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Would the ideal Human Assistant be Blind & Deaf, unable to speak unless asked?

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Offline Snafs

Warning, bit of a long post.

Ok, so, I've made the title a little controversial to make a point here :)

If we think about how us humans interact with each other, how easy or hard it can be also.

So let me make this BOLD statement right now and get it out the way:

Alexa (or any similar device) Needs a camera, ideally that it can move around/motorised to really advance.

If we think about Alexa in the same way we would think of a human assistant or family member.

We have someone/something that's going to try and make our lives easier.
This person/thing is totally blind, so they cannot see if there is anyone around them, or who it is. You, your wife, your child, a relative, a total stranger.
Not only are the blind, sitting there in the dark they also are deaf and cannot hear anything other than 1 magical word, which upon hearing that magical word, they suddenly have the ability to hear a 'voice in the room' then they go totally deaf again.

Let's be honest with ourselves. If you wished to create the most useful device, that would not be the way to do it.

If the real world, you walk into the room/office. People hear you, turn their heads, identify it's you, perhaps wait till you get close if you are a long way away, then they will speak to you. "Good Morning, don't forget you have a meeting with Mary today at 10am"
Or perhaps it's now 9:45 and the person can see you are still sitting at your desk, perhaps otherwise involved, and can say "Hey, remember you are supposed to be seeing Mary in 15 minutes"

Perhaps you have asked to be reminded about something at 3am, but you need the toilet, or to go outside to deal with something" 3am passes, but human people won't just shout out load into an empty room, they will wait until they see you come back in THEN remind you.

At home, you have family members you can ask questions, and set reminders and save calendar events. If your assistant can see you, they will know exactly how to interact and what information to use, and what to say back depending on who they see you are.

Perhaps you are a stranger who has broken in, and it won't say anything to the stranger, just like a human would not read out your details to a passing stranger that asked as you don't recognise them.

I'm just giving these example, and they will be many many more the illustrate the fact that until an Echo, or other device is allowed to "SEE" that it's always going to have major functionality problems, in the same way, a human would be who was disabled.
One could say the Echo and other devices are disabled in how we define normal full abilities.

The thing is, which is a shame, it's not THAT hard to do it right now.
Without doubt we have all the tech right now, at a very low price to do exactly as I'm saying.
Motorised camera, just one eye, that can tilt/pivot to see like a human can, and facial recognition software to identify who someone is.
Both have been done as minimal costs.

One the unit/system knows there is someone nearby, and identifies them, THEN with freshly adapted software such devices like the Echo can overnight become vastly better and more advanced/helpful products.

Before anyone says it. I know exactly what some will say:

"I don't want this device watching me all day long, recording my every movements, spying on me, allowing others to see what I'm doing in my own home"

Of course, this needs to be addressed, perhaps by proving this is only local to the unit in your home?

We will never ever get far with this attitude.
Imagine Commander Data from Star Trek. Would you be totally paranoid to be hear him. He's a computer, who can hear you, see you and connect to other computers to spy on you.
Just like a human can spy on you, watch you, take photo's of you, tell other people what you are doing.
But we accept that, it's life, and its what makes us able to function with others.

As long as I could be assured that, the visual aspect of a device that can see what local to the unit and not sent out as un-encoded data onto the internet, I would not mind my own single device having eyes/camera.

What do you think?
I feel we must allow this to advance.
As I said, it can be build right now, easy and cheap, way less than adding say $50 onto a current device for the hardware.

Your Thoughts?

Offline kevb

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You should hire a butler  ;)

You've not been watching Humans, have you :)

Offline Snafs

You've not been watching Humans, have you :)


No, just thinking about the realistic way we would like these things to be able to work.

Ideally you are told of a notification when you are in a position to hear it.
You wife does not remind you to feed the cat, by speaking in an empty room as you are down the garden.
She see's you are not there, so waits for you to come back into the room.

How can an Echo or Google home do that as it's blind and deaf to all but a keyword.

Likewise, how does it know it's YOU? Could be your neighbour it speaks to.

We need to give these things vision, then we can leap up, quite a bit with how usefully interactive they can be, and know who's talking to them, so as to present them with the right information.

On its way:
There's this for disabled people
And this
And if you need a hound to impress the local rabble - this

@ snafs (did not want to quote that novel  :-)  )  if it was a perfect world then what you say would work. but it is not and the users would be taken advantage of by those who write the skills and amazon.  They got enough info about me, I would like a bit of control over what I share.   You would not want amazon to think you are religious if your signification other was say oh god during some activities.   Until the assistant is as smart as Commander Data and the info collected was not being sold or used by others then the wakeup word is needed. 

Offline Snafs

No worries about the lack of quote, it was a LONG post by me :)

I love my Echo, and without doubt it's the most, day to day changing device I've purchased in many many years.
Something actually really useful as opposed to just another gadget I would easy live without.
The same could I'm sure be said of the Google home, but that's still in it's day 1 infancy and has much growing to do yet.

The one thing both these items lack, and are going to have trouble with, AND which could make them radically different, and vastly better, is, both push notifications, and awareness of who is interacting with them.

Push notifications is how humans communicate. We inform others by speaking without being prompted. We don't all sit in silence until asked.
So, when the time is right, we say something, perhaps to remind you of something, however we naturally would only do this when you are here. We don't speak to you when you are nowhere near us.

I can think of two ways.

1: A camera (eye/eyes) for the device, so, like humans, it can see who it's speaking to, and who is near it.

2: (and this is how it works on StarTrek if you look) We all wear little identification badges. If you watch Star Trek, everyone has the badge of them, and that's how the computer tracks them, they take their badge off and it's got no idea.

Would we be willing to wear a tiny little echo badge/broach so that the echo knew it was us and where we were, and to remind us (push notification) when we were in range?

Perhaps that would be more acceptable than a camera and we would feel less spied upon. After all a badge can't see what we are doing, and we can take a badge off for privacy.

As I say, that is, or was the Star Trek way of how it worked.

Either way, for really great communications to evolve and the usefulness to grow a lot, the Echo, or other device needs to know where we are and who we are.

As I said, Camera or a tiny badge.
If I think about it. Myself, personally I could easy be happy with the tiny badge idea.
Could just be a small thing, let's imagine a pin badge, perhaps a 1cm disc, you could name, and attach to your clothing.

It's not ideal, but it would help.

Ideal is a camera (eyes) so it can see you, and know you are talking to it, as it see's your mouth moving, but that's a bit advanced :)


Offline Snafs

A bit like this?

Well, perhaps that could be used also.
If there was an ECHO BADGE that you could optionally wear as it allowed the device to know your location.
If, and I'm thinking on my feet here, it was on an elderly person, and was stationary for a very long time, it could be used to alert someone.

At first I thought it was a odd idea, but honestly, the more I think about it, a very small neat Echo badge, that could be used in conjunction with the Echo, which if worn allowed the echo to know who you were and if you were hear it, COULD open up a whole range of very useful new features.

It would not need to be needed to own an echo, but if worn, then things like push notifications would instantly be usable, in that the echo would know you were near enough to hear it say a reminder, and also, if family members had they own tiny badges, perhaps be better able to know who is next to it.

I'd like to see this tried. And in the way I'd described it, I'd not see any real objections from the public.

RFID badges might serve that purpose, and if carers/family also wore them, the unit could announce them by name on arrival. Off you go then - I want this house!

Offline Snafs

RFID badges might serve that purpose, and if carers/family also wore them, the unit could announce them by name on arrival. Off you go then - I want this house!

Excellent idea, yes.
As in this image (kind of):

Use this badge tech, already in existence, style it in a shape/form/design that would be acceptable, and link such a system in with the Echo. Instantly you have enabled a whole new level of potential for the device.
In reality, I would suggest this is just lack of will/imagination more than the technical or cost issues.

If say Amazon did this, but Google was still blind to who you are, it would be amazing

It's something disability organisations need to press for to provide the impetus. The RNIB, for instance, is looking into how it can integrate its audio book lending library with Echo, and I'm working (informally - I'm retired) with a local group addressing the role of tech in reducing social isolation. Our employed members include people from the Alzheimer's Society and the local council who are keen to find new ways of maximising independence and reducing risk. Those are the ones who could approach Amazon with these kinds of ideas and, if you don't mind, the push notification (yours) + RFID (mine) might be worth a discussion. More than happy to credit you if our village suddenly becomes a world leader in assistive tech innovation!

Alexa (or any similar device) Needs a camera, ideally that it can move around/motorised to really advance.

"Thanks to the Ubtech Robotics Lynx, Alexa has sprouted arms, legs and a face. You can interact with the humanoid how you could normally with Alexa, but using cameras, it can recognize your face or give you a remote view of your home."

Playing with Home Automation (HA) for over 25 years now and with Voice recognition for over 15, (actualy only adding it to my program in 2013) it has only been the last few years that Facial recognition has started to bleed into the HA sector.
The introduction of the xbox 360 camera has helped a lot with people recognition and where they are in a room.
There are a few HA programs that have been created for the Xbox360 camera using its multi microphone and 3d camera.
I myself have only played with a bit of the 360s possibilities adding the Voice recognition of it to my program.
I dabbled in people recognition but facial recognition required more CPU power then I had at the time.
I may look at it some more but I'm more interested in getting Alexa working with it right now which is a simple add I see. At least for Alexa to talk to it.
My program  can see me sitting at my desk but without good facial recognition it still doesn't know if it is me or a criminal.
And it can tell if someone in addition to who is already there walks into the room.
She also does look better then Alexa at least when she shows herself.
But that's my opinion. ;)

Facial recognition is the key to what your looking for strayfish and with the computing power of the cloud it should come fairly quickly.
However when the internet goes down any smart device using it becomes stupid. ??? ::) :(

Facial recognition is the key to what your looking for strayfish and with the computing power of the cloud it should come fairly quickly.
However when the internet goes down any smart device using it becomes stupid. ??? ::) :(

Not me, Snafs, but I'm interested enough to keep an eye on what's popping up, especially if it adds to the assistive tech catalogue. You're right though, no internet, no smarts :)