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.

Paralysed Man Moves Arm Using Power of Thought in World First

The Guardian, 3/29/2017

Lead author Dr. Bolu Ajiboye and a team at Case Western Reserve University developed an experimental procedure that re-enables motor function in a paralyzed patient’s arm. This procedure translates activity in the patient’s motor cortex into a signal that activates the arm muscles to perform the desired action, with help from a prosthetic. The research is still in the developmental phase, but they hope it can become a normal procedure to help people with paralysis.

Skin Powered by the Sun? Energy-Saving Prosthetic Limbs Get Better Feeling

Reuters, 3/22/2017

Researchers from the University of Glasgow, UK, have developed a prototype for solar-powered prosthetic skin. The prosthesis is wrapped in a thin layer of carbon, which allows light to pass through the skin and be collected as energy. Thus far, the prototype uses this energy to power additional sensors in the prosthetic, giving the skin a heightened sensitivity to pressure and texture as well as temperature.

Dive With a Blue Whale in New Virtual-Reality Experience

Live Science, 3/16/2017

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles (NHMLA) collaborated with designers from Wevr to develop an oceanic underwater virtual reality (VR) experience for visitors. The VR gives visitors an opportunity to explore and interact with marine animals in their natural habitat, with the further goal of raising awareness about environmental issues that threaten ocean wildlife.

Using Virtual Reality to Catch a Real Ball

EurekAlert!, 3/20/2017

Disney researchers are developing ways to improve virtual-reality interactions with physical objects. Specifically, they are seeking to make it easier to catch a real physical object like a ball while using a VR system. Possible applications include enhancing interactive gaming systems, and even potentially helping people train their hand-eye coordination.

Why We Should Not Know Our Own Passwords

The Conversation 3/9/2017

Elon University Professor Megan Squire looks into possible methods for protecting the data on your smartphone and social media accounts. The article focuses on potential searches by US border agents of people traveling from other countries. She explains several different methods of smartphone privacy protection, such as a system that uses your locations and habitual gesture patterns to identify you, or passwords even you don’t know.

Virtual Reality Training for “Safety-Critical” Jobs

University of Exeter, 3/6/2017

A virtual-reality training system currently in development by Exeter-based researchers and experts from the nuclear power industry could help prevent accidents in high-risk jobs. Employees using the system could gain experience with high-stress tasks in a safe environment, while employers could use the eye tracking and physiological sensor data to better understand how workers learn and how they react under pressure.

Voice Control Everywhere

MIT News, 2/13/2017

A chip, designed by MIT researchers, may reduce the level of energy required to use speech recognition. The software specific speech recognition chip will use up to an estimated 99% less energy compared to universal software compatible chips. The researchers hope to provide an energy efficient solution that allows users to interact with their small electronic devices using speech instead of touch based user interfaces.

A String Quartet Concert, With an A.I. Assist

New York Times, 1/13/2017

“Sight Machine”, a performance piece by artist Trevor Paglen, uses AI to generate a live image mapping of musicians as they play. The algorithm involves movement-analysis techniques common in automated surveillance. By showing how machines see movement, Paglen hopes to highlight the distinct divide between how AIs and humans perceive things — and how that might affect computer-aided decision-making.

Miniature WiFi Device Developed by Stanford Engineers Supplies Missing Link for the Internet of Things

Stanford News, 11/16/2016

HitchHike, a proposed low-energy wireless radio from a research team at Stanford, seeks to provide a power-efficient method of communication between Internet of Things devices and a wireless network. The device could be driven by a small battery for a decade or more, and even has the potential to harvest energy from radio waves, allowing it to possibly be powered without a battery. This kind of innovation would make IoT development much more feasible — meaning many more of the devices around us could soon be communicating and collecting data.

IoT Early Warning System Helps Save People From Mudslides

Network World, 08/24/2016

This article describes an early warning system for mudslides and flood in rural El Salvador that uses a mesh network of simple devices, within local villagers’ needs and cultural structures. The article can be used to highlight differences between the U.S., where a vast array of technological advances can aid in mitigating disasters, and remote areas of the world where many of the basic technologies involved, such as cell-phone networks, do not exist or are not reliable.