You should disclose smart speakers to guests

Someone at Mydata mentioned this interview during our panel last month and finally had a read. Very happy BBC got the Google’s Rick Osterloh to say “I disclose smart speakers to guests.

After being challenged as to whether homeowners should tell guests smart devices – such as a Google Nest speaker or Amazon Echo display – are in use before they enter the building, he concludes that the answer is indeed yes.

“Gosh, I haven’t thought about this before in quite this way,” Rick Osterloh begins.

“It’s quite important for all these technologies to think about all users… we have to consider all stakeholders that might be in proximity.”

And then he commits.

“Does the owner of a home need to disclose to a guest? I would and do when someone enters into my home, and it’s probably something that the products themselves should try to indicate.”

I very much agree and I think everybody should do this. Will people do this? Not a chance, although I wish they would. I do tend to go into a room and jokily say the different wake words. Just incase…

I remember writing about my Airbnb in Barcelona experience and I have to say Airbnb’s criteria of what a camera is good.

This area of social data surveillance is tricky but something which is being researched/explored by the likes of myself at BBCR&D.

Airbnb Has a Hidden-Camera Problem – You telling me?

Airbnb monitoring warning
You would never guess it was a listening device from the picture

I was reading a piece in the Atlantic about Airbnb and the camera problem.

Of course this has super relevance to me after my experience of a Airbnb in Barcelona last year.

Airbnb’s rules allow cameras outdoors and in living rooms and common areas, but never in bathrooms or anywhere guests plan to sleep, including rooms with foldout beds. Starting in early 2018, Airbnb added another layer of disclosure: If hosts indicate they have cameras anywhere on their property, guests receive a pop-up informing them where the cameras are located and where they are aimed. To book the property, the guests must click “agree,” indicating that they’re aware of the cameras and consent to being filmed.

I do find it really interesting because Airbnb class listening devices such as Amazon Alexa as cameras too. I did think this would be very difficult to police. The transparency is welcomed, as before you had to search pictures for anything which looked suspicious.

In January, Bigham discovered cameras in his rental that he says were never disclosed. After he reached out to the Trust & Safety team, representatives told him he and his family had in fact consented to the cameras because they were visibly displayed in photos on the listing. After Bigham’s blog post on the ordeal went viral, Airbnb apologized and refunded his money.

But Bigham says customer-service representatives for Airbnb twice sided against him before reversing their original decision, and only after his blog post was widely shared online.

“No one really seems to know what they’re doing,” Bigham said in an email. “And it seems like it’s only going to get worse.”

In a statement, Airbnb said: “We have apologized to Mr. Bigham and fully refunded him for his stay. We require hosts to clearly disclose any security cameras in writing on their listings and we have strict standards governing surveillance devices in listings. This host has been removed from our community.”

As usual the public stink causes Airbnb to actually do something. I wonder how many complaints get shoved under the carpet?

Muzzling the Google Home Mini?

Google Home Mini at home

When I bought my Google Pixel 2, I received a free Google Home Mini as part of the pre-order deal. While in Madeira it finally came and today I went to Irlam to go get it.

I’ve never liked the idea of the Amazon Alexia and all devices which are listening for an activation word. I get the convenance but it doesn’t equal the given up privacy in my view. I turn off on my phones unless my screen is unlocked and I’m on the home screen (actively using the phone). I’ve been watching and reading how The Google Home mini has already received a ton of privacy strikes and disabled the touch controls.

My justification for getting the Google Home mini was purely to connect it to my Philips Hue lights. They are great but only if you have the app as the controls on the wall are way too simplistic to change colours, brighten and dim.

Unboxing the Google Home mini and getting it online, was pretty straight forward. I currently have it set with the mic on mute and the touch controls seem pretty basic (volume only). I’m surprised its powered with a micro USB cable not USB C and if I had a choice of colours, would have picked a darker colour instead of Chalk. Out of the box the home mini’s top touch fuctionality is disabled, I assume the firmware was updated when I setup the wifi.

Google Home Mini

I’m dispointment that there seems to be no way to connect the google home mini to the hue lights without doing it via the Philips Hue web. I currently blocking external access at my router for hue lights, so theres no way to control them remotely, although everything is on the same network. Honestly find it annoying that it can’t talk locally, especially since there is a good API via the Hue Bridge. I understand it needs internet access to do some processing but to control the lights? Sure this can be done locally?

I’m keeping an eye on dev sites to see what might come up, but right now its little use and I’d like to see more ways to muzzle its use to keep things local unless essential.

What are hyper-reality experiences?

perceptive-media-ethics-dreams-hyper-reality-44-638

I talked previously about mixed reality but the consensus seems to be VR+AR = Mixed Reality… it looks like that ship has sailed and no matter what I say nothing will bring that back. So I have started talking about hyper-reality when discussing perceptive media across objects and things.

You could say its like a theatre cast in your living room and starts to answer some of the questions about perceptive media killing the shared experience. Theres already people hacking things to media, BBC R&D even experimented a long time ago in this area with the famous dalek example and of course the Perceptive Radio was just the start. The second version of the perceptive radio, did actually include more connectivity options to reach out and interact with devices in the local space such as Philips Hue lights, bluetooth devices, etc. It seems so simple but the big difference is they are reacting to the media rather than being thought about at the script/narrative level. With object based media (media+metadata) we can get to level much richer and interesting than ever imagined perviously.

Imagine what would happen if the director/writer could start to specify these type of experiences, the same way a director chooses to show certain characters in certain light, angles, etc. However the big difference is it can be contextual, flexible and scalable for 1 or many more people. How about that for a shared experience?

Of course this  brings up many ethical questions, data dilemmas, and questions about graceful degradation and progressive enhancement for media experiences. But I’m going to side step that in my blog for now. There are too many questions and research is well underway.

Ethics of personal data videos

Hyper-reality (or shall I call it hyper narratives, certainly can’t call it hypermedia) extends the narrative into the real world. This is fascinating because;

I contest this is closer to alternative reality gaming and the very popular immersive theatre works such as sleep no more. A problem with both is the scalability and consistency of experience, but whats great about them is the unique and shared experiences.

The Verge recently did a whats tech podcast which talks about immersive theatre, alternative reality games and the logical future of this stuff. Like the psychtech podcast episode 44, it highlights a lot of my current thinking and how all these things are connected. I always said the Internet of things needs a narrative because right now it all feels to service/utility. Even Google’s home project lacks that human-like narrative.

Internet of things needs a narraive

Some will sniff at this blog post but hyper-reality is the best word I can think of to explain what happens when you mix media objects, physical things, storytelling and context together.

Building virtual worlds is nice, augmenting the real world is better. However in my mind the future is those who explore the cross over of things, devices and media. Can you imagine the incredible levels of immersion?