This week at Google I/O, Amit Singhal and Johanna Wright took the stage to present their vision for the future of search. They envisioned a not-too-distant future where the venerable search box fades away and search becomes more “conversational” and “anticipatory.” This was a surreal moment for our company. Just two years ago, when we first started formulating the technology foundations for Expect Labs, we began using the term Anticipatory Computing to describe our platform and approach. Below is a slide from our April 2011 company presentation where we introduced the term and described our vision:
Most of the technology executives we met with back then dismissed our notion as science fiction. One prominent venture capitalist pejoratively described Anticipatory Computing as “magic.” If you told us that in just two years, the word “anticipate” would be one of the 3 pillars of Google Search, most people, (us included) would have said you were delusional. The future has arrived, and a quick survey of the industry press indicates that the age of Anticipatory Computing is upon us.
We first began noticing this concept gaining mainstream visibility in the fall of 2012. Om Malik was one of the first tech journalists to pick up on the trend. In October 2012, he wrote a great piece about how our company was “herald[ing] the era of Anticipatory Computing.” Since then, it seems that the term has taken the tech world by storm. Here are a few recent instances of where Anticipatory Computing has appeared in the press:
- IPG Media Lab’s annual trend report called 2013 “the year of anticipation and refinement.” The report went on to say that Anticipatory Computing will be “the trend to watch for years to come.”
- Owen Thomas’ ReadWrite article where he stated “…there’s one big concept that seems really exciting, and that’s anticipatory systems.”
- Semil Shah’s TechCrunch article about “Apple’s ‘Anticipatory Computing’ Problem,” where he describes the new crop of iOS apps being rolled out that are a direct result of Apple’s lack of anticipatory services.
- Harry McCracken’s Time interview with Amit Singhal, the SVP in charge of Google Search. Singhal equates the future of search to his memories of the computer in Star Trek: “You can talk to it naturally, you can ask it whatever you need to. It fades into the background. It’s just there for you.”
- Owen Thomas’ Google I/O article in ReadWrite, about how “Google Is Turning Search Into The Planet’s Biggest Anticipatory System.” Thomas goes on to say that Google’s new search features will allows millions of users to obtain a “glimpse of the anticipatory future today.”
It is hard to imagine that just two years ago these concepts seemed so futuristic. We have witnessed first-hand the transformation of public perception toward Anticipatory Computing; in only two short years, what once seemed fanciful is now a foregone conclusion. Through our interactions with hundreds of journalists, investors, and technologists, we like to think that we played a small role in popularizing Anticipatory Computing. It is both rewarding and inspiring to see this exciting vision of the future unfold before our eyes.
If we left out “the” in sentences such as “please pass the peas,” would their meanings remain intact? Rutgers linguistics professor Richard Epstein argues yes. Epstein says that “the” is an unnecessary English article that is foreign to most other languages, since the word is redundant.
“Many sentences would be totally understandable if you were to omit the from them, but it wouldn’t sound like English. I think what’s more interesting is that if the isn’t used, people start to think you sound like a caveman, but the truth is, most languages don’t have such words.”
In Epstein’s research, he finds that the three-letter word has roots in Old English. He says that “the” can be linked to the word “that,” which first appeared in Beowulf, written between 700 and 1000 A.D. A tale as old as (the) times.
David McCandless of Information is Beautiful created a chart that captures the unique hierarchy of words people use when they’re describing ideas. Every idea we’ve ever had should fit within one of these quadrants. Do you think McCandless is on to something? Where would this chart fit within… the chart?
(via Information is Beautiful)
Why are we filled with disgust when hearing certain words? Word aversion is a linguistic concept associated with the sound and structure of words, along with how words “feel” during their pronunciation. University of Pennsylvania linguist Mark Liberman describes the concept as:
“a feeling of intense, irrational distaste for the sound or sight of a particular word or phrase, not because its use is regarded as etymologically or logically or grammatically wrong, nor because it’s felt to be over-used or redundant or trendy or non-standard, but simply because the word itself somehow feels unpleasant or even disgusting.”
For reasons that are still not entirely understood, “moist” garners most of the word aversion attention. Similar to phobias, hated words like “moist” evoke a highly visceral response in people because they associate the word with a specific image or scenario. Ben Zimmer of Visual Thesaurus writes that other words that share the “oi” sound with “moist,” like “ointment,” are also disliked. Is it the diphthong that annoys people? Why is it that words like “damp” and “soggy,” which have similar meanings to “moist,” don’t produce the same kind of outcry?
What other words make you shudder?
(via Slate & Jezebel)
A few famous vocal styles deemed as “highly irritating.”
