in general

FaceID is weird

I missed the boat on FaceID for a long time. Part of it was all about my unwillingness to dump my iPhone 7 Plus. It’s still an epic phone with an excellent security system that Apple may be returning to, after all their hullabaloo about FaceID.

Now that I’m here, I can’t say I’m impressed. FaceID definitely exceeds my expectations in many ways. It’ll be pitch dark and my phone will unlock as if by magic. But if I’m too close to my phone, it’ll just forget how to work. It’s as if there’s a mandate for the software to see my entire face before it can unlock.

Which is funny, because, well, I can’t expect Apple to have anticipated COVID, but their unwillingness to move fast to accommodate for face masks is just weird. It is only now, in the iOS 14.5 beta, that they’ve finally talked about a way to use FaceID with masks. As we all know, beta features don’t always end up in release.

Early on, I tried to trick FaceID by wearing the mask when trying to add my face to the software. It was quick to point out that something is covering my face. If it’s that smart, why isn’t it smart enough to use what’s available of my face? I can’t imagine how FaceID works for those with physical disabilities or religious mandates to cover their faces.

Google is getting dumber

From Nest to Google Home, things in the IoT World aren’t what they used to be. I remember a time when Google Home was snappy! It would respond quickly and get things right. Nowadays, Alexa seems to be much faster and Google Home’s response time has worsened noticeably. We first noticed this anecdotally. Then, we saw a Canadian vlogger give a demo where clearly, Alexa responded to a pre-created routine a lot sooner than Google did. The last straw was when we recently tried to ask Google Home to put a reminder. At some point, I removed our voice profiles from Google’s apps, in a fit of privacy-fueled action. This has essentially broken the Google Home system. Many features seem to depend heavily on voice profiles. It certainly makes sense for me to ask my smart assistant to remind me of something, and later, see that notification on all the devices I own. But if I’ve not enabled that functionality, the reminder should be presented on the device itself, shouldn’t it?

This doesn’t mean we’re giving up on Google Home. There are certainly things Google does better. For example, their maps prowess stands them in good stead when it comes to finding timings or local shops. But things like reminders are off-limits and so is IMDB. A lazy stroll through some movie or TV show lists becomes a chore when it comes to asking Google Home for the ratings. This is on Amazon and probably their forced lack of integration, but you can’t ask Google for “imdb ratings”. You can ask that of Alexa and that’s what we end up doing.

This pathetic approach to lack of data sharing is causing a second disintegration in our lives fast behind the streaming wars. I’m certainly never going to get Paramount+, but Alexa and Google Home both have a home in my… well, home.

But this worsening experience with Google Home brings another conversation out – is Google reducing the resources available to their smart speakers? Have they seen not-good-enough returns and data collection through this hardware so that they are not investing in the backend infrastructure enough? The day Google Photos was launched, they stressed more about their AI capabilities than anything else. I told my brother that very day that when Google has used our data to improve their tagging capabilities, they’ll dump Google Photos. The upcoming crippling of the “always free unlimited storage” promise shows that Google absolutely uses all of these services to enhance their capabilities and when they’re done, they throw their users under the bus.

Big companies is where innovation goes to die, especially in tech

Why is Spotify available everywhere but YouTube is not? Is that not a disservice to the users of YouTube?

Spotify’s business model depends on ensuring their customers can get to their catalogue no matter where they are. Hence the offline playing capabilities, the somewhat open API for many third party tools, services, and hardware. Add to that a killer API feature which I’ve not seen anywhere else. I can start listening on my phone and Google Cast it to my entire collection of Google Home speakers. I can be on their desktop app and use Spotify Connect to move the music to my Spotify-friendly Bose speakers. Heck, I can be playing on anything and use my phone’s Spotify app as a remote control!

This amazing tech feels alien in a world where YouTube is becoming more restrictive by the day. Why can’t I play YouTube on my Google Homes? Oh, because they’re videos and the GHomes I have are audio-only? That’s a pathetic excuse. Why can’t I Google Cast just the audio parts? Because integrating the streams is a difficult job?

Google has an infinite amount of resources at their disposal, yet they cripple their subdivisions by not letting the left and right arms integrate. This brings up the Amazon model front and center – everybody is your customer and your job is to present an API for everything you do. After that, if a business unit integrates your API into their tooling, that’s good news for you! But Google is still acting as if all of its properties are separate companies and integration must come from the top down. Top down is how innovation dies.

There’s famous cartoon showing how Google and Amazon differ. With employees inside a circle and customers outside, Google has roses pointed inward and guns pointed outwards. Amazon has roses pointed outwards and guns pointed inwards. If someone finds this cartoon, please link me. A picture is worth a couple hundred words. Inflation.

What do you think?


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