Tag Archives: Technology

Why Are Digital Assistants Always Female?

The Female Factor
Source: Pixabay

Bossing around a digital assistant sure is fun. You talk, and she has no choice but to listen and carry out your demands, no matter how insidious they may or may not be. Whatever your wish she must make it so in double time, and without daring to question your motives. Want to send a rude, ranting text message to your boss, with curse words used like punctuation? She’ll do it, with not even a hint of judgement in her voice… I love her.

It’s like having, if I were being honest here, the fastest, most reliable personal assistant in existence. Which is probably what the makers of these digital assistants were going for.

But ever notice that digital assistants are always female, at least by default? Even as far back as the first GPS navigation systems the digital voices used have always been female. Though, granted, a much more believably human voice now, than back when she sounded like a permanently annoyed British woman.

Siri, Alexa, Cortana… not a Frank, Robert or James amongst them. It’s curious when you stop to think about it, and makes you start to wonder what sort of psychology is involved.

Assistants Are Traditionally Female

The vast majority of human assistants and secretaries are female. In fact, you might as well just say all. When was the last time you walked into any establishment and were not greeted by a woman? Normally an attractive young one, who smiles so much half of all her income is surely spent on keeping her teeth as shiny white as possible.

So, it just stands to reason that a digital assistant would likewise be represented by a female voice. Of course, a digital assistant need not worry about keeping her teeth white. At least not yet anyways.

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The Female Factor

It’s not to say some men don’t have pretty voices, but you’d be hard pressed to find a soothing, more appealing voice than one coming from a lady. According to professor Clifford Nash from Stanford University, humans are simply programmed to find female voices more appealing. Why? Well, we all have a mother and we all started inside her womb. That pretty much says it all.

So, when finding a voice that appeals to the broadest spectrum of humans possible, it’s going to be a female one. Freudian jokes be damned, it just so happens to be the truth.

It’s Standard At This Point

If you’ve been in an airport recently you’ll probably have noticed that the announcer’s voice is female. Call a customer support centre and you’ll likewise almost always initially be talking to a woman. But lets go back to the dawn of the telephone, and learn a bit about how it all started. Phone operators, when they were still a thing, first used to be teenage boys, for no other reason than they happened to be in abundance and were cheap labour.

But the teenage boy demographic isn’t known for being polite. In fact, it turned out that they were rude to customers, often played practical jokes, and loved to generally be a pain in the ass. Taking note of this, Alexander Graham Bell hired a young lady named Emma Nutt and she set the standard for decades to come. She was polite, friendly, loved her job and was basically the sole reason that by the end of 1880s, all phone operators were exclusively female. Hence, since the invention of the telephone it quickly became apparent which gender was the best choice when finding someone to deal with customers verbally.

As a final thought, HAL 9000, the killer machine in 2001: A Space Odyssey was going to be a female voice named Athena. At the last minute Athena was changed to HAL, and based on the above information, you can probably figure out why. HAL was meant to be menacing and scary, not comforting and soothing, and it seems that most people don’t think that’s a role for a lady. Cleary they haven’t dated my ex-girlfriend…

Where To Next For Online Casino Technology?

Where To Next For Online Casino Technology
Source: Netherlands Aerospace Centre

I confess, I haven’t spent that much time on (or would it be in?) VR casino games. Given that the prices of decent VR headsets are still a little on the steep side, I haven’t yet been able to make the commitment, and buy one for myself. What I have experienced of VR at a friends place has been impressive, though, to the extent that I really hope VR finds a foothold.

AR – that’s augmented reality for the unversed, or those who played Pokémon Go and were astounded by how it worked – I haven’t experienced it at all in terms of the casino sector, given that it’s barely entered into the real world. And I’m not a fan of chasing funny creatures about in public, so no Pokémon Go for me.

The concept of AR does sounds incredible though. However, I do fear that AR and VR fighting for a place in the online casino market will be rather messy, and perhaps not the best idea, given that VR has yet to even fully establish itself in the digital casino world. Either way, I just hope my technology-buying friend up the road invests in an AR headset, so that I can test it out before it’s potential flaming death.

But, being that I’m an incredibly forward thinking person, the sort that absolutely knows what he’s going to wear tomorrow, and doesn’t just grab whatever seems least creased, I started to think about what would come after AR and VR. I mean, these digital casino technologies certainly are impressive, but what could possibly lie beyond them?

