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NYT Working On 'Magic Mirror' For Bathroom Surfing

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the in-case-you-didn't-have-enough-webcams-by-your-toilet dept.

Advertising 138

MrSeb writes "If the New York Times Research & Development Lab has its wicked way, you will soon be able to stop taking your mobile computer of choice into the bathroom — and use a 'magic mirror' instead. On average we spend an hour in the bathroom every day, and the magic mirror — which is built from a 'data-bearing' mirror, Microsoft Kinect, and a healthy dollop of ingenuity — is designed to capitalize on that time by letting you surf the web and increase the New York Times' advertising revenue."

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hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37285898)

That doesn't sound very hygienic.

Ah yes (3, Funny)

RenHoek (101570) | more than 2 years ago | (#37285908)

More traffic for chatroulette.com :)

For the love of god (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37285916)

Stop using advertising revenue as a business model.

Re:For the love of god (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37286374)

Yeah, that's Google's job.

Re:For the love of god (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37286482)

Why...if it funds development I don't care what their model is. What I want is for them to outlaw patents so the technology doesn't get stuck only in companies that use this business model.

Sounds like a narcissist's wet dream (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#37285922)

I can surf the web AND still look at myself?!?!? Shit, that will sell *really* well in L.A.

Re:Sounds like a narcissist's wet dream (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37286060)

Now we can look forward to even more lost productivity while these contraptions facilitate toilet-side porn and the Beating of Meats on the Toilet Seats (tm).

-- Ethanol-fueled

Kinect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37285930)

A camera in every bathroom, what a great idea!

Re:Kinect? (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286134)

You forgot the microphones, and laser/CMOS depth sensor. Troll harder.

Re:Kinect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37286218)

How's this:

A hyper-accurate penis measuring, net connected device in every bathroom, what a great idea!

"You are in the 27th penile percentile of all males who have used this restroom... are you SURE you don't want those penis pills we emailed you about?"

Re:Kinect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37286670)

Will it also take pictures of embarrassing moments and add funny captions, I wonder?

Ewww.. (1)

gerry_br (801484) | more than 2 years ago | (#37285938)

Would you really want to touch one of these if it was in a public restroom?

Re:Ewww.. (1)

DeathToBill (601486) | more than 2 years ago | (#37285966)

Presumably that's where the Kinect comes in - you don't have to touch it.

Re:Ewww.. (3, Funny)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286136)

I wonder if this will work like other games, where the kinect will by default opt in to taking random pictures of you and posting it to your Xboxlive profile.

Re:Ewww.. (1)

grimmjeeper (2301232) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286530)

Great, so instead of touching a filthy screen, we have cameras in the loo. Where can I sign up for that?

Re:Ewww.. (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287264)

Great, so instead of touching a filthy screen, we have cameras in the loo. Where can I sign up for that?

Oh, not to worry, you already have.

Busy with "other" things (1)

markdavis (642305) | more than 2 years ago | (#37285948)

I don't know about the "average person", but while I am in the bathroom shaving, washing, showering, bathing, trimming, using the toilet, etc, I have neither the time nor inclination to somehow stare at (or maybe interact with) text and graphics on a mirror over the vanity...

Perhaps I am just not geeky enough?

Listening to music would be OK, I suppose :)

Re:Busy with "other" things (1)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 2 years ago | (#37285988)

Yeah, who wants a mirror directly in front of the toilet? That's not very magical for me. At least they won't be bundling many cameras with these devices as I doubt anyone will want to join that person's Skype or Hangout.

Re:Busy with "other" things (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286860)

I agree. Someone in the creativity department forgot to take the time to actually look at how bathrooms are designed. No one is going to stand in front of the bathroom sink for an hour (after all, we apparently spend "an hour a day in the bathroom" according to TFA) to read the news. Much more convenient to bring a portable computing device with you if you're that desperate for onthrone connectivity.

Re:Busy with "other" things (1)

PopeScott (1343031) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286054)

Exactly what I came to post. How am I supposed to use this thing while shaving, brushing my teeth, in the shower...
The only place you can use a tablet is on the toilet, and that's what people are using their tablets and phones for.

