All posts by MTechnology

Google to Showcase AI Advances at Its Big Conference

Google is likely to again put artificial intelligence in the spotlight at its annual developers conference Thursday.

 

The company’s digital concierge, known only as the Google Assistant, could gain new abilities to handle tasks such as making restaurant reservations without human hand-holding.

 

Google may also unveil updates to its Android mobile operating system, enable better AI-powered navigation suggestions in Google Maps, and push further into augmented reality technology, which overlays a view of the real world with digital images.

 

The search giant aims to make its assistant so useful that people can’t live without it — or the search results that drive its advertising business. But it also wants to play up the social benefits of AI, and plans to showcase how it’s being used to improve health care, preserve the environment and make scientific discoveries.

 

CEO Sundar Pichai probably won’t emphasize privacy or data security concerns, which have put companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google in the crosshairs of regulators. But Google could also give parents new tools to manage how children access video and other material on different devices.

 

The company is also expected to unveil a new app for news that combines elements of its Google Play Newsstand app and YouTube.

 

It’s too early in the year for Google to showcase any new hardware, which it tends to do ahead of the Christmas shopping season. Last week, however, it said its partner Lenovo will sell a $400 stand-alone virtual reality headset that doesn’t require inserting a smartphone. (Facebook last week announced a competing $199 device called the Oculus Go.)

 

Google also last week updated actions that its assistant can perform on smartwatches powered by its Wear OS software. For instance, it can tell you about your day if you’re wearing headphones instead of making you read your calendar.

 

 

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Countries Race Towards Technological Dominance Knowing Benefits and Risks

With technology developing at an exponential rate, experts say the world is experiencing a fourth industrial revolution – one that will be driven by artificial intelligence and machines that can analyze huge amounts of data from connected devices. But experts warn that aside from the benefits, the revolution also has the potential to harm societies. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee has this report from the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles.

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Countries Race Towards Technological Dominance Knowing Benefits and Risks

With technology developing at an exponential rate, experts say the world is experiencing a fourth industrial revolution – one that will be driven by artificial intelligence and machines that can analyze huge amounts of data from connected devices. But experts warn that aside from the benefits, the revolution also has the potential to harm societies. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee has this report from the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles.

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Microsoft Launches $25M Program to Use AI for Disabilities

Microsoft is launching a $25 million initiative to use artificial intelligence to build better technology for people with disabilities.

CEO Satya Nadella announced the new “AI for Accessibility” effort as he kicked off Microsoft’s annual conference for software developers. The Build conference in Seattle features sessions on cloud computing, artificial intelligence, internet-connected devices and virtual reality. It comes as Microsoft faces off with Amazon and Google to offer internet-connected services to businesses and organizations.

The conference and the new initiative offer Microsoft an opportunity to emphasize its philosophy of building AI for social good. The focus could help counter some of the ethical concerns that have risen over AI and other fast-developing technology, including the potential that software formulas can perpetuate or even amplify gender and racial biases.

The five-year accessibility initiative will include seed grants for startups, nonprofit organizations and academic researchers, as well as deeper investments and expertise from Microsoft researchers.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said the company hopes to empower people by accelerating the development of AI tools that provide them with more opportunities for independence and employment.

“It may be an accessibility need relating to vision or deafness or to something like autism or dyslexia,” Smith said in an interview. “There are about a billion people on the planet who have some kind of disability, either permanent or temporary.”

Those people already have “huge potential,” he said, but “technology can help them accomplish even more.”

Microsoft has already experimented with its own accessibility tools, such as a “Seeing AI” free smartphone app using computer vision and narration to help people navigate if they’re blind or have low vision. Nadella introduced the app at a previous Build conference. Microsoft’s translation tool also provides deaf users with real-time captioning of conversations.

“People with disabilities are often overlooked when it comes technology advances but Microsoft sees this as a key area to address concerns over the technology and compete against Google, Amazon and IBM,” said Nick McQuire, an analyst at CCS Insight.

