Personal Assistant Systems


Will talking to AI voice assistants re-engineer our human conversations? -- GCN

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When you're lost, Siri can be your best friend. But if she can't retrieve the right address from your contacts, she can drive you crazy. And so it is with the legion of virtual personal assistants that are entering our lives. From Amazon's Alexa to Google's Home, people are busy talking to intelligent machines as never before. It's estimated that more than 60 percent of internet traffic is now generated by machine-to-machine, and person-to-machine, communication.


Microsoft splits Cortana from search in Windows 10

Engadget

Microsoft is splitting up search and voice assistant Cortana in Windows 10, giving each their own spot on the taskbar in the latest build for Windows Insiders testers. The change should go live for everyone in the next major update to Windows 10, which is planned for April. The move, according to Microsoft, should improve both functions as it "will enable each experience to innovate independently to best serve their target audiences and use cases." The search box will be solely for text queries, while Cortana will of course handle voice queries. Microsoft has placed more focus on improving search lately.


Amazon upgrades Alexa with newscaster voice

Mashable

If you're in the US and ask Alexa to reel off the latest news today through your smart speaker, she's going to sound a bit more professional than on previous days. That's because Amazon performed an upgrade and gave her a professional newscaster speaking style for conveying such information. As TechCrunch reports, Amazon's aim was a more realistic delivery of the news. In order to achieve that, Amazon turned to a neural text-to-speech (NTTS) system which learned to use a newscaster style from just a few hours of training. Details of the NTTS were revealed by Amazon last November, but it's only now that the newscaster voice variation is ready for Alexa to use.


Microsoft separates Cortana from search in new Windows 10 preview build

PCWorld

Microsoft's Insider preview builds for 19H1, the next major update for Windows 10, haven't been packed as chock full of new features as in releases past, favoring tweaks and adjustments instead. The Windows Insider Build 18317 released on Wednesday also goes this route, most notably by separating Cortana from the Windows 10 search box. The new build also includes new ways to import fonts, a tweaked Windows Console for Linux, and a separate process for the Start menu, a behind-the-scenes change that's being made for stability's sake. The most significant change is the separation of Cortana and the search box, which Microsoft has been testing with a few Insider builds previously. "This will enable each experience to innovate independently to best serve their target audiences and use cases," Microsoft executives wrote in a blog post.


CES 2019: Enter a world of artificial intelligence

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The bedside lamp lights up gradually 30 minutes before your morning alarm is set to go off. After being roused from your sleep, you say "Good Morning" and the bathroom lights turn on immediately. As you get dressed for work in front of the mirror, it recognises who you are and starts displaying newsfeed customised for you. These scenarios were among the numerous artificial intelligence (AI) showcases at last week's CES in Las Vegas, the world's largest consumer electronics trade fair. From the pre-show presentation of tech sales and forecasts by CES 2019 organiser Consumer Technology Association (CTA) to the keynotes by different technology firms, AI was a topic constantly mentioned.


Microsoft's latest Windows 10 19H1 test build separates search and Cortana

ZDNet

The newest test build, delivered on Janaury 16, removes Cortana from Search, as had been widely expected and already had been in testing with some Insiders for "a few weeks." With Windows 10 19H1 Build 18317, Search and Cortana are decoupled in the taskbar. Microsoft's explanation for the decision is "this will enable each experience to innovate independently to best serve their target audiences and use cases." A number of Windows users never understood or appreciated Microsoft's original idea of co-mingling Cortana and Search. Microsoft is turning Microsoft Search into a unified experience across Windows 10, Office 365, Edge, Bing (with Microsoft Search in Bing, formerly known as Bing for Business).


Alexa can read news briefs in a 'newscaster' voice in the US

Engadget

Alexa can now modulate its voice beyond whispering in hushed tones. Amazon has introduced a'newscaster' voice in the US that kicks in when Alexa reads the day's news or recites Wikipedia information. It's not going to replace the news anchor for your favorite media outlet, but the speaking style is more authoritative and doesn't sound quite so out-of-place as Alexa's standard voice. The trick, Amazon said, is the use of Neutral Text-To-Speech (NTTS) technology that relies on deep learning to create the speech signal. The AI-based system learns to both intonate more effectively and emphasize the right words in a sentence.


The Rise of a New Generation of AI Avatars

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I recently discovered it's possible for someone in their 20s to feel old--just mention Microsoft's Clippy to anyone born after the late 90s. Weirdly, there is an entire generation of people who never experienced that dancing wide-eyed paper-clip interrupting a Word doc writing project. For readers who never knew him, Clippy was an interactive virtual assistant that took the form of an animated paperclip designed to be helpful in guiding users through Microsoft Word. As an iconic symbol of its decade, Clippy was also famously terrible. Worldwide consensus decided that Clippy was annoying, intrusive, and Time magazine even named it among the 50 worst inventions of all time (squeezed between'New Coke' and Agent Orange.


Amazon gives its vastly improved Fire TV remote a rare 50 percent discount

PCWorld

A good remote can make all the difference with a streaming device, adding control and convenience to the cornucopia of content options available. Now, Amazon's Fire TV lineup is adding much more power to its viewing experience with a slick new remote, and you can grab one today for just $15, a unheard-of 50 percent drop from its list price of $30. This remote is easy to use but comes with plenty of bells and whistles, including Amazon's Alexa digital assistant built-in for voice control. To take that even further, you can also connect this remote to an Amazon Echo. If you use it to control a Fire TV Stick (note that it won't work with the 1st-gen edition), you'll finally be able to manage volume and power from your remote, with an infrared emitter that allows it to control your TV, A/V receiver, or soundbar.


Advancing Industries with IoT

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Recently, numerous changes have taken place in the digital world. Almost all the conventional and human interpreted tasks are replaced with automated devices. Thanks to AI-based techniques, particularly machine learning and IoT based devices with its capability to grow, learn from previous experiences, thereby providing accurate results with enhanced operational efficiency and minimizing unplanned downtime. In a nutshell, it is hoped that almost every practical item will have a way to connect to the internet and communicate with other devices. The proliferation of AI-powered personal assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa also indicates a general trend in IoT.