Showing all posts tagged: smartphones

AI Pin by Humane pricked by poor user reviews

15 April 2024

Fans of Star Trek series The Next Generation will be familiar with the communication devices crew members used. Or should I say: wore. The small, yet high powered, long range devices, were typically attached to the shirt of a crew person’s uniform.

With a mere tap, those on the surface of a planet could contact their vessel, which was usually somewhere in orbit, and speak to whomever they desired. Instantly, and with perfect clarity. What Star Trek fan didn’t want to own such a gizmo? A wearable that actually, really, worked?

For a time, it looked like Star Trek fans might see science fiction become fact. In March 2023 word seeped out that Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno, both former Apple employees, were developing, through new venture, Humane, a device reminiscent of the venerable communicator.

Chaudhri and Bongiorno intended their device, powered by AI, and aptly named AI Pin, to be far more than a simple means of two-way communication though. In addition to making phone calls, the AI Pin can send messages, make appointments, take notes, answer questions, take photos, and record video, among other things. In fact, I’m surprised Star Trek creators never beefed up their wearable communicators, considering the devices would have had several hundred years of technological development behind them, by the time of the twenty-fourth century.

But weeks ago, after a year of hype and anticipation, tech journalists were given AI Pins test units to try out. Their experiences, however, have not been much to write home about. Humane claimed the AI Pin will replace the smartphone, but as David Pierce, consumer tech writer for The Verge found, the device is presently in no danger of replacing any phone, let alone a smartphone:

I’d estimate that half the time I tried to call someone, it simply didn’t call. Half the time someone called me, the AI Pin would kick it straight to voicemail without even ringing. After many days of testing, the one and only thing I can truly rely on the AI Pin to do is tell me the time.

Making phone calls (perhaps) isn’t the AI Pin’s only capability. It is, as noted above, meant to do all sorts of other things. Answering questions, that might otherwise be asked of a search engine, is one of them. But Cherlynn Low, writing for Engadget, struggled even with this:

When the AI Pin did understand me and answer correctly, it usually took a few seconds to reply, in which time I could have already gotten the same results on my phone. For a few things, like adding items to my shopping list or converting Canadian dollars to USD, it performed adequately. But “adequate” seems to be the best case scenario.

The AI Pin does not have a screen. Instead it projects information onto your hand. Your hand also doubles as a keyboard, which is needed to enter a passcode to unlock the device. This sounds well and good in theory, but practice is another matter, as Julian Chokkattu, Wired’s review editor, notes:

I’m going to say it now: Humane’s laser projector display is never going to take off as a viable method of interacting with a gadget. It’s overly sensitive and slow to navigate. When the projection lands on your palm, you have to tilt your hand around in a circular motion to scroll through the icons until you land on the one you want to select. But tilt too much, and it moves past the icon you want, landing on the thing next to it. It’s just plain annoying. Using the projected interface to run through old text messages is also a chore — and yes, you can ask the Ai Pin to read your messages, but that’s just not going to work all the time.

It’s fair to say early reviews are not encouraging. Which is disappointing, as I had high hopes for the concept. I’d watched Chaudhri and Bongiorno’s various presentations, and was impressed by the potential of the device. But I noted many of the trials we saw were conducted indoors, in relatively quiet environments. Which made me wonder; how might the device perform outside, in stormy conditions? Could you hear what a caller was saying? Could they hear you? Of this I am not sure.

It seems to me AI Pin shipped too soon. The device just seems to have too many problems for one deemed market ready. But these are early days, for both AI Pin, and the AI technologies that underpin it, so perhaps a device that performs to expectations, will eventually come forth.


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Stalkerware users should be watching themselves, not others

21 March 2024

Sydney based Australian author Kerri Sackville, writing for The Sydney Morning Herald, on the subject of stalkerware, insidious apps that track the activities of a person you want to keep tabs on:

But I had nothing to gain from spying on him because I already knew what to do. In intimate partnerships, the desire to spy can only mean one of two things: that something is terribly wrong in your relationship, or that something is terribly wrong with you. If it’s the former, the solution is not to dig up answers; the solution is to get out of the relationship.

But trust, or lack thereof, isn’t necessarily why people use stalkerware apps. They sometimes also seek to control and coerce those they are monitoring. To them, it has little to do with trust. It’s more about rampant entitlement. They somehow feel as if they have every right to spy on someone, and as such are completely oblivious to the wrong they are doing.

Something is indeed terribly wrong with such people.