Smith acknowledged that other firms, especially Apple and Google, have also spent years doing important work on accessibility. He said Microsoft’s accessibility fund builds on the model of the company’s AI for Earth initiative, which launched last year to jumpstart projects combating climate change and other environmental problems.

The idea, Smith said, is to get more startups excited about building tools for people with disabilities — both for the social good and for their large market potential.

Other announcements at the Build conference include partnerships with drone company DJI and chipmaker Qualcomm. More than 6,000 people are registered to attend, most of them developers who build apps for Microsoft’s products.

Facebook had its F8 developers’ gathering last week. Google’s I/O conference begins Tuesday. Apple’s takes place in early June.

This is the second consecutive year that Microsoft has held its conference in Seattle, not far from its Redmond, Washington, headquarters.

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Microsoft Launches $25M Program to Use AI for Disabilities

Microsoft is launching a $25 million initiative to use artificial intelligence to build better technology for people with disabilities.

CEO Satya Nadella announced the new “AI for Accessibility” effort as he kicked off Microsoft’s annual conference for software developers. The Build conference in Seattle features sessions on cloud computing, artificial intelligence, internet-connected devices and virtual reality. It comes as Microsoft faces off with Amazon and Google to offer internet-connected services to businesses and organizations.

The conference and the new initiative offer Microsoft an opportunity to emphasize its philosophy of building AI for social good. The focus could help counter some of the ethical concerns that have risen over AI and other fast-developing technology, including the potential that software formulas can perpetuate or even amplify gender and racial biases.

The five-year accessibility initiative will include seed grants for startups, nonprofit organizations and academic researchers, as well as deeper investments and expertise from Microsoft researchers.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said the company hopes to empower people by accelerating the development of AI tools that provide them with more opportunities for independence and employment.

“It may be an accessibility need relating to vision or deafness or to something like autism or dyslexia,” Smith said in an interview. “There are about a billion people on the planet who have some kind of disability, either permanent or temporary.”

Those people already have “huge potential,” he said, but “technology can help them accomplish even more.”

Microsoft has already experimented with its own accessibility tools, such as a “Seeing AI” free smartphone app using computer vision and narration to help people navigate if they’re blind or have low vision. Nadella introduced the app at a previous Build conference. Microsoft’s translation tool also provides deaf users with real-time captioning of conversations.

“People with disabilities are often overlooked when it comes technology advances but Microsoft sees this as a key area to address concerns over the technology and compete against Google, Amazon and IBM,” said Nick McQuire, an analyst at CCS Insight.

Smith acknowledged that other firms, especially Apple and Google, have also spent years doing important work on accessibility. He said Microsoft’s accessibility fund builds on the model of the company’s AI for Earth initiative, which launched last year to jumpstart projects combating climate change and other environmental problems.

The idea, Smith said, is to get more startups excited about building tools for people with disabilities — both for the social good and for their large market potential.

Other announcements at the Build conference include partnerships with drone company DJI and chipmaker Qualcomm. More than 6,000 people are registered to attend, most of them developers who build apps for Microsoft’s products.

Facebook had its F8 developers’ gathering last week. Google’s I/O conference begins Tuesday. Apple’s takes place in early June.

This is the second consecutive year that Microsoft has held its conference in Seattle, not far from its Redmond, Washington, headquarters.

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‘Game-Changer’ Mobile App Aims to End Bangladesh Child Marriage

A new phone app could be a “game-changer” in the fight against child marriage in Bangladesh, where more than half of all girls are married before they are 18, children’s charity Plan International said on Monday.

The impoverished South Asian nation has one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage, according to UNICEF, despite laws that ban girls under 18 and men under 21 from marrying.

The mobile app being rolled out by Plan and the Bangladesh government aims to prevent it by allowing matchmakers, priests and officers who register marriages to verify the bride and groom’s ages through a digital database.

“If we could get the people involved in the initial stages of marriage on side as well, then there would be no one to solemnize, no one to register and no one to arrange a marriage for a child,” said Soumya Guha, a director at Plan Bangladesh.

“The app could be the game-changer that we need,” he said, adding that it stopped 3,750 underage marriages during a six-month trial.

