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Archive for the category “widgets”

Backing up your brain. One little app at a time.

A few weeks ago I celebrated by birthday. While I am not an 8 year old anymore to care about birthdays, what struck me most was the number of good wishes I received. From a dozen or so greetings a few years ago, I received hundreds, perhaps a thousand messages this time.

So what has changed? Facebook, obviously. Those useful little notifications that appear on the right top of our streams. Sure. But that’s missing a broader trend.

Einstein’s telephone number. The story goes that when someone asked Albert Einstein his phone number, Einstein replied that he didn’t remember it. This startled the man who was well aware of Einstein’s genius. Mr Relativity had to then clarify that when his phone number was easily available in a telephone directory, there was no point of him remembering it and crowding up his memory,

Remembering to forget. Starting with a telephone directory to new digital platforms like Facebook, Google and Outlook calendar, apps like Rememeberthemilk and programs like Basecamp we have started to slowly outsource our brain. By setting up alerts and reminders we are using technology to help us forget days, times and activities that would have otherwise added noise to our already overwhelmed brains.

I don’t bother to remember to pay my utility bills anymore as I have set them all up in the automated system that my bank provides. With SMS messages that arrive month after month, I only keep a notional track of bills that have come in and have automatically been paid out.

I have gone further, with tools like CarLocator that helps me remember where I parked my car in a busy parking lot.  Or whosthat?, an app that I, err, use discreetly, to help me remember names of people who I have met, and may have forgotten, and therefore avoid real world social embarrassments.

Carbon meets silicone. The brain outsourcing business is still in its infancy with simple apps that need our intervention to take over things we want them to. But this could soon change, with scientists finding ways to connect carbon based humans and silicon based computers seamlessly. British Scientist Kevin Warwick has been working on wiring silicon based interfaces that can send signals between a human body and a computer. In fact he has had a chip implanted in his own arm more than a decade ago and has been experimenting with ways to turn analog signals from his body into little pieces of digital software that once activated on a computer will be able to create a reaction in his body.

Others believe we can take it further. With inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil foreseeing that we will, in our own lifetimes, be able to download our memories, thoughts, emotions and consciousness into a hard drive. He has written several books on the subject and at 63 is working towards being one of the first humans to be able to seamlessly move from being a man to a machine. Computers are already better than humans at logic, he says and it is just a matter of time when we will be able to transfer our emotional intelligence into a computer.

There are others too who agree with the Kurzweil line of thinking. Ian Pearson, head of the futurology at British Telecom has put a date to when we will be able to seamlessly download minds into a machine. 2050, he says, if you are rich enough, add another 25 years for poor guys like me.

I have seen heaven. So what does happy birthday alerts and online bill payment systems tell us about longevity and immortality? That, unbeknownst to us, we have started our journey from being creatures of carbon, to having our memory and our consciousness preserved in a server farm somewhere. With Apple launching iOS 5 sometime in October, and the promise of free or low cost digital storage on iCloud and elsewhere, we are slowly and steadily uploading our lives onto silicon. With his ongoing battle with cancer, Steve Jobs may not make it. But his vision could help me live forever, in silicon heaven, on a cloud somewhere.

This story appeared in FirstPost. You can read it here 

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Bank Of Twitter

Bank of America becomes yet another bank to embrace Twitter with a customer service stream. Manned by customer relations specialist David Knapp, customers can tweet him if they have problems with their accounts or general questions. Wachovia, which in August started an account to seek out and serve customers on this micro blogging platform, now has over a thousand followers. While some banks have active twitter accounts, there are others who have created accounts and not followed up on it. Read more in Finextra.

From Ads To APPS

Early last year, we predicted 2008 to be the year of the widget. But with Vista struggling to take off, it looked like the prediction would turn out to be a turkey. Then came in the iPhone appstore that changed everything. Some 300 million downloads in just 21 weeks, poof!. Brands have been playing with apps for a while, the Carling iPint app was one of the early pieces that caught the eye. Now, according to AdAge, apps are replacing ads for many marketers. In lieu of banner ads, advertisers increasingly are building mobile applications that provide contained brand experiences along with a usefulness that keeps users interacting with the brand, writes Rita Chang. In the past month, brands such as Kraft, Nike, Gap, REI and Friskies have built applications for everything from planning a dinner menu to downloading snow reports. Unlike microsites that fade away after a few days and weeks, apps have the ability to stay useful to people who have downloaded them for months and years. Done right, apps have the ability to provide utilitarian value that goes beyond the brand message. Apps also fit in from the point of view of the changed consumer, who is happy to co-create and personalise things that attract their attention. So if there is an app that you can build, that could fit into people’s lives in some tangible way, go on, make it available to people, and they will come. More in AdAge. Also read this story from Textually.org.

Living The Oprah Life

In Chicago, 35-year-old actress Robyn Okrant (Lo) has started a blog called LivingOprah.com, recording her year-long efforts to live as Oprah would have her live. She watches the program, tracks what products Oprah says she “must” buy, she reads the magazines, makes the recipes, buys the Favorite Things, as recommended by Oprah Winfrey. The experiment, started on the first of January, has been expensive this year. By January 18, Lo was seeing evidence that Oprah’s advice at times conflicted with her own non-billionaire lifestyle. And by Early July, Lo estimates that she’s spent 440 hours and $1,600 so far following Oprah’s advice. When her rent increased, she and her husband moved to a cheaper apartment rather than threaten the project. Read more on her blog, and in Chicago Reader.

A Widget’s Worth

Over half a billion people view them, some of the biggest sites on the internet use them, many feel widgets will change the way we browse and receive information. But how much is a widget worth? ComScore is going to figure that out.

Priceless Christmas Calculator

Christmas is spending time, and despite all the planning and the budgeting to curb extra spends, most people find themselves going way beyond what they intended. Year after year, credit card companies, while witnessing record transactions on one hand have also seen a large number of people fall into the debt trap. To help people out of this festive woe, MasterCard has developed an online calculator for Christmas (Priceless Calculator that allows an individual to break down his spending into categories such as gifts, food, travel and decorations. All he has to do is enter in his planned purchases and watch the totaliser total up his spends to ensure that this year you have a fantastic Christmas without the credit hangover in January. Read the full article here.

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