Last year the BBC announced it was working on its own voice assistant, called "Beeb," designed to help customers take advantage of voice assistant technology regardless of their accent. Existing assistants still have issues understanding accents, and nowhere is this truer than Britain, which has a broad range of accents despite its small geographic size. Now, Beeb is going into beta on PC. The early version of the software will be available to UK-based members of Microsoft's Windows Insider program (download the app from the Microsoft Store here). Microsoft is actually playing a pivotal role in the development of Beeb, with its Azure AI services being used by the BBC to build the infrastructure behind the platform.
Musicians in the 1980s had a love-hate relationship with Yamaha's DX7 synthesizer. Its digital sound engine was unlike the analog synths that came before it, and created a unique timbre, but the thing was a beast to program. This led most users to simply stick with the presets. A new AI tool could help DX7 fans move beyond those basic sounds, though. This DX7 Cartridge Does Not Exist uses machine learning to generate new patches based on a sample pool of hand-crafted ones, and creates a file that can be loaded either onto a genuine unit or the popular Dexed emulator.
Today, the Russian internet giant Yandex revealed its fourth-generation self-driving car, a collaboration with Hyundai. This generation brings Yandex tech to the 2020 Hyundai Sonata. By the end of this year, Yandex plans to add 100 Sonatas to its self-driving fleet, which includes a robo-taxi service in Innopolis, Russia, and vehicles in Michigan. As part of the upgrades, Hyundai's Mobis team modified the Sonata's electric control units to interface more effectively with Yandex's self-driving control tech. For its part, Yandex improved the cameras, radars and lidar.
Dating app Grindr will finally remove its ethnicity filter, following years of criticism culminating in accusations of hypocrisy regarding the company's stance on #BlackLivesMatter. The app currently lets users filter potential matches based on age, height, weight and ethnicity, but the company -- which says it has a "zero-tolerance policy for racism and hate speech" -- has confirmed the ethnicity filter will be removed from the next version of the app. The change, which coincides with the start of Pride month, appears to have been catalyzed by responses to a tweet in which Grindr said, "Demand justice. One response to the tweet said "remove the ethnicity filter" and was subsequently retweeted 1,000 times. Grindr later deleted its original tweet, replacing it with the below.
For what is probably the lightest news you'll read today, Amazon's new feature for Alexa turns any connected devices into walkie-talkies. While they could already easily send messages from one device to another, now you can ask Alexa to "Drop In Everywhere" and get a live line to all the devices in your house, useful for finding out who wants what on their pizza or getting someone to check for a package at the front door. Just… don't activate it by accident? Researchers have combined biometrics from Oura rings with AI prediction models to detect COVID-19 symptoms up to three days early with, they claim, over 90 percent accuracy. It sounds pretty incredible, but the science isn't just about wearing a bit of tech on your finger.
Publishing deals in the video game industry are generally kept secret, with terms hidden behind non-disclosure agreements and the threat of legal fallout. However, in the realm of AAA publishing, it's common for independent developers to sign contracts granting them less than 10 percent of a game's lifetime revenue, in exchange for marketing and financial assistance from a multibillion-dollar organization. In some cases, the developer also signs away their intellectual property rights, losing creative control over the game entirely. Or, a huge company will simply buy the smaller studio outright, devouring its existing library and creative talent, and overseeing all of its future products. In late March, Epic Games launched a multiplatform publishing initiative touting "the most developer-friendly terms in the industry." Under this deal, developers are guaranteed 50 percent of a game's revenue once production costs are recouped, and they retain full creative control over their own titles. Epic also promises to cover up to 100 percent of a game's development costs, including salaries, advertising and publishing fees. "We're building the publishing model we always wanted for ourselves," said Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney. Epic Games has been experimenting with publishing models since the early '90s, decades before the launch of Fortnite, The Epic Games Store or the Unreal Engine. We're talking about the days of BBS, back when Sweeney was building ZZT out of his parents' house and the World Wide Web was just flickering to life.
One of the challenges to curbing the spread of COVID-19 is that asymptomatic individuals, or carriers, can spread the virus before they realize they are infected. In April, researchers from West Virginia University's (WVU) Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) and WVU Medicine set out to predict symptoms before they appear using wearable rings by Oura and AI prediction models. Now, the researchers claim their digital platform can detect COVID-19 related symptoms up to three days early with over 90 percent accuracy. The approach is neuroscience-based, and it asks participants to track stress, anxiety, memory and other psychological and cognitive biometrics in the RNI app. Oura Ring collects physiological data, like body temperature, heart rate variability, resting heart rate, respiratory rate and sleep patterns.
You know robotic grippers are getting advanced when they can pick up a potato chip without crushing it. In order to do that, they need tactile sensing and proprioception -- an awareness of where they are in space. This kind of sensing has been absent in most soft robots, but now two teams from MIT have solutions that could change that. Their research may enable soft robots to better sense what they're gripping and how much force to use. One team built off previous research from MIT and Harvard University in which researchers developed a soft, cone-shaped robotic gripper that collapses on objects like a Venus flytrap and can pick up items 100 times its weight.
As summer quickly approaches, some dads are itching to get outside. Even if the number of places we can go has been reduced due to the pandemic, many will spend hours in their backyards tinkering with home projects, training for a nonexistent triathlon and grilling every chance they get. As Father's Day approaches, here are the best gifts for all the DIY-, camping-, grilling- and sport-loving dads in our lives. A good head lamp is an easy to way upgrade Dad's camping kit. We've recommended BioLite head lamps in the past, and the new HeadLamp 200 is a winner too, not to mention quite affordable. This model's USB rechargeable battery makes it more convenient than traditional head lamps because your dad won't have to worry about having a few AAA batteries on hand: Just plug it in and charge it up.
Even if your grad has finally made it through college, that doesn't mean they're ready to step out into the real world with no help. They'll not only have to find a job but also might need a little help living on their own, taking on more responsibility and being more of an adult in general. That includes having better security practices, dressing smarter and, if they're lucky enough to find their own apartment, making their new place feel more like home. Here are a few gadgets that could help ease the transition into "adulthood." It's not a terribly sexy subject, but keeping your online data safe should be a priority for everyone, including your new grad.