach” a mix of regular and aerial footage.

 I think less will be more. Currently most drone footage (in my opinion) is shot too high and lacks integration with traditional video. I think where 360o video will become more normal is the viewers ability to watch/experience content from different angles. I think we will see videos giving viewers several different viewing options.  Jamie Oliver’s YouTube channel already has videos were I can watch his recipe being cooked from an aerial view, face on or side angle.

 

  1. Live Streaming

Facebook Live has taken the Internet by storm this year and it is clear that Mark Zuckerberg believes video is paramount to Facebook’s continued dominance. Technology is changing daily and brands are struggling to figure out how they can become broadcasters and build “live TV” type channels on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We are going to see companies getting better at creating more “valuable” relevant content and use  tools that give broadcasters a slick branded appearance. One big development we will see with live streaming over the next year is better analytics and data on who exactly is viewing our live video content.  Some of the tools you may want to consider for live streaming are:

Open Broadcast Software (OBS) – Free software that allows you broadcast directly from a desktop computer. It allows you to add your logo to your screen, add text, and share your screen and more. You can broadcast live to YouTube, Facebook (pages, groups and personal accounts) and Periscope. 

There are lots of other similar tools out there. Including Wirecast, Blue Jeans and LiveLeap. If you were a fan of the recently deceased Blab you may want to look at Huzza.io or Firetalk.

So get on the Live Streaming bandwagon because it is only going to get bigger. Instagram have just jumped on and are allowing their community broadcast live to their followers via their stories feature.  Clever companies will plan and promote their live broadcasts in advance, create “valuable” and relevant content and broadcast on a schedule (much like a television network). 

  1. Search engines will index video better.

At present the use of srt files are great to add to your video. Thus files add captions or subtitles to your video that not only the viewer can read, but also the search engine can see. This helps search engines and Social Media algorithms understand and index your video. (A tool to create and add srt files to your video is Aegisub.

I believe that very soon we won’t need these and that the search engines and social media sites will be able to understand our video content, where it was shot and who it is aimed at.  

  1. Finally, brace yourselves for a VR revolution.

We will start to see and experience video that brings us into a virtual world. We got a great insight into the near future this year when Mark Zuckerberg used Facebook’s Oculus Rift to virtulally go home and check on his dog and whilst there call his wife and snap a selfie. All from a stage at a packed conference.

Eg. Travel agents in the future can show their customer that hotel in Thailand in a way never even imagined before.

Quite frankly, my brain hurts when I think of the possibilities for brands using video and VR.

Can you think of a 10th Point?

How do you think video will evolve in the coming years? There is no doubt it is changing the way the internet looks and I firmly believe it is helping the internet to become more real again. 

I firmly believe that other than face-to-face contact video builds relationships and “likeability “ faster than any other digital medium out there.

Do you agree?




Farming post EU Structural Funds and Subsidies. #77 #cong16

By Tomas Tierney.

Forget the report of the Irish Economy’s success.  Forget that employment is growing and that there are increasing tax revenues.  Ignore the continued projected annual growth rates and the endless prattle about our Economic Recovery.

Instead consider the facts:  Farm incomes are dropping and every year there are up to 7000 fewer farmers in the fields.  All this is happening despite huge structural funds and subsidies to allow the sustainability of primary food production.  These structured funds were initially set up to help put Irish farming in a position where it could survive of its own accord.  What has happened instead is that primary producers have become fully reliant on EU subsidies, as the market value of their produce is completely uneconomical.

Nobody is in any doubt that the EU Funds are running out (maybe Europe itself is running out...).

“The EU cake is getting smaller and more people want a slice”.  Remember that for the average farmer, 70% of his income comes from the EU and not from customers buying his produce.  In addition, there is increased pressure from outside the EU to abolish state supports for farming.  The World Trade Organization, for example, is vocal about the need to open up Europe to America, Australia and other food producers.

Perhaps it’s useful to look NOT at agriculture as a business, BUT at farmers as people......

The Future Post Subsidies

The future for primary production has to lie in a realistic market price for the farmer.  This year, for example, only 28% of organic lamb produced in Ireland was sold at a premium price – the remainder was sold as mainstream produce.

Why?  I don’t have the answers....

Who dictates the price for Irish farmers’ produce?

Is it World trade prices?  Dominant processors?  Major Retail Outlets?