Your voice matters more than you might think. According to a new study by Quantified Impressions, the quality of a person’s voice matters significantly more than the actual content being expressed. In the study, 23% of listeners rated the vocal styles they heard as being the most influential to them, compared to only 11% voting on the actual content. Knowledge, stage presence, and passion, were other factors rated highly by respondents.
How authentic is the language used in AMC’s Mad Men? The show’s research staff is tasked with making sure that every word could have ostensibly been uttered during the time period. However, with fans who obsess over the period details in every single frame, there are sure to be a few language inaccuracies that slip by. Here are a few instances where they failed, culled from all six seasons.
1) “I need to.” Historian Benjamin Schmidt says the biggest error in the show is neediness. He writes, “to say ‘I need to’ so much is a surprisingly modern practice: books, television shows, and movies from the 1960s use it at least ten times less often, and many never use it all.” Schmidt used Google Books’ Ngram viewer to analyze a handful of movies and TV shows that aired from 1960 to 1965. The results show that “ought to” would have been more historically accurate.
2) “The medium is the message.” (Season 1, episode 6, “Babylon”) Joan said this line this four years before Marshall McLuhan introduced the phrase, in his 1964 book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.
3) “1960, I am so over you.” (Season 1, episode 10, “Long Weekend”) The intonation of so is what sounds out of place. Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner cites the 1948 Cole Porter song “So in Love” when defending the historical accuracy of the line. However, the Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest citation for the use of so as an intensifier comes from the 1979 film Manhattan, when Mary says, “God, you’re so the opposite!”
4) “I’m in a very good place right now.” (Season 3, episode 3, “My Old Kentucky Home”) According to John McWhorter of the New Republic, this term is actually in a bad place. McWhorter says that when the phrase refers to spirituality and personal development, the idiom comes from the nineties — not the sixties.
Speakers of Mad Men-ese: Which anachronisms did we miss?
(via The Atlantic & Vulture)
Spectrograms of dolphin vocalizations. Top row are signature whistles; in the middle, signature whistle copies; at bottom, the signature whistles of the copiers. Image: Stephanie L. King/Proceedings of the Royal Society B
Just when you thought dolphins couldn’t get any cooler. Marine biologists at the University of St. Andrews conducted a study to better understand how dolphins communicate in the wild. The group studied eleven dolphin “conversations” and discovered that the dolphins used their own signature whistles when announcing their presence to other groups, as if they were introducing themselves by their own unique names. Once the other dolphins heard these whistles, they listened to the speaker at hand. Linguists call this phenomenon, referential communication with learned signals, where sounds are used to represent individuals and objects. Right now, only humans are believed to do this.
The study also found that the dolphins only whistled when they were mixing with the group, not simply to say hello and swim away. What’s so fascinating is that only one representative from each dolphin group whistled, as if they were speaking for the entire group. This research not only reveals insight into dolphin communication patterns, but also the social mechanisms in play in dolphin society.
A few years ago, Spanish ad agency Smäll created a visualization based on the popularity of each letter from Google search results. It’s interesting to imagine an alphabet that changes in line with our online behavior.
Click on the image for a high-res version.
Anne Curzan of the University of Michigan recently wrote about a nearly unheard of linguistic development: A new English conjunction, which only happens a handful of times per century. The “/” as a punctuation mark is being spelled out and used as a conjunctive word in the slang world. Here are a few usage examples from the author’s undergraduate English class:
- “So what’ve you been up to? Slash should we be skyping?”
- “Has anyone seen my moccasins anywhere? Slash were they given to someone to wear home ever?”
In these examples, “slash” is used as a conjunction, meaning “and,” “and/or,” and “as well as,” linking a second related thought to the initial first thought.
The emergence of a new conjunction/conjunctive adverb (let alone one stemming from a punctuation mark) is like a rare-bird sighting in the world of linguistics: an innovation in the slang of young people embedding itself as a function word in the language.
For a complete overview of the “slash,” read Curzan’s piece here. Pair with an overview of the word’s part-of-speech debate from Penn’s Language Log and you’ll be in language heaven (slash nirvana).
MindMeld Featured on CNN
MindMeld is featured in the above CNN segment that talks about exciting innovations in technology, including Google Glass and the future of home automation. In addition to the enthusiasm it brings, new technology also raises new issues. We share these same concerns with our users and will work to ensure that our technology does not end up creating apps that feel invasive. It’s important to us that users are always in complete control of their experience so they can make informed decisions on how to balance the delicate relationship between privacy and utility. For example, when a user asks MindMeld to listen to a conversation, it is always the user’s choice and audio files are never stored on our servers. For more details on how MindMeld works, click here.
Thank you for all of your continued support. We have a lot of exciting things in the pipeline and we can’t wait to share them with you!