Re:Busy with "other" things (1)

BattleApple (956701) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286774)

Yeah, I don't get it either.. all this would do is increase the amount of time you spend in the bathroom. Why not do your thing, then go use a computer elsewhere? The only useful thing I can think of for this is some kind of game to get kids to brush their teeth etc.

Re:Busy with "other" things (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286958)

I can see how some people might want to stream the morning news or music or something, in which case gesture based control would solve the wet hands + electronics issue, but even then it seems like the solution they're proposing is massive overkill and will apply to a very small number of people.

Re:Busy with "other" things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287006)

the solution they're proposing is massive overkill and will apply to a very small number of people.

Yeah, much like a 1000 HP car is massive overkill and will only be sold to a very small number of people. There's no need for those Koenigsegg cars or the Bugatti Veyrons... what were they thinking! So stupid...

Re:Busy with "other" things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37286976)

And even on the toilet I'm done in 30 seconds... Or a couple of minutes at most, if it's a cable.

Seriously, how does _ANYONE_ manage to spend an hour on this? I got a delicious body (seriously, I'd wank to it every day if I was gay) and a couple of minutes at most goes to enjoying it in the mirror.

Re:Busy with "other" things (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287300)

I got a delicious body (seriously, I'd wank to it every day if I was gay) and a couple of minutes at most goes to enjoying it in the mirror.

Do you have any idea which web site you're posting on?

Re:Busy with "other" things (2)

LehiNephi (695428) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286198)

That was precisely my thought. While my cumulative time spent in the bathroom may reach an hour per day, I would estimate that less than five minutes of that is spent "in front of" the mirror, and the time spent *looking* at the mirror is some fraction of even that.

And I would guess that those people who *do* spend a lot of time looking at the mirror already have something holding their attention--themselves.

Re:Busy with "other" things (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286244)

Yeah, about the only way I can consume content in the bathroom is as audio, and even that's a stretch. All I want is a half-decent bluetooth waterproof speaker for my podcasts.

This is the MOVIES talking (4, Funny)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287474)

In the movies there exist this amazing invention, perfect AI. This perfect AI will give you your tasks of the day as you are shaving in an easy to digest manner that requires no user interaction with shaving foam covered fingers (for the ladies) or make up (for the men) (Yes I am from Amsterdam, how did you know).

In reality, what will be displayed is your gmail account and that ain't easy to navigate at the best of times let alone when you are hung over and can't handle any light at all let alone your own reflection.

Same with tablet, in the movies they just swipe and voila, what they want appears in large enough text you can read it over their shoulders. In reality? Finicky settings, wifi or 3g that isn't in range and touchscreens that seem designed for people with smaller fingers then I have.

It is the idea of the cue-cat again, that people are so organized that they can even be bothered to go through all this hassle even if they were motivated to do so. Like QR codes. What do they expect, I am going to stop my car, search for my phone, install an app, try to get a picture of the code, wait for it to look it up, wait for the page over 3g and .... I LOST INTEREST!

Every futuristic sci-fi movie tends to have a scene where the hero wakes up and has an intelligent house that makes the process go smooth, reads the news, shows the mail and orders a new carton of milk... in reality? The only tech in my house itself that people didn't have a hundred years ago is the light-switch and that is just because only rich people had them but cleaning staff would still have seen them in the houses they worked at.

Oh yes, I got a computer but they are not part of the house are they now? How smart is your house? Really?

How smart could you make it, with todays tech in a way that is actually helpfull? For instance, get a weather report? Detailed enough to be usefull but not annoying to hear everyday even if you got a day off?

The idea is that shaving and such are wasted moment, a rich director would have his secretary to fill him in, it is sci-fi to have a computer/robot do it. It looks great in every movie I have seen. In reality? Do you want to blue screen your mirror? Have to wait for an essential update before you can flush your toilet?

No? Me neither. My fridge is dumb, my washing machine is dumb, my lights are dumb. Maybe that makes me dumb but it works for me.

What now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37285964)

The summary didn't make any sense. I still have no idea what this is about.

an hour? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37285980)

A whole damn hour in the bathroom every day? Even counting a 15 minute shower that seems like a lot. Might I recommend a change in diet?

