Passport Photos with Photoshop-Added Suits

Looking presentable in an ID photo can have immeasurable intangible benefits: you're taken more seriously,  respected more easily, given the benefit of the doubt. So when Cubans have their passport photos taken, Lian Marrero will Photoshop a suit onto them. It's much more cost-effective than buying or even renting a suit for the purpose, and in a world where aesthetic perception matters perhaps more than it should, the service sets his customers up for success. Not a bad deal!

"Smart Replies" act human so you don't have to.

One of the features demonstrated in Google's upcoming Allo messaging app is Smart Replies: AI will analyze the conversation and context, and suggest some possible ready-to-send responses. The image above shows an example, where "aww so cute" and "Love the daisy!" are suggested by the app based on what it parses from the received photo. This is certainly technologically impressive, where the AI is doing a fine job impersonating a human; the problem is that I don't want to outsource my humanity. I want my what I say to come from me, not the suggestions of a bot - and I want to know the same is true of what is said to me by other flesh-and-blood humans, even if it's via electronic means. Autocorrect features to fix typos or speed up text entry are fine, as they don't interfere with human-originated intentions - even offering quick-responses like "running late" or "busy now" is handy for quick logistical messages. But when AI strays into how I should emotionally communicate with others, that's too far. Engadget's Nicole Lee agrees: don't send me Smart Replies!

"Backspace" or "Back"? Google wants just one...

That one key on the keyboard performs both functions: backspace when editing text, or "back" to the previous page when web browsing. However, when editing text in a web browser, it can be easy to make a mistake: if focus is on the page rather than the text field within the page, you risk losing whatever you'd been typing. Google thinks the usage of the key as "back" instead of "backspace" is antiquated, citing the mere 0.04 percent of page views it triggers, and has experimented with removing that function. A mostly-techie set of critics has made their objection known - but the numbers, and the usability, may be with the masses here!

ResetPlug: Automating the first step of an Internet outage

When the internet goes out, the first step is always to power-cycle the modem and router. And that's not easy! We store our personal IT components in out-of-the-way places, and there seems to be some aversion among telecoms to putting power buttons on cable modems. The ResetPlug wants to take over that ubiquitous first step, by constantly monitoring internet status and power-cycling your boxes until it's back up. $60 might seem a bit steep, but if it works as advertised... it sure is tempting to never have to do the ol' power-cycle tango again!
[via Gizmodo]

Phone number UI fails (or jokes?)

Numbers are numbers - that is, until you have to enter them on a website. Suddenly the format, magnitude, precision, and validity of the number become big issues. Stelian Firez has been collecting horrific examples of phone-number-entry design gone wrong, accidentally or intentionally. Remember, a phone number is a huge number (in the billions!) that must be precise and accurate (two different things) to the digit. This makes some number-entry interfaces - like sliders, dropdowns, checkboxes, +/- buttons, and others - hilariously ill-suited to the task. Take a look, enjoy, and cringe!
[via Core77]

I'm so confused...

...I should probably call an attendant for clarification.

Emoji Fails: Cross-platform miscommunication

Emoji are increasingly a part of text-based communication, but they don't quite have the universality of text; whereas text would be interpreted the same way in different fonts (well, mostly, and not including ALL CAPS), the same emoji as rendered in different operating systems may be interpreted very differently. The example above is perhaps the worst: the emoji standard calls for a "grinning face with smiling eyes," but each operating system is free to design their own graphic to represent that - and that's where the trouble begins. If an Android user sends this to an Apple recipient, the sender sent something they perceive as +4.3 on the happiness scale, but the receiver gets something they perceive as -1. That's a big difference, which is just begging to cause trouble! (And I think Apple is at fault here: that's no grin, that's a grimace at best.) This was studied by the GroupLens research team at the University of Minnesota. Their results make me want to make my own grinning-with-smiling-eyes face... but Apple-style.
[GroupLens, including image credit, via Gizmodo]