ambient learning – what sensors will bring

8 Feb


Google is developing software for the first phone capable of translating foreign languages almost instantly — like the Babel Fish in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

From a society viewpoint, this is amazing. Something we’ve always wanted and I even remember then-president Bill Clinton talking about this kind of device in some speech.

From a technology viewpoint, what’s interesting is the way it will overcome differences in speech patterns:

“Everyone has a different voice, accent and pitch,” said Och. “But recognition should be effective with mobile phones because by nature they are personal to you. The phone should get a feel for your voice from past voice search queries, for example.”

It’s about time machines started learning from us in ambient ways (discussed here – And the new wave of personal one-stop-shop devices will be the vehicle to make it happen.


Another example is SleepCycle (, an iphone app that you put on your mattress and detects sleep patterns. With more sensors (e.g. temperature) and more precise readings (e.g. precise enough to reaqd your heartbeat) and of course proper privacy and permissioning around them, our personal devices are about to get a whole lot smarter…as are we all, once this kind of content gets aggregated in meaningful ways.

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