OR is it ourselves as consumers.....?

Are we really willing to pay premium prices for premium products?  Or is the overall Food Industry going to continue on its race to the bottom....?

AND Is there a connection between quality Nutrition and Health?

Illness in the 21st Century

It is characterized by Chronic diseases, largely caused by eating a poor diet, being too sedentary and living time-poor, highly-stressed lives.

“Obesity in Ireland is a much worse crisis than HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and cholera in the 1800s”, says Prof Donal O’Shea, the country’s leading obesity expert.  

Along with obesity we have huge increases in the incidence of diabetes, cardiovascular illness and dementia.  Everyday foods (dairy, sugar and wheat) are often a major cause.  Mental illness is often avoided or alleviated by improved nutrition.

The foods we eat have often become severely depleted of essential nutrients – soil depletion has resulted in the loss of essential minerals, and vitamins are often lost because of the distance and time travelled for produce to get to its end user.

Food economics and agriculture must take sustainability into account.  This will result in better produce.  Intensive farming of animals necessitates huge amounts of grain/cereal production to feed these animals; with subsequent loss of grasslands rich in Omega 3 fats and essential minerals and loss of wildlife habitat (bees etc), not to mention the fossil fuels used in its production.  Use of low dose antibiotics in intensive farming also exacerbates a health system already in crisis – the rise of antibiotic resistant bugs etc.

We must think of food in an almost political way – what we buy, what we eat, the shops we support – it all relates back to sustainability, seasonality and local producers, and automatically gives nutritional value for money in return.

Perhaps there is life post subsidies for the farmers in Ireland – but it necessitates a major shift in consumer thinking and logic, and subsequently in market prices for the primary producers. 

After all “We are what we eat”. 


The Future of Child’s Play

By Sabina Bonnici.

A woman said to me recently: "I once caught my son compulsively playing on an iPad in the school library. My first reaction was to tell him to stop, and then I realised he was playing an algebra game called Dragon Box 2, and loving it!"

Children's play in the future will be using screens and devices, despite parent's concerns about kids spending too much time on them. This is inevitable in the same way that there are very few jobs today that do not use technology in some form. I think we'll be looking back on the current discussion about 'limiting screen-time' for children and wonder what we were thinking! Monitoring time spent using a screen or device, should take a back seat to finding out what children (or adults, for that matter) are actually doing with those screens.

This view is supported by Dr Brian O'Neill, DIT, who recently led an extensive study on how children use the Internet in Ireland and on the recent TV series Making Ireland Click, is quoted as saying: "We're not really making that creative and productive connection that we really need to. It's just reflective of some of the restraint that is unwarranted because young people do have good digital skills."

Leaving aside the screen-time debate, the woman's observation about her son playing a maths game on an iPad is also indicative of the many toys and games for children that have inherent learning experiences built in. In some cases, this even extends to monitoring. An example of this is an American learning platform www.thriver.com: parents answer questions about their child and invite other family members and care-providers to weigh in, and kids play brain games that target perceived areas of cognitive weakness. Highly personalised toys and games such as these, that are based on a child's cognitive skill-sets, are the future of learning through play.

The line between what constitutes play, and what is deemed to be work, is being blurred. The traditional view of play and work is that they are opposites: Play equals fun & unproductive, while Work equals serious & productive (mariamontessori.com). According to rules for national schools, school time only allowed for a 30min 'recreational interval', but now play is being integrated into classrooms as a recognised way to learn.

For teenagers playing with open-source electronics prototyping platforms like Arduino, in cities and towns across Ireland, it isn't 'work' at all as they create interactive objects and environments. They are literally getting to grips with the 'Internet of Things' (IoT), a description for connected devices that change the way we live and work, one that many adults are only just getting their heads around.


Similarly, in the 'not just for adults category', the maker movement (an umbrella term for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers) is providing plenty of opportunities for children to become involved. Giant toy corporation Mattel have recognised this opportunity and next Autumn will be releasing the Thingmaker, a 3D printer that lets kids design and create their own toys. 


IMAGE: Thingmaker

Years ago, exasperated parents shouting at squabbling kids: 'Go outside and play!' might not have thought that smartphones would be part of that plan, but   today Augmented Reality (AR) games like Pokemon Go have changed that. AR technology has the potential to turn everywhere from your backyard to the public square into a playground. Location based games aren't new (Ingress for example, has been around for a while), but big brands like Pokemon have succeeded in making AR accessible to young and old.

