Amazon Alexa Talks More Like Human With Pauses, Whispers, And Emotion

The digital assistant system of Amazon, Alexa is going to sound more like human with emotions, whispers, and pauses. Per the announcement from Amazon, the new skills will be added soon to enhance the total experience of the digital assistant from the online retailer. The new skills come in the form of Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML) and would even “bleep” out words.



The skills are handed over to the Alexa app developers, and it would help them to offer customized voice experience through their apps with better control on volume, emotion, and intonation. While Amazon allows considerable changes in modulation of the voice, there are limitations set by the firm to control the extremeness including high pitch. There are five speech standards, or SSML have been added to the system, and that includes whispers, emphasis, substitutions, expletive beeps, and prosody.



Interestingly, the U.K. and German developers got “speechcons” introduced in their market. It would help the developers to add country specific phrases into the Alexa. Earlier this year, the online retailer launched the feature for the first time in U.S. with some limited words. Now, people in U.K. may experience “Bada-bing” or “Boom” in Alexa like how U.S. customers experience “gotcha,” “ahem,” and more. Experts suggest that the new advancement in the personal assistant system can add more fun similar to how Apple transformed Siri to a more engaging platform.



It was in November 2014, Amazon unveiled the digital assistance system through its smart speaker called Amazon Echo. The retailer behemoth focused on expanding the platform and created an option for app developers to add new skills. From the primitive stage in the initial days, Alexa grew as a highly useful digital assistance system with the addition of more than 12,000 skills until the date. Apart from voice interaction and providing various updates, the platform is also beneficial to control the smart devices. Most of the electronics and home appliances manufacturers are now supporting the Alexa platform.



The big four companies in tech are in a real fight to capture the digital assistant market which is reported to touch $15.8 billion by 2021. Apple Siri can’t integrate with Android devices; Microsoft Cortana is mostly trapped into the limited Windows platform; Google Assistant is struggling with its still-primitive smart speaker system called Google Home. This gives a greater opportunity for Alexa to capture the market by adding more skills and enhancing the experience.


Aura: The Next Step Towards Complete Security

Technology is continually advancing, be it in the entertainment sector, practicality for the consumer or even in weapons and mechanism for war. This week, a company named Cognitive Systems Corporation, founded in 2014 is already shaking up the news with their fantastic new release to the market.



They are a company focused on applying cognitive sensors into technology and allow it to surpass the existing equipment that exists today, for a wide variety of themes.



They have announced their newest contribution to modern home security systems, and it surpasses any functionality that a camera or a traditional movement sensor by mixing the best of both worlds.



It’s called “Aura:” A small white box that has the cognitive power to cover an entire house and warn if any trespassers are sneaking in. The gadget utilizes a base station inside the box and another receptor that is placed somewhere else in the house, away from the Aura box.



Now, the signals that the product emits will return to it and warn if there is any significant movement detected. It can also tell you who is moving; if you remember to register their smartphone in the system.



Aura utilizes Radio Frequencies (RF), and it successfully covers an entire house. Because of how the cognitive sensors have to detect movement anywhere within the walls of the building, the RF is the best option to be utilized as it travels the entire space and returns in a matter of milliseconds.



More information on how the Aura system operates can be found on their official website,, or in a news article posted by Matthew Braga, a technology reporter, at CBC News:



Aura will surely define a new way to look at the Home Security market, as there is a new way to protect a space without relying on cameras and other sensors that cover a small area. Because cameras cannot be placed in the bathroom, and that made it one of the most appealing places to use to sneak into someone’s house. Aura, however, is programmed to detect even the smallest spaces inside those walls.



But not everything comes without a bit of extra refinement. Manku and Hind, leading developers of the project, laughed at how Aura still has to be better adjusted to ignore minimal movements produced by pets. However, the rotatory circulation of a fan or the weaving of the curtains, for example, is always eliminated by the system.


