Saturday, 17 December 2016

Bots

Google Assistant, currently available on the Google Pixel phone, is the default interfaee for Google's first designed phone.

The assistant is also available from the Google Allo application for those who dont have the £650 to buy Google's latest phone.

The idea is that instead of just searching Google you have a conversation with the assistant. The conversation understands context so after asking how long is the Golden Gate Bridge you can follow it up with  "How do I get there?". Google assistant is supposed to work out that what you want is directions to the previously mentioned query. Context.

Behind all this is the idea of "bots". Robotic like beings that live on the internet and respond rather like call centre staff. You might say this is an extension of search or the direction that customer service is heading.

However it's not just Google. Microsoft is also putting money into the bots too.

The Skype Preview app now has a bots section where you can interact with freewheeling bots. The Skyscanner bot allows you to book a flight just by talking to the bot. You can order a pizza, play blackjack and lots more.

Both Microsoft and Google think the future is "bots". I am not so sure. It seems to me that to command a bot you have to have a clear idea of what you are doing. Booking flights is sometimes a matter of browsing, looking a different prices, backing up, checking times and much more. I tend to think websites are better.

However in the era of Snapchat and Twitter maybe bots really are the future.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Batteries

Fast charging
Smartphone technology may have moved on a lot in recent years but battery power is stuck in the slow lane.

Just recently a neighbour was around for coffee and he asked whether I had a lightening connector for his iphone to give it a charge. I haven't had an iphone for years so I had to decline. Apple actually makes this stuff a little more difficult with small batteries that dont really last a whole day and not adopting the global USB charging standard. It's an Apple thing of course. Apple prefer the look and feel of a  deviee being perfect even if it means their customers have to keep plugged in every couple of hours.

The next day I headed off to Edinburgh for the day. I forgot to put a charging power pack in my bag and sure enough during the day the phone dropped to a miniscule 1% when I switched it off about an hour before I got back home. From almost no charge it need about an hour just to get back to around 10% on the wireless charger.

The obvious thing is that batteries need to be bigger and better. However until that happens 'fast charging' is with us. Samsung has got fast charging along with a number of other manufacturers. Getting a fairly impressive charge in about 35 minutes.

ARM chip maker Qualcomm supports Adaptive Charging (Quick Charge 2.0). This is on Samsung devices. However you can't quick charge with the screen on and it generates a lot of heat.

Oneplus have their own take on fast charging called Dash. Tech nerds are getting quite excited by the Dash charger pumping up the amps, allowing the phone to be used and charging up in 30 minutes. They also seem to have a reasonably sized battery too.

The choice seems to be splitting into the fashionista phone with frequent pit stops to charge up or something like the Oneplus with fast charging that means fewer visits to the wall socket for shorter periods.