Just what I always wanted in the bathroom: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37285984)

A hidden Kinect camera to 3D record what I do in the bathroom! Finally!

Bankrupt? (3)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#37285996)

Was it not just a few months ago that the New York Times was complaining about how they had to protect their revenue stream and start enforcing a pay wall? Where did they get the money for such a pointless project?

An hour? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37285998)

Women might spend an hour a day in the bathroom, but what straight man does? 10 mins shower, 2 mins brushing teeth, 5 mins shaving and maybe 5 mins taking a crap.

Gay men? (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286058)

Is there some reason to think that gay men don't also spend 10~ minutes showering, 2~ minutes brushing their teeth, 5~ minutes shaving and 5~ minutes taking a dump? I didn't realize that sexual orientation determined how long those things take...

Re:Gay men? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37286108)

Who knows what those sickos do. Probably an hour with a zucchini and some KY.

Re:Gay men? (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286176)

I think it was that stereotypically gay men groom themselves, and stereotypically strait men don't.

An hour a day sounds about right to me though.

Re:Gay men? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37288196)

Because gay men are prone to spend time primping. Some may not, but most of the gay guys I know do. If it makes you feel more PC, go ahead and add "metrosexual" men into the mix.

Re:An hour? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37286416)

You neglected to include your 45 minutes of fapping

Re:An hour? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37286512)

Women might spend an hour a day in the bathroom, but what straight man does? 10 mins shower, 2 mins brushing teeth, 5 mins shaving and maybe 5 mins taking a crap.

With Magic Mirror: 10 mins shower, 2 mins brushing teeth, 5 minutes shaving, 5 minutes taking a crap, 30 minutes fapping, 10 mins showering again, 30 minutes fapping again.....

Re:An hour? (1)

grimmjeeper (2301232) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286580)

Women might spend an hour a day in the bathroom, but what straight man does? 10 mins shower, 2 mins brushing teeth, 5 mins shaving and maybe 5 mins taking a crap.

Speaking as someone who has been on this earth for many years, that last activity takes longer the older you become...

Re:An hour? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287522)

You clearly don't have Angry Birds.

Re:An hour? (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287784)

that last activity takes longer the older you become...

... though I suspect that this is a (cumulative) result of a wrong diet, dehydration, defunct posture etc. . Also, the use of 'western-style' toilets (instead of squat ones) does not exactly alleviate the situation.


Re:An hour? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286960)

Why is spending an hour important? Some hotels (Caesars in Atlantic City for one) already have televisions in the bathroom mirrors. It's kind of nice to be able to get the weather report, sports scores, etc while you are brushing your teeth. It does have some drawbacks however. First, you have to use a remote control (in the bathroom, yuck) to change the channels. Secondly, chances of the things you want actually being aired at that moment are pretty slim. This seems like it would improve on both of them.

Re:An hour? (2)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287948)

A stack of books next to the shitter is common, and a computer can serve the same function. The crapper is renowned as a good place to think.

Invconvenient position (4, Insightful)

denshao2 (1515775) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286002)

How many of us have a mirror positioned to watch us use the toilet?

Re:Invconvenient position (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37286384)

you'd be suprised

Text-to-speech, auto "Next page"ing?... (1)

John Guilt (464909) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286080)

...because I spend most of my time in the klo either away from the mirror or in the shower. Now a shower safe web-radio is a real improvement; we have a rack in our shower (and, yes, it's a nice one) so tomorrow's solution, today, consists of a 7" tablet and a 1qt zip-lock freezer bag.

Next month's headline.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37286094)

"Magic Mirror-mirror on the wall hacked by anonymous, pictures and facebook passwords posted to www.haxalot.org/mirror_exploit"

I have been waiting for this forever... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37286096)

Finally I have a better excuse to use the basin to pee...

This mirror will make my life better

Re:I have been waiting for this forever... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37286826)

You needed an excuse before?

There's not a man alive who won't pee into the basin given the chance. It's so compelling.

Kinect is watching (2)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286126)

Shake it more than three times and Clippy pops up. "Looks like you could use some help with that. Shall I find you some good porn?"

no way... (1)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286156)

So this is just another way to entice me into staying longer in a room that smells like crap and touch a mirror that's been likely touched by a douchebag that doesn't wash his hands after he touches himself? No thanks...

