New Alexa Speaking Style Created by Neural Text-to-Speech

Amazon is training Alexa to speak like a newscaster, a feature that will roll out in a few weeks. The new speaking style is based on Amazon’s neural text-to-speech (NTTS) developments. The new voice style doesn’t sound human, but does stress words as a TV or radio announcer would. Before creating this voice, Amazon did a survey that showed that users prefer this newscaster style when listening to articles. The new voice is also an example of “the next generation of speech synthesis,” based on machine learning. Continue reading New Alexa Speaking Style Created by Neural Text-to-Speech

YouTube Doubles Down Against Article 13, Industry Responds

YouTube’s global head of music Lyor Cohen recently published an op-ed in the U.K.’s Music Business Worldwide redoubling YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki’s impassioned blog posts against the EU Copyright Directive’s Article 13. He insisted that, under Article 13, “artists, labels and the entire music industry … will make less money from YouTube, not more” and that “emerging artists will find it harder to be discovered and heard on the global stage.” The music industry has rebutted his arguments. Continue reading YouTube Doubles Down Against Article 13, Industry Responds

With Free Hollywood Films, YouTube Evolves into TV Network

Last month, YouTube began showing free, ad-supported Hollywood movies including “The Terminator” and “Legally Blonde,” an offering it began to promote in the site’s movie section. Although users have been able to purchase prime-time TV shows and feature films there, this is the first time YouTube has offered a free, ad-supported option. YouTube director of product management Rohit Dhawan would not disclose the terms of the agreement with studios, but noted the movies represent an opportunity for users and advertisers. Continue reading With Free Hollywood Films, YouTube Evolves into TV Network

Hive Builds Tailored AI Models via 700,000-Person Workforce

Hive, a startup founded by Kevin Guo and Dmitriy Karpman, trains domain-specific artificial intelligence models via its 100 employees and 700,000 workers who classify images and transcribe audio. The company uses the Hive Work smartphone app and website to recruit the people who label the data, and recently introduced three products: Hive Data, Hive Predict, and Hive Enterprise. Shortly after the product launch, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund and other venture capital firms invested $30 million in the startup. Continue reading Hive Builds Tailored AI Models via 700,000-Person Workforce

LG to Debut Google Assistant Smart Display on Black Friday

LG is introducing its first Google Assistant-powered smart display this week. The XBOOM AI ThinQ WK9, which runs the Android Things operating system for IoT devices, will be offered for a $200 promotional price during Black Friday (it is expected to run $100 more beyond the sale). The smart device was first teased at CES in January. The XBOOM AI features an 8-inch HD touch-screen display, Bluetooth streaming, a built-in 5MP camera for video calls, Google Assistant-powered AI features, and easy access to apps such as Google Maps, Google Photos and YouTube via the Android Things platform. Continue reading LG to Debut Google Assistant Smart Display on Black Friday

Shadow VR Joins the Competition in Emerging Headset Market

New standalone VR headsets continue to ramp up competition in the emerging tech sector. HTC has introduced its Vive Focus (starting at $599) to additional markets beyond China — including Europe and the U.S. — while launching an SDK and encouraging developers to experiment with its 6DoF controller add-on. This week, it also unveiled an enterprise version of the Vive Focus. Meanwhile, the all-in-one $399 Oculus Quest headset is scheduled to launch by spring of next year. And new to the scene is Shadow Creator’s $399 Shadow VR, which recently launched globally and is the latest of 15 partners to leverage HTC’s Vive Wave platform. Continue reading Shadow VR Joins the Competition in Emerging Headset Market

Mobile Use, Online Shopping and Video Spur Digital Ad Growth

A report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers shows marketers are spending considerably more on digital advertising due to an increased use of mobile devices, as well as online shopping and greater consumption of video, music and podcasts. Digital advertising ramped up 23 percent to $49.5 billion in the first half of 2018, from $40.3 billion during the same period in 2017. Of that, advertisers spent almost 63 percent ($30.9 billion) on mobile advertising in 2018, compared to 54 percent in 2017. Continue reading Mobile Use, Online Shopping and Video Spur Digital Ad Growth

