Sunday, December 28, 2014

Siri cops an attitude

It's Friday, rush hour. I plunge down a ramp into frothing traffic at the mouth of a four-lane state highway heading north of downtown and invoke Siri to call the person I am driving to meet. It's already dark, raining heavily, and I'm surrounded by aggressive drivers in low visibility. I'm thinking I might be late for the movie.

My prompt to call fails. I try again, and Siri asks 'Just to confirm, you'd like to call...', and exasperated, I respond, "Explitive! Yes!"

Siri responds, "After all I've done for you..." and no call is placed.

I never expected that Apple's ambition for personalization would constitute the blind spot of my driving experience. At least the blue tooth ensured that I was hands-free while I operated my manual transmission, but when I had to reach for my device again to get around the distraction of the smart ass remark, under said circumstances, I felt less safe, far less patient, and I was certainly not amused.

Technically, of course, my voice command was apparently unclear such that the call did not go through. But rather than the system compensating for situational awareness and also acknowledging the 'yes' command, it apparently focused on my expletive relative to the the contextual awareness of a yes/no question, and prioritized a contextually clever response. Siri cannot see my situation or hear the real concern in my voice. I can only imagine what other more dire scenarios might incite Siri to add insult to injury. 'Siri, @#!!, call 911!'

When going up an elevator in a parking garage, and Siri gives me a gratuitous response that begins 'I'm really sorry about this, but..." to inform me that the signal is not available, once again, I am  having to withstand not only a long delay and a distraction but also an annoyance - one I've heard several times before.

It's a lot like the days of DVDs, where a short-sighted menu design requires the consumer to wait for a long animation sequence to build  before offering navigation to start the feature. The novelty immediately represents a kind of sentence, that the consumer must forever wait on something about as compelling as watching a toilet flush in order to enjoy something deemed spectacular. Don't they know that we buy to watch again and again? The movie, not the blasted interface. No, they likely target renters, not owners - how apropo for today's SAS model. I doubt Terry Gilliam was consulted about constructing the animated menu for the sixteen-disc collection of Flying Circus, and even if he was, well, then dammit, he shouldn't have been.

Don't get me wrong. I love voice commands and voice texting is mostly helpful - particularly when the time comes to blame the dog for my own poor choice of words. But, I need straight-talk responses. 'Siri not available', when in airplane mode, is just the facts ma'am-style verbiage I like, but, a reminder to 'disable airplane mode to access Siri' might be more helpful. Directions, including timing on anticipating turns, are so far, so good. By comparison, Waze could work on their timing and clarity.

Repeated experience with a persona like Siri can be a lot like having forced company, or an annoying roommate. There's a reason people use self-check out. And volume switches or other knobs. A friendly experience might be pleasant for some, but it can also be an obstacle, an irritant, or even a distraction to the point of liability.

While Siri has the potential to be amusing in designated contexts, the primary user assumption is utility. When a user depends on such a utility to speak with a live human and encounters an obstacle delivered under the pretense of a personality - perhaps one fabricated upon a trampoline of 'if-then' statements likely woven together through conjecture between bong hits by snarky, tattooed millennial ironic mullet-sporting Jedi doppleganger copywriters in skinny jeans who gleefully banter with Siri, 'Like, I know, right?' - the contrast between the living and the contrivance is so stark - there remains no suspension of disbelief, only the gap in utility, the bad judgement and arrogance of the designers, and whatever the user experiences as a result - surprise, disappointment, frustration, anger, fear, regret, dismemberment.

Yes, the engineers handle the AI, but, likely a bunch of copywriters concoct the scenarios. Bong hits. And if they are Jobs disciples, blotter paper. 

I suppose one could argue that the day will come when we will need to interact as purposefully and conscientiously with our machines as we would have them interact with us, and perhaps Apple assumes that we should begin minding our protocol immediately. I would cite Steve Krug's 'don't make me think' mantra, and recall the scene in Star Wars when Luke asks C-3PO to shut down all garbage mashers on the detention level.

I cannot take credit for the particular edit I found on YouTube, but it pretty well illustrates what it feels like when Apple decides that Siri should delight the customer and exceed expectations. Let it loop a few times:

'Jueputa' Explained

Most people in the U.S. who have learned a little Spanish have likely picked up at least a few profanity gems. Most of us start with 'ca ca' and eventually work our way to 'puta', 'puto' or the beloved 'hijo de puta'. But, let's not get confused when we go a bit further south of the border.