 VR and AR Evolution

As VR stands now, it really is incredible in the level of immersion it can create. It has honestly crossed my mind that VR is perhaps even a step too far, given how absolutely immersed a person can get. For digital casino games, of course, the level of immersion is perfect, especially given how fantastical and detailed some digital casino worlds can be. Throw a person into a VR horror game, however, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say a person might get genuinely traumatised.

So, given this information, the next logical step for VR is to increase the level of immersion as much as possible. After all, a little lasting post traumatic stress disorder is a small price to pay for improved VR technology.

I read about future accessories planned for VR, many of which are designed to further increase the all-consuming immersion. Wireless headsets are a given, and already exist. But I’m talking about immersion improvement well beyond a simple wireless interface. I saw an interesting, although extremely impractical device, that allowed players to walk on a sort of bowl shaped platform. This platform finally bridged the last gap, and translated real walking into VR walking. It didn’t look to be super refined, from what I could see, and I can’t imagine many people would fit such a device in their homes. But it was the sort of evolution I was looking for.

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Beyond VR – Contact Lens Technology

The next technology evolution I read about was based around removing the bulky headset, and having information displayed directly on a contact lens. Now, we’re really talking distant future here, so I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, but the possibility of this tech really is far more realistic than I had assumed.

It turns out that there are already companies doing serious research into this sort of thing. The part of it that had confused me previously, i.e. how the contact lens would be powered, turned out to be a small misunderstanding on my part. The contact lens would not be powered; information would be projected onto the lens from an outside source.

Either way, there are apparently very basic working prototypes, giving everyone hope that they can experience casino games projected directly onto their sensitive eyeball. The future is a magical place indeed.

Beyond VR – Direct Neural Interface

Direct Numeral Interface is the true stuff of science fiction. A chip planted in a person’s head, with electronic signals being blasted straight into an eager brain. Clearly, though, this technology is never going to actually happen in our reality. Right?

Hush your mouth, simpleton. Although still in the very early stages, it just so happens that this technology is, at the very least, feasible. Research is currently underway in which amputees are able to control wheelchairs with their thoughts. It’s very early stages, but the groundwork is present for major advancement in the future.

The part where a casino game is blasted straight into your brain is not yet being worked on, but you know it won’t be far off once the initial breakthroughs are made. If it will or won’t require there to be a chip in your brain to have direct casino access is unknown, but one can’t help but think that slots game enthusiasts will be eager to make the sacrifice. I, for one, would take a brain chip over an eyeball lens any day. I have sensitive eyes, you see.

Too Much Tech Linked to Alzheimer’s

Too Much Tech Linked to Alzheimers
Source: VideoBlocks

If you are old enough to remember a time before mobile devices, smart tech and the Internet of things, you probably recall what it was like to remember your own phone number. Technology has changed the way we live, but it has also changed the way we think, learn, and otherwise process information.

It may also have changed the game, as far as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are concerned. According to some scientists, on-going research has already made a strong claim for a link between our over-dependence on technology and the disease. Of course, Alzheimer’s was known long before the first cell phone was released, so there are other factors at play. Too much tech may simply be helping them along.

A Glance at Alzheimer’s

Many people associate the disease popularly known for causing severe memory loss with old age. However, the early signs of dementia can start manifesting shortly after age 30, which is when body metabolism rates begin to decrease.

As many as 26 million people are currently affected directly by Alzheimer’s, and as much as 20 per cent of the world’s population is at risk of developing it. Early symptoms can include anxiety and depression, temporary unconsciousness, difficulties learning, and difficulties with speech or other forms of communication.

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Causes and Symptoms

It is unlikely that the excessive use of technology is the sole cause of the misunderstood illness; it could complicate matters if another factor linked to it is already at play.

Among those linked to Alzheimer’s are abnormal build-ups of protein on the brain, known as amyloid plaques, that affect mental functions, and a nerve cell-killing protein called Tau. Medical treatment has effectively prevented further damage caused by Tau in patients.

Other factors that could contribute to, or be warning signs of, developing the disease include social withdrawal and increasing loneliness, poor personal hygiene and grooming, and disturbances of sight, hearing, and sense of smell. Regular drinking and smoking, and even type 3 diabetes are also recognised as possible contributing factors.