The real reason they're doing this (1)

Lew Perin (30124) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286242)

The NYT engineers had been working nonstop for months without success trying to get their iPhone app to stop freezing. Eventually they decided it would be smart to work on something different and less strenuous for a while and then return to their important project with fresh minds.

Whos a fecalpheliac? (2)

Steven_M_Campbell (409802) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286312)

Why does this idea of putting computers in public restrooms keep surfacing? Perhaps we should flush twice.

Re:Whos a fecalpheliac? (1)

skids (119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286506)

I know one and it doesn't seem to stop him from cracking open a book on the can.

Anyway, I hope people really do not want toilet-ready gadgets as much as the responses on the thread would indicate because:

A) It's hard enough to get a wifi signal properly situated to get through bathroom mirrors and tile. We have to factor bathrooms into AP placement as is even though we do not cover them, because we have to shoot around them to get to other rooms.
B) I personally don't want to be the one to do the WiFi survey of all the mens bathrooms in the dormatories, and all my workstudies are female.

"Captive" Audience (2)

TheReaperD (937405) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286684)

Simple. We've been assaulted with so much advertising in our lifetimes that we've become numb to it. It's white noise. The billions companies are spending to get our attention is going down the toilet (pun intended). What they're looking for now is a "captive" audience. Someplace where we can't ignore them or quickly get away from them. Where do we go everyday, multiple times a day, that we can't skip or go someplace else... the bathroom. They know it and they're trying to find a way in that won't be automatically rejected or cost so much that they can't get a return on their investment. Right now they have the static posters but, they want Flash ads... with sound... and preferably vibration (wait, maybe not a good idea)... you get the point.

The arms race for our attention continues. There's a reason that the younger generations have the attention span of a gnat.

Yea, yea... get off my lawn.

These screens already exist (2)

jandrese (485) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286394)

I stayed in an upscale hotel in Europe once where the TVs were disguised as fancy mirrors (with frame and all). When the screen was off it was a perfectly usable mirror and you could only tell the difference if you looked carefully.

To me, this seems about as useful as those "internet on your refrigerator!" things that Bestbuy carries. Who wants to surf the web in the bathroom?

An hour a day (1)

Jaktar (975138) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286398)

I know this is an average, but someone out there must be spending an awful lot of time in the bathroom to compensate for me being on the far left of the average.

This is yet another solution looking for a problem.

Re:An hour a day (1)

bkaul01 (619795) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286696)

I know this is an average, but someone out there must be spending an awful lot of time in the bathroom to compensate for me being on the far left of the average.

Yeah, they're called women.

1 hour every day? (1)

kyrio (1091003) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286402)

What the fuck? My shower is at most 30 minutes, if I feel like relaxing (avg 15 min). Other than that, a couple of minutes here and there to pee and wash my hands and a couple of minutes to poop, wipe and wash my hands. What the fuck is everyone else doing in there?

An hour a day? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286410)

15 minute shower, 5-10 minutes for number 2, and 5-10 minutes for number 1. And that's being generous. I don't see how you can spend an hour per day in the bathroom, and I certainly don't understand how half the population can spend more than an hour a day in there.

Re:An hour a day? (1)

Guidii (686867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286540)

The ADA recommends that you brush your teeth for at least two minutes at least twice per day. Proper dental hygiene is important!

And you might as well check your email while you're brushing, because there's not much else to do.... Still, this seems like a toy for the overly-wealthy.

Solution in search of a problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37286414)

That time spent looking in the mirror is usually already busy, shaving, tidying hair, checking teeth and the like. As adept as some people are at multitasking I don't think looking at facebook while shaving is a great idea, especially with a straight razor and most people's smartphones already amply handles the 'squat and surf'

Well it'll save (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286472)

Well it'll save sneaking the magazines from the bedroom stash into the bathroom. Not to mention avoiding getting the pages stuck together.

One more reason... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37286484)

to not use a public bathroom.
As if we needed more.

1984 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37286738)

Now there is nowhere you can hide!

