Six Signals: Trusting your smart things & the internet of brains

Six Signals logo.

1: “What if I don’t trust my car?”

Simone Rebaudengo, who creates gorgeous speculative design projects, created a “Future FAQ” that reviews some of the strange and compelling questions that we will need to be answering in the very near future, including:

  • How smart is a smart home?
  • What if I disagree with my thermostat?
  • What if I don’t trust my car?
  • Can my house robot travel with me?
  • Can I diminish reality?

Future Frequently Asked Questions

2: The growing fluidity of media formats

Last month, I shared Descript, a video editor that you edit via the automated text transcription rather than manipulating the video itself. This is one of many signals I’m seeing that point to the increasing malleability of media formats, where text can become video can become audio can become text again effortlessly and with very little diminishment of fidelity. The latest signal I’m seeing is Tayl, which allows you to turn any website or piece of content online into your own personalized podcast and have it read to you later.

Tayl: Turn websites into podcasts

3: The future of AI is…prison labor?

Inmates at a prison in Finland are working to classify data to train artificial intelligence algorithms for a startup called Vainu. While the PR for this effort emphasizes “job training” and “teaching valuable skills”, it’s clear that this is another signal in the growing set of labor issues behind all that magical automation and machine intelligence.

Inmates in Finland are training AI as part of prison labor

4: Stock voices are the new stock photos

WellSaid Labs in Seattle is working to create a wide variety of synthetic voices that sound remarkably like real people. They use voice actors as the inputs to train a neural network that generates new, artificial voices.

WellSaid Labs isn’t planning to take over the voice-assistant market, though. Rather, it hopes to sell the voices to companies that want to use them in advertising, marketing and e-learning courses.

You’ve probably heard of stock photos; you might think of this as stock voices.

Watch out, Alexa. Artificial voices are starting to sound just like humans

5: 3D printing as a path to accessibility

IKEA recently announced its ThisAbles project, which provides a library of 3D printable extensions that can be added to IKEA furniture to make it accessible for customers with disabilities. The upside to the 3D printing approach is that anyone can submit a proposed solution to add to the library. The down side is that this is only usable by those who have access to 3D printers, which still isn’t a majority of the population.


6: The internet of brains

In the “very future signals” category, neuroscientists have successfully connected the brains of three people together, allowing them to do what they describe as “sharing their thoughts”. The aforementioned telepathy is fairly rudimentary, basically transmitting the on or off state of a light to indicate a yes or no response. But still, networked brains! Pretty neat.

Brains of 3 People Have Been Successfully Connected, Enabling Them to Share Thoughts

One fun thing: mixed reality eyedroppers

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