Legislators Introduce Bill to Halt the Use of Facial Recognition

After recent reports revealing government use of facial recognition that fails to correctly identify people of color at a much higher rate than white people, Democratic lawmakers have proposed the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act to ban government use of the technology. Amazon, IBM and Microsoft have already temporarily stopped selling their facial recognition software to law enforcement agencies, and the bicameral bill would make this state of affairs permanent. Continue reading Legislators Introduce Bill to Halt the Use of Facial Recognition

Apple Researchers Improving Accuracy of Virtual Assistant

Over 50 million people worldwide use Apple’s virtual assistant Siri. Apple, focused on improving Siri’s capabilities, published research on how to improve voice trigger detection, speaker verification and language identification for multiple speakers. Apple researchers suggest that an AI model be trained for automatic speech recognition and speaker recognition. Rather than approach it as two independent tasks, the researchers proved that those tasks might actually help one another to “estimate both properties.” Continue reading Apple Researchers Improving Accuracy of Virtual Assistant

CES 2020: Early Days of AI Assistants Challenge Adoption

Moderated by Digital Trends editor-in-chief Jeremy Kaplan, a CES panel of three experts discussed the evolution of digital assistants, embedded both in devices and humanoid robots. Front Porch president Kari Olson, who is also chief innovation & technology officer, noted that, “at this point in time, we’re all toddlers” when it comes to our understanding of how to interact with digital assistants. Her company has created “possibility rooms” that enable consumers to test out devices embedded with AI assistants. Continue reading CES 2020: Early Days of AI Assistants Challenge Adoption

GM to Feature Google Apps and Voice Assistant in Vehicles

General Motors, the largest U.S. automaker by sales, plans to build Google’s apps into its vehicles’ touchscreen displays. Beginning with model year 2022, GM brands Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC will feature Google Maps, Google Assistant and the Google Play app store, accessible on the vehicles’ dashboard displays. Today’s car buyers have expressed interest in an experience similar to what is available with their mobile devices, but not all automobile integration has proven satisfying. The automaker aims to create a more positive experience, with plans to eventually make infotainment systems powered by Android available on millions of its vehicles sold worldwide. Continue reading GM to Feature Google Apps and Voice Assistant in Vehicles

BBC Is Creating Voice Assistant That Understands Accents

The BBC is developing a voice assistant named Beeb that it promises will understand British accents. Other virtual assistants have struggled with regional accents, but the BBC team will be recording staff voices from multiple U.K. locations to address that issue. While there are no plans to introduce a standalone CE device similar to Google Home or Amazon Echo, the BBC plans to debut Beeb next year to help people interact with online services offered via the company’s website and its smart TV iPlayer app. The assistant’s software will also be available to manufacturers interested in including it in their own consumer devices. Continue reading BBC Is Creating Voice Assistant That Understands Accents

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

Once Again, Prime Day Shatters Sales Records for Amazon

According to Amazon, this week’s Prime Day 2019 topped last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. Despite competing discounts offered by eBay, Best Buy and Walmart, Prime members purchased more than 175 million products during the annual sales event. The tally is challenging to compare to previous Prime Day events since the e-commerce giant keeps expanding the duration of the sale (this year it was 48 hours, compared to 36 hours in 2018 and 30 hours in 2017). However, the event set a number of sales records, including new milestones for Amazon devices. Continue reading Once Again, Prime Day Shatters Sales Records for Amazon

Developers Are Struggling to Create Alexa-Centric Killer App

Four years after launching its program to allow outside developers to write apps for Alexa, Amazon’s voice system has some 80,000 “skills” — but no huge hit. In fact, most people with Alexa-enabled smart speakers still use them only to listen to music or make simple requests. That compares to Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store, each of which are home to over 550,000 apps, many of which have been huge successes for developers. But voice-centric apps are challenging to build and don’t appear to attract consumers. Continue reading Developers Are Struggling to Create Alexa-Centric Killer App