The lack of mental exercise is widely recognised as a leading cause of dementia, as actively using the memory causes the brain to forge new connections. In addition to this very factor being highlighted by the modern dependence on smart technology, it is also evident in cases of patients with a poor academic background.

No Need to Quit Tech

Throwing out all your tech would be as pointless as a surgeon trading scalpels and lasers for flint knives. The smart move is to put the gadgets down for some time every day, and to use the time you would have spent Facebooking to do something that can help fight off other possible causes.

There are various ways in which you can decrease the risk of being diagnosed with it. You can practice balancing exercises for a minute twice a day. There is also a lot of brain-boosting to be had by reading novels and other books, as well as by doing crossword or Sudoku puzzles, or playing Scrabble and similar games, which is a perfect way to socialise and beat the loneliness.

Eating cabbage, curly lettuce, spinach, and legumes contain an amino acid known as folic acid. Studies have shown it can help reduce amyloid plaques. Turmeric has also been linked to preventing the disease, as has Vitamin E, which is found in sunflower seeds, olives, olive oil, nuts, and Jerusalem artichokes. Green tea, red fruit and berries, and Omega 3-rich cold-water fish are other foods to be included in a diet aimed at preventing the condition.

Through a combination of dietary tips and suggestions of activities, it is possible to live a life that supports not only a healthy body, but a healthy mind as well – and, yes, you can still Instagram it.

Chilling Out – The Cans that Cool Themselves

A new way of chilling drinks
Source: Pixabay

Keeping things cold has always been the main goal of the food and beverage industry. Refrigeration and the cold chain are vital in keeping food edible, and drinks chilled to just the right temperature for consumption. For decades though, scientists have been looking for ways to chill drinks without refrigeration.

At first it seemed like an impossible task until someone actually did it.

Now, the thought of grabbing an ice cold drink straight out the bag and settling down for a good game of Blackjack is no longer a pipe dream. In the future you won’t need a fridge to keep your drinks cool, and the days of popping things in the freezer in an attempt to chill them faster will be long gone.

A Chilly Revolution

More than 20 years ago, the science of self-chilling cans came about. One of the pioneers in the field was Mitchell Joseph who wanted to design a can of beer that could rapidly cool itself upon activation. After trial and error, he achieved his goal using a heat exchange system powered by HFC-134a gas. While the concept worked, HFC-134a is a destructive greenhouse gas 1400 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.

Despite the hitch, scientists were encouraged by the results and set out to refine the process and make it environmentally friendly.

Today, we can see the fruits of their labour with the Chill-Can and similar products. Rolling out in stores across the world, The Chill-Can is a self-cooling beverage can that can cool its contents without the need for refrigeration. When it was first tested, the cans could reduce the temperature of the liquid by 15 degrees Centigrade within 2 minutes.

Considering the average room temperature is around 22 degrees, the liquid would drop to a frosty 7 degrees, which is more than cold enough to be thirst quenching.

The Lowdown On the Chill Factor

So, how does this technology actually work?

The cans, cups and other similar products are all designed with a heat exchange system running through the centre of the product. The most common type is a small cylinder with a valve on the bottom of the can.

When pressing a button at the base of the can opens the valve, pressurised carbon dioxide is released through the cylinder and out the bottom. The rapid expansion of the gas creates a cooling effect on the cylinder, which then rapidly cools the liquid surrounding it. After 2 minutes, the liquid has cooled down by a massive 15 degrees. This same system can be used for anything from sodas to beer, ice coffee or just about any drink that needs to be chilled when consumed.

Chilled About the Environment

Doing away with conventional coolers
Source: Pixabay

But what about the environmental repercussions?

Aren’t we just pumping more CO2 into the air with all these new cans? The good news is that the carbon dioxide used in the cans is reclaimed from other processes, which make CO2 as a by-product. So essentially, the same amount of gas is being released into the atmosphere; it is just bottled up before it does.

The Chill-Can and self-chilling products actually have a positive impact on the environment, as they would require no refrigeration in-store. Less refrigeration means less electricity usage, lower carbon emissions and less greenhouse gasses entering the atmosphere.

