Amazon patents a real-time accent translator


Amazon has applied for a patent for an audio system that detects the accent of a speaker and changes it to the accent of the listener, perhaps helping eliminate communication barriers in many situations and industries. The patent doesn’t mean the company has made it (or necessarily that it will be granted), but there’s also no technical reason why it can’t do so.

The application, spotted by Patent Yogi, describes “techniques for accent translation.” Although couched in the requisite patent-ese, the method is quite clear. After a little translation of my own, here’s what it says:

In a two-party conversation, received audio is analyzed to see if it matches with one of a variety of stored accents. If so, the input audio from each party is outputted based on the accent of the other party.

It’s kind of a no-brainer, especially considering all the work that’s being done right now in natural language processing. Accents can be difficult to understand, especially if you haven’t spoken with an individual before, and especially without the critical cues from facial and body movements that make in-person communication so much more effective.

The most obvious place for an accent translator to be deployed is in support, where millions of phone calls take place regularly between people in distant countries. It’s the support person’s goal to communicate clearly and avoid adding to the caller’s worries with language barriers. Accent management is a major part of these industries; support personnel are often required to pass language and accent tests in order to advance in the organization they work for.

A computational accent remover would not just improve their lot, but make them far more effective. Now a person with an Arabic accent can communicate just as well with just about anyone who speaks the same language — no worries if the person on the other end has heavily Austrian, Russian, or Korean-accented English; if it’s English, it should work.

There are of course lots of other situations where this could be helpful — while traveling, for instance, or conducting international business. I’m sure you can think of a few situations of your own from the last few months or years where an accent reducer or translator would have been handy.

As for the actual execution of this system, that’s a big unknown. But Amazon has a huge amount of money and engineering talent dedicated to natural language processing, and there’s nothing about this system that strikes me as unrealistic or unattainable with existing technology.

It would be a machine learning model, of course, or rather a set of them, each trained on several hours of speech by people with a specific accent. Good thing Alexa has a worldwide presence! Amazon has an avalanche of audio samples coming in from Echoes and other devices all over the place, so many accents are likely already accounted for in their library. From there it’s just a matter of soliciting voice recordings from any group that’s underrepresented in that dataset.

Research along these lines has certainly been done already, but Amazon seems to have the jump on others on the creation of a specific system for using that knowledge in product form.

Notably the patent allows for a bit of cheating on the system’s part: it doesn’t have to scramble during the first few seconds to identify your accent, but can stack the deck a bit by checking the device’s location, phone number, previous accents encountered on that line, or of course simply allowing the speaker to pick their accent manually. Of course there will still be a variety within, say, a selected accent of “Pakistani,” but with enough data the system should be able to detect and accommodate those as well.

As always with patents there’s no guarantee this will actually take product form; it could just be research or a “defensive” patent intended to prevent rivals from creating a system like this in the meantime. But in this case I feel confident that there’s a real possibility a product will ship in the next year or so.

from TechCrunch

To Get Your Kids to Take Your Advice, Have Someone Else Give It to Them 

Photo: Jena Ardell (Getty Images)

On the parenting podcast What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood, co-host Amy Wilson told a childhood story about how she loved to poop in a diaper “until a pretty ripe old age.” She knew she shouldn’t do it, and her mom and dad knew she knew, but their efforts to get her to stop weren’t working. And so they finally took her to see a doctor. Here’s what happened next:

The pediatrician sat me on his lap and had me read aloud from a child advice book about getting kids to poop on the potty and why it’s important. And he had me read it to him. And he said, “Don’t you think that if you could read that, you’re old enough to not be doing this anymore?” And I was like, eh, okay, it was a good run. And that was the end of it.

Now that Wilson is a mom, she offers other parents the same tactic: To get your kids to take advice, have someone else give it to them. Someone you trust, of course. Let the dentist tell your child it’s time to stop using a pacifier. Let the nutritionist explain why too much junk food will make her body sick. Let Alexa tell him it’s 8 o’clock and therefore time to get ready for bed.


Says Wilson: “My mother’s approach was always, ‘The lady said …’ and I’m not afraid to use that either.”

Look, your children think the world of you and in their eyes, you are the most amazing person on the planet. But they also just watched you do Bullwinkle impressions in the shower and find your car keys in the freezer. In terms of your credentials for giving advice in certain areas, they’re skeptical. Also, kids are hardwired to be oppositional toward their parents, and the more you push, the more they push back. (As much as it sucks, it’s not a flaw). Sometimes, it helps to remove yourself from the equation, and let facts be the guide. And a way to relay facts to your child is through a reputable outside source.


