WaveNet Machine-Generated Speech from DeepMind Eclipses Competitor Technology

July 13, 2017

The article on Bloomberg titled Google’s DeepMind Achieves Speech-Generation Breakthrough touts a 50% improvement over current technology for machine speech. DeepMind developed an AI called WaveNet that focuses on mimicking human speech by learning the sound waves of human voices. In testing, the machine-generated speech beat existing technology, but is still not meeting the level of actual human speech.

The article expands,

Speech is becoming an increasingly important way humans interact with everything from mobile phones to cars. Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Microsoft Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google have all invested in personal digital assistants that primarily interact with users through speech. Mark Bennett, the international director of Google Play, which sells Android apps, told an Android developer conference in London last week that 20 percent of mobile searches using Google are made by voice, not written text.

It is difficult to quantify the ROI for the $533M that Google spent to acquire DeepMind in 2014, since most of their advancements are not extremely commercial. Google did credit DeepMind with the technology that helped slash power needs by 40%. But this breakthrough involves far too much computational power to lend itself to commercial applications. However, Google must love that with the world watching, DeepMind continues to outperform competitors in AI advancement.

Chelsea Kerwin, July 13, 2017

Google, Microsoft Trail Amazon AWS Success

June 28, 2017

Is it now impossible for any fourth company to claw their way to the top of the cloud? Amazon’s AWS is still way ahead in the hosted-services game, but Google’s CloudPlatform and Microsoft’s Azure are also flourishing,  we learn from  “AWS, Google, and Microsoft Cement Their Cloud Dominance” at InfoWorld. Writer Matt Asay observes:

[AWS is] redefining enterprise IT forever, with everyone else having to sprint to catch up to its torrid pace of innovation and price cuts. Interestingly, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud appear to be doing exactly that. … The market is consolidating around the big three cloud vendors, and it may be too late to add a fourth.

 

Though both Microsoft and Google have yet to break out their respective cloud revenue numbers (they’re not required to until it represents 5 percent of their overall company revenue), both reported big increases for 2016. Microsoft’s Azure revenue grew 95 percent in constant currency, and while Google didn’t report revenue or growth numbers, it suggested it had ‘significant momentum’ in the year, a claim made more believable by deals like Snap’s ($2 billion over five years for Google Cloud services). The problem for Microsoft and Google is that AWS isn’t slowing down. If anything, it’s accelerating.

Ah, lively competition. Asay emphasizes that much of Amazon’s success has occurred because they were able to reduce prices while increasing functionality. That is indeed a difficult combination to beat. Google or Microsoft may be in the position to pull off an upset, perhaps with some remarkable feat of innovation. Fourth place and below may be wise to pursue revenue streams outside the hosting field.

Cynthia Murrell, June 28, 2017

Bing Focuses on Chatbots

June 21, 2017

Chatbot enthusiasts may want to turn to Bing, because now “Bing Makes it Easier to Find Chat Bots,” according to SearchEngine Journal.” Writer Matt Southern reveals:

Bing has released an update designed to make it easier to find chat bots for instant messaging platforms. Searching for a command such as ‘travel bots’ will return a dedicated answer box where you can browse through chat bots for Facebook, Skype, Slack, and Telegram. Bots can be added to messaging platforms directly from search results by clicking on the ‘Add bot’ button. Bing is piloting a test program which allows searchers to interact with chat bots on Bing itself. Searching for specific restaurants in the Seattle area can return a dedicated bot which you can chat with for more information about the restaurant.

Bing hopes to expand the restaurant service to more cities “eventually.” Meanwhile, they have been developing an InfoBot to answer users’ questions with entries from Wikipedia and, later, from other information sites like WebMD and AllRecipies. We’re also told that developers can use the Microsoft Bot Framework to design Bing chatbots, which may be made available to users after a review process.

Cynthia Murrell, June 21, 2017

Russia Demands Google Register or Leave

June 19, 2017

Say, this could be good news for Yandex, the Russian search giant. RT News reports, “Google News Given 3 Mths to Comply with New Law to Stay in Russia.” The article explains:

According to the Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor, major news sites with traffic exceeding a million visitors per day will be put on a special register in 2017. ‘At the moment, only large and popular aggregators such as Yandex, Google, Mail.ru, and others have such a high level of traffic,’ Roskomnadzor spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky told Izvestia daily.

