By BeauHD from Slashdot's better-than-ever department
Google is launching a new AI voice synthesizer, named Cloud Text-to-Speech, that will be available for any developer or business that needs voice synthesis on tap, whether that's for an app, website, or virtual assistant. The Cloud Text-to-Speech service is being powered by WaveNet, software created by Google's UK-based AI subsidiary DeepMind. The Verge explains why this is significant: First, ever since Google bought DeepMind in 2014, it's been exploring ways to turn the company's AI talent into tangible products. So far, this has meant using DeepMind's algorithms to reduce electricity costs in Google's data centers by 40 percent and DeepMind's forays into health care. But, directly integrating WaveNet into its cloud service is arguably more significant, especially as Google tries to win cloud business away from Amazon and Microsoft, presenting its AI skills as its differentiating factor. Second, DeepMind's AI voice synthesis tech is some of the most advanced and realistic in the business. Most voice synthesizers (including Apple's Siri) use what's called concatenative synthesis, in which a program stores individual syllables -- sounds such as "ba," "sht," and "oo" -- and pieces them together on the fly to form words and sentences. This method has gotten pretty good over the years, but it still sounds stilted.
WaveNet, by comparison, uses machine learning to generate audio from scratch. It actually analyzes the waveforms from a huge database of human speech and re-creates them at a rate of 24,000 samples per second. The end result includes voices with subtleties like lip smacks and accents. When Google first unveiled WaveNet in 2016, it was far too computationally intensive to work outside of research environments, but it's since been slimmed down significantly, showing a clear pipeline from research to product. The Verge has embedded some samples in their report to see how WaveNet sounds.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's say-when department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BetaNews: A survey conducted in the wake of the #DeleteFacebook campaign that followed revelations about the data breach and the logging of Android users' calls and texts, found that a surprising number of tech workers were ready to delete their Facebook accounts. 31 percent backed the #DeleteFacebook campaign, including 50 percent of Microsoft workers, and 38 percent of Google workers. The survey -- conducted using the anonymous app Blind -- found that nearly a third of those questioned were planning to delete their Facebook accounts. In all, over 2,600 people were surveyed between March 20, 2018 and March 24, 2018, so it neatly took in the peak of the controversy. Broken down by company, the numbers make for interesting reading:
-50 percent of Microsoft employees said they will delete Facebook.
-46 percent of Snapchat employees said they would delete Facebook.
-40 percent of Uber employees said they would delete Facebook.
-38 percent of Google employees said they would delete Facebook.
-34 percent of Amazon employees said they would delete Facebook.
-2 percent of Facebook employees said they would delete Facebook.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader writes: China's relatively young internet industry is facing a mature-market problem: User growth for popular online services such as instant messaging, search, online news and video has fallen to single digits. Online population growth has hovered around 5% to 6% annually since 2014, which is only slightly higher than in mature economies. Unlike in many developed markets, a vast number of Chinese are unconnected. As they slowly come online, they're creating a sizable market that companies can tap into -- if they can figure out how. "The Chinese internet is experiencing the third wave of [a] demographic dividend," said Wang Hua, a partner at venture-capital firm Sinovation Ventures, at a speech in December. The first wave, he said, were early adopters, while the second was driven by young people in major cities. "About half of the Chinese population is not yet heavy internet users, and they're the third wave of the demographic dividend," he says. "And they're usually the ones that are in charge of a family's daily consumption." Only 56% of 1.4 billion Chinese -- about 772 million people -- use the internet, according to official data. The U.S. reached that level of penetration in 2002, according to the United Nations. Interest in the lower end of the internet market has been building; live-streaming services have managed to attract working-class Chinese. This time around, the spread of e-commerce and new business models are unlocking more potential.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fair-warning department
According to Microsoft's new Terms of Services agreement, you could get banned for "offensive language," resulting in the termination of your Gold Membership and/or any Microsoft account balances. The changes go into effect on May 1. CSO Online reports: [I]f you and a significant other are getting hot and heavy via Skype, you better watch your language and any nudity because that, too, can get you banned. The ban hammer could also fall if Cortana is listening at the wrong moment or if documents and files hosted on Microsoft services violate Microsoft's amended terms. But how would Microsoft even know if you had truly been "offensive?" Well, that part falls under Code of Conduct Enforcement, which states, "When investigating alleged violations of these Terms, Microsoft reserves the right to review Your Content in order to resolve the issue." Microsoft did add, "However, we cannot monitor the entire Services and make no attempt to do so." I'm not sure that will make you feel better, as another portion states that Microsoft "may also block delivery of a communication (like email, file sharing or instant message) to or from the Services in an effort to enforce these Terms or we may remove or refuse to publish Your Content for any reason."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department
Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: macOS High Sierra users are once again impacted by a major APFS bug after two other major vulnerabilities affected Apple's new filesystem format in the last five months. This time around, according to a report from Mac forensics expert Sarah Edwards, recent versions of macOS High Sierra are logging encryption passwords for APFS-formatted external drives in plaintext, and storing this information in non-volatile (on-disk) log files. The issue, if exploited, could allow an attacker easy access to the encryption password of encrypted APFS external volumes, such as USB thumb drives, portable hard drives, and other external storage mediums. This bug goes against all well-established Apple development and security rules, according to which apps and utilities should use the Keychain app to store valuable information, and should definitely avoid storing passwords in cleartext. Video 1, and 2.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department
The small city of Elk Grove, California received more than 2,000 erroneous 911 calls from Apple devices at an Apple repair facility. The months-long issue is yet to be resolved. From a report: Between October 20, 2017 and February 23, 2018, the police department in Elk Grove, California received 2,028 calls on its 911 lines originating from the Apple facility -- an average of 16 calls per day. At one point in January, the calls from the Apple factory were so frequent that they tied up every single one of Elk Grove's six 911 lines, according to public documents reviewed by Business Insider. "They lit us up like a Christmas tree," one dispatcher wrote in in an email to other dispatchers. It was obvious to Elk Grove police that the 911 calls were not real emergencies, but rather, the equivalent of accidental "butt dials," mysteriously ringing the city's hotline on an assembly-line scale. For whatever reason, many of the iPhones being repaired at the Apple facility were going rogue and dialing 911. But for city officials trying to stop the nuisance and to ensure that a critical emergency resource was not overburdened, fixing the problem has not been easy. Despite crediting Apple for being responsive to their pleas for help, Elk Grove officials have been frustrated by the company's inability to fix the problem. At one point, officials even discussed the possibility of getting the state government involved and sending police to the factory.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's plan-of-action department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A lobby group that represents AT&T, Verizon, and other telcos plans to sue states and cities that try to enforce net neutrality rules. USTelecom, the lobby group, made its intentions clear yesterday in a blog post titled, "All Americans Deserve Equal Rights Online." "Broadband providers have worked hard over the past 20 years to deploy ever more sophisticated, faster and higher-capacity networks, and uphold net neutrality protections for all," USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter wrote. "To continue this important work, there is no question we will aggressively challenge state or municipal attempts to fracture the federal regulatory structure that made all this progress possible." The USTelecom board of directors includes AT&T, Verizon, Frontier, CenturyLink, Windstream, and other telcos. The group's membership "ranges from the nation's largest telecom companies to small rural cooperatives."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
The National Fair Housing Alliance, along with three other nonprofit housing advocacy organizations around the country, has filed a lawsuit against Facebook over its alleged discriminatory advertisements. From a report: The nonprofits, over the last few months, created a fake real estate company and used the Facebook ad platform to place housing ads. According to the lawsuit, the NFHA was able to place advertisements that "[excluded] families with children and women from receiving advertisements, as well as users with interests based on disability and national origin." In the NFHA's press release, the organization writes that "Facebook's advertising platform enables landlords and real estate brokers to exclude families with children, women, and other protected classes of people from receiving housing ads." The lawsuit follows extensive reporting from ProPublica that investigated these potentially discriminatory practices. For over a year, the journalism outlet tested various ways that landlords could place ads for housing, and found that the targeting allowed for many people to be kept out of the loop. Given Facebook's massive user base of over 2 billion users, the group believes that the social network is in violation of the Fair Housing Act.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's come-to-terms-with department