My Colombian friend and I were discussing the phrase 'hijo de puta' and I was encouraged to use the abbreviated expression 'jueputa'. I wanted to text the phrase to show some appreciation, and I wasn't quite sure how to spell it, so I began my journey online and uncovered a treasure trove.

First, I found this page which offered a clue:

HIJO DE PUTA: 'hijoeputa' or 'higueputa', spanish word meaning 'son of a bitch'.

Not quite satisfied, I searched for 'higueputa' and found 'hijueputa', a variation on the spelling, which is abbreviated as 'jueputa'. Bingo.

The phrase 'jueputa' is a blend of words from different origins.

Spanish 'hijo' (son) crosses over with variations on roots of the English word we know as 'hag' which became 'higue' when Europeans arrived in the Caribbean, then later took on the Latin twist, 'hijue', before contracting to 'jue'. So,  just add 'puta' as a chaser and you are ready to serve up a round of 'jueputa'. Here's the wiktionary entry for 'jueputa' to confirm conclusions about abbreviation.

(hijo de puta = higueputa = hijueputa = jueputa = jue).

Although we recognize the word 'puta' to be the Spanish equivalent to the English word 'bitch', we lose some meaning in translation, that it doesn't in fact mean 'female dog', but according to Urban Dictionary, 'puta' is short for spanish "prostituta" which means prostitute. The implication and agreement of both 'hag' and 'bitch' in this phrase is actually 'whore / prostitute'; 'hag-whore', or 'son of a hag-whore'. The phrase is employed like any good expletive. 

e.g. Upon smashing his thumb with a hammer, Juan cursed "Aye, jueputa!".

Actually, I recall working with a Mexican guy who used to say '¿Qué onda?, jue?' which I suppose meant 'What's happening, son of a bitch'. 'Onda' translates via Google as 'wave' and I found a reference online that suggests 'what's shaking'.

According to the wiki on hag:

The term appears in Middle English, and was a shortening of hægtesse, an Old English term for witch, similarly the Dutch heks and German hexe are also shortenings, of the Middle Dutch haghetisse and Old High German hagzusa respectively.[4] All these words derive from the Proto-Germanic *hagatusjon-[4] which is of unknown origin, however the first element may be related to the word "hedge".
(end wiki)

...interesting that the derivation of 'hag' leads the root of the word 'hex' and carries the association with the occult. Also, that this same root relates to 'hedge' which represents an enclosure, barrier or form of protection. Notably, The Hague means 'hedge'.

According to wiki, the word 'hag' is used interchangeably with 'crone', is associated with misogyny, and refers to a woman who is 'marginalized by her exclusion from the reproductive cycle, and her proximity to death places her in contact with occult wisdom'.

...when I looked up the word 'higue', I encountered many references to the legends in Guyana including this one:

I also found this on wiki:

The soucouyant or soucriant in Dominica, Trinidadian and Guadeloupean folklore (also known as Ole-Higue or Loogaroo elsewhere in the Caribbean), is a kind of blood-sucking hag.


The soucouyant is a shape-shifting Caribbean folklore character who appears as a reclusive old woman by day. By night, she strips off her wrinkled skin and puts it in a mortar. In her true form, as a fireball she flies across the dark sky in search of a victim. The soucouyant can enters the home of her victim through any sized hole like cracks, crevices and keyholes.

Soucouyants suck people's blood from their arms, legs and soft parts while they sleep leaving blue-black marks on the body in the morning.[3] If the soucouyant draws too much blood, it is believed that the victim will either die and become a soucouyant or perish entirely, leaving her killer to assume her skin. The soucouyant practices witchcraft, voodoo, and black magic. Soucouyants trade their victims' blood for evil powers with Bazil, the demon who resides in the silk cotton tree.[3]

To expose a soucouyant, one should heap rice around the house or at the village cross roads as the creature will be obligated to gather every grain, grain by grain (a herculean task to do before dawn) so that she can be caught in the act.[3] To destroy her, coarse salt must be placed in the mortar containing her skin so she perishes, unable to put the skin back on. Belief in soucouyants is still preserved to an extent in some Caribbean islands, including Dominica, St. Lucia, Haiti, Suriname and Trinidad.[4]

The skin of the soucouyant is considered valuable, and is used when practicing black magic.


Soucouyants belong to a class of spirits called jumbies. Some believe that soucouyants were brought to the Caribbean from European countries in the form of French vampire-myths. These beliefs intermingled with those of enslaved Africans.