Spaceballs: the Bathroom Computing Device? (1)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286746)

Hopefully it doesn't run Skype, since "I told you never to call me on this wall! This is an unlisted wall!" [wikiquote.org]

Useless (1)

aglider (2435074) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286752)

The only moment someone is in the bathroom and is able to use a computer is either sitting on the "white throne" or laying in the tub.
In both cases I see the magic mirror at least out of a reach, if not completely useless.
What's burning into your mind that requires you to use a PC while brushing your teeth, shaving the cheeks or putting your contacts on?

(Not so) Useless (1)

aglider (2435074) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286788)

If you are a voyeur, that magic mirror is a must, provided that you install it at your favorite targets' bathroom and it has a hidden wide angle webcam.

Re:Useless (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287294)

The only moment someone is in the bathroom and is able to use a computer is either sitting on the "white throne" or laying in the tub.

And for those times, a small table and a laptop are sufficient.

Number of problems (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 2 years ago | (#37286778)

1) What happens the first time somebody is in the shower and reaches out to hit the next page?
2) Most bathrooms have the mirror on the same wall that the toilet is because most people don't like to look at them self while sitting there.
3) Lots of germs if one is going to the bathroom and reaching over to a touchscreen, unless the wash their hands first, in which case item one comes into play.
4) In most households and public restrooms the goal is to get people out of the bathroom quickly so others can use it.
5) Hopefully, such a device won't include a webcam!

lep!? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287204)

of businees and 3as gains market share non-fucking-existant.

Really magical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287368)

It has to be a really magical mirror, if it allows you to surf in the bathtub:
- Magic mirror on the wall, who is the best surfer of the flat?
- You are indeed a good surfer, master, but Snowwhite surfs even better than you.
- Dammit! I'll immediately ban her from the Wave!

Security (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287548)

I await the reports of a poorly secured mirror that someone gets a hold of and ends up broadcasting their pill information (possibly more) and webcam all over the internet.

Mirror Mirror (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37288006)

If you could connect this mirror to a cable outlet maybe hidden behind it this could help get rid of all of the shower radios and bathroom TVs currently in place...otherwise, stupid idea...who spends that much time in the bathroom where they can actively browse the web...listening to radio or TV is passive which is possible while you shower, shave, brush teeth, do makeup, whatever....but using it like a computer....don't think so...nice try but it's just another gadgety toy...

An hour a day. (1)

wideBlueSkies (618979) | more than 2 years ago | (#37288022)

Oh yes, they must be looking at all the guys who disappear into the mens room with a copy of the local rag under their arm... You know the type of guy.. he sits there in the stall, trousers around his ankles, doing the crossword puzzle and reading the sports. And sometimes using it as a phone booth too.

What could be better for that guy, than having the news already there waiting for him....

Ugh... I just realized, sometimes the news IS there waiting for him... folded up behind the piping or stuffed into the paper spool....

Mirror mirror on the wall-E ..... (1)

geohump (782273) | more than 2 years ago | (#37288060)

I love the thinking behind this, technology ubiquitously deployed so that it's everywhere: available, literally, instantaneously. The article mentions that we, and I'm assuming we means the average American in the USA, spend an hour in the bathroom every day. And the New York Times intends for us to use some part of that time to read their newspaper. hmmm...
People spending that hour in the bathroom are busy doing their daily grooming which pretty much ties up their active eyesight and participation.

The very first thing I thought about the product was, a mirror that lets you surf the web while you're grooming? The idea is good geeky fun, but is it really useful and usable?

Now that I have read the article and watched the first video, I can see that some good thought has been put into how people may want to use it.

Yes, people's hands are busy while they're in the bathroom, (and they should wash their hands before they touch anything...), So a mouse interface is not a good idea. The innards of the mouse would soon be gunked up, rendering it useless. Between hairspray, steamy water vapor, and makeup powder, even an optical mouse would be inoperable. And a women's bathroom would be just as bad. :-)

The way to make this product successful is to put a much better voice response interface on it. The user should be able to have a conversation with the product and have it act as their agent. In the demo the system is responding by changing what it displays on the screen. You should be able to "chat" with it. If you're shaving, or if your putting on false eyelashes, you should be able to ask the system a question, and have it respond to you by voice rather than forcing you to go look at something. Any time you're waving a sharp blade near your face, or gluing anything on your eye, you don't want to take your eyes off what you're doing....

