Category Archives: English

Living With a Robot

Published in Dagens Industri (Sweden) April 8, 2014

I am completely fascinated by robots now stepping out of the factories and entering into schools, hospitals and elderly care clinics. These service bots, with sensors as senses, seem to be better at being human than humans themselves. Tests conducted by Lego Learning Institute conclude that children who have temporary robot parents consider their new tin friends to be more attentive, patient and better listeners. In similar experiments in elderly care, patients feel better and less lonely thanks to robots. South Korean kids learn better English from robots and Google’s self-driving cars have soon been driving 500,000 km without any major accident.

In the way industrial large-scale computers became everyone’s mobile phone, we are getting closer to a future where robots are not only replacing industrial blue-collar work, but also becoming frequent in the service industry. In 2013, there were around 1.2M robots in the world. According to The Economist, sales of service robots are increasing with 25-30% per year, whereas sales of industrial robots have stagnated at a 5% yoy growth.

And development is fast. Google’s investment in eight robot companies during 2013 is fascinating. I can’t stop watching the Cheeta video, a cat-like robot running faster than Usain Bolt. In South Korea, 60% of preschools have access to robots as teachers and in Japan, an exoskeleton suit is tested to help elderly care for themselves. Soft toys, as the robot seal Paro, are used to keep elderly company and mobile screens on robotlike bodies are teleporting doctors to private homes.

The experiments in health care, schools and elderly care are delivering better result the more human the robots appear. Human looks and behavior increase trust from children as well as for elderly. They are offered a 2.0 version of parents or care personnel, exceeding human shortcomings with infinite encouragement, directional information and patience. Our faith in robots may seem strange, but consumers are gradually becoming more confident to trust machine advice, thanks to innovations such as iPhone’s Siri and cars automatically executing parallel parking.

Ray Kurtzweil, Google’s expert on artificial intelligence, claims that within 15 years, robots will be smarter than humans – even measuring EQ. Before that happens, it is about time for us to define the services we would like robots to take over, services previously impossible to execute and perhaps most importantly, services we for ethic reasons should keep robot hands away from. Because if Mr. Kurtweil is right, which he has proven to be many times before, robots will soon manage everything humans can do. Only better.

Life After Mobile Phones

Published in Dagens Industri January 14, 2014

If the Mary Meeker statement, that people check their phones 150 times a day which is on average every 6th minute during our waken hours, is true, then our phones have become our preferred life companions. But how smart is the smart phone, really? Even though the iPhone revolutionized our daily lives at the time it was launched, it is still physically designed as a phone as we used to know it, only without buttons. When voice is less than 10% of our total smart phone usage, we need new digital interfaces to manage our health, our social lives and our news updates.

We now see the next generation of wearable technology including most functions we have gotten used to from our smart phones, and more. Small screens on sensors carried as glasses, bracelets and necklaces, directly on our skin.

Like science fiction heroes, we will use wearables to accomplish the impossible. Imagine listening to a conversation that takes place 30 meters from you, using intelligent headphones neutralizing background noise, giving you the opportunity to select what you want to amplify. And at the same time have all possible information about the people discussing with the help of small cameras in your glasses. If they would speak a foreign language, it would be translated in real time and displayed on your bracelet. You will be a super human. Improved and enforced in all possible ways.

During 2014 consumers, according to Gartner, will buy more than 40 million pieces of wearables. That is more than a 100% increase compared to 2013.

The technology used for wearables can be small and simple enough to fit in stickers, as the thin plasters produced by MC10 measuring body temperature and hydration levels. It is within the health segment the strongest growth of wearables is expected. New York-based Pixie Scientific has beta tested smart diapers with a QR-kod, tracking the child’s urine, watching for signs of urinary tract infection, dehydration and possible kidney disorders. Croatian IDerma has developed a teddy bear measuring children’s heart rate and blood pressure when hugged.

Communication and documentation is another exciting area. Sign Language Ring is a set of finger rings translating sign language to written words on a wrist display. The wearable, automatic life logging camera Clip from Swedish Narrative documents and systemizes the user’s life, snapping a picture every 30 seconds. Wearables are also expected to increase effectiveness at work places. Speaker’s notes in the presenter’s glasses, sensors measuring levels of bacteria on a doctor’s hands, floor plans live streamed to firemen running into buildings on fire. There are many use cases.

Hardware producers will have an interesting position in the wearable tech race. The smartest watch, the most connected piece of jewelry, and the plaster with the best functionality will be best sellers. When the world’s tech giants and a myriad of start-ups are getting ready for a wearable market, there will also be a number of business opportunities for anyone who can deliver content and services for wearable consumption. New ways of communicating and creating end user value will be needed when only a fast glance at a wearable screen is expected to deliver instant personalized and localized information.

Personally, I look forward to a time when it is unnecessary to open my bag 150 times per day to find my phone. It will make my life richer. And who doesn’t want to be a super hero?