Congress Calls For End to Tech Firms’ Audio Transcriptions

A bipartisan group of Congress members castigated Facebook for hiring contractors to transcribe audio clips and urged regulation to prevent it in the future. The transcriptions were made to help Facebook improve its artificial intelligence-enabled speech recognition, and are part of a move to improve the capabilities of voice assistants (Amazon, Apple and Google are among companies that have taken similar approaches). Last year, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) circulated a draft law that would impose steep fines and even prison for executives who failed to protect users’ personal data. Continue reading Congress Calls For End to Tech Firms’ Audio Transcriptions

Google Stops Human Review of Assistant Voice Clips in EU

Google is pausing Google Assistant voice transcriptions in the European Union for at least three months. In mid-July, it admitted that about 1,000 private communications were made available to human contractors evaluating Assistant’s speech recognition accuracy, revealing personal and private information. A Google spokesperson reported that the company ceased voice transcription involving human moderators after learning of additional leaks in the Netherlands. Amazon will allow Alexa users to opt out of the human review of recordings and Apple has halted its program allowing human contractors to listen in on Siri recordings. Continue reading Google Stops Human Review of Assistant Voice Clips in EU

Google and Amazon Use AI to Improve Speech Recognition

Google’s artificial intelligence researchers made an unexpected discovery with its new SpecAugment data augmentation model for automatic speech recognition. Rather than augmenting input audio waveforms, SpecAugment applies augmentation directly to the audio spectrogram. Researchers discovered, to their surprise, that models trained with SpecAugment out-performed all other speech recognition methods, even without a language model. Amazon also revealed research on improving Alexa’s speech recognition by 15 percent. Continue reading Google and Amazon Use AI to Improve Speech Recognition

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

Microsoft Builds on Existing Tech, Voices Moral Conscience

At its Build developer conference this week, Microsoft is showing products that highlight its changed direction under the aegis of chief executive Satya Nadella. Among them is a DJI drone loaded with Microsoft software to identify oil pipeline faults without an Internet connection. Although Microsoft is helping customers enhance their existing gear, the company promised “big things ahead” to those entirely in the Microsoft ecosystem. Uninvolved in recent data scandals, some deem Microsoft to be the tech industry’s moral conscience. Continue reading Microsoft Builds on Existing Tech, Voices Moral Conscience

NAB 2018: IBM Watson on Refining AI for Closed Captioning

Closed captioning isn’t just for the hard-of-hearing anymore. According to Digiday, 85 percent of Facebook video is viewed without sound. That signals a trend of viewers who prefer to watch closed captioning, putting the heat on solutions providers to come up with compliant systems that are also accurate and speedy. With artificial intelligence, says IBM Watson Media senior offering manager David Kulczar, closed captioning can be enhanced to go beyond transcription, and automatically identify background audio descriptions. Continue reading NAB 2018: IBM Watson on Refining AI for Closed Captioning

Google Offers Its AI Chips to All Comers via Cloud Computing

Google, which created tensor processing units (TPUs) for its artificial intelligence systems some years ago, will now make those computer chips available to other companies via its cloud computing service. Google is currently focusing on computer vision technology, which allows computers to recognize objects; Lyft used these chips for its driverless car project. Amazon is also building its own AI chips for use with the Alexa-powered Echo devices to shave seconds off its response time and potentially increase sales. Continue reading Google Offers Its AI Chips to All Comers via Cloud Computing

Mozilla Intros Open-Source Speech Recognition, Voice Dataset

Mozilla unveiled Project DeepSpeech and Project Common Voice to leverage the capabilities of speech recognition. The company says it has just reached “two important milestones” in the project out of its Machine Learning Group. Mozilla is releasing its open source speech recognition model, which it states is nearly as accurate as what humans can perceive from the same recordings, and is also unveiling the world’s second largest publicly available voice dataset, with contributions by almost 20,000 people around the world. Continue reading Mozilla Intros Open-Source Speech Recognition, Voice Dataset