The Washington Capitals and The Ghosts of Playoffs Past

The Washington Capitals have had mediocre results in the playoffs in recent years, as the team has not made a Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1998 – a year in which Washington was defeated by the Detroit Red Wings, not winning a single game in the series. The 2017 Capitals seem increasingly likely to suffer yet another post season exit, this time, like last year, at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins. After losing Game 1, Game 2 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals started out promising as the Capitals dominated puck possession and shots on goal between the two teams in the first period; Washington tallied thirty-five shot attempts to the Penguins eight, but came away from it all with zero goals. The Penguins weathered the storm and surged back to win the game by a final score of 6-2. This placing Washington in a 2-0 deficit going into Game 3 on Monday night in Pittsburgh. It is certain that if the Capitals are going to be successful and win the series against the Penguins, three main things need to happen:

  1. The Capitals must find a way to cope with the speed of the Penguins by playing physical and fighting for loose pucks along the boards.
  2. Limiting opportunities for the Penguin’s superstar Sidney Crosby is a must. Crosby finished the first game of the series with two goals and finished the second with two assists.
  3. The Capitals need more consistent play from the whole team, but especially goaltender Braden Holtby. Arguably the best goalie of last year, Holtby has struggled this year against the quick-strike offense of the Pittsburgh Penguins, giving up two inexcusable goals in the second period of last night’s contest.

While discouraged Capital’s fans may understandably assume the worst, there still is hope. One must remember that this playoff series is the best of seven games. Almost all champions have faced adversity, but somehow found a way to become victorious. It is important to believe that the Washington Capitals will be no different – this time in a good way.


China Is Making Strides in the Search for a Cure

Cancer has been a notoriously difficult health issue. Many bacterial and viral infections have been rendered toothless thanks to vaccines. Other medical problems have been taken care of by environmental precautions. Even medical conditions with no cure will often be preventable with the right precautions. But cancer is something else entirely. Stories of people who do everything right and still end up with cancer are common enough to almost be a cliche. There’s certain factors which can decrease the chance of developing any given type of cancer. But this, in and of itself, demonstrates the crux of the issue. Even in the best case scenario it’s often more about balancing risks than it is about any real prevention.


It can almost seem like cancer is an inevitability. In some ways, there’s often truth to it. Anyone who’s had their DNA tested to find out their medical predispositions will have some hint of just how cancer really works. Cancer is in essence a genetic condition. It’s cellular tissue which is simply replicating incorrectly. It’s normal human cells, but which have essentially forgotten how to play well with the rest of the body. It’s a unique combination of genetics and environment. In the end it usually does come down to genetics. Unless there’s a specific environmental trigger, genetics will be the underlying issue for cancer. But for the vast majority of people it’s a mix of genetics and environment to differing degrees.


This is why some recent news from China is so exciting. They’re the first to make use of a gene editing technique called CRISPR-Cas9. This tool can be used to edit out the genetic factors which predispose people to cancer. Cancer is essentially something going wrong with a person’s cells. But the other part of it is natural defences within the person not being able to deal with the malfunctioning cells. The CRISPR-Cas9 can edit a patient’s genes so that they produce cells which can properly respond to cancerous malfunctions.


People should keep in mind that this is still a very new treatment. This is the second time in history that the treatment has actually been used in humans. Initial trials are planned in the US, but are still in the future. But for people with cancer, or who have a history of it in their family tree, this should be fantastic news. It opens up doors for some revolutionary new treatments of a wide variety of different types of cancer.


Facial Recognition Might Be Ready for the next Leap Forward

Most people are well aware of the fact that people and computers are becoming socially bound. Talk to any person and it’s almost certain that their smartphone or computer will factor in somehow. What’s less well known is how much easier the human side of things has been. Humans relate to technology far easier than technology relates to humans. One of the biggest reasons why comes down to how the human brain operates. People unconsciously use quite a bit of brainpower to recognize human faces. The sheer difficulty of recognizing a face can be seen by looking at non-human primates. They’re the closest relatives of humanity, and have fairly humanlike features. But most people would have to really work to distinguish the faces of multiple shaved chimpanzees from each other. All that hard work distinguishing small differences is normally handled by the human unconscious as people look at different faces. But it’s been as difficult for machines to tell humans apart as it would be for a human to tell chimpanzees apart.


All of this might be changing thanks to a recent breakthrough with the tinder dating app. Stuart Colianni has combined information from the visual components of tinder with Kaggle. The earlier information is something people need to keep in mind when setting their expectations for the project.


Humans are quite literally incapable of really understanding how much of their neural architecture goes into facial recognition. This makes the earliest hope for this work seem rather modest. The initial projects using the combined tinder data will be used to help create artificial learning systems capable of differentiating between male and female faces. But this seemingly modest task is something that takes a great deal of neural activity for humans. If machines can get a boost from this project than it’ll be a huge step forward for machine learning systems and artificial intelligence.