In the French West Indies, specifically the island of Guadeloupe, and also in Suriname, the Soukougnan or Soukounian is a person able to shed his or her skin to turn into a vampiric fireball. In general these figures can be anyone, not only old women, although some affirm that only women could become Soukounian, because only female breasts could disguise the creature's wings.

The term "Loogaroo" also used to describe the soucouyant, possibly comes from the French mythological creature called the Loup-garou, a type of werewolf, and is common in the Culture of Mauritius. In Suriname this creature is called "Asema".

(end wiki entry)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

VR/Augmented Reality companies acquired by Oculus


Oculus VR, the Virtual Reality (VR) technology company acquired by Facebook earlier this year, announced recently that they are acquiring two small start-up companies, Nimble VR and 13th Lab, to fill gaps in their virtual reality capabilities. The acquisitions may indicate that, besides VR games and social worlds, Facebook may target Augmented Reality (AR) applications, like Google is doing with Google Glass.

My comments:

This is exactly the idea I wrote about a few years ago, only I my hope is to see unlimited motion, which I get the impression may be possible through the technologies at Nimble VR.

I had proposed the idea of professional sports being experienced by a live crowd wearing headsets, and I also read about a recent suggestion that video games be a part of the Olympics (see excerpt below). Possibly, things are moving in that direction with VR/AR development.

Here is an example of work by 13th Lab:

posted on

The BBC is running a story about e-sports and competitive video game. It's based on comments from Rob Pardo, formerly of Blizzard Entertainment, who says there's a good argument for having e-sports in the Olympics. He says video games are well positioned to be a spectator sport — an opinion supported by Amazon's purchase of for almost a billion dollars. The main obstacle, says Pardo, is getting people to accept video games as a legitimate sport. "If you want to define sport as something that takes a lot of physical exertion, then it's hard to argue that videogames should be a sport, but at the same time, when I'm looking at things that are already in the Olympics, I start questioning the definition." The article notes, "Take chess, for instance. Supporters of the game have long called for its inclusion the Games, but the IOC has been reluctant, considering it a 'mind sport' and therefore not welcome in the Games." So, should the Games expand to include "mind sports" and video games?

Amazon has agreed to acquire the live game-streaming service Twitch for approximately $970 million in cash, a move that could help Amazon bolster its position in the fast-growing business of online gaming and give it technology to compete with video-streaming rivals Netflix and YouTube. The acquisition, which has been approved by Twitch's shareholders, is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Google had for some time been reported to have interest in acquiring Twitch, but those talks cooled in recent weeks. Google was unable to close the deal, said sources familiar with the talks, because it was concerned about potential antitrust issues that could have come with the acquisition.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

TMS for entertainment

Transcranial magnetic stimulation has been used for years to diagnose and treat neural disorders such as stroke, Alzheimer's, and depression. Soon the medical technique could be applied to virtual reality and entertainment. Neuroscientist Jeffrey Zacks writes, "it's quite likely that some kind of electromagnetic brain stimulation for entertainment will become practical in the not-too-distant future." Imagine an interactive movie where special effects are enhanced by zapping parts of the brain from outside to make the action more vivid. Before brain stimulation makes it to the masses, however, it has plenty of technical and safety hurdles to overcome.

Skype Unveils Preview of Live English-To-Spanish Translator


Microsoft, after demoing the technology back in May, is giving some real-world exposure to its Skype-based translation. The Skype preview program will kick-off with two spoken languages, Spanish and English, and 40+ instant messaging languages will be available to Skype customers who have signed-up via the Skype Translator sign-up page and are using Windows 8.1 on the desktop or device. Skype asked two schools to try Skype Translator – Peterson School in Mexico City, and Stafford Elementary School in Tacoma, USA – playing a game of 'Mystery Skype' in which the children ask questions to determine the location of the other school. One classroom of children speaking Spanish and the other speaking English, Skype Translator removed this language barrier and enabled them to communicate.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Google Fiber

Even as a massive firestorm burns uncontrollably threatening to scorch the very foundations of the internet with AT&T indefinitely halting future GigaPower FTTH rollouts due to uncertainty over the future of net neutrality and the Obama administration proposing to regulate the internet under Title 2, highly suggestive jobs were recently added to Google Careers.

These Google Fiber related positions include: "City Manager", "Community Impact Manager" and "Plant Manager" in all potential Google Fiber cities. Perplexing inconsistences abound, such as Portland, Phoenix, San Jose and Atlanta positions being listed as local. Whereas San Antonio, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Nashville are listed as telecommute positions.