And the read back voice has to be natural and pleasant sounding, and naturally, customized to the user's preferences. Of course the Kinect system should recognize each individual it has been set up with and switch to their user profile as soon as they recognize them.

For example, if the user says "where is the movie the way you were showing today?" Notice that the user doesn't put the movie title in quotes or specially delineate it in any way verbally. The user has to be able to rely on the system to successfully parse the verbal utterance when it is the normal and natural way people speak.

The system needs to respond with "that movie is showing at 4 different theaters that are near you" (if the movie was only showing at one or perhaps 2 theaters, then the system would immediately say the names of those theaters, as in "that movie is showing at the Strand, and the Cinemax".

The system will need to know what theaters the user is already familiar with. That is the kind of information it learns over time from interacting with the user. As further training for the system, as the system interacts with users from all over, it should tokenize the interaction sequences, remove all the personal identifying information, and upload the tokenized interaction sequence to a central repository. That way the central repository can learn all the different ways users have of interacting with different named things and improve the number of things the agent side know how to do. For example, an object named "movie" has its own name, [title], and each movie can be associated with one or more theaters. Each theater is associated with a physical address, and a phone number, and of course its own name. And the relationship between movie and theater has associations with multiple show time/sub-theater pairs. The show time/theater pair that is associated with the movie-theater relationship has 2 properties associated with it, the 1st is the time the movie will be shown, and the 2nd one is which sub-theater at that theater the movie will be shown in at that time. Since the system understands all these relationships, when the user asks "what time is it showing at the Strand", it understands, from tracking context, that "it" is referring to the movie. And it understands that the query means to display the information in the movie-theater relationship, which is made up of the show time/sub-theater pairs. By the way, in addition to the show time/sub-theater pairs, the movie-theater relationship also has a start date/end date pair associated with it, so if the user asks "how long will it be at that theater", the system will know to respond by reading off the end date of the start date/end date pair associated with that movie-theater relationship. Clearly all this fancy capability implies that the system knows how to go out on the Internet and successfully find that information about the movie and successfully parse that information into the appropriate pair relationship fields. And that may be almost as hard as doing good speech recognition.

Of course the system should not only respond by voice. When it makes sense to, it should also display information. For example when it has to list out the showtimes of the movie, it might want to actually generate a vertical numbered list of the showtimes on the display while it is reading them off. That gives the user the information into different formats, and makes it unnecessary for the user to try to memorize the times when they are read off. They can just glance at the display. "send Bill an e-mail asking him if he wants to go to the 2nd showing with me" In response to this command, the system should be able to format an e-mail containing all of the implied but unspoken information as well as the spoken information and dispatch it to Bill who is a person the system is aware that the user is familiar with. If there is more than one "Bill", the system should ask the user which one they mean. In this particular instance the spoken information was the selection of a show time, and the system needs to format the e-mail message correctly using both the spoken information and the unspoken, but implied information. So the content of the e-mail would be "Bill, Susan wants to know if you would like to go to - the system needs to insert the movie title here which was some of the unspoken but implied information - at the - here it inserts the name of the theater from the assumed information - at - here it inserts the unspoken but selected information of the time of the show - . Then the system includes Susan's default contact information, which might be an e-mail address or a twitter etc. and sends the e-mail out. Alternately the system might use one of the more immediate messaging tools instead of e-mail, but the information sent over is the same.

The videos imply a great deal of detailed knowledge about the user's environment and daily routines being captured and properly structured within the system's data/database. If this system were to be used in a home where there is a family, the system needs to be configured in a way that prevents children from accessing information or privileges that must be constrained to the adults. So on this system security is going to be a major issue. Especially since humans who are not registered users of the system could enter the bathroom and be misrecognized as valid users with adult access privileges. Imagine the snoopy neighbor, or someone from work asking to review your medications!

"Oh look, Susan is taking a an anti-psychotic medication!"

This idea clearly has enormous potential to improve people's lives and make them more productive. The idea of a software "personal agent" is something those of us with weaker organizational skills would kill to get a hold of.

