Big Tech &
Google contractors are secretly listening to your Assistant recordings (3 minute read)
A whistleblower working as a Google contractor has revealed that contractors have been listening to Google Home recordings as part of their roles in transcribing audio to improve speech recognition. Many of the recordings appear to have been made without owners of the device using the ‘Hey Google’ listening trigger. The contractor reports listening to recordings that reveal personal information, including addresses. Other recordings contain audio of bedroom activities, domestic violence, and even emergencies. The recordings are anonymized before being sent to contractors. There may be thousands of other contractors around the world listening to these recordings in order to transcribe the 0.2 percent of all audio clips that Google requires.
Facebook reportedly signed a deal for Splinter Cell and Assassin’s Creed VR games (2 minute read)
Facebook and Ubisoft have reportedly signed a deal to release the next Splinter Cell and Assassin’s Creed games exclusively on the Oculus VR. Exclusive games are a major selling point for Oculus. Sony has also adopted a similar strategy by releasing games available only on Playstation VR. Facebook has been focusing more on gaming recently as Fortnite has become a larger competitor to the social network.
A hospital introduced a robot to help nurses. They didn’t expect it to be so popular (5 minute read)
Nurses are currently in high demand. The number of nursing jobs was estimated to grow by 15 percent between 2016 and 2026. A robot designed by Diligent Robotics helps nurses by completing approximately 30 percent of the tasks that nurses are required to do that do not involve interacting with patients. Moxi is preprogrammed to run errands automatically, such as delivering an admission bucket to a room after a patient is discharged. The robot was unexpectedly popular with patients and staff during testing, especially after the team added some social functions. It is designed to look non-threatening while remaining highly functional. The workload that the robot takes off nurses means that nurses have more time and energy to focus on patients.
Programming, Design & Data Science
A Code-First Intro to Natural Language Processing (GitHub Repo)
This course teaches Natural Language Processing through code. It was originally taught as part of the University of San Francisco's Masters of Science in Data Science program in summer 2019. It uses a ‘top-down’ teaching method as students might learn the material faster through completing exercises, rather than learning about each component first.
The challenges of teaching software engineering (3 minute read)
Graham Lee reflects on the challenges he faced while teaching a four-day course introducing software engineering for the first time. Lee was too comfortable with tools that beginners would find daunting, for example, the command line. He found he needed to be more specific and focus on what needed to be taught. There were many things he felt he didn’t have time to teach, while other topics he felt like he shouldn’t have introduced. Overall, there needs to be a balance between introducing information and demonstrating the value of the information that is taught.
The Great Race to Rule Streaming TV (30 minute read)
Our phones are now TVs, with more and more shows to watch on them all the time. Media companies such as HBO, who have always strived to produce premium, high-quality shows, are now pressured to create a higher volume of content at a lower cost to compete with other streaming services. HBO is now experimenting with creating a game show, which may be released under a different brand name. Streaming services are now competing for attention. New formulas for shows are being created to continue capturing the attention of audiences. The media world seems to be changing, with a wide variety of shows being created, but it may eventually result in a scenario where a few large companies dictate a certain formula of shows being released.
Microsoft’s new London store is big, bold, and British (6 minute read)
Microsoft’s new flagship store has opened in Oxford Circus, on the corner of Regent Street and Oxford Street in London. The store’s three levels are filled with Surface devices, HoloLens headsets, and a big Xbox gaming lounge. It took two years for Microsoft to develop the store, which included restoring many of the store location’s historical features. The store is only a few doors away from Apple’s retail store on Regent Street, but this is because both companies were searching for premium locations. Microsoft will be in a better position to serve its customers, even if they had just purchased Apple products. Over four million people visit Oxford Street each week, so the store will be busy.