AWS Expands Cloud Efforts with New Machine-Learning Tools

To compete in the profitable cloud-computing arena, Amazon Web Services debuted 20 new machine-learning tools this week at the AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas. Tools include speech recognition and algorithms to automate decisions. The move helps Amazon compete better with Google and Microsoft, both of which are using their expertise in AI and machine learning to cut into its market share. Machine learning will also help potential developers that can’t create these capabilities on their own. Analysts estimate that Amazon dominates the cloud with a 44 percent market share. Continue reading AWS Expands Cloud Efforts with New Machine-Learning Tools

AISense Teams Up with Zoom for Voice Transcription Product

AISense, a company that offers a voice transcription service, is partnering with videoconferencing service Zoom to bring a product to market in 2018 that will provide automatic transcriptions for Zoom’s customers. AISense’s technology uses machine learning to provide a full text record of what is said, and Zoom’s videoconferencing is its first practical use. AISense also just raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Horizons Ventures, with Draper Associates, Draper Dragon, David Cheriton, and Bridgewater Associates. Continue reading AISense Teams Up with Zoom for Voice Transcription Product

Google Project Aims to Use AI to Develop More AI Algorithms

Google Senior Fellow Jeff Dean, who works on the Google Brain team, recently highlighted AutoML (for machine learning), a project aimed at using AI-empowered machines to build other AI machines, removing humans from the equation. The need for AI algorithms grows as its capabilities are becoming important to a wide range of industries. But only an estimated 10,000 people worldwide have the education, expertise and ability to construct those algorithms, and Facebook, Google and Microsoft pay millions of dollars for them. Continue reading Google Project Aims to Use AI to Develop More AI Algorithms

Google’s Geoff Hinton Tests Capsule Networks as AI Solution

In 2012, University of Toronto professor Geoffrey Hinton and two grad students showed off artificial neural networks, a technology that empowered machines to understand images. Google hired Hinton and his grad students six months later; Hinton now splits his time between Google and the university. Although neural networks now underlie speech transcription and many other tasks, Hinton isn’t enthused over the technology he helped launch. Instead, he’s now bullish on an “old” idea that could help reshape artificial intelligence. Continue reading Google’s Geoff Hinton Tests Capsule Networks as AI Solution

Intel Turns to Facebook, Other Tech Companies for AI Chip

Intel, Facebook and other tech companies are working together on a chip aimed to power artificial intelligence that will also be direct competition for Nvidia’s chips. The new Intel chip will be built to accelerate deep learning, which, among other tasks, will allow computers to recognize objects in photos and specific words in speech. The chip, dubbed the Nervana Neural Network Processor and based on Intel’s acquisition of startup Nervana Systems, is slated to be released in limited quantities in 2018. Continue reading Intel Turns to Facebook, Other Tech Companies for AI Chip

Google Ramping Up its Artificial Intelligence Efforts in China

Despite earlier concerns over censorship and a cyberattack traced to Chinese hackers — and the fact that its search engine can only be accessed in the region by using VPNs (due to the government’s filtering system) — Google is reportedly ramping up its presence in China. Its careers web page lists nearly 60 open positions in Beijing and Shanghai. According to The Wall Street Journal, at least four of the engineering positions involve artificial intelligence, “including a technical lead to develop a team to work on natural language processing, data compression and other machine learning technologies.” Continue reading Google Ramping Up its Artificial Intelligence Efforts in China

Amazon Promotes Alexa With SDK, Revenue for Developers

Amazon is going full bore promoting its virtual assistant Alexa. In an effort to make it available on more devices, the company has debuted the Alexa Voice Service Device SDK toolset, which lets developers integrate a fully functional version to their devices, offering speech recognition and all the other Alexa capabilities such as notifications, weather reports, streaming media and thousands of voice apps. Amazon is providing additional incentive to developers by paying those whose voice apps demonstrate customer engagement. Continue reading Amazon Promotes Alexa With SDK, Revenue for Developers

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