The Genie is now officially out of the bottle! We use our smartphones too much!
Most of us will already know this though, how could we miss it? You only have to travel on buses, trains and planes to see myriads of people sitting quietly staring at their smart phones, glued to Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter, scrolling through the latest news.
In restaurants alongside the place settin will sit a smartphone, ready at a moments notice to be snatched up and used to photograph a plate of food of a group selfie.
At rock concerts, the crowd is now lit up by mobile phone screens at they live stream or record a band whilst watching on those same screens, perhaps forgetting to watch and enjoy the band live rather than by proxy.
In homes across the world, millions of people are sitting scrolling through their devices, then standing and walking into the kitchen, the phone still in front of their faces, then to bed, when finally after another 10 minutes of messaging, the phone is plugged in to finally rest and recharge, it’s peace only broken in the middle of the night as a hand reaches out to grab it and check Facebook.
As morning breaks, a sleepy hand reaches out, slowly grabs the device and the day begins again.
This information overload is affecting peoples brains, our bodies are fooled by the blue light from an LCD screen and now we believe it is daylight 24 hours a day. We are conditioned to rely on our devices for everything, for affirmation from our friends, to give that affirmation back in a pre-formatted ‘Sending Hugs 🤗🤗🤗’ .
So, have we forgotten how to communicate? Are we now so reliant on our smartphones, that we no longer feel the need to use it for it’s original purpose? That of speaking to people and conveying our true feelings without relying on pre-programmed ’emotions’ invented by clever people in California.
Time will tell, but no amount of intervention by software giants will put that Genie back. We as a race have to take that step.
I spoke to Mark Murphy at BBC Radio Suffolk about the obsession with smart phones this morning. Listen to the stream above, I would love to read your comments on the subject.
A couple of news stories this morning caught the public’s attention. The first related to Samsung TV’s and privacy concerns. The second told the story of a South Korean woman having her hair devoured by a robot vacuum cleaner.
I chat to Mark Murphy at BBC Radio Suffolk to find out more.
There’s been quite a lot of coverage in the UK media overnight regarding the supposed ability for Samsung Smart TV’s to listen in to our private conversations. It all makes great headlines I guess, but after being prompted to comment on BBC Radio Suffolk about the story, we decided to look into the matter a bit more closely.
You can control your SmartTV, and use many of its features, with voice commands.
If you enable Voice Recognition, you can interact with your Smart TV using your voice. To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service that converts speech to text or to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you. In addition, Samsung may collect and your device may capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features. Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.
If you do not enable Voice Recognition, you will not be able to use interactive voice recognition features, although you may be able to control your TV using certain predefined voice commands. While Samsung will not collect your spoken word, Samsung may still collect associated texts and other usage data so that we can evaluate the performance of the feature and improve it.
You may disable Voice Recognition data collection at any time by visiting the “settings” menu. However, this may prevent you from using all of the Voice Recognition features.
Again, we looked into the technology behind the TV and found the that these specific Smart TV’s work in two modes of operations
1) The viewer can operate basic features of the TV by saying ‘Hi TV’ out loud. The TV wakes up and can be told to “Change Channel”, “Volume Up” etc. These commands are very basic and no online communication takes place at all.
2) This mode of operation can only be triggered by depressing the ‘Mic’ button on the remote control. whilst depressed, the view can ask natural language questions such as ‘What shall I watch tonight?’. It is at this point that your words are being recorded, when you finish talking those words are transmitted securely to third party natural language translation company Nuance (You might have heard of Nuance as they make the very popular dictation software Dragon Naturally Speaking). Upon arrival at Nuance’s servers, the spoken phrase in converted to text, the recording discarded and the text returned back to the TV for processing. Using a 3rd party means that the accuracy of the translation is much higher and less errors are likely to come about due to difference accents or dialects being used.
So, put simply. Unless someone with very advanced decryption abilities is permanently listening in to your internet connection on the vain hope that you might (whilst asking your TV to find you something to watch) divulge some deeply private secret, the chances of any kind of security breach is very low indeed.
I contacted Samsung for comment and a spokesperson issued the following statement:-
Samsung takes consumer privacy very seriously and our products are designed with privacy in mind. We employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers’ personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use.
Voice recognition, which allows the user to control the TV using voice commands, is a Samsung Smart TV feature, which can be activated or deactivated by the user. Should consumers enable the voice recognition capability, the voice data consists of TV commands, or search sentences, only. Users can easily recognize if the voice recognition feature is activated because a microphone icon appears on the screen.
If a consumer consents and uses the voice recognition feature, voice data is provided to a third party during a requested voice command search to execute the command. At that time, the voice data is sent to a server, which searches for the requested content then returns the desired content to the TV.
Samsung encourages consumers to contact the company directly with any product concerns or questions.
So, should we be concerned? Well, yes we should always be concerned about our privacy and where possible take every step we see fit to ensure it is maintained. We are at constant threat of having our privacy interfered with under the veil of protection by companies and possibly governments, so we should shown caution.
However, an obvious legal statement to protect a manufacturer from litigation is perfectly acceptable in our over litigious world and I think in this case, it has been taken out of context.
I would be very interested in what you think, so please feel free to comment as you see fit.
It’s been a great year reviewing such a wide range of gadgets from smart watches to high end sports cars. It’s been quite a ride, I’ve really enjoyed the whole experience, so thank you to all involved from BBC Radio Suffolk to the PR agencies and companies that have been so generous allowing me to try out all the wonderful tech!
