Hacker Newsnew | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit | yorak's comments login

The idea of digital assistant does not require it to be tied to any specific device. It can live in the cloud and follow you anywhere the entrypoint being any device you are using (and you are logged on). Think of Jarvis from the Iron man movies. If I understood the aim of the VIV correctly, they are trying to do this by not tying the service to any given platform but being this platform. This is what makes it so powerful and intriguing (and scary if you do not have the control of the assistant).

-----


I've been pondering about this for some time and even more after the introduction of Siri, Google Now, and others. I've come to the conclusion that in the near future (artificially) intelligent personal digital assistants will become THE way majority of people will interact with the digital world. It will of course depend on how good and how quickly the assistants evolve, but the potential in productivity gains and transforming the way we live is too big opportunity to be missed. Imagine having a (real) person that would take care of simplifying and helping you with your digital and real life (calendar, meetings, notes, email, flights and other travel, anniversaries, even small research tasks like buy this or that etc.). It would help you immensely by saving time on the fluff of our daily lives and by allowing you to focus on what you deem important.

Therefore I think one of the most important open source projects of the next decade will be to build such a learning intelligent personal digital assistant. A Linux of our generation if you will.. Otherwise this opportunity will be lost to advertisers and others that have interest in steering movements and behavior of the masses. Does anyone know if such an FOSS initiative already exists?

-----


Another possibility is the new, more efficient, ways to interact with your computer.

Direct brain interface maybe.

Pretending that your computer is a human is actually NOT an efficient way of communicating with it. Moreover, it is unreliable and dangerous because those "intelligent" assistants lack intelligence and may do something a human would never do. So one cannot (should not) use them for any mission-critical tasks.

As yet, it would be nice to see at least a non-painful way of editing text on a tablet. Or something better than pen and paper (or an electronic pen and a tablet) to quickly express your thoughts in a graphical form.

-----


Direct brain interface requires invasive surgery and is still a ways to go. Its constant need for recalibration basically precludes it from any useful utilization, much less commercialization of it on a massive scale.

Even if the AI part is mature, I do not think speaking at length (in a public setting) telling your computer what to do is desirable.

I think our best bet is a device that reads neural signals going to our voice box. We can "speak" without vocalization and still have the device pick up our words. I think they call it EEG sensing of imagined speech.

-----


Well, that may improve in the future. The main property of inventions is that they are often completely unexpected.

Maybe there is a wireless way.

Maybe it will be compulsory to have a DBI (direct brain interface) connector in your skull in the future (I hope it won't).

-----


Videos have been successfully reconstructed from fMRI of people's brains. This will certainly improve as fMRIs improve and more advanced machine learning is used to decode the data.

There is also fNIR which can potentially do the same job if I understand correctly.

-----


What makes you think that it would take less sophisticated AI to parse the signals from your brain directly than it takes for it to parse natural language?

-----


Actually, the direct brain interface and AI are kind of orthogonal. There may be a direct brain interface that would allow to replace mouse and touch interaction, for example, so the interaction method would be purely mechanical in this case. Passing non-spoken words or thoughts to the computer instead of speaking is a different thing.

-----


Because the brain contains extremely useful representations that are difficult to learn from scratch. Data from brain imaging has been used to improve natural language processing algorithms.

-----


Great. Does anyone actually use Siri? I still don't see people talking to their phone while walking around.

I like the thought of having a smart assistant, but to me, the input mechanic just doesn't work.

Maybe a brain interface would really kick usage off, but I don't think we should expect that within the next 5 years.

-----


I use Siri daily to send hands free text messages. If you use and state a lot of punctuation when dictating Siri gets it right 94 percent of the time.

I've been using Siri for such since it first became available and I notice with iOS 8 a huge step up in accuracy for dictating text messages.

I also ask Siri hands free to play iTunes radio X genre frequently as well and more.

-----


I use it where the overhead of dealing with possible speed recognition errors is less than the overhead of doing the same thing manually.

- Setting a reminder

- Setting a timer

- Asking what the weather is today

Particularly when combined with the plugged in voice activated mode these sort of operations are pretty convenient.

-----


Re: open source initiative: great idea

There are huge problems though. When I worked at Google in 2013 I used the Knowledge Graph, and the amount of resources in very talented people and computational resources was enormous. Structured knowledge is a foundation for Google Now, Siri, Wolfram Alpha, Viv, and others. Maintaining Ontology's and ingesting data is an expensive endevor.

