Friday Five: Amazon pops up, Uber doubles down

Every Friday Zone's Letty Key handpicks and shares the five best stories on new trends and technologies...

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1. Amazon's pop-up hits sweet spot on Black Friday

It’s Black Friday today, which in the UK without Thanksgiving to give it any wider purpose, is pared down to a pure and unashamed shopping binge. It is famous for two things – fighting over items in shops and panicked online shoppers scanning for the best deals.

So it’s leftfield that Amazon has set up a pop-up ‘shop’ in central London for the event. It's online shopping, in that you scan QR codes on the items and buy them on the app, but it’s also real life, as you can walk round a physical space looking for what you want – without having to snatch them away since it’s a showroom model. It’s possible Amazon has hit a little niche in between.

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2. Scientists try to trump use of racist AI

Though many are afraid of what AI may do in the future, it already has its flaws that need to be mitigated against. The primary issue is its bias – owing to either bad data or human prejudice in parameter setting – towards racist or prejudiced analysis or predictions

Unfortunately, this is what Donald Trump wants to use it for – to automate immigration decisions. Fortunately, scientists have banded together to refuse to supply this kind of programme, and also to sign a statement that AI should not be used in this way. Let's hope the US administration listens to them...

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3. Uber to finally fulfil self-driving prophecy?

It's been more than three years since the then Uber CEO first said he'd love to replace the drivers with self-driving cars. And finally this week Uber confirmed it is buying a big fleet of autonomous cars from Volvo in the US.

The landscape has changed significantly in those three years, with both Uber and self-driving cars both facing trust issues. Perhaps this pairing could do the unexpected job of increasing trust in Uber – albeit at the expense of its 'employees'.


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4. Tap into a new world of accessible tech

Tap is a wearable Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, though I don’t even think keyboard is the right term. Basically, it turns anything you can touch into a smart surface. Beyond obvious benefits for accessibility for visually impaired people, it's interesting that it gives more freedom from rigid hardware.

Gesture interaction is a growing field (see the love and hate over Apple removing the iPhone's home button). Maybe people will be more willing to accept gesture-based actions as the digital and real world merges together in the physical space, with AI and voice recognition.


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5. Giving a voice to experience designers 

Put AI and voice interfaces together and you have lots of potential for frustrating, confusing interactions. So check out this guide to voice programming concepts for experience designers, written up with the goal of ensuring that UX design is embedded early in the creation, rather than tacked on at the end.

Hopefully, this should reduce the chances of users being left confused – or provided with, ahem, less than optimal content.

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