This morning I spoke to Mark Murphy about my favourite gadgets of the year and the Gadget which won the gadget of the Year.
We have a lot of fun reviewing some smart wear. We reviewed the Samsung Gear 2, Sony Smartwatch 2 and Sony Smartband. My favourite was the Gear 2, purely for James Bond features. However we have been asking to review other watches, but none have been sent out. Let’s hope this improves next year.
Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 – Wearable of the Year 2014
Sony Smartwatch 2
Smart Phones and Tablets
We were never short of phones and tablets which is not surprising given the size of the marketplace. HTC, Samsung, LG, Asus, Nokia and Motorola all supplied us with review units. HTC phones exhibited the best built quality and screen sharpness. LG had the best screen of the two Quad HD displays (the other being the Galaxy Note 4). Motorola was the best value for money with it’s Moto G.
Overall, our favourite handset started and remained the Nokia Lumia 1520. A six inch incredibly vibrant screen, superb battery life and exquisite camera. Although very large, it was by far the nicest of the all the handsets we reviewed
We also reviewed three tables, the Samungs Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2, the Nokia Lumia 2520 and the Asus Transformer. The Tab Pro 12.2 was our favourite with massive 12.2 inch screen with better than HD quality, the Nokia 2520 with Windows 8.1RT on board was close behind.
HTC One M8 HTC One Mini 2 Nokia Lumia 1520 – Smart Device of the Year 2014 Sony Xperia Z2 Moto G Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 Nokia Lumia 2520 Tablet Nokia Lumia 630 Asus Zenfone 6 Asus Transformer LG G3 Asus Zenfone 5 Samsung Galaxy S5 Samsung Galaxy Alpha Samsung Galaxy Note 4
We reviewed a number of cameras this year, as expected the GoPro models come ahead of most others for their durability and quality of movies and photos. The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 was excellent and was a fully functional Android device to boot. The Sony Actioncam was good, but kept fogging up which spoilt most of it’s footage. The Autographer was…. weird.
GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition – Camera of the Year 2014 Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 Sony Actioncam Autographer BT Homecam GoPro Hero Selfie Stick
I loved reviewing the electric bikes this year. I started out with the mindset that electric bikes would be a welcome relief from simply reviewing mobile phones for a year, but I ended up extending my ‘E’ vehicle reviews to cars. It was thoroughly interesting and liberating to get out in the Suffolk countryside and off the beaten track to test out these bikes. The Sparta is not really designed for off-road, but was capable and fast used for travelling to work. The Smart Ebike was fabulous and I loved every minute of using it, especially off-road. The Batribike was excellent in every area, I only marked if down for off-road use, but this was a little unfair as it had road tyres.
Sparta Ion/RX+ Smart Ebike – Ebike of the Year 2014 – Joint Winner Batribike Granite Pro – Ebike of the Year 2014 – Joint Winner
This was an amazing experience from the beginning. The Renault Twizy was small and exciting to drive, but really only designed to replace moped type use. The Renault Zoe was an excellent car, out of all, this was the one car which could truly offer and alternative to fossil fuelled cars both in size and price. The BMW i3 was interesting and very fast. Design wise it hardly resembled an standard BMW but it was high spec and beautiful to drive. The BMW i8 was outstanding to look at and drive. It was like sitting in Red 5 at the end of Star Wars Episode IV, and the most exhilarating drive so far (electric car wise). I didn’t get to test the Tesla Model S this year, but in a week or so, I am looking forward to reviewing it.
I also got to experience 3 AMG ‘normally’ aspirated vehicles. I say normal, there was nothing normal about these vehicles. I experienced the G63 (G Wagon), the S63 and the C63 Edition 507. The C63 was simply mind shattering. When a manufacturer electronically limits to the top speed to 171mph, you know something is afoot.
BMW i8 – Car of the Year 2014
I got to test out other gadgets and gizmos, ranging from domestic gadgets to toys and drones. The drones were fun, but in some cases difficult to control. The Ankidrive was fun and the Samsung Smart TV with Soundbar was very cool indeed. However, by far the best gadget we tried out was the iRobot Roomba 880. This is a fantastic vacuum cleaner and has remained in use at least three times a day since July this year. It does a brilliant job of vacuuming up just about any type of debris on any surface. It was fantastic!!
iRobot Roomba 880 – Winner Samsung Smart TV and Soundbar Ankidrive Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Parrot Jumping Sumo
Overall Gadget of the Year 2014
We’ve certainly tried and tested many gadgets this year. Some were disappointments, some were surprising successes. But at the end of the year, you simply have to hand the Gadget of the Year award to a recipient that deserves it for providing above and beyond expectation. With this in mind, we simply have to award the Gadget of the Year Award 2014 to iRobot Roomba 880. It’s a fantastic piece of equipment which has genuinely helped us around the house.
This week we chat about the alternatives to iPhones that are available.
Most popular is the Samsung Galaxy S5 with its faux leather back and amazing functions. We also talk about the LG G3 which has an amazing Quad HD screen and laser focus camera technology. Both devices can record 4K video and a massive amount of other functions.
Thanks as ever to Iyesha and Laura at Kazoo for the loan of the Galaxy S5 and also thanks to LGOne for the loan of the G3