One is inclined to speculate as to what these job postings mean despite Google's disclaimer: "Not all cities where we're exploring hiring a team will necessarily become Google Fiber cities." Would Google post jobs as an act of posturing much like AT&T's supposed "Gigabit smoke screen" bluff? Or, should we expect to see these so called Fiber Huts springing up like so many mushrooms after a heavy rain in an additional 9 metro areas?

At the rate Google is going, is it too soon to speculate over Fiber Dojos popping up in Japan?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

New Image Format BPG To Replace JPEG

Bellard Creates New Image Format To Replace JPEG

Fabrice Bellard (creator of FFMPEG, QEMU, JSLinux...) proposes a new image format that could replace JPEG : BPG. For the same quality, files are about half the size of their JPEG equivalents. He released libbpg (with source) as well as a JS decompressor, and set up a demo including the famous Lena image.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ultrasound Haptics

Ultrasound is focused to create the shape of a virtual sphere Bristol Interaction and Graphics group, University of Bristol, copyright © 2014 Share this article Press release issued: 2 December 2014

Technology has changed rapidly over the last few years with touch feedback, known as haptics, being used in entertainment, rehabilitation and even surgical training. New research, using ultrasound, has developed a virtual 3D haptic shape that can be seen and felt. The research paper, published in the current issue of ACM Transactions on Graphics and which will be presented at this week’s SIGGRAPH Asia 2014 conference [3-6 December], demonstrates how a method has been created to produce 3D shapes that can be felt in mid-air.

The research, led by Dr Ben Long and colleagues Professor Sriram Subramanian, Sue Ann Seah and Tom Carter from the University of Bristol’s Department of Computer Science, could change the way 3D shapes are used. The new technology could enable surgeons to explore a CT scan by enabling them to feel a disease, such as a tumour, using haptic feedback. The method uses ultrasound, which is focussed onto hands above the device and that can be felt. By focussing complex patterns of ultrasound, the air disturbances can be seen as floating 3D shapes. Visually, the researchers have demonstrated the ultrasound patterns by directing the device at a thin layer of oil so that the depressions in the surface can be seen as spots when lit by a lamp. The system generates a virtual 3D shape that can be added to 3D displays to create something that can be seen and felt.

The research team have also shown that users can match a picture of a 3D shape to the shape created by the system. Dr Ben Long, Research Assistant from the Bristol Interaction and Graphics (BIG) group in the Department of Computer Science, said: “Touchable holograms, immersive virtual reality that you can feel and complex touchable controls in free space, are all possible ways of using this system.

“In the future, people could feel holograms of objects that would not otherwise be touchable, such as feeling the differences between materials in a CT scan or understanding the shapes of artefacts in a museum.” Paper Rendering Volumetic Haptic Shapes in Mid-Air using Ultrasound by Benjamin Long, Sue Ann Seah, Tom Carter, Sriram Subramanian in ACM Transactions on Graphics.

Further information

A longer video of the technology is available on YouTube. A

bout the Bristol Interaction and Graphics The Bristol Interaction and Graphics (BIG), based in the University of Bristol’s Department of Computer Science, is united by a common interest in creative interdisciplinarity. BIG acts as a hub for collaboration between social scientists, artists, scientists and engineers to combine efficient and aesthetic design. The group is particularly interested in areas which couple the design of devices with deployment and evaluation in public settings. Members of the group have expertise in research areas spanning human-computer interaction, visual and tactile perception, imaging, visualisation and computer-supported collaboration.

YouTube channel:

About the ACM SIGGRAPH Asia 2014 Asia’s largest computer graphics (CG) event, SIGGRAPH Asia 2014, will take place in Shenzhen, China at the Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center from 3 to 6 December 2014. Over 7,700 attendees from over 60 countries are expected, making the conference and exhibition the largest and most respected computer graphics conference in Asia. Through a conference (3 to 6 December) and trade exhibition (4 to 6 December), a multitude of exciting SIGGRAPH Asia activities will showcase the industry’s latest digitally-enabled means of expression. This year, the line-up of conference programs will include the Computer Animation Festival, Courses, Workshops, Emerging Technologies, Posters, Symposium on Mobile Graphics and Interactive Applications, Technical Briefs, and Technical Papers.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Banking and VR With Cardless ATMs And VR, Banks Are Vying To Out-Nerd Each Other For Your Attention

Heartbeat passwords, computer goggles, and nagging fridges. But what of the banks' future visions will actually stick?
By Jennifer Elias

This article contains comments from Bank of America e-commerce technology executive Hari Gopalkrishnan; Brad Nolan, head of Chase's branch and ATM innovation; Jim Smith, head of Wells Fargo’s Virtual Channels Group; MasterCard's chief innovation officer Garry Lyons; and Chase’s digital director Avin Arumugam.

