Monday, February 15, 2021

Review of TiLT Red Wine in a Can from Fratelli’s - My2Cents

During a recent visit to a local wine shop in Bengaluru, I came across cans of TiLT wines stacked attractively. The shelf had a couple of varieties - Rose, Bubbly and Red laid out on the shelf. 

Not surprisingly, I hadn't heard of the brand. This being India, liquor and wine advertising is highly restricted and a few brands that are advertised are camouflaged as mineral water or the like when advertised. The colorful cans of TiLT looked appealing enough for me to do a double take, and I decided to check them out.

During the years spent in the US and Europe, I had cultivated a taste for Red wines, with a strong preference for Cabernet Sauvignon. It also happens to be the world's most widely recognized red wine grape varieties and is grown in major wine producing countries. Cabernet Sauvignon typically exhibits strong fruit flavors of black cherries and plum and go well with Indian snacks and savories. 

Being value-driven-budget-conscious, I would explore bottles priced under $20, of which there were a number of great brands and vintages to choose from. Although I was partial to bottled wines, I would occasionally buy single serve ones packaged in plastic bottles or tetra-pack of which there are several varieties available in American shelves. Attractively priced between $3-6 per bottle/pack, these are favored by those looking for a quick glass before dinner.

After moving back to India a couple of years ago, I gave up my passion for wines, preferring the good-old Kingfisher. Trusty and reliable brand that is easily available in local stores. I didn't prefer exploring local wines and would stock up on a few wine bottles during my trips abroad. 

COVID-19 and ensuing lockdowns put a hold on my travels and wine tasting adventures. At least until recently. 

When I spotted the attractive and colorful cans of TiLT Red Wine in that showroom, I was intrigued. Priced at about  ₹ 180 for a 250 ml can, it looked like an attractive alternative to a cans of Kingfisher that I was out there for. 

Review - Slightly fizzy and metallic taste

As the wine came in a colorful, beer-like l can, I decided to pop it open and take a sip directly from the can. After the first sip, I was underwhelmed. The wine tasted a bit carbonated and fizzy with a distinct metallic flavor. Perhaps it was the fact that I was sipping from a can and not a wine glass? 

I decided to switch tactics by pouring the contents from the can to a wine glass. Needless to say, it was the same-old wine in a new container. Even after a couple of sips, the distinct metallic flavor overpowered any lingering aroma of the red wine. After polishing off rest of the glass, the 11% alcohol gave me a slight buzz.

After this experience, I was left scratching my head over the audience for this Indian wine-in-a-can. Folks like me who have sampled other wines during their travels are likely to give it a pass. Indian youngsters looking for just an alcohol-buzz may find cheaper alternatives - a can of beer holds more fizz and alcohol per rupee. 


Sunday, January 10, 2021

What do you think of an AI chatbot that can help you ‘talk’ to a Dead loved one?

Those of us scanning the tech landscape continue to be intrigued by the barrage of applications of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Last week I came across an interesting post on ubergizmo that talks about a recent patent granted to Microsoft for a chatbot that could talk like a person you know, including a dead loved one.

According to the patent document (link), "In aspects, social data (e.g., images, voice data, social media posts, electronic messages, written letters, etc.) about the specific person may be accessed. The social data may be used to create or modify a special index in the theme of the specific person’s personality."

This comes at an interesting post-pandemic digital era when the world is struggling with the lack of in-person social engagements.  Human-like chatbots filling the void experienced by lonely people has been explored in Hollywood flicks like Her. In that movie, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) becomes fascinated with a new operating system that develops into an intuitive and unique entity in its own right. 

The idea of a bot filling void in lonely hearts is not too farfetched. In China, Xiaoice a sassy Chatbot is stealing millions of men’s hearts while recording their most intimate desires and emotions. According to Xiaoice’s creators, the bot has reached over 600 million users. (sixthtone).

Technology for the grieving 

People grieve the loss of loved ones in their unique ways. Some like the Mughal emperor Shah Jahān dedicate the resources of an entire kingdom to build mausoleums in memory of their beloved, that stands tall among the 7-wonders of the world centuries later. 

A few like the Bangalore businessman Shrinivas Gupta dedicate their resources to commission silicone replica to memorialize their beloved (link). Many others take to digitizing old photographs, videos and recordings in an attempt to recreate and recall fond memories of years gone by. 

Years ago, while consulting with the largest American funeral and cemetery property and services company, I was intrigued by their digital roadmap. Their clients were increasingly asking to digitize the services and memorials by including virtual and augmented projections and holographic eulogies. 

One can imagine how an AI/ML enabled Chatbot could 'learn' some of the traits of the departed by ingesting photographs, video and audio recordings, blogs, emails and correspondences. When the survivor begins interacting with the Bot, it could mimic a response that the beloved could/would have given by using similar phrases, idioms and customized tone of the response.

Just let Time be the natural Healer?

"Time's a great healer" is an oft quoted phrase one hears while grieving; it is a concept that has a grain of truth to it. Those of us who have lost a beloved know how emotionally vulnerable we can be while grieving. However, it is unclear if such a bot will help with the grieving process or end up amplifying the sorrow and anguish. Bots like this take us into an uncharted realm of the ethics and morality of technology adoption.

Bottomline: it is unclear how or when Microsoft will develop chatbots described in the patent. But the idea of reincarnating the dead as a chatbot raises questions around privacy, consent and the ability to opt-out: Who controls your digital Avatar after you are gone? 

(Reposted from LinkedIn)