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

Image: Štefan Štefančík
Ingrid Fadelli

Digital cuss jars, a voicetech powered wheelchair, and the CIA’s plans to replace human spies with AI. This and more in our weekly news roundup

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

Breakthrough. A voicetech powered wheelchair for under $250, Clique

As part of their final year project, six engineering students from Pallakad in southern India have created a lightweight and affordable voicetech-powered wheelchair. In contrast with existing wheelchairs, which are controlled manually or with a joystick, their wheelchair can be moved using voice-commands and is hence also suitable for those with more acute disabilities, such as paraplegia or quadriplegia.

Should it be well received among the medical community, the students could establish their own start-up and place the invention on the market at an equally accessible price.

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Traditional spies under threat as CIA replaces them with AI, Clique

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is planning to hand over many tasks traditionally handled by human spies to Artificial Intelligence (AI). At this week’s 2018 GEOINT Symposium in Tampa, Florida, the CIA’s deputy director for technology development Dawn Meyerriecks spoke about the agency’s efforts to adapt to the new intelligence landscape, in which the most threatening enemies are no longer adversarial human spies, but intelligent machines.

Over the past six months, the CIA has been pursuing almost 140 AI projects, aimed at eluding digital tracking or surveillance cameras, and addressing other challenges posed by technology.

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Volkswagen goes electric for the 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Clique

German automaker Volkswagen (VW) is preparing for this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, which it will tackle using a custom electric racecar. Last year, the company announced that it would be taking on the challenge again for the first time in 31 years, but this time competing with an electric vehicle named I.D. R.

VW’s electric racer could help the company to put the troublesome scandals of the past year behind, hopefully paving the way towards a greener and less controversial future.

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Skyrim VR mod uses voicetech to power dialog with characters in the game, Clique

A new voice recognition integration for popular action title Skyrim allows players to communicate with non-player characters (NPCs) in the game by speaking dialog lines out loud.

By downloading the Dragonborn Speaks Naturally mod and following a brief list of instructions, Skyrim VR and Skyrim SE enthusiasts can now give a voice to the game’s traditionally voiceless protagonist, simply by speaking the desired dialogue lines. The voicetech mod works by using speech recognition technology that can identify particular sentences relevant to the game.

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Alexa will soon gain a memory, converse more naturally, and automatically launch skills, TechCrunch

During a keynote presentation at the World Wide Web Conference in Lyon, France, Amazon announced a series of upcoming upgrades for its voice assistant Alexa. The company’s Alexa Brain team is currently working to improve Alexa’s ability to track context, as well as giving it an enhanced memory and introducing a new feature that automatically launches skills.

These upgrades will be arriving soon, but the retail giant is yet to reveal the exact launch date.

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Ingenious digital cuss jar uses voice recognition to penalize you for bad words, Digital Trends

A new unusual gadget that just popped up on Kickstarter promises to clean up the language we use in its surrounding environment. JarGone is a smart speaker similar to Amazon Echo and Google Home, which detects the use of swear words or other context-inappropriate language, notifying people in the room.

The ‘digital swear jar’ could discourage the use of swear words around children, but could also be applied in office settings to reduce sexist language or other unwanted jargon.

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Domino’s lets AI assistant ‘Dom’ handle incoming phone orders, Mobile Marketer

Food delivery chain, Domino’s, is currently testing a voicetech feature that automates pizza orders made over the phone. The new system, dubbed Dom, is a voice assistant that takes orders and allows customers to check their order status over the phone.

Dom was originally launched as a voice recognition app back in 2014, but it is now being tested as a direct customer-facing interface, answering the phone to customers of 20 Domino’s stores around the US.

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Alibaba teams with Audi, Mercedes-Benza and Volvo to drive smart mobility in China, The Drum

Automakers Audi, Daimler, and Volvo have signed deals with Alibaba, agreeing to integrate the Chinese tech giant’s voicetech  assistants into their cars. As a result of these partnerships, customers purchasing various Mercedes-Benz Connect, Audi Connect, and Volvo vehicles will soon be able to use a Tmall Genie-compatible device to monitor their cars to ensure they are locked, track their location, fuel levels, air conditioning cycles, and remotely access other functions.

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Podcast app Castbox raises $13.5 million, launches its own original programming, TechCrunch

A start-up called Castbox has just closed $13.5 million in Series B funding for the further development of its technology-fueled podcast platform. Castbox, which has already raised a total of $29.5 million, uses natural language processing (NLP) and other machine learning techniques to provide features such as personalized recommendations and in-audio search.

Using voice recognition, the in-audio search feature transcribes audio content of podcasts, indexes it, and makes it available for search within the app.

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Argos announces 150 new tech roles in the UK, Computer Weekly

British catalogue retailer Argos is hoping to bring its digital shopping experience up a notch, by employing 150 additional IT professionals.

The technology and engineering roles, based in London and Milton Keynes, range from graduate to principal level and are aimed at introducing new shopping experiences fueled by the latest technological advancements, including voice tech, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR).

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