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).

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.

Cyborgs at Work: Employees Get Implanted With Microchips

CBS News/AP, 4/3/2017

Epicenter, a Swedish startup, is implanting microchips into their employees as replacements for swipe cards. Using Near Field Communication (NFC), the microchips provide identifying data to devices such as printers and doors, providing more convenience to employees. This technology has never before used for such a broad group of people; demonstrating that it can be beneficial in the workplace suggests that it may quickly become more widely used, despite security and privacy risks.

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.

As Congress Repeals Internet Privacy Rules, Putting Your Options in Perspective

National Public Radio, 3/28/2017

Rules made in October by the Federal Commercial Commission (FCC) are expected to be overturned by Congress and President Trump. These rules would have regulated how Internet Service Providers (ISPs) collected and used data from users, by giving users more control over what information ISPs collect. This rule set would not apply to websites and app providers, like Facebook or Google. However, critics of the overturn argue that it is much more difficult for users to choose to avoid ISPs if they do not wish to be tracked.

Scanners Can Be Hijacked to Perpetrate Cyberattacks

Ben-Gurion University, 3/28/2017

Researchers from Ben-Gurion University demonstrated the ability to communicate with and potentially activate malware on a computer by directing pulsing lights to a typical office scanner that was left open on the same network. These exploits exemplify how seemingly secure devices could be a potential security threat to other networked machines.

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