The week in Voicetech. February 16, 2018

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Ingrid Fadelli

Algorithmic trading, the Chinese big brother, and the latest updates on popular voice assistants. This and more with our voicetech news roundup

Our carefully curated selection of articles from this week on CliqueApi and other respected news sources from around the world.

Is optical computing set to reboot genomics research? Clique

A UK-based startup is developing optical computing processors that could address the energy and speed limitations of traditional computers. Optalysys has teamed up with several genomics research institutes to test its system’s effectiveness in studies searching for similarities in DNA sequences.

This week, the company announced the completion of the Genetic Search System (GENESYS) project, a collaboration with the Earlham Institute that had very promising results.

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Algorithmic trading, the machines that just trashed your pension, Clique

Some have attributed recent issues reported by stock markets worldwide to the use of ‘algorithmic trading’. On Monday the 5th, when the Dow Jones begun a rapid nosedive, Walter Hellwig, senior vice president of BB&T Wealth Management told Bloomberg that while the initial drop in the morning had been caused by humans, the free fall in the afternoon should be attributed to ‘the machines’.

Clique provides a brief history of algorithmic trading, explaining its links to turmoil in the financial markets.

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Big brother, Chinese cops are using AI-powered eyeglasses to scan rail travelers, Clique

Transit law enforcement at various train stations in Zhengzou, China, are using eye glasses with facial recognition to identify criminals and others who are breaking rules related to high-speed train travel in the country. According to China’s official Communist Party newspaper, the glasses have already helped the police to identify seven criminals and 26 people travelling with fake IDs.

While China continues investing in technology-fueled surveillance methods, human rights groups voice their concerns about the right to privacy of residents being heavily ignored.

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Bitcoins or aliens? You can’t have both, Clique

Some commentators are suggesting that an increased interest in mining cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin might be hindering mankind’s search for civilizations beyond Planet Earth.  Scientists at Berkeley’s Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Center said that they could no longer expand their research further due to a lack of available GPUs, which are currently being used for cryptocurrency mining.

This unprecedented shortage of GPUs is likely to continue for a while, at least until new chips made specifically for cryptocurrency mining are released.

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Amazon’s Alexa Skills Developer Console gets its biggest redesign since launch, Tech Crunch

This week, Amazon rolled out the biggest makeover for its Alexa Skills Kit Developer Console since its initial debut in 2015.  The console is a system used by voice app developers to create specific Alexa skills for their products and services. The re-design includes a new visual interface for customizing skill components, an easier way for developers to test their skills, tools to better understand customer engagement over time, and a launch page that helps address common validation errors.

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Facebook smart speakers could land in July with massive 15-inch displays, Tech Radar

According to a report from Digitimes, Facebook is currently developing two smart speakers codenamed “Aloha” and “Fiona”, which should be released in July this year. The two devices are said to come with built-in 15-inch touchscreens, more than double the size of those on Echo Show devices.

The report suggests that the voicetech-enabled speakers will particularly focus on providing video calling services and other unspecified social networking functions.

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The HomePod launch is officially a fail, so what now? Tom’s Hardware Guide

Initial reviews and reactions to Apple’s smart speaker, the HomePod, have been disappointing, with customers complaining about the lack of support for music services other than Apple Music and reporting other flaws in the product’s design. Despite its great sound quality, the HomePod appears to be lagging behind other popular smart speakers, with Siri performing much worse than Google Assistant and Alexa when asked to complete tasks, and the speaker leaving white marks on certain types of wood.

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Amazon paid $90 million for camera maker’s chip technology, Reuters

Confidential sources told Reuters that Amazon paid around $90 million to acquire Blink, a startup specialized in home security cameras, due to an interest in its energy-efficient chips. The online retailer would be looking to apply Blink’s chip to some of its products, including its Cloud Cam and Echo Speakers, as this could lower production costs and extend their battery life.

Blink’s cameras can last two years on a pair of AA lithium batteries, which would be ideal if applied to Amazon products that need a plug-in power source.

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Avaya adds AI voice assistant to desk phones, Tech Target

Avaya, a unified communications (UCC) company based in California (and the old stomping ground of Clique president, Tim Gentry), has recently released a voice assistant for desk phones. The AI-powered tool can be downloaded on the Google Play Store, allowing Avaya customers to make calls, dial into meetings on their calendar, and execute Google searches via voice-commands.

Users can activate the voice assistant at any time, by using a customizable trigger phrase.

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Artificial Intelligence is being used to raise better pigs in China, Quartz

China’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba, has signed an agreement with Tequ Group, a Chinese food and agriculture company that raises around 10 million pigs every year, to introduce facial and voice recognition into their farms. The technology should help to identify individual pigs inside the farm based on marks placed on their body, recording information about their breed type, age, and weight.

Alibaba’s software can also monitor changes in pigs’ physical activity and pick up signs of potentially infectious diseases.

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