A Can-Do Attitude

Aside from the environmental aspects, self-chilling technology is creating an entire product market in 3rd world countries where electricity and refrigeration is an issue. They are also ideal for sports facilities, outdoor markets, camping, hiking and park facilities where refrigeration is not easy to come by. As the technology expands and improves, the price will slowly come in line with regular cans and cups.

The aim here is to change the perception of how drinks should be sold in the first place, and only refrigerate beverages that need to be kept cold at all times, such as milk and drinking yoghurt. Huge strides have been made in this respect and some of the larger supermarket chains have started stocking self-chilling cans. It is just a matter of time before they become ubiquitous throughout the world, and we all have a little more chill in our lives.

Research links:

Tech in Clothing – Wearables in the Most Real Sense

Levi’s Project Jacquard in action
Source: theinspirationroom.com

Some are still coming to terms with the fact that virtually everyone on earth is carrying around a powerful computer in their pocket. Mobile phone technology, once the stuff of ridicule having users carry around hefty “bricks,” has leapt forward so fast that it defies belief. Now, powerful, portable computers are the order of the day, and it’s incredible. We can access our emails from anywhere, play at an online casino in the palm of our hand, and surf the web on a mobile phone that’s only a bit bigger than a credit card!

Just how far can it go, everyone is asking? And the answer is obvious; instead of carrying around our technology in our pockets, why not simply wear it? But wearable technology already exists, doesn’t it? In the form of smartwatches. No, we’re talking about technology built right into your clothing. It’s the science fiction future we read about becoming reality, and if you thought portable computers was impressive, take a look at some of the stuff you could be soon wearing.

Water Repellent Clothing

We’ll get to the clothing with built in computers in a second, but let’s first talk about clothing that utilises new water repellent technology. A waterproof jacket, you say, there’s nothing special about that, we’ve had raincoats for centuries… No, what we’re talking about here is a jacket that literally pushes water off its surface in a way that may make your jaw drop. The Apex Flex GTX is a jacket that will not allow water, any water, to settle on it’s surface. The fabric will remain clear of even a single drop of water, always.

The secret is a waterproof coating known as GORE-TEX, and yes the name is perhaps a bit over the top, but what it can achieve is truly impressive. The flexible, ultra-waterproof substance applied to any surface means that that surface is staying dry, no matter what. The down side? The price, of course. The Apex Flex GTX is not cheap. But as with all emerging tech, as it becomes more mainstream it may see a price reduction as demand increases.

Smart Clothing

And here we have, at last, a jacket that syncs to a smartphone, and allows the user to control smartphone functionality with gestures. Titled as the Google x Levi’s Project Jacquard, this piece of clothing is said to be threaded with multiple strands of smart fibre. What smart fibre is, is anyone’s guess, but what it allows the user to do is operate a synced mobile phone via arm gestures. For example, pausing a song playing on the phone is as simple as giving the jacket wrist a little tap.

It sounds cool, but one can’t help that the system could get very confusing. After all, the smart jacket will surely not tell the difference between intentional, and unintentional movements. One assumes that there are measures in place to prevent this, but that remains to be seen when the jackets start becoming common. Will they though, at a cost of $350 for a denim jacket?

Advanced Apparel Exploration

And now we get to the truly wacky stuff. What makes a piece of clothing high quality, you ask? Decent fabric, strong stitching, and quality work? Wrong. What makes clothing high quality is creating it from a single strand of unbroken fabric. Wait, what? Why?

Adidas has created a system that weaves clothing from a single strand of fabric, in what sounds to be a very complicated process. And, although very proud of this and willing to explain in detail how the process works, Adidas is less quick to explain why it is beneficial in any way.

Either way, the technology for this now exists, although looking at the clothing created in this fashion; one wonders why they caused such a fuss. Called the AAE 1.0, it looks very much like a t-shirt, and nothing more.

Nanotechnology

The above is just scratching the surface of technology that exists right now. But where might such technology go in the future? Nanotechnology. It’s probably a word some are aware of, given its appearance in many science fiction stories. But nanotechnology is no longer science fiction, and will soon be appearing in our clothing.

What is it? Engineering on a molecular level, with potential that is all but mind bending. Fancy a flexible fabric that is as tough as steel? Or how about a transparent, flexible substance, that is bulletproof? It’s theoretically possible, with nanotechnology. In it’s infancy now, Nanotex, an existing company, is working to make these things possible, so the future of wearables is still one that we need to get ready to explore.