Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

Robots learning languages

Anne says: I haven’t written about robots for a while, so when I saw this article, I had to share it!

Do you speak another language (other than your mother tongue)? Do you remember the challenges of learning a new language? This robot completely deflated my motivation as I struggle to improve my fluency in Spanish and Catalan! It wrote words in several languages when it had only be exposed to (taught) Japanese. Incredible!

The article explains how the researchers taught the robot modern Japanese writing and explained how children are taught to write. You don’t just look at words and copy them, you have to understand where to put your pen, upstrokes, downstrokes, directions etc. So having been exposed to the Japanese letters, the computer was shown words in other languages, including some that use script – Hindu, Yiddish and Tamil. Amazingly, the robot was able to copy them! Something I would have attributed to humans ability to generalise in terms of cognitive science and learning – not to the data and algorithms provided to the robot!  

However, I did have a moment of smug pleasure when I realised the robot was only copying handwritten language – it probably had no idea what the words meant!

The article ends with a bit of future fantasising – that perhaps robots will be able to leave us handwritten notes! Of course, that seems ridiculous – but read the Friday Thought of the Day below. Perhaps a robot participating in a design thinking ideation session, armed with a wad of sticky notes, writing and pasting them on the walls won’t be such a crazy thought after all. It may even broaden the generation of novel concepts… 


A Friday Thought of the Day

Anne says: This is from Stowe Boyd’s Work Futures Daily blog post (highly recommended) – this quote of the day (30 May 2019, below) particularly resonated. You read so many predictions and trends, yet many of the future predictions are already available – so they’re not a prediction at all. Others are just lacklustre and certainly don’t inspire – they feel like random guesses. Arthur C. Clarke simply nails it – and as a reminder, many of Clarke’s predictions in his books (like 2001, A Space Odessey, he wrote in 1968) are technologies we’re talking about today! Watch the video interview from 1964 – fascinating, compelling and inspirational.

[Arthur C] Clarke says that if you find a prediction reasonable, then it is probably wrong, because the future is not reasonable; it is fantastic! But if you could return from the future with the exact truth about what will happen, no one would believe you because the future is too fantastic! By fantastic he means issuing from the realm of fantasy and the imagination — beyond what we expect.

This is the futurist’s dilemma: Any believable prediction will be wrong. Any correct prediction will be unbelievable. Either way, a futurist can’t win. He is either dismissed or wrong.

Watch: Kevin Kelly, The Futurist’s Dilemma (If the video doesn’t work for you – here’s a clip on YouTube – Clarke starts talking around 3.48mins)

Pokémon Company reveals Pokémon Sleep, a game about sleeping

Joel says: The Pokemon Company’s mission statement is:

To enrich both the real world and the virtual world with the Pokémon characters.

And after what they’ve announced this week, it certainly seems they wish to enrich every part of your day, not just those when you may be awake staring at your phone or gaming console.

Pokemon GO when it launched back in 2016 made walking an addictive form of entertainment and now The Pokemon Company is attempting to gamify your sleep with a new app titled Pokemon Sleep which is set to launch sometime in 2020. 

While specifics are quite vague at the moment, it has been confirmed that the app is being designed with the intention of “transforming sleep into entertainment.” It will work hand in hand with a new peripheral device called the Pokemon Go Plus+ that will monitor your sleep patterns and offer you in-game rewards for your time spent sleeping and the time of day you wake up among other things. It will sync to your Android or iOS smartphone via Bluetooth to share your sleep data with the Pokemon app.

Tsunekazu Ishihara, president and CEO of The Pokémon Company says:

“The concept of this game is for players to look forward to waking up every morning,” 

It seems pretty clear how The Pokemon Company has managed to turn itself into a multi-billion dollar business. Pokemon is already an incredibly marketable idea and now after the launch of Pokemon GO and soon Pokemon Sleep the Pokemon brand will become embedded in millions of people’s everyday lives. But best of all the apps don’t seem predatory or out there to nickel and dime you 99c at a time and could actually have a really positive impact on people’s lives through the connection to the Pokemon IP. I know many of my personal friends that would rarely ever exercise got up and were addicted to going outside and catching new Pokemon when Pokemon GO launched so I’m really interested to see what impact Pokemon Sleep may have on the world when it launches next year. 

You can check out the reveal trailer for Pokemon Sleep below.


The Recycling Farce

Helen says: This week Malaysia announced it would be returning to sender thousands of tonnes of illegal plastic waste that has been exported to Malaysia under the guise of recycling. Malaysia is the third Asian nation to restrict waste importing behind China and India leaving Australia faced with an ever-growing stockpile of waste. Hopefully, this shrinking waste export market will prove a catalyst for change as we are forced to deal with our own rubbish. Countries are starting to create their own circular economies by working out ways of using their own waste.  This article gives a good overview of our current waste management and what our governments, other countries and businesses are doing about it. It is a complex problem that needs innovative thinking and strong leadership.

In another article I was surprised to learn that many plastics we dutifully put in the recycling bin are not even recyclable. Did you know that dark coloured plastics are almost impossible to reuse, single use plates and cutlery – marked bioplastics – only break down in composting facilities under extreme heat, and the quality of recycled plastic is so poor it has to be topped up with plenty of new virgin plastic? Raising awareness of this is aimed to help us make better choices.

Will this knowledge influence your next purchase? Let me know in the comments or on social media – I’d love to hear your thoughts.


The 30 Second Trick That Can Make Anyone More Creative

Source – Original Photo: Motoki Tonn/Unsplash

Jakkii says: How often do most of us bemoan our lack of creativity, or look at someone else’s work – particularly in artistic fields – and think ‘I wish I were (more) creative?’ Far too often, I think.

If you’ve ever thought or said something similar, this article is for you! The article begins by suggesting this tip is for “anyone designing a new product or marketing campaign” but, frankly, I think creativity is needed in most of our knowledge working lives, and we don’t give it enough weight – nor enough room, space and time to develop and grow.

This short read looks at some research that was done to explore whether it’s our heads or our hearts that are most important for being creative; in other words, is it most important to be practical and non-emotional, or to be empathetical, to be more creative? When you think about it, the answer is probably pretty self-illuminating: empathy gets us further in opening ourselves up to being creative and coming up with more innovative ideas and solutions. 

Across trials and tasks, the empathetic designers were found to be measurably the most creative (the results were judged by various independent panels), and crucially, their ideas were no less practical than the logical group. In other words, their creative ideas didn’t come at the expense of realism.

So, if empathy can make us more creative, how can we practice empathy and develop this skill? The author suggests all we need is 30 seconds a day to get better at it – have a read, give it a go for a week, and let me know how you find the exercise!


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