PolygamousRanchKid shares a report from TechCrunch: So much for "We are accountable"; Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has declined a summons from a UK parliamentary committee that's investigating how social media data is being used, and -- as recent revelations suggest misused -- for political ad targeting. The DCMS committee wrote to Zuckerberg on March 20 -- following newspaper reports based on interviews with a former employee of UK political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, who revealed the company obtained Facebook data on 50 million users -- calling for him to give oral evidence. Facebook's policy staff, Simon Milner, previously told the committee the consultancy did not have Facebook data. In a statement a Facebook spokesperson said it will be offering its CTO or chief product officer to answer questions. Today, CNN reports that Mark Zuckerberg has decided to testify before Congress within a matter of weeks, and Facebook is currently planning the strategy for his testimony. "The Facebook sources believe Zuckerberg's willingness to testify will also put pressure on Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to do the same," reports CNN. "Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has officially invited all three CEOs to a hearing on data privacy on April 10. That means Washington, not London, will be the stage for the trial of big tech."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department
At its education event in Chicago today, Apple introduced a refreshed 9.7-inch iPad with Apple Pencil support. "The updated iPad will be available in Apple stores today, in silver, space gray, and a new gold finish," reports The Verge. "The tablet will include Touch ID, an HD FaceTime camera, 10 hours of battery life, an 8-megapixel rear camera, LTE option, and Apple's A10 Fusion chip." From the report: Apple previously lowered the price of its 9.7-inch iPad last year, with a base model starting at $329, but today it's going a step further for students. Apple is offering the new iPad to schools priced at $299 and to consumers for $329. The optional Apple Pencil will be priced at $89 for schools and the regular $99 price for consumers. This is obviously not the $259 budget iPad pricing that was rumored, but it does make it a little more affordable to students and teachers. This new iPad will be a key addition to Apple's lineup as it seeks to fight back against Google's Chromebooks. Apple's iPads and Mac laptops reigned supreme in U.S. classrooms only five years ago, accounting for half of all mobile devices shipped to schools in 2013. Apple has now slipped behind both Google and Microsoft in U.S. schools, and Chromebooks are dominating classrooms with nearly 60 percent of shipments in the U.S. Apple had some other non-hardware, education-themed announcements at its event today. "Apple demonstrated Smart Annotation, which allows teachers to mark up reports in Pages directly, and the company promised new versions of its iWork apps like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote that support the Apple Pencil," reports The Verge. "Teachers will also be able to use Macs to create digital books for their classrooms, and Apple is building a books creator into the Pages app." The company also announced a new augmented reality app called Froggipedia that lets students virtually dissect frogs using an Apple Pencil. The free iCloud offering for students has also been bumped up from 5GB to 200GB.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rule-breaking department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from South China Morning Post: Traffic police in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen have always had a reputation for strict enforcement of those flouting road rules in the metropolis of 12 million people. Now with the help of artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology, jaywalkers will not only be publicly named and shamed, they will be notified of their wrongdoing via instant messaging -- along with the fine. Intellifusion, a Shenzhen-based AI firm that provides technology to the city's police to display the faces of jaywalkers on large LED screens at intersections, is now talking with local mobile phone carriers and social media platforms such as WeChat and Sina Weibo to develop a system where offenders will receive personal text messages as soon as they violate the rules, according to Wang Jun, the company's director of marketing solutions. For the current system installed in Shenzhen, Intellifusion installed cameras with 7 million pixels of resolution to capture photos of pedestrians crossing the road against traffic lights. Facial recognition technology identifies the individual from a database and displays a photo of the jaywalking offense, the family name of the offender and part of their government identification number on large LED screens above the pavement. In the 10 months to February this year, as many as 13,930 jaywalking offenders were recorded and displayed on the LED screen at one busy intersection in Futian district, the Shenzhen traffic police announced last month. Taking it a step further, in March the traffic police launched a webpage which displays photos, names and partial ID numbers of jaywalkers. These measures have effectively reduced the number of repeat offenders, according to Wang. The next step -- informing the errant pedestrians by text or Weibo instant messaging -- could have the added benefit of eliminating the cost of erecting large LED screens across the cities, he said.Read Replies (0)