Why we will all have robot pets in the future

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Robots have been perhaps the most-predicted and least-realized aspect of our future. Decades ago we believed that robots would soon be part of the household, doing useful tasks for humans finally able to laze about rather than doing chores. This has not yet come to pass, though washing machines, for example, are arguably task-specific robots. What was not so expected was that robots would be something we would bond to emotionally.

I’ve written and been interviewed about a variety of aspects of the future of robots, including therapeutic robots, emotional robots in aged care, and the economic role of robots. Now that robots have reached a sufficient level of maturity, we have our very own robot pet in the family.

My wife Victoria Buckley, inspired by Where’s My Jetpack, a book she gave me for Christmas, recently bought a Pleo, the latest generation of robotic pet. Pleo is a robotic dinosaur that behaves like a domestic pet – curious, cute, cuddly, and responsive to interaction and people’s emotions.

The makers of Pleo, Ugobe, have a neat site where users can set up their own Pleo blogs (plogs). Victoria has been writing the adventures of our Pleo (named Titus) on her plog, worth reading for the cute photos of Titus with our eighteen-month old daughter Leda alone!

Below is a brief video (1:36 min) of my thoughts on the role of robot pets in our lives.

Complimentary report: Executive Insights into Enterprise 2.0 from roundtable hosted by Future Exploration Network and IBM

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The week before the Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum, Future Exploration Network and IBM hosted a roundtable of senior executives discussing Enterprise 2.0.

Highlights of the discussions were written up in a report which is being made openly available, to assist other executives in considering the key issues involved. Download the report here:

Executive Insights into Enterprise 2.0:

Lessons from the Enterprise 2.0 Executive Roundtable

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INTRODUCTION

Enterprise 2.0 – the application of Web 2.0 approaches inside organisations – is one of the most topical issues today for senior technology executives. To eludicate the concepts and to enable experiences to be shared, Future Exploration Network and IBM invited a select group of senior executives to Sydney’s Level 41 restaurant on 13 February 2008. In a free-ranging discussion overlooking Sydney’s harbour, the executives discussed Enterprise 2.0 and its implications and potential for large organisations.

CONTENTS

Roundtable Participants

Introduction to Enterprise 2.0

Defining Enterprise 2.0

Identifying Business Value

Risks and Concerns

Social Networks in the Enterprise

The Shifting Role of IT

Organisational Culture in Enterprise 2.0

The Role of Governance

Summary of presentations at Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum

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We have been posting the speaker presentations at the Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum on the event blog as they have been made available. Below is a summary of the presentations that the speakers have provided to us:

(Note: to see slide details in the slide shows, view the slides on Slideshare and put the presentation into full screen mode).

Be sure to check out the rest of the content on the Enterprise 2.0 blog – there have been some great contributions from speakers and many participants.

Ross Dawson, Chairman, Future Exploration Network

Euan Semple

https://www.scribd.com/doc/2092226/Euan-Semple-Handout

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How to save money running a start-up – tap talent don’t squeeze it

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Jason Calacanis’ company Mahalo includes hundreds of interesting user submitted ‘How To’ guides. The team saw a gap, and created their own list of 17 (and growing) tips on how to save money running a startup.

It’s a good read, and eminently practical. The thrust of the tips are to save money on things that aren’t important, but to spend on the things that are important, particularly those that make staff more productive (which includes making them happy). For example, Jason says “buy cheap tables and expensive chairs” – tables are a commodity but good chairs make people more productive and effective. He also recommends buying extra screens for staff, which makes them more efficient at their work, and buying home computers for those who want to work extra hours at home. If staff are salaried, buy them lunch so they don’t leave the office, and get an expensive automatic coffee machine to keep people from wasting time going to the local coffee shop.

Some have suggested that Jason’s tips suggest a total lack of balance, and certainly all of this can be taken too far. However as long as people can go out to enjoy some sunshine when they feel it’s appropriate, this all makes sense.

The one tip that I absolutely don’t agree with is:

“Go to each of your vendors every 6-9 months and ask for 10-30% off. If half of them say yes you’ll save 5-15% on fixed costs. People will give you a discount if they think they are going to lose the business.”

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Will the innovation landscape become more fluid?

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One of the single most important factors determining the future of business and society is the US legislative framework for innovation. US legislators shape the global patent landscape, due to the country’s dominant global role in both innovation and commercialization,. As covered in a New York Times article titled Two Views of Innovation, Colliding in Washington, Patent Reform legislation under consideration could shift the balance between large established corporations and smaller innovators, impacting how the patent landscape functions as a motivator of innovation.

As I wrote in my book Living Networks:

In the US alone, there are over two million enforceable patents. Only around 5% of those make money. The rest sit dormant, the documents quietly gathering dust on a shelf for the 20 year duration of the exclusive patent rights, or lapse due to lack of maintenance payments. Some of those patents are not applied because they don’t have a real commercial application. Probably many more are neglected because the patent holder is not interested in exploiting them, and they haven’t managed—or perhaps even tried—to match them with a company that could profitably apply them and would be prepared to buy or license them. This is not just a problem for the company that forgoes revenue on its portfolio of patents. It also means that part of the intellectual property landscape is unavailable, potentially squelching innovation by other companies. Because of the complexity and sheer number of existing patents, information about intellectual property has tended to flow extremely poorly. The promise of the next phase of the networks is that this flow will become far more fluid, resulting in better exploitation of our existing intellectual property, and a faster pace of innovation.