Tinder has yet to publically comment on the project. But in general they’ve been fairly friendly to 3rd party use of their data. Tinder’s API has made it fairly easy to implement bridges to any 3rd party code. Over the years, Tinder has generally been tolerant of projects which do so. Given that this machine learning project is fairly modest in terms of direct user interaction it seems probable that they’ll have little problem with it either.


3D Printing’s Future Is Now At MIT

Much has been made about what a 3D printer can do, and now the latest one built at MIT can put together a whole building in just 14 hours, a process that just might make the construction industry obsolete soon. A team of engineers from MIT have been working on a giant 3D printer that’s been referred to as the Digital Construction Platform. The machine at first glance doesn’t look too much different than most of the tractors, bulldozers and scoops that you might see at a construction site, but then as you look closer and see how it’s producing the building material from its own tank you can see something totally futuristic.


This machine has been in the works for several years, a project that the MIT engineers got started when they had the ambition to help the construction industry speed up its building projects. But they may have accomplished a lot more than that without knowing it. This printer very well could be taking on a similar role that one might have only thought Skynet was capable of doing. So far this printer has only built simple structures such as dome-shaped buildings and other unsophisticated units and the time it’s taken to build these structures has been about 14 hours. But as the prototype becomes perfected its designers are planning to implement cognitive functions with it such as sensitivity to more building shapes, surrounding climate, weather and many other functions.


So could you be seeing robots build your house already? The time for that may not yet be here but could very well be here sooner than you think. More and more robotic machinery is starting to take hold in manufacturing, construction, and even retail and other services. 3D printers are one way that robotics are becoming mainstream, but the question still remains whether or not they will be the industry’s best friend or greatest enemy. There certainly will be cheaper prices in building materials in the future, but equipment operators may be leaving the driver’s seat as well.


Apple Working on the Future of Autonomous Cars

The magnate Apple developed a program which allows for the navigation of an autonomous vehicle. The test drive for the program has been completed with the use of a Lexus RX450h SUV. The spot for the experiment was Silicon Valley as the Apple facility is located there. The experiment was also captured by an observer that acted fast enough to snap a few shots.



The test car was equipped with the necessary gadgets, but it was still mostly conspicuous. It also looked similar to the test car that Waymo used. Waymo is a self-driving car by Google, but it was retired. The equipment of the Lexus RX450h SUV includes radar, LiDAR, and a few optical cameras.



The experiment that Apple conducted on the roads of Silicon Valley appears to be at a very early stage, according to the DMV documents which have been made public. The company seems to be focusing primarily on the aspect of software at this point. Later stages will probably involve unique tech and gadgets that the magnate will develop in their labs.



Apple has also been trying to change several other things around. Recently, they made a request directed towards the state of California. The subject of the application is the policies of California in regard to self-driving cars. Such kind of an appeal is an obvious telltale sign that Apple is very serious about this project although they are in an early stage of developing it.



The request was made in a letter which had later become public. In their letter, Apple suggests a few changes to the policies with explanations as to why they believe the changes should be made. Some of the reasons are to ensure the safety of the public in transit while still maintaining the project of self-driving cars going as planned. Several other companies also filed their desire for changes in Californian policies on self-driving cars.



The changes made by other companies were regarding their freedom of innovation as well. For example, Tesla referred to the bar that some policies put on the testing of autonomous vehicles. That would only result in innovators looking for another space to do the testing of self-driving cars. Tesla also added that the limit of 10 000 pounds for is not ideal for testing either.




Airbnb Tech Company is Designing a Beam Cellular Device That Will Enable Phone and Wi-Fi Connectivity in Regions with Poor Communication Links

Woe betide you if you are traveling abroad, and suddenly you find yourself cut off from the rest of the world simply because you have run out of internet data. The unexpected loss of communication links is not unusual or life-threatening; however, it is a very annoying and inconveniencing experience to all travelers. You might inadvertently leave without paying for roaming services or cellular data from your country of origin, and then on reaching your destination, you are confronted by pricey data plans and SIM cards or terribly slow Wi-Fi signals. Many people traveling around the world have in the past found themselves in this desperate situation.