Campaigners say girls who marry young often drop out of school and face a greater risk of rape, domestic abuse and forced pregnancies, which may put their lives in danger.

The app, which has an offline text messaging version for rural areas, gives the user access to a database that stores a unique identification number linked to the three documents.

When one of the numbers is entered, it shows “proceed” if the person is of legal age and a red “warning!” if not.

All marriages in Bangladesh must be legally registered within 30 days of the ceremony, but many are not.

A hard copy of a birth certificate, school leaving document or national identity card works as age proof, but often parents who want to marry off their children often forge them.

The charity is training 100,000 officiants about the ill effects of child marriage and how to use the app, which it hopes to roll out nationally by August.

“I believe this app will help us achieve the commitment by our honorable prime minister to eliminate child marriage before 2041,” Muhammad Abdul Halim, a director general at the prime minister’s office, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

However, Supreme Court lawyer Sara Hossain said more needed to be done to educate girls about their right to consent and plug legal loopholes.

“People might just avoid the registration because it is not required for validity of marriage and there is only a minor penalty for not registering. It’s not a big thing,” Hossain told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We would be mistaken to think that something like this will be a magic bullet solution.”

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‘Game-Changer’ Mobile App Aims to End Bangladesh Child Marriage

A new phone app could be a “game-changer” in the fight against child marriage in Bangladesh, where more than half of all girls are married before they are 18, children’s charity Plan International said on Monday.

The impoverished South Asian nation has one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage, according to UNICEF, despite laws that ban girls under 18 and men under 21 from marrying.

The mobile app being rolled out by Plan and the Bangladesh government aims to prevent it by allowing matchmakers, priests and officers who register marriages to verify the bride and groom’s ages through a digital database.

“If we could get the people involved in the initial stages of marriage on side as well, then there would be no one to solemnize, no one to register and no one to arrange a marriage for a child,” said Soumya Guha, a director at Plan Bangladesh.

“The app could be the game-changer that we need,” he said, adding that it stopped 3,750 underage marriages during a six-month trial.

Campaigners say girls who marry young often drop out of school and face a greater risk of rape, domestic abuse and forced pregnancies, which may put their lives in danger.

The app, which has an offline text messaging version for rural areas, gives the user access to a database that stores a unique identification number linked to the three documents.

When one of the numbers is entered, it shows “proceed” if the person is of legal age and a red “warning!” if not.

All marriages in Bangladesh must be legally registered within 30 days of the ceremony, but many are not.

A hard copy of a birth certificate, school leaving document or national identity card works as age proof, but often parents who want to marry off their children often forge them.

The charity is training 100,000 officiants about the ill effects of child marriage and how to use the app, which it hopes to roll out nationally by August.

“I believe this app will help us achieve the commitment by our honorable prime minister to eliminate child marriage before 2041,” Muhammad Abdul Halim, a director general at the prime minister’s office, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

However, Supreme Court lawyer Sara Hossain said more needed to be done to educate girls about their right to consent and plug legal loopholes.

“People might just avoid the registration because it is not required for validity of marriage and there is only a minor penalty for not registering. It’s not a big thing,” Hossain told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We would be mistaken to think that something like this will be a magic bullet solution.”

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Art Robots to Help Painters’ Creativity

A new invention is a result of a joint effort by artists and scientists. Computerized art robots can memorize artist’s strokes and effects and reproduce them as needed. They can perform at the artist’s direction, cover large surfaces and make precision painting easier and quicker. Old masters often used their students to help paint a large canvas and ease the tediousness of repetitive strokes. As VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports, that work too can now be taken over by robots.

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Art Robots to Help Painters’ Creativity

A new invention is a result of a joint effort by artists and scientists. Computerized art robots can memorize artist’s strokes and effects and reproduce them as needed. They can perform at the artist’s direction, cover large surfaces and make precision painting easier and quicker. Old masters often used their students to help paint a large canvas and ease the tediousness of repetitive strokes. As VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports, that work too can now be taken over by robots.

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