Facebook Fails to Police Device Makers’ Use of Personal Data

Last month, Facebook admitted that it failed to properly oversee the seven device manufacturers that the company allowed to access personal data of hundreds of million of people in order to build a so-called Facebook Experience. The Silicon Valley company detailed its errors, which was detected by its own government-approved privacy monitor in 2013, in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), a privacy advocate and frequent Facebook critic. Meanwhile, Facebook users whose data was compromised have not been alerted. Continue reading Facebook Fails to Police Device Makers’ Use of Personal Data

YouTube Chief Executive Rails Against EU Copyright Proposal

The European Union has proposed, in a copyright directive, that platforms, not users, be responsible for copyright infringement. For the second time, YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki strongly stated in her blog that her company does not have the technical or financial wherewithal to comply with this portion of the copyright directive, known as Article 13. Wojcicki, the only tech chief thus far to voice opposition, noted that more than 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Continue reading YouTube Chief Executive Rails Against EU Copyright Proposal

Amazon, Apple Ink Deal to Directly Sell More Apple Products

Amazon inked a deal with Apple to sell more of the tech giant’s products, including the new iPad Pro, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, Apple Watch Series 4, and its Beats headphone line. Amazon will begin listing those products — from Apple-authorized resellers only — in the next few weeks in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan and India. Before this deal, Amazon already directly sold MacBook laptops, Beats headphones and a few other Apple devices. Other products were only available through its third-party resellers. Continue reading Amazon, Apple Ink Deal to Directly Sell More Apple Products

Google, Microsoft Target Triple-A Games via Cloud Streaming

Microsoft and Google are engaged in efforts to enable people to play triple-A games — the most visually complex, big budget games — on devices that are not connected to the Internet, without expensive specialized hardware. The two tech behemoths join game developer Electronic Arts in this 10+year push to allow gamers to stream from the cloud, anytime and anywhere, attracting those who don’t want to buy game consoles or high-end PCs. The move might also tempt existing gamers to play more and spend more time and money. Continue reading Google, Microsoft Target Triple-A Games via Cloud Streaming

Google Ups Investment in YouTube’s Anti-Piracy Content ID

Google has updated how it is combatting piracy across its suite of digital products. In its report “How Google Fights Piracy,” the company revealed that it has spent more than $100 million on YouTube’s Content ID since its inception, representing a big bump up from $60 million two years ago. That number includes computing resources and staffing. The report further details that it has paid out more than $3 billion to rightsholders, compared to “over $2 billion” in 2016 and $1 billion in 2014. Continue reading Google Ups Investment in YouTube’s Anti-Piracy Content ID

Startup Within to Release Augmented Reality App for Children

Los Angeles-based immersive media startup Within plans to release Wonderscope, an augmented reality app for children, later this month. With Wonderscope, mobile AR superimposes characters, scenes and stories onto an iPad camera view of a real-world environment. Within chief executive Chris Milk noted that, with Wonderscope and a smartphone, anyone can have “this new magical ability.” “It’s like a lens for invisible magical things that you couldn’t see with your naked eye,” he added. Continue reading Startup Within to Release Augmented Reality App for Children

Samsung Prototype Debut May Help Kickstart Foldable Trend

Samsung chose its San Francisco developer conference to unveil the anticipated prototype of its foldable two-screen smartphone. The Infinity Flex Display touts a 7.3-inch screen that can be folded to easily fit in a user’s pocket. The device also includes what the company calls a “multi active window” feature that enables running up to three apps simultaneously. Google will support the phones with its Android operating system and is working with Samsung on next year’s planned launch. Meanwhile, foldable tech is becoming an emerging trend, with products in various stages from Huawei, Lenovo, Royole, Xiaomi and LG, some of which we may see at CES in January. Continue reading Samsung Prototype Debut May Help Kickstart Foldable Trend

Tim Berners-Lee Publishes Magna Carta for a Better Internet

At Web Summit 2018 in Lisbon this week, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, unveiled his “Contract for the Web,” which outlines central principles to protect users from abuse, discrimination, political manipulation and other ills. More than 50 organizations have signed the contract, which was published on Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web Foundation site. The full contract will be published in May 2019, when it is deemed that half the world’s population will be able to access the web. Berners-Lee also published a call-to-action. Continue reading Tim Berners-Lee Publishes Magna Carta for a Better Internet

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