Foreign news aggregators will have three months from January 1 to register their legal entities, thus allowing them to operate in Russia. Currently, there are two major news aggregators owned by foreign companies in Russia – Google and Bing. Bing belongs to Microsoft which already has a Russian subsidiary called Microsoft Rus.

If Google fails to register, it could be fined and, eventually, blocked within Russia’s borders. A quote from Sergey Kopylov, representative of the Russian National Internet Domain, seems to indicate advertising will be against the new rules. We know Google makes most of its money through AdWords, so how will the company respond to this demand?

Cynthia Murrell, June 19, 2017

USAFacts Centralizes Access to Data on Government Spending

May 12, 2017

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s recent project was inspired by his wife, Connie, who wished him to practice more philanthropy. Wouldn’t it help to know what our government is already doing  with its (our) money, he wondered? Out of this question has sprung USAFacts, a website that serves up “federal, state, and local data from over 70 government sources.” I appreciate the presentation, which ties data to four specific directives embedded in the Preamble to our Constitution. For example, the heading Establish Justice and Ensure Domestic Tranquility leads to stats on Crime and Disaster, Safeguarding Consumers and Employees, and Child Safety and Social Services. Tying such information to our founding document will prompt many to consider these data points in a more thoughtful way.

The site’s About page describes its team’s approach and methodology. The effort has not been easy; we’re told:

With his business background, Steve searched for solid, reliable, impartial numbers to tell the story… but eventually realized he wasn’t going to find them. He put together a small team of people – economists, writers, researchers – and got to work.

We soon discovered that dealing with something as big and complex as government – with its more than 90,000 jurisdictions and 23 million employees – required an organizing framework. What better place to look than the Constitution, and, more specifically, the preamble to the Constitution? … While we don’t make judgments about policy, we all agree on the broad purposes of government as laid out in the preamble to the Constitution.

Still, in beta, USA Facts is partnering with academic institutions like the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, the Penn Wharton Budget Model, and Lynchburg College. They are working to document their process and controls, and plan to have their methods reviewed by a “prominent” accounting firm for accuracy. We look forward to watching this project grow.

Cynthia Murrell, May 12, 2017

Swiftype Launches SaaS Enterprise Search Platform

May 10, 2017

While AI is a hot commodity, enterprise search has been more of a disappointment. That is why we are surprised by one company’s confidence in the search market—KMWorld shares, “Swiftype Launches AI-Powered Content Discovery Engine for Enterprise Users.” This integration of AI into enterprise search is the firm’s first (formal) venture into cloud services. Writer Joyce Wells tells us:

With a single search, the company says, a user can locate information across accounts in Salesforce, files on Dropbox, documents in Google G Suite or Office 365, information from internal databases, and conversation threads on Gmail. Swiftype also integrates directly into apps such as Salesforce and Confluence to allow users to search and find content across all of these services without disturbing their existing workflows.

According to the vendor, the platform provides Swiftype AI-powered search applications built natively for mobile, desktop, and web browsers, as well as additional workflow integrations that allow users to search all their data from the applications they already use. There is also a Connector Framework to help quickly connect cloud-based platforms.

So far, Swiftype has integrated the platforms of Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, Atlassian, and Zendesk into their product. We also learn the company’s AI platform, dubbed Enterprise Knowledge Graph, will take into account calendar events, email content, and user behavior as crafts analyses. Launched in 2012, the Swiftype is based in San Francisco.

Cynthia Murrell, May 10, 2017

US Still Most Profitable for Alphabet

May 8, 2017

Alphabet, Inc., the parent company of Google generates maximum revenue from the US market. Europe Middle East and Africa combined come at second and Asia Pacific occupying the third slot.

Recode in its earnings report titled Here’s Where Alphabet Makes Its Money says:

U.S. revenue increased 25 percent from last year to $11.8 billion. Sales from the Asia-Pacific region rose 29 percent to $3.6 billion. Revenue from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa was up 13 percent to $8.1 billion.

Despite the fact that around 61% of world population is in Asia Pacific region, Google garnering most of the revenues from a mere 322 million people is surprising. It can be attributed to the fact that China, which forms the bulk of Asia’s population does not have access to Google or its services. India, another emerging market though is open, is yet to embrace digital economy fully.

While chances of Chinese market opening up for Google are slim, India seems to be high on the radar of not only Google but also for other tech majors like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook.

