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Facebook confirms it's working on an AI voice assistant for Portal and Oculus products


Facebook has confirmed a report from earlier today saying it's working on an artificial intelligence-based digital voice assistant in the vein of Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant. The news, first reported by CNBC, indicates Facebook isn't giving up on a vision it first put out years ago, when it began developing an AI assistant for its Messenger platform simply called M. This time around, however, Facebook says it is focusing less on messaging and more on platforms in which hands-free interaction, via voice control and potentially gesture control, is paramount. "We are working to develop voice and AI assistant technologies that may work across our family of AR/VR products including Portal, Oculus and future products," a Facebook spokesperson told The Verge today, following the initial report. That means Facebook may not position the product as a competitor to Alexa or similar platforms, but as more of a feature exclusive to its growing family of hardware devices. CNBC reported that the team building the assistant is working out of Redmond, Washington under the direction of Ira Snyder, a general manager at Facebook Reality Labs and a director of augmented and virtual reality at the company.

Google's brand-new AI ethics board is already falling apart


Just a week after it was announced, Google's new AI ethics board is already in trouble. The board, founded to guide "responsible development of AI" at Google, would have had eight members and met four times over the course of 2019 to consider concerns about Google's AI program. Those concerns include how AI can enable authoritarian states, how AI algorithms produce disparate outcomes, whether to work on military applications of AI, and more. Of the eight people listed in Google's initial announcement, one (privacy researcher Alessandro Acquisti) has announced on Twitter that he won't serve, and two others are the subject of petitions calling for their removal -- Kay Coles James, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, and Dyan Gibbens, CEO of drone company Trumbull Unmanned. Thousands of Google employees have signed onto the petition calling for James's removal.

Facial recognition : 7 trends to watch (2019 review)


Few biometric technologies are sparking the imagination quite like facial recognition. Equally, its arrival has prompted profound concerns and reactions. With artificial intelligence and the blockchain, face recognition certainly represents a significant digital challenge for all companies and organizations - and especially governments. In this dossier, you'll discover the 7 face recognition facts and trends that are set to shape the landscape in 2019. Let's jump right in .

What fintech is available to develop my small business?


Running a small business is extremely challenging and not getting any easier. Research published in October 2017 from the Enterprise Research Centre indicates that just 53.7pc of UK businesses founded in 2013 survived past the three-year mark. Small businesses in the UK, which account for 60pc of private sector employment and 52pc of turnover, according to the Federation of Small Businesses, face a range of challenges in 2019, with economic growth forecast to remain sluggish and continuing uncertainty about how Brexit will play out. In such circumstances, it is vital that small businesses keep their operations as efficient as possible, making the best use of resources and keeping up with the competition. Fortunately, several key innovations in financial technology have revolutionised how businesses operate in the past 15 years, with the benefits felt across the board, from multinationals worth billions of pounds to local businesses with just a handful of employees.

The Growing Marketplace For AI Ethics


AI-powered loan and credit approval processes have been marred by unforeseen bias. Smart speakers have secretly turned on and recorded thousands of minutes of audio of their owners. Unfortunately, there's no industry-standard, best-practices handbook on AI ethics for companies to follow--at least not yet. Some large companies, including Microsoft and Google, are developing their own internal ethical frameworks. A number of think tanks, research organizations, and advocacy groups, meanwhile, have been developing a wide variety of ethical frameworks and guidelines for AI.

What Is AIOps? - ITChronicles


You've no doubt heard the term being bandied around – but what is it, and what can it do for your organization? Let's begin with a definition from Gartner, the research firm which coined the term a couple of years ago, and has since been responsible for popularizing both the phrase and the concept. "AIOps platforms combine big data and machine learning functionality to support all primary IT operations functions through the scalable ingestion and analysis of the ever-increasing volume, variety and velocity of data generated by IT. The platform enables the concurrent use of multiple data sources, data collection methods, and analytical and presentation technologies." Translation: AIOps is essentially an umbrella term to describe the use of machine learning and big data analytics technologies to automate the identification and subsequent resolution of common IT issues.

Save $50 on a Google Home Hub smart display in the PCMag Shop


Editor's note: Mashable and PCMag are both owned by Ziff Davis. We're lucky to live in such technologically-advanced times, but there are moments when it's possible to have too much of a good thing. Because we tend to scoop up the latest and greatest in tech as soon as the products drop, we ultimately overload ourselves and end up with tons of devices -- more than we could even attempt to use in one day. Do yourself a favor and simplify your life by having most of your necessary tech in one place. The Google Home Hub, which is on sale right now for just about the cheapest we've ever seen it, makes this possible.

Google offers free YouTube Music for Google Home speakers


Matching Amazon's new free music offer on Echo speakers, Google now offers owners of the Google Home speaker access to free tunes, via YouTube Music. There's a big difference: songs are sponsored on Amazon Echo speakers, while tunes for Google users are free. Additionally, they can be listened on both the Google Home speaker line, and any speaker that has the Google Assistant, Google's Siri/Alexa like helper. That includes the brands Sony, JBL, Harman and others. What you can't get is on-demand song selection, but instead playlists or radio stations created based on your requests.

NTT to launch trial of farming support service with drones and AI tech in Fukushima

The Japan Times

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT) said Thursday it will launch a trial for a farming support service using drones and artificial intelligence technology, with a goal of commercializing the service in Japan and other Asian countries. The new system, which connects drones with GPS satellites, is anticipated to help the farm industry in the nation amid a serious labor shortage. NTT aims to raise crop output by up to 30 percent through the new service. The telecommunications giant will conduct the trial service on 8 hectares of a rice field in Fukushima Prefecture from later this month to March 2021. It aims to launch the service on a commercial basis in Japan in two years.

Facebook AI turns real people into controllable game characters


Facebook's AI Research team has created an AI called Vid2Play that can extract playable characters from videos of real people, creating a much higher-tech version of '80s full-motion video (FMV) games like Night Trap. The neural networks can analyze random videos of people doing specific actions, then recreate that character and action in any environment and allow you to control them with a joystick. The team used two neural networks called Pose2Pose and Pose2Frame. First, a video is fed into a Pose2Pose neural network designed for specific types of actions like dancing, tennis or fencing. The system then figures out where the person is compared to the background, and isolates them and their poses.