The ways the agent manipulates the data has to be extremely open and flexible. In contrast, the closed design that Microsoft's e-mail product, Exchange has, is much too restricted and limited. Part of making this product successful includes making sure that the personal agent has the ability to interoperate smoothly with any potential outside data source or resource management utility. A resource management utility could be someone else's calendaring system. The personal agent needs to be able to negotiate and agree to a date and time with that external calendar system on behalf of their user. A software tool which can only interoperate with software tools from the same software manufacturer can't make it in a world where the most successful smart phone models are from other manufacturers: the iPhone and the "Android" smart phone platform from many companies. This means a significant change to Microsoft's "lock everyone else out!" design approach. If Microsoft can make that philosophical change, that forces the rest of the market to also try to make sure their software will interoperate with other "personal agent" type utilities. No personal agent software product is likely to be successful unless *All Companies* personal agent software products can interoperate with each other.

Because the hardware platforms available as personal computing devices for people, "smart phones", and iPads, and iPads competitors, are diversifying explosively, Microsoft's traditional integrated software silo approach is going to start causing them more economic harm than advantage. Yes Microsoft is still the big player, but the way people use computing is changing and in order to stay the big player that it is, Microsoft will need to change its approach to be more interoperable, and play nicely with other systems.

Here is one interaction scenario: Susan is in the bathroom and wants to review her schedule.

"Mirror mirror on the wall, which Prince is going to take me to the Ball?"... Oh never mind, that's from the script I sent to Disneyâ¦

Ok, let us return to Susan.
"Mirror what's coming up?"
"You have one appointment tomorrow, and you are meeting Bill on Saturday at 2 o'clock for the movie "The Way You Were".
"Next week you have a doctors appointment with Dr. Williams on Wednesday at 10 AM." You also have a meeting with Karen Johnson on Wednesday at 9:30 AM."
Susan realizes that the 930 meeting with her boss definitely conflicts with her doctors appointment.
"Mirror, cancel my appointment with Dr. Williams and reschedule it for the earliest time they have open, that I'm available for."
The personal agent contacts the doctors offices scheduling agent over the Internet, and sends over a request to move Susan's appointment to the next available time with Dr. Williams. The doctor's office agent cancels Susan's existing appointment, and sends back a list of times that Dr. Williams is available. Susan's personal agent parses the list of times and finds the 1st time slot where Susan is also available. Since the personal agent system is aware of travel time issues it examines Susan's schedule both before and after the time of the doctors appointment to make sure that there time for Susan to travel to the doctor's office from her workplace and to travel back after the appointment. If the agent detects there may not be enough time, the user agent can ask the Susan about the situation, and Susan can direct the user agent as to what she wants done.

"Susan there is a 10 o'clock appointment with Dr. Williams available on Thursday, but the travel time from your office to the doctor's office is 35 min. and you only have 30 min. available after the morning staff meeting to get to the appointment."
"Mirror, okay book me that time with Dr. Williams" Susan knows that the staff meetings tend to break up earlier than the time they are scheduled to end at. And besides if the meeting goes long, she'll have an excuse to leave! :-)

Of course this level of intelligent object manipulation and interaction with the human has been the Grail of personal productivity systems forever. In a sense what's being described here is the perfect administrative assistant who is there, 24x7 and never tired and never forgets anything. Unfortunately this can never happen unless all of the software vendors who build resource management software like calendars and personal schedulers and bill paying systems etc. all have the same interoperability protocol as part of their tool.

As you can see from the length of this posting, and, from the probably embedded miss phrasings , I not only want a speech interface system to a personal agent, I am using speech recognition software to generate this post.

[aside]:One of the issues with speech recognition software is that using it changes the way you compose written work. When I am using speech recognition software I tend to generate rather long, run-on sentences, whose logical structure is difficult to parse. This is just one of the side effects of using speech recognition.

bathroom mirror / web browser - really? (1)

Independent_forever (1851460) | more than 2 years ago | (#37288198)

Just another gadget to waste money on...I guess if you can use it to listen to the radio or TV news it could help get rid of other smaller electronics in the bathroom but HOW freaking' long are people staying in there anyway....ridiculous.
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