The strategy works in tandem with a general philosophy of “show, don’t tell.” For instance, a nutritionist telling your kid to eat more vegetables will do nothing unless the child also sees you eat vegetables. You’re not offloading parenting responsibilities—you’re simply taking away the push and pull. For the kid, it’s not time to stop pooping in a diaper because “Mom said so,” but because it is time.

from Lifehacker

Fintech Companies Can Now Apply for US Banking Licence




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from Finance Magnates

This 28-year-old crashed his company twice and wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars of investors’ cash — here’s how he turned that same company into a huge success


peter reinhardt

  • Peter Reinhardt, CEO of data analytics company Segment, crashed his company twice before stumbling on a product that actually worked.
  • Reinhardt said he learned an important lesson about persistence from his experience.

In spring 2011, Peter Reinhardt and his two college roommates came up with an idea that they envisioned would spur deeper engagement in their classes at MIT. 

"We decided to build a classroom lecture tool: a button that a student could push in class and let the professor know exactly how they were confused," said Reinhardt.

On the merit of their idea, Reinhardt and his co-founders were accepted into an upcoming program from Y Combinator, the Silicon Valley-based incubator. 

"They let us in, they funded us, and over the course of the summer, we built out the product’s functionality," said Reinhardt. Before their product launch, Reinhardt and his team raised a modest funding round of $600,000.

They returned to Boston, where they planned to introduce their product to classrooms at a number of universities. 

But the rollout was not at all what Reinhardt expected. 

"It was a total disaster," said Reinhardt.

The issue? No one in class was using the product.

"We’d stand in the back of the room and try to figure out why people weren’t using it," said Reinhardt. "Every single student’s laptop would be open, but they’d be using Facebook or Flickr or Gmail. We were horrified. The professors were very upset."

Again and again, Reinhardt found that students weren’t interested in using the product he’d spent all summer building. With little market potential for the classroom survey tool, Reinhardt and his team decided to abandon the idea. This involved more than one uncomfortable phone call. 

"We called back all of our investors  all of the people who had wired us money only a few weeks earlier to say, ‘Hey, turns out that this was a terrible idea. Do you want your money back, or do you want us to try something else?’" said Reinhardt.

While a few people asked for a return, most of the team’s investors said they still believed in Reinhardt and his co-founders, and urged them to return to the drawing board. 

After much deliberation, the team settled on their next idea: a powerful data analytics tool that analyzed software programs.

But this product also failed to take off. 

"People didn’t want to believe data that came from a machine," said Reinhardt. "There was no narrative, and the product failed."

At this point, Reinhardt and his co-founders had been working on their company, called Segment, for nearly a year and half and blown through $500,000 of their investors’ money. Again, Segment had more bad news for its investors.

Reinhardt made a visit to Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham to tell him that Segment had once again failed. As Reinhardt recalls, Graham wasn’t too pleased at the news.

"We were walking around a little cul de sac in Y Combinator’s Mountain View office, and we told him," Reinhardt said. "He came to a stop, turned around, and said, ‘So, just to be clear, you’ve spent half a million dollars and have nothing to show for it?’"

After an uncomfortable pause, Reinhardt said he replied, "’Well yeah, I guess that’s true."

Graham’s inquiry suddenly put Segment’s ambition into perspective, said Reinhardt.

At that moment, the cold truth was exactly "the shock we needed," Reinhardt said. 

Reinhardt and his co-founders decided to revisit a few ideas they’d had along the way in building Segment. One idea they re-considered was an open-source data analytics tool that could blend seamlessly with other software extensions — 100 lines of code they’d written in their early days at Y Combinator. 

At first, Reinhardt was totally against the idea. 

"My co-founder said, ‘I think there’s a big business in this,’" Reinhardt said. "I said, ‘That’s literally the worst idea I’ve ever heard of  it’s 100 lines of code and open source. You can’t build a business from this. We fought all day long. I was racking my brain for hours, trying to think of ways to kill this idea."

Finally, Reinhardt gave in. His company was swiftly running out of time and money, and he was ready to give anything a chance. 

"We built a beautiful landing page and at the bottom we put an email for a hosted version of the service, an interface tool that you can turn on and off," said Reinhardt. "We put it up on [Y Combinator’s social site] Hacker News and waited to see what happened."

Immediately, inquiries began streaming in, said Reinhardt.

"We got a few thousand stars, a few thousand emails, tons of people demanding access to the beta product," said Reinhardt. "I was like, ‘Sorry guys, guess I was wrong. There’s something here, after all.’"

As Segment began work on the beta product, the company began attracting more interest.

"In 18 days, we had 70 companies sign up," said Reinhardt. 

Since then, Reinhardt’s tiny, problematic startup has bloomed into a full-fledged company with more than 250 employees working out of offices in San Francisco, New York, Vancouver, and Dublin. Segment estimates that more than 15,000 companies use a hosted version of their software, and that more than 300,000 regularly use their open-source data analytics framework. 

The fast growing company, which has so far taken in more than $100 million from blue chip investors including Accel, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Kleiner Perkins, and Thrive Capital, has proved a pleasant surprise to those investors who were previously ready to write Segment off as a loss.

Reinhardt says Segment’s success is a matter of persistence and thinking outside the box. However, he said that he probably held onto the earlier faulty iterations of Segment’s previous products a tad too long. 

"People tend to go way to long before they kill a product that doesn’t work." said Reinhardt. "You have to take a step back and ask, ‘What does the world or market actually need?’"

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The retro-futuristic Apparatum draws from Polish electronic music history


It’s equal parts Polish Radio Experimental Studio and starship control panel. The Apparatum by Warsaw’s panGenerator proves that not only can everything old is new again – maybe it’s even newer.

Take a look:

The Apparatum is a new installation that reboots Communist-era work from the space age, bringing visual and optical and magnetic concepts into a playful synthesizer concept. It’s the latest work from interactive/media shop panGenerator from Warsaw.

In the early adventurous work in electronic music, there was nothing to take for granted. So it makes sense that Polish pioneer Bogusław Schaeffer would imagine an entirely new visual language to accompany the new sounds humans were hearing from their circuits. His Symphony – electronic music cued the engineer with those hieroglyph-like visuals, and inspires the sounds and visual language here.

But maybe that’s what modernity is now: now that we’re no longer wowed by digital, we’re sophisticated enough to see new potential for magnetic and optical techniques that had been discarded in the march to the new. Artists/researchers like Andrey Smirnov, who delve into the world of Soviet optical synthesis and Theremin, have regularly wondered what an alternate future would be like if radical optical and electro-magnetic techniques had continued to develop. Now, in works like this (and work by artists like Derek Holzer) make that alternate reality our own.

The work also draws from the design aesthetics and the engineering of the original, legendary Polish studio:

The physical form is inspired by the general aesthetics of the Studio’s famous “Black Room” designed by Oskar Hansen. The electroacoustic generators and filters were arranged in a modular fashion inside two steel frames – the construction element that we’ve referred to in our design.

Magnetic tape was the primary medium used in the Polish Radio Experimental Studio. We’re also using two types of “tape samplers” – two 2-track loops and three one-shot linear tape samplers. To obtain noise and basic tones we’re utilising purely analog optical generators based on spinning discs with graphical patterns.

This may just look like digital tech aping the original, but they’ve genuinely made a hybrid. DC motors spin discs made of plexiglass, covered in opaque black foil on one side, with an LED and photoresistor. That optical detector feeds an analog signal, fed directly to the mixer. They’re real, opto-analog oscillators.

The magnetic part is real, too. 2-3 second tape loops record samples, with variable-speed playback, on top of 3 one-shots that move the magnetic head along the tape (with in turn varies pitch). So you have digitally-controlled magnetic tape and opto-analog synthesis – a fusion of past and present tech. It takes the historical sound techniques, but produces a more accessible, dynamic interface with the computer – digital input, analog output.

And visitors to the exhibition get real recorded results, too – just as they would if they stepped into the historical electroacoustic studio. There’s a printout of the score, plus a digital record uploaded to a server.

The historical use of tape is reimagined with real, digitally-controlled magnetic tape sampling.

The historical gear that inspired the new invention, side by side with the results.

Visual scores accompany the sonic creations.

The Apparatum will make the trip this weekend to Karlsruhe, Germany, where it will accompany an exhibition on now through the start of next year on the historical Polish studio:

Through the Soundproof Curtain. The Polish Radio Experimental Studio

Apparatum is there from the 4th to the 12th:

If this has picqued your interest, you can learn a lot more about the studio in this series of articles:

Polish Radio Experimental Studio: A Close Look

And the design aspect specifically:

Spatial Music: Design and the Polish Radio Experimental Studio

Now let’s check some more pr0n of the installation:

This work nicely echoes what curator Natalia Fuchs argued in our interview earlier this week – that media archaeology could lead artists to new innovations:

Between art tech and techno, past and future, a view from Russia

Previously, panGenerator on CDM:

FEEDBOXES are autonomous sound toys that play along with you

MICKEYPHON is a terrifying giant robot head that’s also a musical instrument

The post The retro-futuristic Apparatum draws from Polish electronic music history appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

from Create Digital Music

12 six-figure jobs everyone wants but are incredibly hard to get


man computer

  • High-paying jobs are widely coveted, to say the least.
  • It’s not surprising that occupations that promise big paychecks attract a ton of competition.
  • Glassdoor recently ranked a number of hard-to-get jobs with six-figure salaries.
  • So if you apply to one of these roles, be prepared to bring your A game.

High-paying jobs are highly sought after. So it’s not hard to believe that the competition for particularly lucrative gigs can get pretty fierce.

Job site Glassdoor recently compiled a list of some of the most sought-after jobs that earn high salaries. To find these competitive jobs, Glassdoor combed its database of job titles that received more than 30 salary reports from US employees and have at least 1,000 active job openings.

For this list, jobs are considered competitive whenever there are more job candidates than there are open positions. Each of the jobs on the list had an average of at least three applicants per job opening. 

Here are a number of six-figure jobs that just about everyone’s after:

SEE ALSO: The highest-paying jobs in finance, according to LinkedIn

DON’T MISS: 16 high-paying jobs that saw some of the biggest pay raises over the past 12 months

SEE ALSO: The 15 highest-paying jobs in the US, according to LinkedIn

Data engineer

Median base salary: $100,000

Number of job openings: 2,572

Ratio of people who applied per job opening: 3.06

Software engineer

Median base salary: $103,000

Number of job openings: 24,743

Ratio of people who applied per job opening: 4.65

Management consultant

Median base salary: $110,000

Number of job openings: 1,055

Ratio of people who applied per job opening: 2.07

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

from SAI

‘You’re getting nothing’: Steve Jobs’ daughter wrote a heartbreaking memoir about their often brutal relationship


Lisa Brennan Jobs

  • Lisa Brennan-Jobs, daughter of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, published an excerpt from her upcoming book that deals with her difficult relationship with her father.
  • The chapter, carried by Vanity Fair, covers some heartbreaking incidents, such as his denying paternity and refusing child-support payouts.
  • Brennan-Jobs outlines her sense of alienation from her father, and her childhood wish of having a normal relationship with him.
  • The new, rare portrait of Jobs adds more nuance to portrayals of him as a visionary CEO, showing that he could be cruel in his personal life.

Lisa Brennan-Jobs, daughter of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, has published an excerpt from her upcoming memoir "Small Fry" — and it contains heartbreaking details about her difficult relationship with her father.

This is the first time Brennan-Jobs has written in depth about her father, who initially denied paternity and refused to pay child support payments to her mother Chrisann Brennan. Jobs died in 2011 aged 56 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The excerpt, published in Vanity Fair’s September issue, opens with a literary rendering of Steve Jobs’ final days, presided over by a Buddhist monk who instructed a visiting Lisa to "touch his feet." Jobs converted to Buddhism at a young age.

Brennan-Jobs describes visiting her sick father every weekend, and trying to fit in around her stepmother Laurene Powell and her three half-siblings.

laurene jobs and steve jobs

She wrote: "I had given up on the possibility of a grand reconciliation, the kind in the movies, but I kept coming anyway."

The excerpt also deals with Jobs turning up to his daughter’s birth in 1978 and denying paternity until the district attorney of San Mateo County, California forced him to take a test and to cough up child support.

In one telling detail, Brennan-Jobs outlines how Jobs’ lawyers insisted on finalising child support payouts and other payments on December 8, 1980. Four days later, Apple would IPO and Jobs would become immensely wealthy.

She also recalled believing that her father replaced his Porsche every time it had a scratch, and asking if she could have his current model when he got rid of it.

"You’re not getting anything," he responded. "You understand? Nothing. You’re getting nothing."

Brennan-Jobs added that her father had not been "generous with money, or food, or words."

The excerpt is shot with Brennan-Jobs’ childhood sense that she didn’t have a normal relationship with her father, and simply wanting to be closer to him.

She wrote: "For him, I was a blot on a spectacular ascent, as our story did not fit with the narrative of greatness and virtue he might have wanted for himself. My existence ruined his streak. For me, it was the opposite: The closer I was to him, the less I would feel ashamed; he was part of the world, and he would accelerate me into the light."

She uses the Apple Lisa, the failed precursor to the Macintosh, as a metaphor for her attempts to belong to her father.

Apple Lisa

"Was it named after me?" she asked her father at one point.

"Nope. Sorry kid," he responded.

But in a sign of their changing relationship, she recalls a later episode where Jobs invited her on holiday with the whole family — and took them all to visit his friend, U2 frontman Bono.

Bono repeated Lisa’s question, asking Jobs if he named the Lisa after his daughter. This time, he responds with: "Yup."

You can read the full extract at Vanity Fair here.

SEE ALSO: A look at the mysterious life of Steve Jobs’ formerly estranged daughter, Lisa, who inherited a fortune

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