Snacking is some serious business. Dan Jurafsky, a Stanford linguist who blogs on The Language of Food, conducted a sound symbolism test to better understand how meanings are attached to specific sounds. For the study, Jurafsky analyzed 81 ice-cream flavors and 592 cracker brands. He discovered that the ice-cream names tended to use more back vowels, which are formed in the back of our mouths and usually refer to fat and heavy things. As suspected, the cracker names employed more front vowels, which are formed in the front of our mouths and refer to light and airy things.
“Say them out loud: rocky road, chocolate, cookie dough, coconut—heavy on low-frequency o’s. Now listen to Cheese Nips, Cheez-Its, Wheat Thins, Ritz Bits, Triscuit, Cheese Crisps—you can hear all those little bitty e’s and i’s.”
Sound influences our perception of everything, which is why naming is such an important undertaking for a brand. Linguist John Ohala says that we associate lower pitches with aggression and hostility, while higher pitches sound friendlier and more open. Incorporating these kinds of linguistic insights into a product’s naming process reinforces positive associations.
So, is it snack time yet?
(via Language of Food, h/t GOOD)
A list of everyday sounds, and where they appear in languages other than English:
- Bilabial trill - When you blew a raspberry A bilabial trill is made when you “roll” a b or a p. Speakers of a few languages in Indonesia and New Guinea (Kele, Nias, Titan), Africa (Kom, Ngwe), and South America (Pirahã, Wari’) employ this sound.
- Pharyngeal fricative - When you were trying to clear your throat. Pharyngeal means you produce the sound deep in your throat, while fricatives are sounds that buzz. People who use this sound include speakers of Hebrew, Arabic, Galician, and a few North American languages.
- Uvular trill - When you were gargling. This particular sound is produced when you vibrate the uvula, located in the back of your throat. Uvular trills appear in many European languages, including French, Swedish, German, Dutch, and Portuguese.
- Alveolar click - When you tsk-tsked someone. Clicks are used in the Zulu and Xhosa languages in southern Africa, made famous in the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy. An alveolar click is made in the same place you pronounce a t.
To hear a live rendition of these sounds and more, check out this video featuring the author, James Harbeck.
(via The Week)
This morning we announced a new strategic investment from Samsung Ventures, Intel Capital, and Telefónica Digital, that will enable us to collaborate on exciting initiatives in Anticipatory Computing. This investment will allow us to further align our vision with some of the largest players in each vertical where our technology platform can add value, including consumer electronics, telecommunications, and semiconductors.
As part of the partnership, Samsung will work with our technology to integrate new types of context-aware behavior across multiple devices, including smartphones, tablets and smart TVs. Similarly, Intel will explore ways to create new types of voice, touch, and gesture user interfaces with our Anticipatory Computing Engine. Telefónica plans to use our technology to enhance several product lines, including next-generation communications applications, in addition to advertising initiatives.
According to our CEO, Tim Tuttle, “In just a few years, we will live in a world where the connected devices all around us will know who we are, understand what we say, and be far more capable of interpreting our intentions and anticipating our needs. We are delighted that leading global companies like Samsung, Intel and Telefónica share this vision, and we are looking forward to working with them to create a new generation of intelligent applications and devices.”
Today’s announcement continues the momentum we’ve seen since our launch, and will enable our technology to continue to make an impact in the world of contextual computing.
For more information on the partnership, check out the official press release.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “orange” entered the English language in the early 1300s, via the Old French word, orenge. Some lexicographers believe the word actually originated from Sanskrit (नारङगम्, pronounced nāraṅga), and then evolved over time as it passed through other languages. In English, the color “orange” was named after the fruit. Before speakers came in contact with the citrus version, the color was referred to as “yellow-red.”
Fun fact: There are no words that perfectly rhyme with “orange.”
(via Time For Maps!)
It wasn’t always hip to be geeky. In the past, being called a “geek” was an insult, implying a certain kind of awkwardness and lack of social skills that one did not want to associate themselves with. The term can first be traced to the 18th century word “gecken,” which was a German term used to refer to carnival performers who would bite the heads off live chickens. Yes, apparently that was a thing. Fast forward to the fifties, where “geek” was used to describe people who were passionate about technology and other interests, like film and comic books.
It wasn’t until the past decade that the idea of the ironic “geek” started infiltrating popular culture, along with a shift in its meaning. Suspenders, horn-rimmed glasses, and other fashions typically associated with a more awkward kind of “geek,” all comprise the current “geek chic” aesthetic. This style played a significant role in altering the word’s meaning by allowing people to only retain the positive elements of the term while scrapping the “uncoolness” that it used to be associated with.
It is now socially acceptable to be geeky. The “geek” has been reclaimed and geeks shall inherit the earth.