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Date posted: August 27, 2013

In a recent New York Times article, Jenna Wortham explores the emergence of affective computing, which is, basically, emotional artificial intelligence:

Artificial intelligence is creeping nto our lives at a steady pace. Devices and apps can anticipate what we need, sometimes even before we realize it ourselves. So why shouldn’t they understand our feelings? If emotional reactions were measured, they could be valuable data points for better design and development. Emotional artificial intelligence, also called affective computing, may be on its way.

Examples from the marketplace: Affectiva, a start-up spun out of the M.I.T. Media Lab, are working on software that trains computers to recognize human emotions based on their facial expressions and physiological responses. Beyond Verbal is working on a software tool that can analyze speech and, based on the tone of a person’s voice, determine whether it indicates qualities like arrogance or annoyance, or both.

Wortham notes how the technology is planning to be used by game developers, to give designers insight into how people feel when their games are played. Another potential use: healthcare. Cited in the article, Printa Gupta, chief product officer at Smule, contends that healthcare may be revolutionized by emotionally aware technology, particularly as devices increasingly interact with one another.

“Tracking how our bodies are responding throughout the day could allow you to tailor your life according to what’s happening to your body throughout the day,” she
says. This could allow nutritionists to precisely build meal plans for clients, or for doctors to come up with more efficient medical treatments.

For B2B marketers obsessed with customer satisfaction, the idea of tooling a sales force with affective computing tools may seem intriguing. Is there a day coming soon when we won’t have to rely on customer surveys or focus groups to see how a product or brand elicits a response? Simply dial up the customer on a smart device and see how his face or
voice tells the story when a product or brand is named.

While this may seem far-fetched, the continuing advance of technology makes it seem less so over time.

Date posted: August 14, 2013

 A recent post on Digiday by Mauria Finley, founder and CEO of Citrus Lane, reinforces what we have been saying for some time: that content marketing can be a significant driver of sales. Notes Finley:

The line between editorial content and marketing has never been thinner. Brands are telling their stories through content – creating and distributing articles, posts, photos and videos across social sites and via native ad placements. Or they’re going even further to become all-out publishers, in the way that Johnson & Johnson runs BabyCenter.com, for example. 

Importantly, this holds for the business-to-business sector as well as business-to-consumer, something we’ve experienced as writers for a number of major industrial concerns who publish their own media assets on a regular basis. In fact, the emergence of editorial-focused corporate media, either independently or through established publishers, is
something that is becoming rather a trend.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Today’s business consumers are as skeptical as their general brothers and sisters in encountering content that smells strongly of advertising bias. The key is provision of relevant content, informed content, and useful content— with an objective orientation that the consumer will read with more interest and less skepticism.

Achieving the balance necessary is not a simple task, and why we believe that organizations are wise to turn to experienced business journalists to produce such work.

This is what we do, and if you’d like to know more about how this approach to content can benefit your communications, we’d love to talk to you about it.

 

Date posted: August 12, 2013

My case study about how Classic Alaska Trading Company tamed the wilds of its inventory and fulfillment operations appears in the July issue of Inbound Logistics. The article details how a Web-based shipping tool helped the retailer meet the challenges of its multi-channel fulfillment processes.

Two more case studies under my byline will appear in Inbound Logstics later this year.

 

 

Date posted: August 6, 2013

With the profusion of praise and anticipation attending three-dimensional printing, a recent post on business2community.com gives us all a chance to get a grip on things. Notes tech blogger Robert Rabe:

“Additive manufacturing”, the not-so-sexy name for 3D Printing, is hyped to be the biggest paradigm shift in manufacturing since the steam engine over 100 years ago. If the evangelists are right, it will redefine just-in-time manufacturing as it will make real factories, warehouses and inventories a thing of the past… However, people have a pretty wrong perception of this miraculous technology. Many expect it to print ready-made lamps and maybe even computers. This is of course far from realistic.

Rabe points to a list of issues with the technology recently published by Gizmodo, calling out the top three:

  1. You can only print one material at once, or material with very similar melting temperatures.
  2. One of the praised aspects of 3D printing is making mass customization affordable. However most single-material products rely on economies of scale— an effect additive
    manufacturing doesn’t benefit from.
  3. The objects are printed layer-by-layer, and you can often tell by looking at the result.

Nonetheless, as the post notes, there are opportunities the technology presents, particularly for simple, personalized objects. An excellent example— 10,000,000 printed hearing aids are used worldwide, showing the power of 3D printing for products in need of customization.

A key will be the
usability of CAD software, as 3D printers use CAD files as their information source. As Rabe notes, “Today, CAD-software faces serious usability issues and is a pretty tough nut to crack left to professionals. But so were making movies or photo editing 20 years ago, and today they are mass phenomenon thanks to liberalizing software. The same is likely to happen to manufacturing.”

When that will happen is the question. Chances are, we believe, that this will take a little longer than the buzz about the technology might indicate. There’s no doubt 3D printing is coming, but it’s down the road a bit, not just around the corner.