What The Tech?! is a blog series exploring technology news, product releases, updates and innovation. These posts aim to cover the latest news in tech, and offer an opinion on why they are interesting in the wider context of digital.
In this edition we look at the launch Snapchat’s first hardware product, a new ad product being offered by Facebook that means you could be about to receive messages from brands, and how Google are using artificial intelligence and machine learning for creating music.
Earlier this month Snapchat launched its first piece of hardware, Spectacles. The sunglasses like devices are designed to be worn for extended periods of time, allowing the wearer to record ten second video clips directly from their point of vue. The glasses connect via bluetooth to the Snapchat users phone, which then automatically uploads the clips onto the phone ready to be shared.
The glasses hold a limited charge of about four hours, however Snapchat designed the case so that when the glasses are not being worn they can recharge automatically. As for the video they produce, in a step away from the normal landscape or portrait dimensions, Snapchat have given the glasses the ability to record circular video, which gives viewers the unique ability to rotate their phone to view more of the video.
When launched Spectacles were initially only available in limited numbers from specific locations that changed every 24 hours. Sales were completed through Snapbots, which are vending machine style points of sale that allow users to try the glasses on (via augmented reality) before they buy them. More recently Snapchat have opened up a physical store that sits just behind Apple on 5th Avenue, it’s the first physical store that Snapchat have opened, allowing them to sell Spectacles in the build up to Christmas.
This month Facebook announced, on stage at the web summit in Lisbon, that they would be opening up “Sponsored Messages” for brands which would essentially allow brands to message customers and fans on a one to one basis. This new ad product further illustrates a focus on messaging from within Facebook and that they see branded conversations as an important channel for brands to market to consumers.
One thing to note is that initially there will be some restrictions on who brands can contact, the main restriction being that they can only contact people that have already contacted them before. This restriction means that for brands to use this feature they would already have to have a strategy in place to get fans to contact them via messenger. One tactic that could be implemented is the use of a bot or to begin using Messenger as a customer service tool.
Duet with A.I.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have exploded in recent years. Tech companies have begun exploring how they can be best integrated into products to enhance the experience. Google is one of the most experienced companies when it comes to implementing A.I. and Machine Learning. Since 2012 it has been utilising A.I. to build knowledge graphs, the part of Google search that gives useful information within the results without the need to click into a website. For example when searching for Barack Obama you are returned a pane of information that features information most often needed when he’s searched for.
In a new video, uploaded by Google’s developers, one of the more creative implementations of A.I. explains how they have taught a Neural Network (a computer setup to work in a way similar to the neural pathways in the brain) to understand music and the relationship between different notes. They continue to explain that as the computer is aware of how different musical notes relate to each other, due to it being fed thousands of pieces of sheet music, a user is able to play any tune on the piano and in reply the computer will play a melody back that it feels is the best musical response. This is one example of how a company has begun to explore using Artificial Intelligence in a more creative way.
Tesla and SolarCity Power Grid
Earlier this week it was announced that Tesla had acquired SolarCity, a company that Tesla founder Elon Musk also had a large investment in, which specialise in solar roofing panels. The acquisition got off to a flying start with the announcement that in partnership the two companies had transformed the small American Samoa island of Tau into a green energy beacon of best practice.
Historically the island had relied on diesel powered generators to provide electricity to the inhabitants. However with high import costs and harmful pollutants being released into the atmosphere every day Tesla and SolarCity stepped in to create a electrical grid on the island powered completely from renewable solar power.
The grid is able to power the island even if there is no sunlight for three days, in addition to this it’s able to fully recharge the grid with just seven hours of sunlight. This showcase by Tesla and SolarCity is a very real example of how products from both companies can be best used together to create a future powered on green energy.