That said, there are great resources like DBPedia that could be built on. It is possible that a high profile (Apache?) project with a lot of corporate support might produce a system that anyone could use. I would like to participate in such a project :-)

-----


Totally agree. With Siri, Google Now and Cortana soon controlling most devices, we are in desperate need of a FOSS AI assistant, one that "thinks" outside of the "corporate AI scheme". BTW that would also benefit those using GNU/Linux, *BSD, and Unices - where the corporate AI's will probably never land anyway.

-----


I'm a bit more pessimistic. I've tried Siri and Google Now but they just seem to be more involved, less accurate ways to do things I could have done by touch. A good (human) personal assistant should know what I want and execute without involvement on my part, and that requires social cues that are difficult to encode as inputs to machine learning. Until we reach that point all we have is are speech-to-text engines with some services attached, which is not that useful imo.

-----


This used to be absolutely true but is now only mostly true. Setting reminders by saying "Google, remind me to do X at 3pm tomorrow" like you would to a normal person works now much better than aiming at a calendar.

Same with quick searches. It's easier to do a voice search than type the terms on a phone, even with suggestions from your keyboard and Google.

-----


Mee too, please share in pastebin or somewhere.

-----


Automating a fleet of trucks has come up few times in these comments. Many commenters have raised concerns of difficult and special situations.

I have worked with machine vision and currently I'm doing my PhD in computational logistics (mainly working on automating the deployment of Vehicle Routing Systems). With this background in mind have given some tought to this: What would be needed, at least in the transition phase, is technology that would allow remote drive-by-wire of trucks in difficult situations (platforms, urban traffic) and wheater conditions.

Imagine a system not entirely unlike the unmanned UAVs the US is using but for civilian use of remote controlling trucks. One driver could probably handle dowzen or so trucks because they would drive under full automation at least 90% of the time. In addition the truck driver could have a normal 9 to 5 job.

Of course there are technical challenges like communications delay etc., but I'd like to hear your opinion on feasibility of such system.

-----


Delay in the control loop is always critical to accurate control. But in the case of a large heavy truck, we already have to live with that (slow acceleration/braking/steering response built in).

-----


> the system tries every setting and graphs the results so it's easy to pick out the best setting. How would that happen? How does the system know what "good" is?

In a research field of Parameter Tuning we try to answer that question. The field is more focused to optimizing algorithm parameters, but it could be applied to physical world of robots etc., if it is feasible to automatically repeat the experiment few dozen to around hundred times.

If we would do like Bret proposed, by logging each experiment we would already have done some "probing" on the parameter space. This, in turn, would allow us to build a statistical model of the phenomena and then minimize/maximize on that. The resulting parameter configuration would then be evaluated, the model updated and the process repeated until satisfactory level of performance was reached.

See for example the recent works from Hutter et al. [1], where they use Random Forests with parameter tuning to make parameter "goodness" predictions (in order to reduce the actual experiments on the target algoritm/robot/whatever).

[1] http://www.cs.ubc.ca/labs/beta/Projects/SMAC/

-----


Also, I recently found out that Android app from Linkedin extracts your gmail contacts. From what I could gather, you cannot opt-out. I was quite annoyed by this. I also see this a more probable explanation to contact harvesting than hacking to email accounts.

-----


Do you know this because installing the app requested permission? The android security model is all or nothing, up front. If anyone ever would want the app to access their contacts, the app is required to demand that permission from every user at installation.

-----


In fact I just discovered that there are Pumped-storage hydroelectricity plants (PSPS) because they were planning to build one also to Finland into a old mine (with mile long shaft). PSPS could solves the power storage problem for wind and solar as long as there is enough suitable locations to use as PSPS reservoirs.

-----


It could be worse, you know. The car colliding with the modern day Chevy could be European car of that era. Here, see Citroen 2CV (the first car in that queue to be hit) to disappear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TR0LRSLCN2I It is like magic, but scary.

After seeing that clip I've been somewhat scared to drive my 2CV around..

-----


Oh, absolutely. "Detroit Steel" is far more sturdy compared to its European brethren of the time, but I think the point is that good engineering is an even better protection than sheer material strength.