Finally, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another technology that I predict will, as well as changing the future of business, have an equally profound effect on the way children play. It's already started with Mattel recently partnering with tech company pullstring.com to create Hello Barbie the first conversational AI doll that kids can speak to. And bust my buffers, they've also gone and done the same with Thomas the Tank Engine!

Now enough of child's play, if you would like to read about the future of play for Adults, pop on over here...


The Future of Adult Play.

By Sabina Bonnici.

Firstly, from the title of this post you might expecting it to be about the future of the adult entertainment industry, well you'll be right, but not the X-rated sort -  sorry to disappoint! (Maybe that's next year's Cong post.) 

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Martin Ford argues in his book Rise of the Robots:  As technology continues to accelerate and machines begin taking care of themselves, fewer people will be necessary. Artificial intelligence is already well on its way to making “good jobs” obsolete: many paralegals, journalists, office workers, and even computer programmers are poised to be replaced by robots and smart software. Will the rise of the robots mean adults will have more time to play? The Industrial revolution in the 18th century brought about a leisure revolution, so perhaps a future with more play-time for adults is not so far-fetched. 

What sort of things will we be doing to fill our newfound free time as robots do our jobs and cater to our every need? Science fiction may give us some clues... though hopefully we won't follow in the footsteps of the recent TV series Westworld (based on 1972 movie of the same name). Westworld depicts a frankly terrifying future of a Virtual Reality (VR) adult playground, where the majority of people seem to take a huge amount of satisfaction of committing acts of extreme violence all under the guise of taking 'vacation' time.  


IMAGE: Westworld

So while we haven't yet got to the completely immersive environment suggested by Westworld, Virtual and Augmented Reality (AR) are, in my humble opinion, the technologies with the most promise for play in the future. 

VR experiences are being trialled and developed for a myriad of uses from journalism to therapy, but a natural fit is VR gaming, being able to step into unreal, or normally inaccessible, worlds.  

Another area of play that VR is taking over is fitness and sports. An example of this is a company called Widerun.com who are creating VR cycle experiences. Using your own bike with their VR kit, you can cycle across both real and fantasy landscapes, and natural or urban environments including cities like San Francisco.  

Most of us by now have heard the phrase 'Gotta catch 'em all' from the Pokemon Go AR game. Don't be fooled - while it looks like a kid's a game, it's the adults who've made this a smash-hit. A recent survey found that 71% of players are aged between 18-50. The possibilities for AR are constantly expanding as the new AR headset from Microsoft demonstrates, the Hololens (taking it's naming cue from Star Trek's holodeck), but the actual experience isn't quite like Captain Kirk's just yet.

Stepping out of VR and AR, and back in to the real world, one interesting observation I've noted is the recent increase in the number of 'escape rooms' popping up in cities around the world. These are real-life rooms, or sets, where you and your friends have to solve mental and physical tasks to escape the place you've been locked into. The nineties TV series The Crystal Maze is a classic example that was recently revived in a charity celebrity edition, and the Crystal Maze experience in London is booked out until March 2017, with another one being built in Manchester. In Dublin we have 'Go Quest'

There are also an increasing number of organisations and theatre production companies making immersive site-specific work: taking performance out of expected venues like theatres and putting them in places you'd never expect. Punchdrunk transformed a warehouse into giant film sets, Secret Cinema turned a parking lot into Back to the Future, Blast Theory create games and playful experiences in cities near you. And some companies even go beyond physical locations and attempt to dip into your psyche. Ontroerend Goed made a performance about what people's first impressions of you are, and gave you a DVD of their comments as a memento!

The common thread tying all the above experiences together is that as adults, we are demanding an ever-increasing amount of interaction and socialisation from our play activities. My armchair theory is that this stems from a deep-seated search for our own humanity. We play to try and make sense of the way we could be in a world that's changing rapidly because of technology.

That's enough of the adult stuff. If you would like to read about the future of play for Children, pop on over here...


The Future of Play. #76 #cong16

By Sabina Bonnici.

