Thursday, 5 December 2013

LG to factor in the needs of the impaired

Many of the world’s most pressing societal issues can be improved greatly through the application of technology. Improving education, breaking down barriers of language and providing human beings with greater connectivity and communicative capabilities are three key areas which have seen rapid growth through innovation in recent times.

Voice-command interfaces are now almost pervasive in most electronic devices, from mobile phones, TVs, even automobiles. The concept of holding a conversation with a computer seemed pure science fiction until recently.

But things are changing, and quickly. A growing number of people now talk to their mobile smart phones, asking them to send e-mail and text messages, search for directions, or find information on the Web. The very definition of an enabling technology is an invention or innovation that can be applied to drive radical change in the capabilities of a user or culture.

LG’s latest technologies such as the new LG G2 flagship smartphone and G Pad tablet are able to be personalized to make it easier for anyone to see, hear and use a to meet their own needs and preferences. For many people with impairments, accessible options are what makes the use of devices possible.

In addition the new wave of interconnected smart appliances such as the Smart Refrigerator and HOM-BOT also have built-in smart technology which are able to be operated via voice commands or programmed remotely allowing users who cannot physically operate these devices to effectively engage with the technology.

Voice-command interfaces are now almost pervasive in most electronic devices, from mobile phones, TVs, even automobiles. The concept of holding a conversation with a computer seemed pure science fiction until recently.

But things are changing, and quickly. A growing number of people now talk to their mobile smart phones, asking them to send e-mail and text messages, search for directions, or find information on the Web. Smart phones also have high-bandwidth data connections to the cloud, where servers can do the heavy lifting involved with both voice recognition and understanding spoken queries.

"The blend of more data and extra computing power has put at our disposal infinite possibilities,” says Mr Josep Kim, the Managing Director LG East Africa. Speech has increasingly proven supremely suited for mobile computing partly because users have their hands and eyes occupied; but also because a single spoken command can accomplish tasks that would normally require a multitude of swipes and presses.

The last few years have seen hype around voice commands reached the peak of inflated expectations with the buzz around Apple's Siri, only to recede straight after. The new wave of voice-enabled devices showcased at IFA 2013 earlier in September offers a glimpse of how voice commands may make consumer's lives easier.

Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant built into the iPhone, was at one time the most prominent example of a mobile voice interface. But voice functionality is built into Android, the Windows Phone platform, and most other mobile systems, as well as many apps. While these interfaces still have considerable limitations, we are inching closer to machine interfaces we can actually talk to.

However the jury is still out, with consumer adoption the bellwether for technological success. “The development of the Werniche Project has seen LG make quick progress in incorporating voice commands. Known as VoiceMate, LG's voice recognition technology has only recently entered the international stage,” says Mr Kim.

he basis of LG's voice recognition software is intended to work in tandem with Google's own Android OS language-based systems, the latter being embedded within LG's own proprietary "Werniche" engine.

The technology works across two strands: Natural Language Understanding, which allows for intelligible processing of sentences, and Dialogue Management, which uses a vast database of available information to extract meaning. The project has developed as technology has evolved to enable a greater ability to grasp the complexity of human language, with notable LG products providing milestones leading up to the advanced voice command products available today.

VoiceMate represents LG's primary voice command platform and rivals other competitive voice recognition platforms in both function and in technological prowess also incorporating latest features like opening apps via command. Other functions include the ability to have texts sent, calls made, alarms set and web searches performed all by having a natural conversation with VoiceMate.

Functionally, VoiceMate uses "reasoning with a probabilistic model to find the best answer". This means that the context of the question is taken into consideration instead of just using a database to relay answers.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Grab your GOtv decoder before doomsday

MultiChoice Kenya has today assured Nairobi residents of it readiness for the analogue switch-off date that is only 12 days away on Friday 13th December 2013.

GOtv is currently the most innovative pay television service on the latest Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) technology worldwide and Nairobi is adequately covered by its signal.

Launched in September 2011, Nairobi residents have been benefiting from easy access to an increased number of channels, with enhanced picture and sound quality synonymous with digital television at a price they can afford. 

According to the GOtv Kenya General Manager, Felix Kengo, the Nairobi Switch-Off coincides with the Government’s target of migrating from analogue to digital TV transmission by mid 2014.

Kenya committed to a mutually agreed East African deadline of 2012 to fully migrate television broadcasting to the digital platform. This move is expected to free up much-needed spectrum, which the government plans to re-use for other purposes,” said Mr Kyengo.

He also added that since its launch, GOtv has been playing a pivotal role towards contributing to this technological transformation and in the process helping the country to achieve its set target towards the migration to digital TV transmission.

“GOtv is uniquely placed as the home of African television. We firmly believe that there is enough rich content created here on the continent to make a case for packaging great African entertainment and we have committed ourselves to making this a reality thus, offering channels made in Africa for Africa,” said Kyengo.

GOtv provides television lovers with a digital quality picture and sound and an exciting range of local and international channels.  Subscribers will have access to an exciting selection of channels containing news, children’s programming, documentaries, series and movies.