-----


Perhaps could even be reutilized as one? I see it is a 50 USD off-the-self extruder for your DIY 3D printer. Add steppers with electronics, draw by hand some fixtures, add "vitamins" (nuts, bolts etc.) and and go.

-----


Not really usable as an extruder because you need to be able to control extrusion amount precisely. At that price, there is definitely a DC gearmotor inside with absolutely no way to control position or speed.

-----


The question from previous discussion remains unanswered. How does he finance his production of top notch open source software? At least for me, the day to day churn of my day job leaves me too mentally exhausted to chase the crazy ideas I get from time to time, let alone finish them.

Imagine a world where hackers, artists and artisans could follow their passions and could chase crazy ideas without a risk of losing the roof on top of their heads and butter over their bread. How many Bellards, we as a humanity, would have running around flinging great code, solving great problems and giving away the fruits of their hard work?

I think we could afford it if we really wanted. If the world just accepted that because of automation fewer and fewer people are needed to work in production (food, items etc.) a huge untapped innovative potential is waiting to be unleashed. In playing Civilization this would be easy, just a click and your society has changed the emphasis of it's production to sciences and art. But how to do this in real life?

I guess I just have to wait and see if the government of Finland gets around and issues citizen’s income as propagated by the Green party. That would be a start and the consequences would be really interesting to see.

-----


It's one of the main reasons I decided to become a freelancer. I've been at it for a few months and I can now pull in 5-6k euros for a month long project. This leaves me the option to either work the whole year if I can keep things pipelined and come out with a really nice income, or spend decent chunks of time on my own projects. I'm currently still figuring out the balance between those two. Just had a week off between projects, for example.

The only thing is, I actually work harder on my freelance projects and have less "idle time" than in permanent positions, so I am a bit more tired during projects.

-----


How do you get started with this?

-----


>How does he finance his production of top notch open source software?

Check his webpage notes regarding the 4G LTE implementation. Its commercialised to a company called Amarisoft and it appears Fabrice is involved in that.

Look at their client list...government and telcos. I'd speculate its quite a profitable enterprise.

http://www.amarisoft.com/?p=about

-----


I'm essentially doing it. It's hard. You have to quit your job and organize income. For me it's a combination of open source donations and consulting with living in a relatively low income (and low cost) country, so consulting can pay for a lot more, if you do it on a global scale.

-----


Where do you live?

-----


Since he's Polish my guess is Poland.

-----


Cape Town, SA

-----


In France and many other places in Europe is common to work 36 hours per week, so you have a reasonable amount of time to do your own stuff.

-----


You actually work 40h/w (usually) and then consolidate the 4 extra hours into a day (or days) off.

-----


"Four times nine" (four days of nine hours each week) also is popular, as is "every second Wednesday is a day off".

Employers like these because they do not build up vast reserves of free days. If you collect four hours off each week for 36 weeks, you have collected four working weeks of holidays. Add the regular 4-5 weeks of holidays and some national holidays, and you can almost take a three month vacation.

-----


I finance my open source software like I do with all my hobbies, by having a day job and doing what I can on nights and weekends. Incremental effort, patience, and commitment are important for side projects that are funded like this.

And I respectfully call bullshit on mental exhaustion. The true burnout comes after juggling your personal work and your day job, which you can fix by throttling back your personal work. Unlike your day job, you can control the pressure there.

I don't know, that's my experience.

-----


The most inspiring and insightful comment I've read on this a while ago was: "you'll be surprised how much you can accomplish with just half an hour every other day", from someone with a day job, a family, and other hobbies besides programming side-projects.

There really is truth in this, most people (myself included) often lose confidence and motivation when thinking too much about the amount of work to complete side-projects, but you only have to remember there are over 300 days in a year, and you can get a lot done in 150 hours of work.

Don't set hard deadlines for yourself as if you're working for someone else, and don't get lost in minor details. Just maintain slow but steady progress, and chances are progress will accelerate when projects start to get closer to completion.

-----


Not all people have the capacity to do ambitious personal projects on top of their day job. I've tried, ended up with burnout and depression. So controlling the pressure means never planning to do something big on the side outside of holidays or other time off work.

It's nice that you're able to do it like this, but your approach won't work for everyone. People have different capacities for doing organized stuff. My limit is at about 8 hours a day, five days a week.