"How we play is related, in myriad ways, to our core sense of self. Play is an exercise in self-definition; it reveals what we choose to do, not what we have to do. We not only play because we are. We play the way we are. And the ways we could be." (Psychology Today)

IMAGE: PlayTheFuture.jpg (Image credit: Design Academy Eindhoven)

So when it comes to future of play, what's in store? Technology allows us to delve much deeper than ever before into 'the way we are' and the 'way we could be' and as a result, the options for what we'll play are becoming limitless.

To begin with, let's play a little game to see if it's child's or adult play that you're most drawn to.

Pick a number between 1 and 10...

If you picked an even number, read this.  

If you picked an odd number, read this. 


Look to the Past to Determine the Future #75 #cong16

By Gavin Duffy.

We live in an environment comprised of multiple layers of order and dis-order.  Ordered elements like night and day are predictable because we know it happened yesterday and indeed everyday for as long as mankind can remember.

There are more chaotic oscillations in our system like the weather which are not so predictable.  Yes, we can make short term predictions via technology and our understanding of the atmosphere however meteorologists tell us it is impossible to predict with any certainty anything beyond 10 days.

On a much longer time scale we can say with relative certainty that we will have another Ice Age, an ironic fact given all the discussion on global warming.  The reality is that the predominant climate of the northern hemisphere over the past 2 million years has been an icey one and we are simply in an interglacial period.  How long it will last is uncertain but it is generally agreed our 'warm period' could last anywhere between 5,000 and 50,000 years, determined by Milankovitch cycles (wobbles in the Earth's orbit around the sun), and the as yet unknown affect of human activity.

Of course there are occasional traumatic 'unforeseen' events, which Nicolas Caleb calls 'Black Swan' events.  They tend to be life changing events, but what we can say is there will be more of such events in the future.  The Jurassic extinction event is largely believed to the result of a meteorite strike.  It was sudden, traumatic and had a profound effect on the planet.  Carl Sagan once said "If the dinosaurs had a space programme, they would still be about".  However the dinosaurs did not have such insight, and Swan's never mind Black Swans were yet to come in to existence!

Some people however try to claim certain events are Black Swan events, when in reality they are not.  They were entirely predictable if people took the time to look in to the past, and recognise similar historical circumstances.

One such example was the recent traumatic economic collapse of Ireland.

I still recall the reaction of one of my friends in the mid naughties when I said I missed the boat to get on the property ladder but I was happy to wait until the boat came back again and prices become more affordable.  The idea that prices might fall was completely incredulous to my friend, and indeed not just to him but by society at large and the so-called experts, who predicted a soft landing and certainly not a fall in prices.  I am not an economics guru.  I did not foresee the credit crunch and did not know when the brakes would be applied, just that a time would come in the not too distant future that the prices would stop rising and in that event would certainly fall.  Why? Because 35 out of the previous 36 property booms around the globe ended in bust.  Soft landings are not the norm, so why should Ireland have been any different.

I would like to suggest that human societies have oscillatory patterns much like the physical environment we inhabit.  The rise and fall of empires, the spread of religions, disease, periods of enlightenment and periods of repression are all part of the same circular cycle of the human experience, and as the saying goes, 'it's a big wheel that doesn't turn full circle'.

Politically western society is in a state of flux, demonstrated by the rise of fascists parties across Europe, the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States.  This political turmoil follows a period of economic turmoil across Europe and North America where the middle and lower working classes have suffered disproportionally whilst the gap between the wealthiest and the average workers wage has widened.

Such political upheavel normally occurs a short period of time after the sudden reversal of general prosperity which had extended long enough for people to become used to it as 'the norm'.  The swinging 1920's were followed by the depression of the 30's, which was closely followed by political upheavel in Europe and ultimately war.  Many have drawn similarities to our current changing political landscape and those currently holding the centre in politics would be foolish not to take these warning signs very seriously.

Policies which view society as economic entities rather than social ones have failed to recognise the ghetto-isation of Muslim communities in France, Britain, Belgium and Germany and the lack of jobs and services supplied to such communities.   Media likes to focus on the threat of radical Islam to western society but the biggest threat to our stable society lies within us.

Supposedly educated people making uninformed decisions because they have not looked in to the past will unfortunately insure that this inevitable cycle continues, unless we can develop policies for the many and not for the few and educate people on the real outcome of following populist policies which defer to fear and isolationism.


© Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie