Amazon launches a Polly WordPress plugin that turns blog posts into audio, including podcasts


Amazon today is launching a new Amazon Polly WordPress plugin that gives your blog a voice by creating audio versions of your posts. The resulting audio can be played from within the blog post itself, or accessed in podcast form using a feature called Amazon Pollycast, the company says.

The plugin itself was jointly designed by Amazon’s AWS team and managed WordPress platform provider WP Engine, and takes advantage of Amazon’s text-to-speech service, Polly.

First introduced at Amazon’s re:Invent developer event back in November 2016, Polly uses machine learning technologies under the hood to deliver more life-like speech. For example, Polly understands that the word “live” would be pronounced differently based on its usage. In the phrases “I live in Seattle” and “Live from New York,” the word is spelled the same but is not spoken in the same way. That means the voices sound more natural than some other, more basic voice-to-text engines.

The Polly speech engine launched with 47 male and female voice and support for 24 languages. Since then, Amazon added support for Korean, another 5 languages, and made Polly available in all regions in the AWS partition.

The technology’s capabilities have also evolved, with added support for things like whispering, speech marks, a timbre effect, and dynamic range compression. These sorts of voice technology advancements are also things that make Alexa sound more natural, too. Similar to Polly, Alexa learned how to whisper and change the pitch of her voice earlier this year.

The launch of the WordPress plugin is not the first time Polly has been used to turn digital text to speech, of course. The service itself has always been capable of turning any text – news articles, blog posts, RSS feeds, PDFs, and more – into audio. However, making this functionality available as a WordPress plugin makes Polly more accessible to a wider audience.

However, the plugin is only available to anyone running their own installation of WordPress on their own infrastructure or on AWS, and does require a bit of configuration. That may make it a bit more challenging for less technical types to use. (Instructions are here on the Amazon developer blog and on the plugin’s page.)

Once set up, the plugin makes calls to Amazon Polly whenever a blog post is saved or updated.

In addition to simply reading posts aloud, Polly’s flexibility means you could configure different voices for different bylines, or use different voices for quoted text. The plugin could also offer translation capabilities so your blog could be read by those who speak other languages.

For podcasters, the plugin includes a feature called Pollycast that lets you control the iTunes parameters that are in the generated RSS feed, like the iTunes category, image, contact email, and explicit content flag.

The Amazon Polly plugin is free, but using Polly is not.

Pricing is based on the number of characters in the speech requests. It’s also worth noting the AWS free tier allows up to 5 million characters per month at no charge for the first year after you begin to use Polly.

from TechCrunch

This Android keyboard is designed to boost girls’ self-confidence — here’s how it works



girls on phonesThe developers of Sheboard, a new keyboard application built for Android, want to make people more aware of the language they use about girls by serving up positive word alternatives to users while they’re texting. 

The app was built by Plan International Finland, an organization that advocates for children’s rights and gender equality for girls. Plan International points to research it says proves that people often unknowingly choose different words for when they’re talking to or about girls versus boys. These differences in word choice, depicted in a promotional video for the Sheboard app, incentivize stereotypes and impact girls’ self-esteem at young age, according to the organization.

So Plan set out to fix the problem with an app that suggests words while you’re typing, similar to the way your default predictive keyboard would do.

Here’s how Sheboard works:

SEE ALSO: Snap rolled out a ‘do not disturb’ feature weeks ago and didn’t tell you about it

The Sheboard interface (pictured right) was designed to be similar to the default keyboard for Android phones (pictured left).

It may not have all the same bells and whistles as Google’s keyboard, but the Sheboard works pretty similarly and has its own machine-learning technology that makes the predictions better the more you use it.

The keyboard uses predictive text technology to suggest words associated with positive ideas like intellect, strength, and bravery.

It also replaces some commonly used phrases.

The keyboard suggested "adventurer" before "princess" was even fully typed out (it pulled it up when it just said "prin").

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

from SAI

Take a Breath of Fresh Design



According to data from World Health Organization (WHO), 92% of the world’s population lives in air-polluted places, and thus, breathes a lot of contaminated air. A problem most of us take for granted and continue to contribute and pollute it on a daily basis. It is said that within each year, an estimated of 6.5 million people died because of both indoor and outdoor air pollution. A staggering number of a world looking at making smarter audio equipment instead of smart air sensors.

Inspired by the look of the plant, AirQuality is designed as a handy product where the design relates to the function. Designed by Ryan Yeung, the AirQuality is a Bluetooth wireless connected device that measures VOC/CO2, the temperature and humidity in the surrounding area. Carrying a somewhat playful aesthetic, the natural and artificial contrast here is an ironic twist on such a well-needed product. What may seem at first playful, may be a product which helps you live better and healthier in the long run. Time to ditch that minimalistic steel desk sculpture and replace it with this functional smart air sensors.

Designer: Ryan Yeung







from Yanko Design

Headband-less Headphones are a Thing Now



This peculiar pack of headphones combines the freedom and flexibility of wireless earbuds with the isolation and audio quality of on-ear phones. Ergonomically adapted to attach to each independently, they easily slide on and stay put. Rather than take them out of your ears when you want to converse or better hear your environment, a simple swipe of the finger over the earpiece will trigger them to open. It’s almost as if you were wearing nothing on your ears at all. Swipe again to reactivate the enclosure mechanism and you’ll be immersed in your favorite tunes or entertainment again. What’s more is, when you join both earpieces, Iris becomes a Bluetooth speaker for background noise or livening up any atmosphere!

Designers: Mauricio Carvajal & Susana Restrepo









from Yanko Design

Twitter is *finally* profitable for the first time ever


Twitter is *finally* profitable for the first time ever


It turns out cutting back, focusing, and maybe a little Donald Trump can help make money. 

Twitter reported its first-ever profitable quarter Thursday after more than four years of trading on the public market. The company announced $91 million in profit for the fourth quarter of 2017. Profitability was the #goal, CEO Jack Dorsey told investors in February 2017, and Twitter nailed it. The stock was up by more than 14 percent in after-hours trading.

Monthly user growth remained flat. Twitter announced 300 million monthly active users, the same as last quarter. But it did achieve a 12 percent year over year growth in daily active users.

“Q4 was a strong finish to the year,” Dorsey said in a statement. “We returned to revenue growth, achieved our goal of GAAP profitability, increased our shipping cadence, and reached five consecutive quarters of double digit DAU [daily active user] growth. I’m proud of the steady progress we made in 2017, and confident in our path ahead.”

The margin is small, but it did beat expectations. Twitter brought in $732 million in revenue, beating analysts’ estimates of $686 million and up by 2 percent from a year prior. That’s also a return to revenue growth.

Profitability looks great. But as Dorsey said himself, it can be a choice.

“It is a choice between investment and driving profit,” Dorsey said at Twitter’s international headquarters in Dublin, rounded up in a piece by Silicon Republic. “We believe there is a massive opportunity to grow and invest in the business.”

The rise wasn’t easy. Twitter had several rounds of layoffs and cut investments like shutting down six-second-video app Vine and selling its developer platform Fabric to Google. It’s been removing the advertising product TellApart. 

But Twitter has focused on other initiatives, such as live video. Twitter has a 24/7 live video partnership with Bloomberg and has inked dozens of deals with other networks for shows. 

from Mashable!