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Smart speakers risk creating 'big-tech monopoly' in homes

The Guardian

Services such as Amazon's Alexa could be regulated to allow rival digital assistants to operate on smart speakers and stop the tech giants building a monopoly "in people's kitchens and living rooms", the head of the BBC's radio operation has said. James Purnell, the director of radio and education at the BBC, made the comments weeks after the BBC launched its own voice-activated digital assistant, named Beeb, which offers information such as news, weather and programmes. The BBC is already struggling to keep youth audiences tuning into its TV programming in the Netflix era, and Purnell raised the spectre of the Silicon Valley giants extending that to control of audio access as smart speakers become commonplace. "We now have smart speakers in so many homes, and they are going to be in far more homes," he said, speaking to MPs on the digital, media, culture and sport select committee. "There is a question about whether we are happy about the biggest organisations in the world, big tech companies with their executives essentially [based] in the [United] States, combining a monopoly in people's kitchens and in living rooms. "I do think it is worth thinking about whether there should be some regulation of those smart speakers so there is a choice of assistance for people.


Chatbots in a nutshell - The Digital Transformation People

#artificialintelligence

Marketing scientist Kevin Gray asks Dr. Anna Farzindar of the University of Southern California about chatbots and the ways they are used. Is there a formal definition you prefer? Conversational or dialog agents are designed to communicate with us in human language. These software agents are deployed everywhere around us; when talking to your car, communicating with robots, or using your personal assistant on any device or smartphone, such as Alexa, Cortona, SIRI or Google Assistant. The term "chatbot" is often used in industry for conversational agents that can be integrated through any online messaging application.


Coronavirus has changed online dating. Here's why some say that's a good thing

PBS NewsHour

When California issued a stay-at-home order back in March to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Dana Angelo, a 33-year-old copywriter at an ad agency in Los Angeles, found herself with more free time. So, out of boredom, she turned to a social activity she could still do from home: She got back on the dating app, Bumble. Angelo said she's been rotating through online dating apps -- she's also tried Tinder and Hinge -- with minimal luck since getting out of a long-term relationship about a year ago, and had recently been taking a break. "You just see the same people on all of them and then it gets kind of depressing," Angelo said. But something surprising happened this time around: She actually met someone she genuinely likes.


Coronavirus has changed online dating. Here's why some say that's a good thing

PBS NewsHour

When California issued a stay-at-home order back in March to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Dana Angelo, a 33-year-old copywriter at an ad agency in Los Angeles, found herself with more free time. So, out of boredom, she turned to a social activity she could still do from home: She got back on the dating app, Bumble. Angelo said she's been rotating through online dating apps -- she's also tried Tinder and Hinge -- with minimal luck since getting out of a long-term relationship about a year ago, and had recently been taking a break. "You just see the same people on all of them and then it gets kind of depressing," Angelo said. But something surprising happened this time around: She actually met someone she genuinely likes.



28 promising companies leading and disrupting industries with AI futureTEKnow

#artificialintelligence

Artificial Intelligence is moving at the speed of light, with multiple companies creating software, products and services in not just a vertical way – more of a horizontal disruption. Form Healthcare to Security, from Real Estate to Telecom, here is a look into 28 companies powering the disruption with AI – 1st Edition. Sherpa.ai was founded in 2012 after deep research into Artificial Intelligence, with the conviction of creating a personal assistant that would be not just useful, but indispensable for users. In order to do this, Sherpa brought together a team of experts in Artificial Intelligence who, coupled with a fantastic design, have been able to create the next generation of Digital Assistants which will help users make their life not just more exciting, but also more enjoyable. WellSaid Labs has developed state of the art text-to-speech technology that creates life-like synthetic voice, from the voices of real people.


Here's how to change Alexa's name on your Amazon Echo so you can wake it up by saying something else

#artificialintelligence

I read a pretty heartbreaking story this week about a young girl named Alexa who has reportedly been bullied at school. According to NBC San Diego, Alexa's classmates have been treating her just like an Amazon Echo, asking "Alexa" the weather and treating her like a "servant." Unfortunately, at least for that young girl, the name "Alexa" has become pretty much synonymous with the Amazon Echo and is often used interchangeably with other smart home devices. My guess is that Amazon won't change the name to something else. However, there is a way for you to change the name.


Health State Estimation

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Life's most valuable asset is health. Continuously understanding the state of our health and modeling how it evolves is essential if we wish to improve it. Given the opportunity that people live with more data about their life today than any other time in history, the challenge rests in interweaving this data with the growing body of knowledge to compute and model the health state of an individual continually. This dissertation presents an approach to build a personal model and dynamically estimate the health state of an individual by fusing multi-modal data and domain knowledge. The system is stitched together from four essential abstraction elements: 1. the events in our life, 2. the layers of our biological systems (from molecular to an organism), 3. the functional utilities that arise from biological underpinnings, and 4. how we interact with these utilities in the reality of daily life. Connecting these four elements via graph network blocks forms the backbone by which we instantiate a digital twin of an individual. Edges and nodes in this graph structure are then regularly updated with learning techniques as data is continuously digested. Experiments demonstrate the use of dense and heterogeneous real-world data from a variety of personal and environmental sensors to monitor individual cardiovascular health state. State estimation and individual modeling is the fundamental basis to depart from disease-oriented approaches to a total health continuum paradigm. Precision in predicting health requires understanding state trajectory. By encasing this estimation within a navigational approach, a systematic guidance framework can plan actions to transition a current state towards a desired one. This work concludes by presenting this framework of combining the health state and personal graph model to perpetually plan and assist us in living life towards our goals.


Active Preference Elicitation via Adjustable Robust Optimization

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

We consider the problem faced by a recommender system which seeks to offer a user with unknown preferences an item. Before making a recommendation, the system has the opportunity to elicit the user's preferences by making queries. Each query corresponds to a pairwise comparison between items. We take the point of view of either a risk averse or regret averse recommender system which only possess set-based information on the user utility function. We investigate: a) an offline elicitation setting, where all queries are made at once, and b) an online elicitation setting, where queries are selected sequentially over time. We propose exact robust optimization formulations of these problems which integrate the elicitation and recommendation phases and study the complexity of these problems. For the offline case, where the problem takes the form of a two-stage robust optimization problem with decision-dependent information discovery, we provide an enumeration-based algorithm and also an equivalent reformulation in the form of a mixed-binary linear program which we solve via column-and-constraint generation. For the online setting, where the problem takes the form of a multi-stage robust optimization problem with decision-dependent information discovery, we propose a conservative solution approach. We evaluate the performance of our methods on both synthetic data and real data from the Homeless Management Information System. We simulate elicitation of the preferences of policy-makers in terms of characteristics of housing allocation policies to better match individuals experiencing homelessness to scarce housing resources. Our framework is shown to outperform the state-of-the-art techniques from the literature.


Is Siri spying on me? My iPad has shifted to Spanish ads after conversations in my home

USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

I watch most TV shows and movies on my iPad these days, and something strange happened recently. My iPad – or rather apps such as Hulu and Bravo linked via Apple TV on my iPad – started showing me commercials in Spanish. That was interesting, since I hadn't touched the language settings, watched any shows in Spanish, or done any kind of internet activity in another language. But even more curious, was what had changed when the new commercials popped up. We had just moved to a more Spanish-speaking area of Oakland, California.