-----


I think people would be very surprised what they are capable of doing. I have been working 80-100 hours per week since March of last year, and before I worked a pretty standard 45 and 'had no time'. I am actually more productive with my time, help my wife more, and still read business books and novels at a pretty good clip.

My biggest two tips are to wake up early and get things done before work, and truly love what you are working on. I wake up around 4 am and go to sleep around 9 pm most nights, and that is a pretty reasonable schedule for me now. It didn't start out that way, but you would be surprised what becomes normal when you push yourself. I would wager you are capable of a lot more then 8 hours a day, five days a week.

-----


I know you mean well, but as I said: I have tried this. It ended up with burnout, depression and two years of not doing anything useful, courtesy of the Norwegian health care system and a very nice family.

I am not doing it again. It doesn't work for me. I have worked more than 40 hours a week for periods of time, up to 6 months. But it is not sustainable. There are individual differences here that a lot of people with very high capacity for work do not understand.

-----


One of the only reasons there's so much automation is because programmers still work for a living--namely, doing all that automation. We're exactly the workers who can't be spared.

-----


At least for me doing meaningful hacking as part of my daytime consulting inspires me to work on my side projects in evening/during night instead of tiring me. On the other hand day spent doing nothing of direct value (paperwork, useless meetings and so on) leads to evening spend by essentially doing nothing.

-----


I feel exactly the same. I enjoy my work but by the time it gets to the evening I need a break, and I never manage to find the time to hack on fun side projects. I have so many silly ideas and things I want to hack on; I really want to get back into programming just for the hell of it.

-----


But if the problems you're solving are truly great, then they would be worth enough money to fund your development effort.

-----


There is a flaw in your rationale. Creative endeavours are a high risk activity. Heck, just see how big % of startups fail. Also, we do not know how many failed projects Bellard has started (I'd suspect hundreds?).

Us mere mortars have bills to play and children to support. It makes us unable to take on the challenges that could potentially lead to huge gains because the short term rewards are not guaranteed.

Also measuring every step of progress with monetary value does not work. New discovery (or project, or tool, whatever) may be the first step required on a long path to a great discovery, but by itself, worth €/$ 0 to everybody.

-----


>But how to do this in real life?

Mormonism prescribes an entire system for this called "The United Order", if you're really interested in a unique answer to that question. Happy to field your questions about it.

-----


One question: how do you go about removing human nature from this interesting idea? As is true with most noble ideas, it always falls over because some person is going to twist it to suit their ends. Communism is a fantastic idea until you find out that 'Some animals are more equal than others' How does 'The United Order' deal with this?

Edit: spelling (iPad use in a pub is highly discouraged)

-----


Participation is totally voluntary. Private ownership still exists. When someone is dissatisfied, they can seek redress within the system, and if they find that unsatisfactory they can leave with little impedance. It's a voluntary co-op, not a compulsory governmental program. While human nature will exist, widespread tyranny and/or compulsion is not a function of The United Order, and those inclined to prefer that nature over discipline or concern for the group are free to do so, and they are free to pursue whatever opportunities they would like on the outside.

Control is very local, administered by bishops who supervise a few hundred people. Unless there was blatant misappropriation or significant credible protest, a bishop's dispensations would likely go unchallenged. Broad centralized programs that cause trouble for some unforgotten little guy are not plausible in a scenario where control is so widely dispensed and so locally focused.

Of course, there's a religious element to this. We believe the bishop has the right to be led by revelation in these duties, so that dilutes a lot of otherwise intractable social ramifications of such an organization. If a man has been ordained by the prophet to do a thing, tolerance is much, much higher than otherwise, and peace is much more likely to be kept despite individual disagreements.

By extension, Mormons further believe that those who accept the judgment of the bishop with the recognition that their bishop is the authorized representative of God in that matter, even if it opposes their personal judgment or opinion, will be lead and blessed such that they become the wealthiest people on earth many, many times over, incomprehensibly more wealthy than contemporary Western nations. Mormon eschatology, in fact, indicates that a society operating under these conditions will be the only place of prosperity on the whole earth for a time, and everyone else will be at war and unable to cooperate sufficiently to sustain any significant productive output.

-----

More

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Y Combinator | Apply | Contact

Search: