Smart devices aren't smart - yet.

Smart devices aren't smart - yet.
Photo: Dall-e

Our devices aren't as smart as they say.

They do some good in our lives, that's for sure. But we pay lots of hidden costs for it. Especially when they are wrong - and they are wrong a lot:

  • Notifications we don't care about just shouldn't happen. They interrupt our day and cause us frustration.
  • Documents we forget to save, or couldn't save, and get lost - that's lost work, precious time thrown away.
  • Communications, messages we want to review but can't find - making us lose context of our own lives and relationships.
  • And getting the wrong information over and over is just plain bad.

Our devices make all of those mistakes. Maybe we don't notice it every single time because we got so used to them being wrong.

And the reason it keeps happening is: our devices don't know us. They don't know who or what is important to us; they don't know when is important for us: they simply don't know us. If they did, they'd know:

  • The right moment to tell us something.
  • The right thing to show us.
  • The right thing to do, at the right time.

And they'd stop annoying us so often - and stop making us waste so much time and effort.

But if technology has come so far, why are we still dealing with this type of problem? Well, to begin with, it's a struggle to manage all the diversity.

See, software started out as an ecosystem world. Each platform focused on a particular kind of experience & solution set, for example:

  • Apple - design & creatives.
  • Microsoft - enterprise business.
  • Google - online collaboration.

As much as each of them played its own world-changing part in the history of technology, these ecosystems really have no incentive to interoperate. They simply don't want us to leave their walled gardens.

So the unserved needs are left to the app ecosystem world - point solutions for point problems. It seemed like a great idea for a long while, but now there are tons and tons of apps - too many. How many pages of apps do we have on our phones now? I've got seven, and that's not even counting the apps I have there for my kids. So many do similar things, overlapping with each other, and some do things well, others poorly - but all end up being necessary for one reason or another. So we use lots of them together, in infinite combinations of workflows.

Yet, the vast majority of them aren't designed to talk to each other.

Meaning: the point solutions are now the problems themselves - too many places to search, to refer back to.

So this is what we're left with:

  • Mixed environments with complicated workflows, comprised of lots of software that doesn't talk to each other.
  • Devices that support all of that software, but can't make sense of the information in order to get to know us and be more helpful.

Speaking of information, there's so much of it, all around us.

We give off many useful signals about who and what's important all the time. But, without coordination, nothing can tap into those signals and make any use of them.

When we're using our devices, we're actually giving off lots of interesting bits of information, like:

  • How much time we spend interacting with some people vs. others.
  • How long we spend working on certain things vs. others.
  • How much time we spend in certain places vs. others.
  • How we move between tasks and apps (i.e., workflows).
  • How we respond to certain notifications and events.
  • What kind of actions we take during important moments (like when we always open the same file when meeting with our boss).

These are examples of "ambient signals." "Ambient" means "in your environment." And the new frontier of working with these signals is called "Ambient Computing."

To know someone begins with knowing who and what is important to them. All the access to your email, docs, and calendar won't tell anyone how someone spends their time and who and what they value. However, tapping into these ambient signals is the start to forming a better picture of who they are - and the path to actually smart software and devices.

And we've started walking down that path already.

Augment is building a first-of-its-kind, context-aware learning AI - based on those ambient signals - to enable us to be smarter and more productive.

Think of an orchestra. Forty-four musicians harmoniously play beautiful melodies on forty-four instruments, perfectly in sync. Is it magic? Or pure intuition? Are the musicians so intertwined they can communicate among themselves all the time? Does a person playing one of the violins give the bass drum a glance to tell them it's "now your turn"? Of course not. There's a very attentive character in all of this, working hard for that harmony: the conductor. They supervise all the orchestra sections, giving the commands and indications, regulating the beauty of it all. All the musicians have sheet music and know their parts, but the conductor leads the way toward harmonious perfection. Without a conductor, an orchestra would turn into chaos: forty-four instruments with no orientation, rhythm, or guidance.

Here's the funny thing: when we're savoring the essence of an orchestra - pure music - the conductor is invisible. If we close our eyes and enjoy, the delightful melody reaches us, but the conductor's effort doesn't. And that's how it should be.

Now, consider that metaphor by thinking of your digital life. Each app or tool you use is a musician with an instrument. Today, each one of them plays its own music in its own rhythm, and you are the one who needs to find a way to make sense of all of it. We are building a conductor - based on ambient computing. A seamless AI layer to - smoothly and helpfully - harmonize everything that happens on your devices, organizing your information and your digital life automatically. We're also building some new "instruments" capable of doing new and valuable things for you. They'll be under the baton of a conductor who understands your context and who & what's important to you, to offer you precisely what you need, at every moment, without you having to ask - because they already have a full view of the whole orchestra.

And you'll just have to sit back and enjoy the music.


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