Amazon Unveils Graviton, Its Own ARM Chips for Data Centers

In a surprise announcement, Amazon revealed that it is making its own chips, dubbed Graviton, for its cloud computing division. Similarly, Google also recently stated its plans to create chips for artificial intelligence algorithms in its data center. Amazon’s chips are likewise targeting its data centers, where the company hopes to better integrate software and hardware, resulting in less expensive services for customers. Typically, companies like Amazon and Google would use AMD or Intel’s off-the-shelf chips. Continue reading Amazon Unveils Graviton, Its Own ARM Chips for Data Centers

In Speedier Rollout, Amazon Adds Four New Alexa Slot Types

When Amazon’s Alexa asks for the name of an actor, athlete, author or another noun in response to a question, there’s a method to the madness: it’s trying to fill a “slot type,” which defines how data is recognized. A skill or third party app with a slot type for actors would likely query filmographies listing names of actors. These slots are intended to save time, says Amazon, as well as provide a more consistent experience. Amazon is adding four new slot types: Creative Work, Food, Sport and Video Game. Continue reading In Speedier Rollout, Amazon Adds Four New Alexa Slot Types

Amazon, Microsoft Introduce Integration of Alexa and Cortana

Amazon and Microsoft gave a public demonstration of the integration of Alexa and Cortana into all Echo speakers and to all Windows 10 users. That means that a user can ask Windows 10’s Cortana to open Alexa, and ask Alexa on Echo speakers to open Cortana. This integration is now available to most users but will completely roll out around the country over the next week, said a Microsoft spokesperson. Some features, such as streaming music, audiobooks and news flashes will not be available at launch. Continue reading Amazon, Microsoft Introduce Integration of Alexa and Cortana

New App for Manufacturing Workers Adds AI to Google Glass

At this week’s Google Cloud Next conference, Israeli company Plataine demonstrated a new app for Google Glass, pointing to artificial intelligence as the technology that will drive the success of the spectacles. The easy-to-use app, which is aimed at factory workers, understands and replies in spoken language. Plataine’s clients already include Airbus, Boeing and GE, and the company is now working on adding image recognition capabilities to the app, which was built using Google Cloud AI services and support from the tech giant. Continue reading New App for Manufacturing Workers Adds AI to Google Glass

Autodesk, Amazon Tweak Digital Assistants to Be More Natural

Autodesk is rolling out a new version of its Autodesk Virtual Agent (AVA) to replace its text-only chatbot in mid-May. AVA features an animated face and a New Zealand accent, with emotional responses that the company hopes will help customers engage. For example, if a customer says he’s having trouble, AVA will frown, say she’s sorry and ask how she can help, explains Autodesk manager of digital support channels Rachael Rekart. In doing so, Autodesk is following a trend of companies installing virtual assistants that are more helpful and personable. Amazon, for example, is updating Alexa to be smarter and more conversational. Continue reading Autodesk, Amazon Tweak Digital Assistants to Be More Natural

Startup Simplifies Voice App Development With New Interface

Storyline, a startup founded in September, has launched version 2 of its easy-to-use visual interface designed to help businesses, brands and publishers develop Amazon Alexa skills without the need for extensive coding knowledge. Since 39 million U.S. consumers now own a smart speaker, voice apps are needed, and Storyline hopes that its simple drag-and-drop solution will help foster that growth. The company refers to its approach as the “Weebly for voice apps,” drawing a comparison to the popular, easy-to-use, website-building platform. Continue reading Startup Simplifies Voice App Development With New Interface

Facebook, Google Pledge to Expand AI Investments in France

After top Google and Facebook executives met with French president Emmanuel Macron, the tech companies vowed to invest artificial intelligence resources in that country’s capital. Google will create a Paris-based AI lab focused on research into automatic learning, language and computer vision. Facebook, which already has created an AI lab in Paris, plans to double its 50-person team there by 2022 and spend 10 million euros ($12.2 million). Both companies also pledge to train that country’s citizens on digital tools. Continue reading Facebook, Google Pledge to Expand AI Investments in France

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