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Bing’s on{X} Will Put Your Smartphone on Future-y Autopilot

Science fiction is full of worlds that have artificially intelligent devices that serve as sidekicks to heroes (and villains!) for performing the tasks they need to check off by the end of the day. Th...
Bing’s on{X} Will Put Your Smartphone on Future-y Autopilot
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  • Science fiction is full of worlds that have artificially intelligent devices that serve as sidekicks to heroes (and villains!) for performing the tasks they need to check off by the end of the day. These characters and their electronic counterparts always seem to live in the future or have traveled from the future to our pedestrian time period where they proceed to dazzle us with their über-smart computer devices that seem to know more than the users do.

    Meanwhile, those futuristic devices make our iPhones and Android smartphones look like telegraphy instruments. Don’t give into disappointment and throw your smartphones on the ground just yet, though, because our humble Year 2012 devices might be getting an intelligence boost in the near future.

    Bing announced today the beginning of on{X} (pronounced “on-ex” and, sadly, not like the mineral or 90s rap group), a new developer initiative that aims to push your Android smartphone into the future by becoming more of a predictive secretary for your life. And yes, I did only mention Android because, as of the launch of on{X}, that is the only platform on which the project is available – sorry, iPhone developers and users.

    on{X} is an ambitious project that wants to make your smartphone “smart” enough to take care of some tasks automatically that, as of today, you have to manually tell it to do. For instance, some of the possibilities expected from on{X} would have your smartphone automatically text your spouse that you’re on your way home from work without you having to do it yourself (although adulterers may want to stay away from this feature) or automatically show you your work calendar whenever you arrive to work. See the video below from Bing to hear more about the ambitions of on{X}.

    Given all of the environmental acuity that smartphones have these days, everything from retrieving weather information to geolocation to speakers and cameras, there’s really no reason why smartphones shouldn’t be more pre-emptive with taking care of some of the menial tasks that, thus far, we’re doomed to repeat nearly every day. on{X} hopes to push smartphones into that direction by making them capable of detecting and reacting to environmental changes.

    For each such triggering event, we can easily create reactions. Instead of limiting the reaction to a simple list of actions, we are offering the full power of JavaScript. That’s right, you can push any arbitrary JavaScript code, remotely, down to your mobile device and hook it up to a continuous signals sensing framework that you only need to download and install once. The possibilities are wide open because you no longer need to worry about the target platform. Even better, Project on{x} is optimized to not drain your battery.

    Working on on{X} will require some developer know-how, so it will naturally not be accessible for just anybody to participate. However, Bing has tried to make the project as easily accessible as possible for anybody enthusiastic enough to give it the old college try:

    The code we write is an action that we hook up to a sensor-based event. For example: “AC power disconnected” or “WiFi network detected”. Do you want some more sophisticated examples? How about “User mode-of-transport just changed from walking to driving” or “user left home”?

    Ultimately, on{X} inverts the way smartphones traditionally operate. Instead of sending the data up to the cloud from the device, Bing wants to push the code down to the smartphone. Eran Yariv, Bing Principal Development Manager, emphasizes how the different direction of data transfer with on{X} will ultimately result in better privacy as no data is actually leaving the Android device. The lack of mandatory access to the cloud helps make sure that all the computation is happening on the device. More, in initial tests, the on{X}-enabled device never even needed to communicate with the cloud even though the JavaScript has the capacity to do so.

    Anybody curious to dig their claws into on{X} can find the app in Google Play. Thus far, in the 27 reviews that have been posted since the app was made available, users seem to think overall that the idea driving the app is amazing except for one caveat: you must sign into on{X} with your Facebook account. A vast majority of the users who gave on{X} 1-star reviews state that they were excited to start using the app until it was learned that this app is tied up with Facebook. The discovery seems to have sent every eager developer running for the hills, which is unfortunate. This app is superbly promising yet as long as on{X} is shacked up with Facebook, the project looks to lose many creative minds who would rather not have Facebook leeching even more information from them than that site already does. Hopefully, Microsoft and Bing will take heed to this initial revulsion by potential on{X} users and offer an alternative in the near future, maybe with a Google log-in (since these developers presumably are already using said account on their Android devices) or even an email log-in option.

    Then again, Bing and Facebook have been cozy for some time now, and if on{X} ends up DOA solely because of its Facebook association, that failure could really tax that relationship.

    Facebook, you’ve got the nega-Midas touch these days. Hope you’re happy with yourself.

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