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Interview on client relationships in the management consulting industry

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Michael McLaughlin, editor of Management Consulting News, recently interviewed me about how consultants can implement knowledge-based client relationships. A couple of brief excerpts from the interview are below – go to the full interview on Management Consulting News for the rest, in which I discuss trends in the industry, managing procurement professionals, the role of brand, consulting firm marketing programs, and related issues.

McLaughlin: What is a knowledge-based client relationship?

Dawson: It struck me early on that knowledge is the real heart of the value consultants provide. I don’t mean just the knowledge of the consultant, but the way that the consultant applies it so that the client learns or is transformed as a result of the engagement.

I distinguish between black-box consulting relationships and knowledge-based ones. In a black-box relationship, the client engages the consultant to come up with solutions, processes, or implementations and, hopefully, a result is achieved for the client. But, at the end, the client is none the wiser.

In contrast, a knowledge-based relationship has a higher degree of interaction and, as a result, the client actually learns to change. Maybe your client becomes better at making decisions, or managing processes, for example.

McLaughlin: If you look out over the next few years, how do you think the profile of a successful consultant will change?

Dawson: One of the driving forces in the economy is increasing specialization. As time passes, consultants will need deeper specialization.

Clearly, that in itself is of limited value. In part, increased specialization implies that greater collaboration within a firm will be necessary to succeed with clients. But as individuals, we need both an area of deep specialization and carefully selected areas in which we have a generalist understanding.

The importance of the individual practitioner, whether you work solo or you’re a specialist within a larger firm, is waning. The ability to work effectively in teams will continue to be the real driver of success.

Personal networks are another factor that has been important in the past and will continue to resonate. Clients are increasingly seeking out consultants, not just for their expertise, but for the consultant’s access to the unique insights of others in their networks.

Read the full interview.

Sydney goes for municipal WiFi

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The NSW premier has announced that Sydney and other regional cities in the state will get free WiFi in their central business districts in the next three years.This is great news for those in Sydney, especially since Internet Service Providers in Australia are not the best at providing plans at reasonable prices, with low broadband download limits (sometimes 100MB per month!) a dirty eccentricity of the local industry for many years now. Yet go to the WiFi Networking News blog, and in its daily Metro roundup there are four announcements about municipal wireless availability around the world on the same day, including a PR firm providing free WiFi throughout Leicester Square in London. On a global level, the free municipal wireless trend is strong and rapidly building momentum. So what are the implications for telecommunications firms (among others)? Last week a highly-quoted piece in the New York Times on mobile phones with WiFi capabilities discussed how free WiFi will allow mobile users to cut out the mobile phone companies completely and speak for free. In fact, there are many restrictions, including the limited coverage of even the broadest free WiFi initiatives, and even more the very high battery drain of WiFi devices, which allow only fairly short speaking time on mobile phones. However there is no question that initiatives like Sydney’s municipal WiFi will cut out many revenue opportunities for telcos that are still striving to squeeze money out of their customers. On the other side is the far more important issue: individuals and businesses will be vastly enabled in connecting, creating, and tapping new opportunities. This is an exercise in unleashing the potential of connectivity. It’s an important step forward for Australia, which is at best in the second tier of developed countries in terms of its mobile and Internet connectivity.

Languages of blog posts

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Technorati has released its August 2006 State of the Blogosphere report. As always, heaps of interesting information and insights, including about whether, now the blogosphere has reached 50 million blogs, the rate of doubling is slowing. Not yet, it appears. David Sifry has again taken up the theme of the language of blog posts, where English (39%) has once again taken the lead over Japanese (31%) in the last few months. Chinese (12%) is strong, while French (2%) and Korean (NR) are apparently underreported. I very much like the chart that David’s team has produced on languages of blog posts by hour of the day. It gives a better feeling for the truly global nature of the conversations. Examining European and Japanese blogging patterns shows that people tend to blog in the late evening.

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Online advertising is a viable business

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The head of Goldman Sachs‘ high-tech group has said that the IPO market is back for the right Internet companies. However the barriers are far higher, and we’re not likely to return to unprofitable or no-revenue companies getting piles of investors. Now that advertising is a viable business model, with further strong gains in online advertising dollars likely, many more online businesses can flourish, or at least fight for the advertising dollars available. On a related note, a group of prominent bloggers have united to create a blog aggregation site, which will compete with mainstream media and live on advertising revenue. They may not make a fortune, but just around now this has become a viable business model.

Newspapers respond to the online onslaught

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The media landscape is rapidly shifting. Newspapers and magazines have seen the writing on the wall, with over the last six months US newspaper circulation dropping 1.9% and newsweeklies also slipping fast. Classifieds – which represent almost half of newspapers’ advertising revenue – are being assailed by online alternatives. McKinsey & Co executives recently forecast newspapers will lose 20% of their classifieds revenue by 2007. This is undoubtedly too optimistic. Competition is not just coming from the online recruitment sites such as Monster.com and local city classifieds such as Craigslist. An entrepreneurial unit in eBay has established Kijiji as an independent classifieds site, with local operations around the world, including across many Chinese cities. Newspapers have been responding by buying online properties, notably Washington Post buying Microsoft’s online magazine Slate in January, and New York Times acquiring About.com in March for $410 million.

In the next phase media is focusing on the power of social networking technologies. News Corporation spent $580 million last month to buy Intermix, with the youth networking site MySpace the jewel that merited the price. This gives News Corp access to a whole strata of society who are not prime consumers of traditional media. Its Australian rival Fairfax recently spent $A39 million to acquire online dating site RSVP. Google, which is increasingly moving into media space itself, acquired mobile social networking company Dodgeball earlier this year. The future of news media – and especially its revenue models – is increasingly focused on running the networks within which people interact, rather than simply broadcasting information one-to-many. Watch this space.