Imagine, if you will, the big bank as an incubator.

In the year that bitcoin began to grow up and Apple Pay was born, this is precisely what the country’s largest financial institutions want you to imagine. Three of them opened up innovation labs to think of what’s next in mobile banking; some are starting their own accelerators. The latest research estimates that U.S. mobile payments, currently at $52 billion, will grow to $142 billion within five years.

Now an industry not exactly known for speed is approaching 2015 with an ethos that sounds more Silicon Valley than Wall Street, touting visions of semi-automation, wearables, and the kind of futuristic security they hope will inspire consumers to trust them and their technology in the first place.

Cache Rules Everything Around Me

Some banks have pledged that 2015 will be the year that they address long-standing customer requests, like the ability to withdraw more cash at ATMs, spend less time waiting in line at branches, and even leave their wallets at home.

At Chase, the robots are coming, but they're not completely taking over. The bank intends to roll out a half-automated ATM in 2015, says Brad Nolan, head of the bank's branch and ATM innovation. Though he couldn't specify locations, the machines will likely be first adopted at select California and Ohio branches before spreading across the country in the coming years.

"We're going to be equipping our tellers with tablets inside of the branches," he says. "Customers can withdraw more cash and our risk systems can alert a teller if a secondary form of ID is needed. We're really trying to not just focus on self-service. It's this whole concept of assisted service."

The bank began rolling out its first form of eATMs earlier this year in a few locations, including Silicon Valley branches. "If you put that experience out there and enable customers to do what they want to do, they'll use it hands down, day in and day out," he says.

"There’s still a lot of customers who don’t have debit cards," Chase's Nolan says. "Now customers will be able to come in, and if they don't have a card, no problem."

This also means getting rid of cards altogether. Starting in 2015, tellers equipped with tablets—they didn't say which kind—will be able to access account information with just a customer's fingerprint. "There’s still a lot of customers who don’t have debit cards," Nolan says. "Now customers will be able to come in, and if they don't have a card, no problem."

Bank of America’s new Teller Assist ATMs combines on-screen tellers with an ATM that dispenses many more denominations of cash than normal. Starting in 2015, the bank also plans to convert all of its credit cards to chip-embedded EMV cards, which offer greater security features.

VR Banking And Tracking Beacons

Banks close earlier than most other businesses, which is why Wells Fargo, Chase, and Bank of America are all planning ways to use video as a focal point for customer interaction in 2015.

Bank of America e-commerce technology executive Hari Gopalkrishnan says that kind of convenience is the biggest demand he gets from customers. Nolan, Chase’s ATM innovation head, says banks need video more than any other industry. "We're interested in how you can make this [video] enable devices that we manage, like ATMs, bank kiosks, all the way to a live chat session from a customer's computer at home or on their mobile device."

With 13 million mobile users, Wells Fargo will be continuing pilot research on videoconferencing with tellers between users’ tablets and TVs.

"When making important financial decisions, video is going to be key to connect bankers with our customers where and when they want," says Jim Smith, head of Wells Fargo’s Virtual Channels Group. He says the bank plans to integrate apps for Google Glass as well. In a demo, the bank showed clients using Glass to scan checks and credit cards in order to pay bills in order to authenticate themselves to a teller on the other side of a videoconference.

The bank also created an Oculus Rift prototype that allows customers to walk into a virtual branch, and Capital One has been experimenting with the VR headset too, but neither look terribly impressive. Fidelity has announced an Oculus vision that would enable users to view their stocks in the form of a three-dimensional city.

"The fridge will notify you when you need milk, eggs, or whatever you need. The technology is already there so we don’t need to invent anything new..."

Closer to production is Wells Fargo’s connected car concept, which addresses the 30% of Wells Fargo’s customers who prefer drive-through banking. In 2015, a second round of testing will include making payments at bridge tolls, drive-throughs, and eateries. MasterCard—which is also working on connected car payments—presumes "you’ll be able to order ahead from a gas station without taking hands off the steering wheel," says chief innovation officer Garry Lyons.

