This blog post was co-authored by Anny Dow, Product Marketing Manager, Azure Cognitive Services. As schools and organizations around the world prepare for a new school year, remote learning tools have never been more critical. Educational technology, and especially AI, has a huge opportunity to facilitate new ways for educators and students to connect and learn. Today, we are excited to announce the general availability of Immersive Reader, and shine a light on how new improvements to Azure Cognitive Services can help developers build AI apps for remote education that empower everyone. Immersive Reader is an Azure Cognitive Service within the Azure AI platform that helps readers read and comprehend text.
Google Assistant received more natural-sounding voice models again in October thanks to updated natural language processing and prosody models which use machine learning to understand and stitch together sentences with better intonation, rhythm, and stress. Now, they seem to be applying that same technology to Google Play Books in order to turn any book into an audiobook, and I totally saw it coming. The upcoming feature seeks to give an auto-generated narrator's voice to text-only books to make them more accessible and immersive. Google Play is working with publishers in the U.S. and the UK for the rollout and will make the publisher tool to create auto-narrated audiobooks available in early 2021 with a beta available now. Once set up for auto-narration, a user can choose between different machine learning and AI-created narrator voices like a cowboy named Tex, and more.
"Hey Google, read this page." That's a new command for the Google Assistant that will see the robot reading web pages aloud. Use cases: catching on news that doesn't have a podcast component while driving, having pages translated to you in other languages (say if you're traveling) or just general help for people who are vision-impaired. Fine print: The feature is only available, starting today, on Google's Android smartphone platform. It won't work with the Assistant app for iOS devices, nor on the many Google speakers.
The BBC, Apple News and The Washington Post have in the past month rolled out new ways to listen to their written articles, hoping to give busy subscribers a flexible way to explore stories and to attract new subscriptions, executives said. "We conducted user research and learned that users want to stay informed but are busy, so they appreciate an option to get up to speed on the latest news developments while cooking dinner, running errands or exercising," said Emily Chow, director of site product at The Washington Post. The Post said it began producing audio articles as an experiment "several years ago," but text-to-audio or click-to-listen story formats have been available for over a decade. The Economist Newspaper Ltd. began producing an audio edition of its weekly magazine in 2007 and little has changed since then, said Tom Standage, the company's deputy editor and head of digital strategy. The Economist sees audio articles as a way to retain subscribers and find new ones by publishing select content for free as podcasts, said Mr. Standage, who noted the offer "is not about advertiser revenue."
Microsoft is keen on making sure people with disabilities can use their products, and next year it's only going to expand upon that directive. It starts with some big additions to Windows 10 and Narrator for the Creators Update like support for braille, some 10 news voices for text to speech and volume ducking when Narrator chimes in while you're listening to Spotify or another music program. Narrator will also dovetail better with the Edge browser too, making it easier to fill out forms and navigation via heading levels. On Xbox One (that's a Windows device too, remember?) If you were worried that Office 365 would be left out, those fears were unfounded.