150-WORD BOOK REVIEW: Rise Of The Machines – Thomas Rid

Rise Of The Machines is not an easy read, but one that is worth all the effort it takes.

machinesThe theme of Rid’s book can be illustrated by US countercultural writer Richard Brautigan who wrote about humans being looked after by ‘machines of loving grace’.

Rid refers to Brautigan’s words of loving grace towards machines and to a lot of things besides. He tracks the theory of cybernetics, a control theory of machine and man, from its post-World War II origins through the myths and realities of its evolution.

Nicely written in spite of its complicated premise, Rise Of The Machines is a weighty read, but a very useful reference book to anybody interested in our possible or impossible futures.

The previously unwritten story of Russia’s cyberattack against US institutions in 1999 may be an act of war that may yet determine a probable future, and not a optimistic one at all.

Uber and Hotels.com sign up on travelling

Hotels.com customers can now ride to their hotel at the touch of a button

hotels.comHotels.com has integrated Uber into its mobile app, enabling customers to book an Uber to take them directly to their hotel at the touch of a button.

This integration is powered by Button, the app discovery platform, so customers using the Hotels.com Android app can now book an Uber in 30 different languages and in all countries that Uber operates in.

Customers staying at any of the properties available through Hotels.com will see an Uber Button appear in their app on the day their hotel stay begins, both on the homepage and in the reservation section. When a user taps the ‘Ride there with Uber’ button, their current location and hotel address is automatically pre-populated within Uber’s application, making the entire experience seamless.

Hotels.com is a leading lodging expert and its best-in-class mobile app has more than 50 million downloads. Dan Craig, Senior Director of Mobile for Hotels.com brand explained.

“Like us, Uber are technology leaders in their field and together we’re making it easy for travelers to get to their hotel in a hassle-free way, so they can start their trip sooner. We’re always looking for ways to enhance our in-stay mobile offering”, he said.

Button is the marketplace behind the integration and offers a simple and efficient way to scalably build partnerships on mobile; that add complementary services and drive revenue, all with a great user experience.

Video visits on the up as DAD raises £2 million

DAD, an operator in the ‘advice economy’ has secured £2 million in seed funding from HomeServe to launch its video visit service.

DADDAD is a company that connects consumers with an expert in domestic maintenance who provides DIY tips and expert advice to help fix anything from a dodgy door handle to a broken boiler.

This means that consumers no longer have to endure expensive call-outs or wait for plumbers, electricians and handymen to turn up at their home. Now they can simply download the app and hit call to start a ‘video visit’ and speak with an expert in home repairs who can help them fix or diagnose the problem.

The company has secured £2 million in funding from HomeServe to expand its services. Calls cost £10 from any smartphone calling from the UK with no time limit put on the call.

“My Dad has always been my go-to person for practical advice around the home. The idea for DAD came a couple of years ago when I was trying to change a bathroom tap. Having swapped the old tap for a new one, I turned the water back on and instantly everything was soaked.

“My Dad was away travelling, enjoying his retirement, so I called him on FaceTime and he guided me through what to do. I realised that if I found myself in such a DIY disaster others would too, so I started DAD,” said Ben Wynn, Founder and CEO, DAD.

The experts have a lifetime of experience and are vetted by the DAD team. They work in three-hour shifts and can be anyone from a retired tradesman who wants to work a couple of hours a day to an ex-service engineer or skilled handyman who prefers a flexible working week.

The company believes that what people usually think is broken can often be fixed with the help of an expert via a video visit. The proof of concept stage showed that 60% of all problems can be solved over the phone. The other 40% were fixed via a home visit from a qualified and vetted partner.

FIVE SUMMER GIFTS: Primus Trail running shoes

A family business and a ‘cobbler’s dream’ are changing the way we wear all our shoes.

PrimusI’ve been wearing the Primus Trail, build and designed by Vivobarefoot, for the past month and they not only been excellent, they have changed my whole attitude to running.

That’s because I hate running and have always been more of a swimmer. Moreover, running shoes have always made me feel a little sick because of their terrible design and an attitude that the less of a shoe we wear the better. In the UK, as soon as it’s March I put on Birkenstocks and wear them until the winter calls.

So, Vivobarefoot interested me because I like barefoot running (if I HAVE to do it) and I like barefoot everything, be it walking or football. I saw their video, which had the feel of the artisan and the perfectionist about it and how their shoes were designed with the bare foot as the template.

It works for me. They look and feel good and when I run in them I feel a little more in tune with nature every time I put my foot down. Naturally, as a man over the age of 30, I can only wear these shoes with shorts or tracksuit pants. If I tried them with jeans I would look very sad, so I don’t do that.

At £90, the price is competitive and they feel as if they will last a long time, which is how sensible people think whenever they’re buying clothes or shoes. So, I’ve named them as my first Summer Gift of 2016. Even though I still hate running.

Future technology will make kids more active

‘Drones that pay hide-and-seek, virtual reality video games and satellite tracked treasure hunts.’

futureA new report The Future Of Play from ‘future trends experts’ Futurizon says that advances in technology over the next decade will encourage kids to be more, not less active.

The author of the report, Dr Ian Pearson predicts that new gadgets such as activity-tracking jewellery and drones that can play ‘hide and seek’ or shoot jets of water, will help to maximise activity levels. Moreover, the most exciting change predicted for the next decade will be the arrival of augmented reality (AR).

According to the report, which was commissioned by Soreen and the Youth Sport Trust, over the coming years AR glasses, which superimpose computer-generated data onto the real world view, will become as normal as owning a smart phone. It will mean that, while previous generations of technology obliged people to stare at a screen, AR glasses will encourage users to get out and explore the world.

It foresees that these glasses will revolutionise everything from family outings to school trips as it blends the virtual and real worlds and encourages people to go out and be active, with computers enhancing the real world. It will also encourage kids to use their imagination and conjure up scenarios to inspire active play.

Over three quarters of the respondents (78%) in the report said that children are now so tech savvy, that digital devices should be used to help them exercise,

“We know from our own Class of 2035 report and working closely with schools that integrating digital technology into PE lessons and other subjects, can increase participation and enjoyment and empowers young people to take responsibility for their own activity levels,” said Alison Oliver, Chief Executive at the Youth Sport Trust.

Other future technological advancements predicted for the next ten years will also contribute to making Britain healthier, the report predicts.

For example, school vending machines might use fingerprint recognition to bring up a child’s records, or read the student’s fitness tracker to identify their daily calorie consumption up to that point, before offering them the most appropriate snacks.

New generation, super-accurate satellite locating will also increase the popularity of Geocaching in the future, a modern-day treasure hunt where people find hidden boxes using their phone location.

Image recognition on smart phones will make family day trips, visits to the park or even the walk to school more stimulating by allowing children to point the camera at landmarks, cars, plants or animals and quickly discover all about them. Learning sports will also be revolutionised in the next decade, the report claims.