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The conduct of live music fans is just as bad as cinema-goers

25 September 2023

The recent, post pandemic lockdown, sometimes poor behaviour of film-goers has been the subject of some discussion recently. Many of the problems frustrated cinema patrons have reported stem largely from the gratuitous use of smartphones during screenings. It’s enough to make you want to stay at home and stream movies instead.

But bad, inconsiderate, audience conduct is not restricted to cinemas. The attitudes of live music fans likewise leaves much to be desired. Not only are gig-goers refusing to keep their smartphones in their pockets, they’ve also taken to throwing objects at the performers on stage. Both Taylor Swift and Harry Styles have been the target of audience-hurled projectiles, at recent shows.

But being a music show jerk is “on-trend”, says music critic Simon Price, writing for The Guardian:

I’ve been a music journalist since the mid-1980s, and one thing I can say with confidence is that people’s behaviour at gigs has become objectively and observably worse over time. These things used to be self-policing and there was an unwritten code. So, for example, if there’s a moshpit and someone falls, you stop and help them back up. If someone’s shorter than you and you’re blocking their view, you get out of their way. If you absolutely must get nearer to the stage, go round the side instead of barging through the middle. Most of these conventions simply fall under the catch-all rubric of Don’t Be a Selfish Idiot.


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Would watching films be more fun if smartphones were banned?

10 August 2023

Photo of a person looking at smartphone

Image courtesy of Startup Stock Photos.

Blockbusters such as Barbie and Oppenheimer have been a windfall for cinemas struggling as a consequence of the Covid lockdowns of recent years, and stories of packed auditoriums are surely good news.

But the news hasn’t been all good. In staying home to watch movies over the last few years, some film-goers appear to have forgotten their cinema etiquette. Reports have emerged of people taking phone calls, scrolling social media, and, incredibly, giving their children phones to amuse themselves should the main feature not be of interest.


While there might be a generation of young film-watchers to whom cinema-going is a new experience, that cannot be the case for their parents. And it seems only a couple of short years of viewing movies from home have been enough to make some forget how to behave at the movies.

Perhaps though, as people begin to come re-accustomed to seeing a film in a communal setting, their conduct will improve. But I wonder. For some time, years prior to the pandemic, I’d been noticing a change in the behaviour of cinema audiences.

While it now seems to be a granted people will glaze at their phones during a film, I would have thought they’d draw the line at taking, or making, calls during the screening. Of course there have always been issues with people arriving late, going in and out of the auditorium repeatedly, along with being baffled by allocated seating.

But talking on the phone during a movie? That’s a whole other level of film-watching misery.

I wonder though, how much of the audience behaviour problems we see today can be attributed to smartphones, and our umbilical-like dependency on them? In the past I’ve been to film preview screenings where we’ve had to leave our phones outside the auditorium, in a secure locker. This to prevent a yet to be released feature being recorded, and leaked.

For sure, it seemed strange to be temporarily separated from our phones, but I wasn’t aware of anyone suffering adversely as a result. These screenings were quite the spectacle though. Everyone, for the most part, sitting still for the duration, focussed only on the film. Of course most of those present were film critics or journalists, at what was effectively a work event.

Still, it’s tempting, if futile, to conject here. Imagine if everyone had to leave their phones at the box office, prior to sitting down to watch a movie. Sure, there’d still be people turning up late, sitting in someone else’s seat, and opening bags of food in the noisiest way possible. But if music festivals can operate phone-free, why can’t cinemas?

For the benefits, and audience comfort, of phone-free movie sessions though, sadly I can’t see any cinema even dreaming of imposing such a demand on customers. After the last few difficult years, movie house owners would be reluctant to do anything that might dissuade patrons.

Over the course of the pandemic, and the lockdowns, I became quite the fan of streaming films at home. Doing so certainly has downsides, such as the waiting time for some titles to become available for streaming, but at least we can engage in all those irritating film-goer behaviours I’ve described, without annoying anyone else.


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Smartphone shipments decline, have we reached peak smartphone?

28 June 2023

One point two one billion smartphones were shipped in 2022, according to market intelligence firm IDC, the lowest figure since 2013. The decline in demand has been attributed to increased inflation and economic uncertainty. Purely anecdotal, but a few people I’ve spoken to have said they’re hanging onto their existing devices for the time being.

Apparently eighty-six percent of the global population have a smartphone, so I imagine the market is nearing saturation point. This despite the fact devices need to be upgraded periodically, and there are some people who feel compelled to go out and buy the latest models when they’re released, regardless of the condition of their existing device.


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This Never Happened, a mobile phone free music festival, coming to Australia

25 June 2023

Audience at a live music show facing the stage

Image courtesy of Pexels.