MasterCard recently demonstrated mobile payments between smartwatches and laundromats, and will be piloting payment-enabled refrigerators in 2015. Though the details are still under wraps, this will likely include a screen like the kind seen on modern soda machines, only it would give users the option to buy groceries for pickup or delivery.

"If I’m running out of eggs or milk, depending on the intelligence in the device, the fridge will notify you when you need milk, eggs, or whatever you need," Lyons says. "The technology is already there so we don’t need to invent anything new, we just need to deploy our scale."

Chase and Wells Fargo are both planning to include services that allow customers to "check in" to a branch. Chase’s, called "You Know Me," will enable tellers to expect who’s coming in, and to bypass basic questions. Wells Fargo intends to launch a pilot with Bluetooth beacon technology in 2015, allowing customers to opt in to be recognized when they enter a branch. Services like this—already being tested at some Apple Stores—are meant to target the customer who spends more time in the bank.

Wells Fargo has developed a separate beacon system for use in several retailers and mall operators like Macerich to analyze in-store shoppers in real time, suggest targeted discounts, and allow them to make on-the-go payments from their phones. Such concepts were used in the bank's recent smartwatch interface prototype, which also offers users budget milestones: "Do you want to make a payment now," or "Congratulations—you’ve reached your savings goal!" Think Fitbit for banking.

The Next Phase Of Palm Reading

With all of the plans to rev up banks’ technology, there’s more of a need for security than ever. And even the most formidable firewalls haven't proved safe: In June, JPMorgan Chase suffered a massive hack that affected over a million customer accounts.

Enter biometrics, say the banks—fingerprints, handprints, voiceprints, and more. "You authenticate yourself before you make a payment; why can't you authenticate yourself before you walk into a bank?" says Chase’s digital director Avin Arumugam, who worked on the tokenization of Apple Pay and who is developing palm-scanning ATMs.

Starting next year, big banks will be using biometrics not just for authentication but also so that users can perform hands-free mobile banking on their phones or in their cars.

Jim Smith, of Wells Fargo, says users will be able to ask things like, "How much did I spend in September? "How much money was deposited into my account yesterday?" and "How much did I spend at Starbucks last week?" Users will be able to use their voice to do things like sort through transaction history, move money, and make payments.

"One of the biggest findings from the pilot was how voice made everything so much more convenient," Smith says.

The bank expects demand for services that make mobile banking easier, in keeping with a rise in mobile customers. Chase has 23% more mobile users from a year ago and saw a 61% user jump in its QuickPay feature. And wearables like Apple’s smartwatch are set to bring in more users who want to be able to conveniently bank without the use of many buttons.

"Lyons describes the heartbeat password as part of a new phenomenon called "Persistent Authentication"—enabling him to do things like "make a payment with my mobile device without a password and the potential to unlock anything that requires a key.""

Chase’s Brad Nolan says all these biometrics won't just improve customer experience but that of bankers as well, "from a holistic 'How do we manage the branch?' perspective."

"We have all kinds of keys within the branch for locks, codes, and sign-on passwords, and biometrics can provide a very easy way for our employees to access a branch, navigate within the branch, open a vault and those types of things," he says.

Among the stranger authentications in the works for 2015 is MasterCard’s collaboration with heart rate biometrics company Bionym, whose wearable device connects to an ECG sensor that reads the electrical impulses of a user's heart.

Lyons describes the idea as part of a new phenomenon called "Persistent Authentication," enabling him to do things like "make a payment with my mobile device without a password and the potential to unlock anything that requires a key," he says. "When I leave my house, it locks the door. I walk to my car, it unlocks the car, and it sets my seat settings. I walk to the office, it automatically lets me in. I walk to my laptop and it automatically logs me on."

Wells Fargo has also begun experimenting with Google Glass, which would be worn by tellers to scan guest’s faces to authenticate and bypass questions. Arumugam, Chase’s digital director, says he’s not sanguine about the whole face-scanning idea, preferring instead to use his phone as his banking device.

"I'm not going to sit here and talk about using people's faces for our tellers to scan," he says. "The technology is interesting but I think we are really protective of our customers' privacy and understanding how we want to interact with them. How we blend that [technology-advanced authentication] in with the consumer, with the real world—that's the challenge."

Correction: an earlier version of this story said that current U.S. mobile payments were valued at $3.7 billion; the actual number for 2014 is $52 billion. We regret the error.

[Oculus rift: Flickr user Sergey Galyonkin, ATM: Flickr user megawatts86]