Kyengo concluded by saying that, GOtv channels are carefully selected to cater for a variety of different tastes and family viewing needs at a very affordable price.

Some of the channels that will be available to GOtv subscribers include the ongoing GOtv East & Central Africa Senior Challenge Cup [CECAFA] football tournament, M-net Movies Zone, Select Sport 1 & 2 Africa Magic World, Africa Magic Swahili, One Gospel, E! Entertainment, Channel O, eTV Africa,  and local channels such as KBC, NTV, KTN, Citizen TV to mention but a few.  

The GOtv decoder is currently available at a special price of KSH 3,399 inclusive of 2 months free GOtv subscription and is available from the MultiChoice Agents countrywide.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Progressive thinking prevails in KICC billboard saga

Samsung Electronics East Africa, through its outdoor advertising partner, Alliance Media, has today announced its support for the upcoming Kenya@50 celebrations. This comes on the back drop of a halfhearted campaign by a guest columnist in the Business Daily, Marvin Sissey to have the LED billboard brought down.

The global electronics giant’s support will include provision of strategic billboards across the country, as well as the country’s first panoramic digital advertising screen; that is undergoing test runs at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, to promote the monumental building as the regional premier meeting centre.

Speaking during the ceremony, the Sports, Culture and Arts Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Hassan Wario said, “Every sector in Kenya has a unique story to tell, and that fits into the country’s 50th anniversary. This is a great opportunity for citizens, private sector, investors, the tourism industry among others, to come together to make an indelible mark in the Kenyan story.”

Samsung Electronics East Africa Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Robert Ngeru, said that the new age screens which are a first in the region are based on Samsung’s Digital Signage Display technology.

Globally, Ngeru confirmed that Samsung is the now market leader in display technology providing LED-backlit panels that are renowned for their sharp text, rich colour and reliable performance.

The launch of the Digital billboards for Kenya@50 celebrations comes at a time when the country is gearing up for the digital migration switch set for mid-December, which will see Kenyan embracing the digital broadcasting technology for the Televisions sets.

“We're extremely excited about the launch because as a brand, all our television sets are digitally complaint thus our customers will not miss the action during the celebrations. We believe that this partnership will go a long way in ensuring that the milestones of this great nation are beamed to the whole country.” Explained Mr. Ngeru.

Apart from celebrating 50 years as a nation, the Kenya @50 steering committee has lined up a series of initiatives, which will involve social and economic activities across the country with long-term positive impact.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Why Marvin Sissey is wrong about the Billboard at KICC

Despite the constant refrain that we are moving from an analogue-to-digital era, it is apparent that some of us are still caught in a time warp. For someone as widely travelled as Martin Sissey to rant on his full page column about LED advertising bill board atop KICC, one has to ask himself whose bidding he is doing.
LED billboard at Times Square, New York

It is unfortunate that KICC had to bulk under this hollow propaganda yet all the Conference centre was doing is to try and generate an extra income to the taxpayer. According to an article in the Saturday Nation, KICC had already been receiving payments of KSh1,350,000 as quarterly rents as agreed in the contract with Alliance Media, an advertising firm.

Anyone with good business acumen would pose to think what the investment portends for KICC. Advertising conferences taking place at the KICC through the billboard at the apex of the conference would mean more attendance of conferences, more traffic at the conference centre means more expenditure within the building, more revenue for the Government.    

And if Marvin Sissey is really as Patriotic as he claims and not a gun for hire by a rival advertising firm, then he should understand that more revenue for the Government will help us settle our foreign debts as every Kenyan is born in debt to western nations at a tune of about Ksh40,000.   

This is, by any yardstick, a brilliant idea that puts Nairobi at the cutting edge of technology to rival other cities across the globe. Time Square in New York, a city in very country that Martin Sissey studied is dotted with LED advertising almost on every building. Eiffel Towers in Paris, the equivalent of KICC in Nairobi had a Citroen advert for close nine years.     

While LED advertising that has taken root other developed cities, it’s outrageous that Marvin Sissey, an alumni of the University of Indiana, USA, should hoodwink Kenyans with empty polemics. It’s unfortune that Marvin stooped as low as invoking the name of God and The Pope, you would think he consulted the almighty to know his opinion on the billboard.       

The management of KICC may have been cowed into bringing the Samsung advert down and instead replacing it with a Kenya @50 advert for rest of the year, but this sets a very bad precedent for innovative investors in the country. Nairobi is not Harare, and Kenya is not Zimbabwe.     

Hey Marvin, gone are the days of handing out fliers at traffic lights or popping letters in the mail, the new trend of advertising is via LED light boxes. Market research indicates that illuminated advertising attracts a far higher customer foot count and sales compared to non-illuminated advertising.

And LED advertising saves power too. In addition to being able to advertise anywhere and be different, these light boxes are energy efficient and provide you with a cheaper way to advertise your shop. Light box in an advertising campaign is way cheaper than handing out fliers.