Vishol Ingole, May 8, 2017

Microsoft Offers Android Users a (Weak) Bing Incentive

May 4, 2017

It looks like Microsoft has stooped to buying traffic for Bing; that cannot bode well.  OnMSFT reports, “Set Bing as Your Search Engine on iPhone or Android, Get a Microsoft Rewards $5 Gift Card.”  Paradoxically, they don’t seem terribly anxious to spread the word. Reporter Kareem Anderson writes:

Sleuthers over in the Reddit forums have dug up a neat little nugget of savings for iPhone and Android users. According to a thread at the Xbox One subreddit, iPhone and Android users who set their default search engine to Bing can receive a Microsoft Rewards $5 gift card. The details were originally pulled from a Microsoft site instructing users on how to make the change from Google to Bing on smartphone devices. We should note that the redemption process hasn’t been without its issues as several Android users have mentioned that it has not worked or appears delayed in confirming the release of gift cards.

So, they’ve created an incentive, but are not promoting it or, apparently, fulfilling it effectively—talk about mixed messages! Still, if you use an Android device and are inclined toward Bing, but haven’t yet set it as your default browser, you may be able to profit a little by doing so.  Anderson shares a link to the Microsoft Rewards page for our convenience.

Cynthia Murrell, May 4, 2017

Cortana Becomes an MD

April 17, 2017

Smartphone assistants like Microsoft’s Cortana are only good for verbal Internet searches.  They can be made smarter with an infusion of machine learning and big data.  According to Neowin, Microsoft is adding NLP and AI to Cortana and sending it to medical school, “The UK’s Health Services Now Relies On Cortana Intelligence Suite To Read Medical Research.”

Microsoft takes a lot of flak for their technology, but they do offer comprehensive solutions that do amazing things…when they work.  The UK Health Services will love and hate their new Cortana Intelligence Suite.  It will be utilized to read and catalog medical research to alert medical professionals to new trends in medicine:

Researching and reading can consume medical professionals’ times, stealing a valuable resource from patients.

That’s why the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is now relying on Microsoft’s Cortana Intelligence Suite for sifting through medical data. NICE uses machine-learning algorithms to look at published medical research, categorize it, and feed it to volunteer citizen scientists which then re-categorizes and processes it. This leaves researchers time to go through the final data, interpret and understand it, without having to waste time on the way. It also forms a virtuous cycle, whereby the citizen scientists feed the computer algorithm data and improve it, and the computer algorithm feeds the volunteers better data, speeding up their work.

Medical professionals need to be aware of current trends and how medical research is progressing, but the shear amount of papers and information available is an impossible feat to control.  Cortana can smartly parry down the data and transform it into digestible, useful material.

Whitney Grace, April 17, 2017

Motivations for Microsoft LinkedIn Purchase

April 13, 2017

We thought the purchase was related to Microsoft’s in-context, real-time search within an Office application. However, according to BackChannel’s article, “Now We Know Why Microsoft Bought LinkedIn,” it’s all about boosting the company’s reputation. Writer Jessi Hempel takes us back to 2014, when CEO Satya Nadella was elevated to his current position. She reminds of the fiscal trouble Microsoft was having at the time, then continues:

It also had a lousy reputation, particularly in Silicon Valley, where camaraderie and collaboration are hallmarks of tech’s evolution and every major player enjoys frenemy status with its adversaries. Microsoft wasn’t a company that partnered with outsiders. It scorned the open-source community and looked down its nose at tech upstarts. In a public conversation with Marc Andreessen in October 2014, investor Peter Thiel called Microsoft a bet ‘against technological innovation.’

The write-up goes on to detail ways Nadella has turned the company around financially. According to Hempel, the LinkedIn purchase, and the installation of its founder Reid Hoffman on the board, are in an effort to boost Microsoft’s reputation. Hembel observes:

As a board member, Hoffman will be Microsoft’s ambassador in the Valley. Among a core group of constituents for whom Microsoft may not factor into conversation, Hoffman will work to raise its profile. The trickle-down effect has the potential to be tremendous as Microsoft competes for partners and talent.

See the article for more information on the relationship between the Nietzsche-quoting Nadella and the charismatic tech genius Hoffman, as well as changes Microsoft has been making to boost both its reputation and its bottom line.

Cynthia Murrell, April 13, 2017

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