04.20: Ten must-read stories from Clique and around the voicetech sector

Image: Olu Eletu
Ingrid Fadelli

China’s robo-bank, something nice happens on Twitter, and BT’s kills fixed phone lines. This and more in our weekly news roundup

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

Google AI voicetech which can pinpoint your voice in a crowd, Clique

Voice tech researchers at Google have created a system that allows deep learning algorithms to isolate individual voices in a crowd. The company successfully replicated a particular human ability dubbed the ‘cocktail party effect’, which helps people to focus their attention on a single person’s voice when they are in a noisy environment, automatically blocking out other voices and sounds.

The new AI-powered technique analyzes both audio and video footage, splitting an audio track into the voices of different speakers.

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China Contruction Bank goes full-robot, Clique

China Construction Bank (CCB) has opened its first unmanned bank in the downtown district of Shanghai, replacing traditional clerks and counters with robots and other technological tools. This fully-automated customer service experience is powered by numerous advanced technologies, including facial and voice recognition, AI, holographic projections, and robots.

So far, the ‘robo-bank’ experiment has received overwhelming positive feedback from customers, especially younger generations who typically prefer the efficiency and innovation of automated tech.

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Here’s why 300 women in tech just got a sudden boost in Twitter followers, Clique

Last weekend, around 300 women working in the technology industry were flooded by a huge wave of new Twitter followers. The reason behind their rapid boost in popularity was a supportive Tweet by Tracy Lee, a fellow woman in tech and co-founder of ThisDotLabs. For months, Lee had been compiling a list of particularly inspiring women that she had met at conferences or read about online.

When she published her list on Twitter, she triggered an instant ripple effect, encouraging more users to learn about the work of these brilliant women.

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Voicetech and vision on the AIY Projects platform, DIY AI by Google, Clique

Google has released new kits for its AIY Projects platform, The Voice Kit and The Vision Kit, designed to assist users in the creation of their very own AI-powered devices. As suggested by their names, the Voice Kit can help with the creation of voice-controlled speakers that support Google Assistant, while the Vision Kit also comes with a built-in ‘intelligent’ camera that uses computer vision to identify faces and objects, or even recognize emotions.

Both kits are now available online and in Target stores across the U.S., with a price tag of $90 for the Vision package and $50 for the Voice.

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Apple details personalized ‘Hey Siri’ voice recognition in latest Machine Learning Journal entry, 9to5mac

Apple’s Siri team has recently published a new Machine Learning Journal entry online, which partly outlines the process behind making the voice assistant work merely with the sound of its primary user’s voice. Apple explains that the wake phrase ‘Hey Siri’ was partly chosen because people were naturally using it as a first statement when manually activating the smart helper.

Yet Apple seems to be developing a new system that only wakes the voice assistant when ‘Hey Siri’ is pronounced by the main phone user, avoiding unnecessary activations in situations where another person says the phrase or something that sounds like it.

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LG appliances now respond to both Alexa and Google Assistant, endgadget

LG is broadening support for voice commands to more than one voice assistant on a line of smart home appliances. The company has announced that its collection of ThinQ-branded appliances will now be able to take voicetech commands from both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

The tasks that the appliances can complete via voicetech vary according to the voice assistant, yet both Alexa and Google Assistant should allow users to make ice in their fridge door, turn off the oven, or activate the air conditioner.

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Google will show off branded ‘how to’ videos for its smart assistant in May, CNBC

According to CNBC, Google is currently talking to different brands about creating how-to videos for Google Assistant. The company is said to be planning the introduction of a new feature for its voice assistant, which would provide informative videos with step-by-step instructions, helping users to figure out how to complete certain tasks via voice commands.

This new ‘how-to’ skill could help Google to make money from its smart assistant, charging companies to feature instruction videos for skills relevant to their products.

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Amazon’s new ‘Alexa Blueprints’ let anyone create custom Alexa skills and responses, Tech Crunch

This week, Amazon introduced ‘Alexa Blueprints’, a new way for users of the voice assistant to create their own customized skills or responses, even if they don’t know how to code. The new feature would allow users to create their own voice apps or tailor Alexa’s responses to particular questions according to their needs.

At launch, ‘Alexa Blueprints’ includes over 20 templates, which can be personalized by users according to their preferences.

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China’s largest smartphone maker is working on an A.I. that can read human emotions, CNBC

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei is trying make conversations with its voice assistant more emotionally interactive, by developing a program that can detect a user’s mood, responding accordingly. The company said it is looking to broaden the functions of its voice assistant, allowing it to complete practical tasks, while also acting as an emotional companion. According to Felix Zhang, VP of software engineering at Huawei’s consumer business group, AIs with emotion-sensing capabilities are likely to become widespread in the years to come.

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BT has plans to kill the phone line by 2025, Gizmodo

BT, one of the largest telecommunication companies in Europe is planning to ditch traditional phone lines entirely by 2025. The company says that in future, all of BT users’ phone calls will happen using VoIP technology.

While BT has not yet specified details of how the plan will unfold, it is clear that the company has a long-term vision that views phone lines as outdated and no longer sustainable.

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