The good news is that this is going to be a thing of the past because a tech company known as Airbnb is developing a new concept of communication by designing a beam modem that will assist tourists who, out of the blues, find themselves without access to cell services or access to the internet. The new device will make it possible for you to stay connected with the rest of the world by enabling downloads of valuable information about your tour. The headaches and near panic circumstances caused by inconvenient, slow, and extremely expensive cell networks, and Wi-Fi sy stems will cease to exist. The device will circumvent the need for a direct connection to a network by connecting to external web service providers.



Airbnb is in the process of patenting the product, and the Beam Device Architecture will bring relief to many people who might get themselves between a rock and a hard place when they are far away from home. It will enable you to identify restaurants, famous destinations, and landmarks. The tech company is a startup with an estimated revenue turnover of over $30 billion, and the device will be its first shot at hardware manufacturer. Through collaborations with other organizations like Vivint, the tech agency is also working on other things like connection home features, and gaining keyless access points. The innovation will be similar to other access technologies such as smart TVs, bitcoin, and intelligent artificial travel assistants. The beam device will consist of three elements, namely; the laser modem, an API server, and a computer or iPhone.


A Look At Tech Company, Relive

A new Dutch technology company called Relive is shaking up the tech world. Founded last year and based in the city of Rotterdam, Relive attempts to recreate the travel and exercise experience of its users through a more interactive fashion. The company name is a play on what the company aims to do with its unique software.


Relive attempts to let you relive your travels, hikes, biking or jogging experience by combing data and statistics with visual images. What this means is that you can link data from fitness trackers made by companies such as Garmin and Strava to Relive’s program. Then you upload photos and videos of your journey or exercise routine to Relive.


The software of Relive will then recreate your journey through an interactive map. Major events can be highlighted such as when you reached a certain elevation, covered a certain amount of distance or reached a certain heartbeat level when doing a strenuous physical activity. With these features and visual cues, you can now better share what you did during an activity and provide them with a visual as well as interactive way to learn about your trip. Another cool feature of Relieve, is that if you reached a landmark or scenic view, a photo you took can be displayed during the presentation. Relive is a fun and interactive way to share trips with your family and friends.


Rather than just telling someone you went to or traveled through such a city, why not just show them exactly where you were through the use of maps, data, images and videos? This is exactly what Relive allows people to do. Want to share a hike or bike adventure you took with family and friends but don’t really now how you can explain it, other than saying you biked 30 miles or hiked 10 miles up a mountain today?


Relive has already been used by Tour de France bike race participants to highlight and share their journey as they race throughout France. You can download Relive on your mobile smart phone and begin using it. Currently the company has not yet made a profit, but has over half a million people using it. Thousands of videos are also made daily with the Relive program.


Changes Are Coming to Amazon’s App Ecosystem

Most people were somewhat befuddled when Amazon decided to roll their own varient of the popular android operating system. Over time they’ve managed to create a real niche for themselves. Amazon’s version of Android is usually different enough to justify itself. But at the same time it’s similar to other versions of Android that one can expect some degree of compatibility. In fact, many Android users have come to count on that compatibility over the years. Amazon has had a continual marketing effort in play almost right from the start. They’ve been luring people into their unique app ecosystem by offering access to their app store to the vast majority of android devices.


It’s usually a win win situation for android users and Amazon alike. Amazon will, of course, benefit from having android users look around their app ecosystem. Their own version of android is specially tailored to that app system. The end result is that people will have some motivation to go with amazon based android products in the future. For a long time now, android users have had a big benefit as well. They’ve been able to get a continual stream of discounted apps. Amazon regularly offers free purchases of apps which normally have a price tag attached to them. It’s a marketing tactic that has been quite effective over the years. Many people have tried to compete with Google’s app store over the years. But at the moment Amazon is the only company that’s really succeeded in doing so. Their free apps are considered one of the main reasons for this success.


But Amazon recently announced that they’re planning to end this practice. Users might find themselves disappointed. But it’s actually good news, at least in some ways. The best part is that Amazon will be keeping the service going at least until 2019. The best part for fans of Amazon’s version of android is that this signals a resounding success for the company. The free apps were a big financial hit to Amazon that was being undertaken in hopes of long term profit as more and more people gave their android variant a try. One can take this change of policy to mean that Amazon now considers their android products to finally be able to stand fully on their own when competing against vanilla builds of android.