Should mobile phones be banned at music festivals? What sort of question is that? After all, is not recording the happenings of the day, be it video clips, or photos, and sharing them online, part and parcel of the music festival experience? Well it is, but doing so also has a downside. Just ask anyone who’s standing towards the back of the audience. The wall of held up arms and mobile phones might be about all they see of the show.

How’s that meant to be fun? But that’s not all. Evidence suggests recording certain events or experiences, by filming or photographing them, may diminish our ability to remember said occasions later on. So perhaps live music events would be more memorable, and more enjoyable for all concerned, if everyone left their phones at the ticket office?

That’s what Sydney based Australian event promotor Pia Del Mastro is betting on. Del Mastro is collaborating with American musician and electronic music producer Daniel Goldstein, also known as Lane 8, to bring such a rare creature, a music festival that does not allow the use of mobile phones, to Australia, in July 2023. The event, aptly enough, is called This Never Happened.

Lane 8 has been organising mobile phone free music festivals for several years overseas, and Del Mastro says they would be a first in Australia, in the mobile phone era. Lane 8 observed audiences were more engaged and immersed in the show, and gave their full attention to the bands performing, when they weren’t thinking about a device in their hand, which all makes sense.

It still remains to be seen how Australian festival goers will take to such a radical proposition. I’ve been to the occasional preview film screening, or product launch, where attendees needed to leave their phones at the front desk, but we were only without our devices for a couple of hours.

But This Never Happened will differ. Revellers will instead keep their phone, but be given a sticker to place over the camera lens. Del Mastro expects a degree of peer pressure, together with the phone-free spirit of the event, will see most of those present keep their devices pocketed away.

But we’ll find out soon. The first This Never Happened event takes place in Melbourne, on Friday 14 July 2023. I get the feeling though audiences, once they lose themselves to the music, will embrace the concept with open arms, and open eyes.


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Reading the future in the cracks of your smartphone screen

21 September 2022

Cracked smartphone screen, photo by Jan Kuss

Image courtesy of Jan Kuss/(Instagram).

I wouldn’t go doing this deliberately… there must be better ways to learn what the future holds, like waiting until it happens perhaps. Nonetheless, there may be a way to glimpse your future in the cracks of a smashed smartphone screen, and it’s known as smashomancy.

A smartphone screen is, of course, a veritable semantic orchard of icons and affordances, titles and statuses and means of navigation. But to find true insight we must look beyond the legible to more uncertain and chaotic territory. True, a smartphone in its role as a nexus of communication is an endless stream of signal and noise, but that is extrinsic to its embodied self. To truly understand its meaning, we must understand its physical nature.

Your future is indeed in the palm of your hand.



The intrusive nature of mobile phones predicted in 1920

22 August 2022

Mobile phone cartoon, William Haselden, circa 1920

William Haselden, a British cartoonist who died in 1953, quite comically foresaw the potential nuisance mobile phones could cause, were they ever to be invented. At the time Haselden drew this cartoon, possibly around 1920, landline phones were still something of a novelty, with Americans sharing one such device between ten people.

I’m not sure when mobile, or portable, phones were first envisaged — likely relatively early in the piece though, even if their development took decades — but I doubt Haselden thought they would ever come into existence. Instead I suspect he was foreshadowing the vexatious nature of a communications device permitting a caller to contact another person at any time they wished, whether the person being called liked it or not.


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Blockade Australia protestors forced to surrender smartphones, passcodes

29 June 2022

Say what you will about the recent Blockade Australia protests (do we not now have a climate-change friendly government?), but the conduct of police in dealing with the protestors they have been detaining has been causing alarm.

According to Digital Rights Watch, an organisation dedicated to protecting the digital rights of Australians, some arresting officers are demanding alleged offenders hand over devices such as smartphones, and also surrender access passcodes.

Digital Rights Watch has also been made aware of an incident where an individual who was simply near a location thought to be connected with Blockade Australia activities has had their phone seized by police. The police made a number of attempts to guess the passcode before handing the phone back.

Posted at Daring Fireball yesterday, and possibly useful: how to temporarily disable face id or touch id, and require a passcode to unlock your iPhone or iPad.


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SmartFone Flick Fest 2022, a smartphone film contest

21 June 2022

Making a film is easy, especially when just about all you need on the production side is a good smartphone. Making a good film though? That’s another story. Still, I’m willing to bet the standard will be pretty high in this year’s SmartFone Flick Fest, which is accepting entries across five categories until Thursday 1 September 2022. I’m curious to see what difference technologies such as the iPhone’s cinematic mode will make to submissions this year.


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