Alexa Learns to Talk Like a Human With Whispers, Pauses, and Emotion

TechCrunch/MSN, 4/29/2017

Amazon is furthering the humanization of its virtual assistant Alexa by equipping it with more emotion functionality. Developers can use a markup language called Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML) that allows for the coding of Alexa’s intonation, emphasis, and region-specific responses. This opens up new possibilities for app companies and how their virtual assistants are used in the world.

Google Overhauls Search Algorithm in Bid to Fight Fake News

The Telegraph, 4/25/2017

Google is changing their search algorithm to better distinguish websites that contain fake news, conspiracy theories, or extreme views from more reputable sources or websites. The search engine’s Autosuggest and Direct Answer features will also be modified, to allow users to report offensive suggestions or false information (respectively). This comes after months of growing public pressure for Google to make changes to combat the spread of misinformation on the Internet.

Elon Musk on Mission to Link Human Brains With Computers in Four Years: Report

MSN/Reuters, 4/22/2017

Neuralink Corporation hopes to develop a micron-sized device that could connect the human brain and a machine interface. The initial goal is to help those with severe brain injuries, then to explore use by people without disabilities. For example, if each person had a device, then two people could (theoretically) communicate concepts brain-to-brain. The long-term goal is to integrate human brains and artificial intelligence (AI), so humans will not be left behind (see Alternative Article below).

Facebook Is Developing a Helicopter to Deliver Internet Access in Emergencies

The Verge, 4/20/2017

Facebook is developing a small helicopter to provide wireless Internet access in emergencies. Where cellular infrastructure is damaged, the “Tether-Tenna” helicopter would latch onto functioning fiber data lines, along with electric lines, and rise up in the air to broadcast a signal. This technology, along with others currently being built, is part of Facebook’s efforts to make Internet access more widely and consistently available.

Machine Learning Shows Exactly When to Zap Brain to Boost Memory

New Scientist, 4/20/2017

Michael Kahana and other researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have used machine learning to analyze data on brain function and brain wave patterns. Electrodes implanted in the subjects’ brains measured brain activity while the subjects attempted to memorize and recall information. The electrodes could also transmit electric shocks to the brain. Results showed that carefully timed shocks made people 13 percent more likely to recall material.

Quantum Computing Is Going Commercial With the Potential to Disrupt Everything

Newsweek, 4/9/2017

IBM recently announced the IBM Q, which would be the first ever commercially available quantum computer. This is important because, if they fulfill their promise, quantum computers could potentially solve certain problems that traditional computers are simply not equipped to handle, allowing rapid developments in fields like medicine, pharmaceuticals, and transportation.

Robots Could Soon Cooperate on Surveillance

Engadget, 4/14/17

Security robots could soon be able to communicate with other devices to identify and track objects and people, using a system currently being designed by Cornell scientists. The robots would collect information by sharing images and data through a central unit, so objects of interest could be identified and tracked. Such a system could provide added surveillance in the U.S. and be used by the U.S. armed forces in other countries.

Improving Traffic Safety With a Crowdsourced Traffic Violation Reporting App

KAIST, 4/10/2017

Professor Uichin Lee and a research team at KAIST have developed and tested an app called Mobile Roadwatch. Mobile Roadwatch is a crowdsourced app that helps drivers record traffic violations with their phones and report them to the police. Professor Lee and his team aim to provide a safer way to capture and report traffic violations while operating a vehicle, in hopes that the reports will improve public safety.

Google Uses Neural Networks to Translate Without Transcribing

New Scientist, 4/4/2017

Researchers at Google Brain are developing a method to translate speech in one language to text in a different language, using neural networks. They hope to improve over more conventional automatic methods, where the speech is transcribed into written text, and then the written text is translated. The older method can be cumbersome, and initial experiments show that direct speech-to-text translation seems less subject to error. The new method could especially help speakers of rare languages communicate with others around the globe.

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