Tuesday November 13, 2018
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A Smarter Google Assistant to Offer 6 New Voices

Google Assistant becomes smarter, to get six new voices

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Google Pixel cameras to have external microphones support. Pixabay
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Making the competition in Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered assistants space tougher, Google on Tuesday announced that people will soon have a choice of choosing from six voices, including one of musician John Legend, to talk to “Google Assistant”.

At its annual developer conference Google I/O, the company said these six options, which feature both male and female voices, would be rolled out later this year.

Company CEO Sundar Pichai said that Google has been working on newer and more life-like version of its spoken AI that features natural voice that is “closer to how humans speak.”

The improvements include more natural pauses “that have meaning” and other subtleties to help create a “more natural dialogue” with Assistant.

This new version of the Assistant is built on a tech machine learning technology called Wavenet, which the company started building out some 18 months ago.

Now instead of having to say “Hey Google” or “OK Google” every time to give a command, users only have to do this one time and then have a conversation with the Assistant.

Google calls this feature “continued conversation” and it’ll roll out in the coming week.

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Google. Pixabay

The new powerful Assistant can now distinguish between two sentences that are joined by “and” and can reply with two different query-specific answers in one go.

The tech giant wants to bundle its voice assistant into every device and app and is bringing Google Assistant in Google Maps. It’ll be available on iOS and Android this summer.

Users can now share estimated time of arrival with their contacts without touching the device.

Further, the Assistant would soon be able make calls for you to make reservations at restaurants or salons.

It would also teach children to use polite language when interacting with the Google Assistant’s “Pretty Please feature. When kids say “Please” during a command, they would receive thanks from the virtual assistant in response.

Google says that “Pretty Please” feature would launch later this year.

The company also brought Assistant-powered Smart Displays. These devices would be launched in July.

Also Read: Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Tech: ‘Deep Responsibility to get This Right’

Pichai also showcased a revamped Gmail and announced another new feature called “Smart Compose,” which will help users write emails using machine learning technology.

As you type, Smart Compose pops up suggestions about what you might want to write next – similar to Google autocomplete.

“As the name suggests, we use machine learning to start suggesting phrases for you. All you have to do is hit tab to keep auto-completing. In this case, it understands the subject is ataco Tuesday.’ It takes care of mundane things like addresses so you can focus on what you want to type,” Pichai explained. (IANS)

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Sexual Misconduct Cases Will Be Handled Better: Google

Google isn't addressing another one of the protesters' grievance because it believes it doesn't have merit.

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Workers protest against Google's handling of sexual misconduct allegations at the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. VOA

Google is promising to be more forceful and open about its handling of sexual misconduct cases, a week after high-paid engineers and others walked out in protest over its male-dominated culture.

CEO Sundar Pichai spelled out the concessions in an email sent Thursday to Google employees. The note of contrition came a week after the tech giant’s workers left their cubicles in dozens of offices around the world to protest management’s treatment of top executives and other male workers accused of sexual harassment and other misconduct involving men. The protest’s organizers estimated about 17,000 workers participated in the walkout .

“Google’s leaders and I have heard your feedback and have been moved by the stories you’ve shared,” Pichai wrote in his email. “We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that. It’s clear we need to make some changes.” Pichai’s email was obtained by The Associated Press.

Google, Web summit, sexual misconduct
Google employees fill Harry Bridges Plaza in front of the Ferry Building during a walkout, Nov. 1, 2018, in San Francisco. Hundreds of Google employees around the world briefly walked off the job in a protest against what they said is the tech company’s mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations against executives. VOA

Google bowed to one of the protesters’ main demands by dropping mandatory arbitration of all sexual misconduct cases. That will now be optional under the new policies. It mirrors a change made by ride-hailing service Uber after the complaints of its women employees prompted an internal investigation concluding its rank had been poisoned by rampant sexual harassment

Google will also provide more details about sexual misconduct cases in internal reports available to all employees. The breakdowns will include the number of cases that were substantiated within various company departments and list the types of punishment imposed, including firings, pay cuts and mandated counseling.

The company is also stepping up its training aimed at preventing misconduct, requiring all employees to go through the process annually instead of every other year. Those who fall behind in their training, including top executives, will be dinged in their annual performance reviews, leaving a blemish that could lower their pay and make it more difficult to get promoted.

Google, Web summit, sexual misconduct
Google employees walk off the job in a protest against what they said is the tech company’s mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations against executives. VOA

The reforms are the latest fallout from a broader societal backlash against men’s exploitation of their women subordinates in business, entertainment and politics — a movement that has spawned the “MeToo” hashtag as a sign of unity and a call for change.

Google got caught in the crosshairs two weeks ago after The New York Times detailed allegations of sexual misconduct about the creator of Google’s Android software, Andy Rubin. The newspaper said Rubin received a $90 million severance package in 2014 after Google concluded the accusations were credible. Rubin has denied the allegations.

Like its Silicon Valley peers, Google has already openly acknowledged that its workforce is too heavily concentrated with white and Asian men, especially in the highest paying executive and computer programming jobs. Women account for 31 percent of Google’s employees worldwide, and it’s lower for leadership roles.

Google, sexual misconduct
Google employees gather in a courtyard as they take part in a walkout from their jobs at the Google campus in Kirkland, Washington. VOA

Critics believe that gender imbalance as created a “brogammer” culture akin to a college fraternity house that treats women as sex objects. As part of its ongoing efforts, Google will now require at least one woman or a non-Asian ethnic minority to be included on the list of candidates for executive jobs.

Also Read: Silicon Valley, Google Walk Off to Protest Against Mishandling of Sexual Harassment Cases

Google isn’t addressing another one of the protesters’ grievance because it believes it doesn’t have merit. The protesters demanded that women be paid the same as men for doing similar work, something that Google has steadfastly maintained that it has been doing for years. (VOA)