5 Intriguing Things: Tuesday, 12/11

A robot telemarketer, an anti-telemarketer robot, phone subsidies, a surveillance tower, and the death of most languages.
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1. A robot telemarketer who denies she is a robot.

"Over the course of the next hour, several TIME reporters called her back, working to uncover the mystery of her bona fides. Her name, she said, was Samantha West, and she was definitely a robot, given the pitch perfect repetition of her answers. Her goal was to ask a series of questions about health coverage—'Are you on Medicare?' etc.—and then transfer the potential customer to a real person, who could close the sale."
 

2. The Telecrapper 2000 Telemarketer Interception System, a robot for messing with telemarketers.

"The user creates a setup text file (called a "hit list") that declares all of the Caller ID strings (numbers and/or names) he considers "annoying" and wants intercepted on the first ring. When a call on the users "hit list" arrives, the computer intercepts the call and picks up the extension. This feature alone is very valuable. It gives the ability to identify legitimate calls anywhere in the house by simply waiting to hear a second ring.

As if that feature wasn't enough, the TC2K then plays a wave file over the extension for the telemarketer to hear. The user can declare a list of wave files, in a specific order, that he wishes to be played to calls on his "hit list". The first wave file is played immediately after picking up the extension, the TC2K then waits for the telemarketer to respond, then the TC2K waits for silence (for the telemarketer to finish speaking), then plays the next wave file on the list. The cycle of play wave file, wait for response, wait for silence is repeated for each wave file the user has declared in his setup text file. This way the TC2K can carry on a "virtual" conversation with the telemarketer and the content of that conversation is completely up to the user. All the user needs to do is record his own set of wave files to be played and declare them in a setup file."

Bonus: this is the best example.

 

3. At least one telecom carrier has realized it's subsidizing Apple and Samsung.

"'When you're growing the business initially, you have to do aggressive device subsidies to get people on the network,' he said. 'But as you approach 90 percent penetration, you move into maintenance mode. That means more device upgrades. And the model has to change. You can't afford to subsidize devices like that.'"

 

Flir

4. The Flir Skywatch deployable surveillance tower (which I saw in person in Oakland last night).

"Applications:

  • Force Protection/Military
  • Border Protection
  • Port Security
  • Consequence management
  • Disaster response
  • Crowd management and control
  • Flight line protection and surveillance
  • Parking lot surveillance and traffic management
  • Crowd control
  • Emergency response
  • VIP/Dignitary protection
  • High Level Security Arenas
  • Long range surveillance"

 

5. There are more than 6,000 languages online, but very few are used online

"Only about 170 languages, or 2 percent, are vital or thriving online. Another 140 (1.7 percent) are borderline cases. The remaining 96 percent (over 6,000) are still or 'digitally dead.'"

 

 

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Presented by

Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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