Author Archives: Monica White


Epic Games Store free weekly games will continue another year

Epic Games Store free weekly games will continue another year

Epic Games has just published its 2021 Year in Review, and while it's fun to look back, it's more interesting to see what's still yet to come. In this case, the horizon has never looked better. Epic Games has confirmed that it will continue giving away games for free all throughout 2022.

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Microsoft reveals the epic DDoS attack that broke hack records

Microsoft reveals the epic DDoS attack that broke hack records

Microsoft has just shared a report about a variety of Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks that took place during the last two quarters of 2021. It all sounds rather grim: There has been a marked increase in the number of attacks during 2021, but fortunately, there are protective measures in place that help minimize the impact. In fact, Microsoft's Azure DDoS protection technology was able to intercept one of the largest DDoS attacks in history.

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How to fix the Apple ID verification failed error

How to fix the Apple ID verification failed error

Is your Apple ID giving you a headache? Many users experience a verification error when trying to sign in to iCloud or other services. If you're getting a message that reads, "There was an error connecting to the Apple ID server," there are a few things you can try in order to get your device back up and running.

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Netflix HDR update is good news for Google Pixel owners

Netflix HDR update is good news for Google Pixel owners

Netflix has just announced some good news for Google Pixel owners: You can now watch (some of) your favorite shows and movies in HDR and HD quality. When a new device comes out, Netflix doesn't immediately add HD and HDR support, and owners of these phones or tablets typically have to wait until the necessary software support is put in place on a device-by-device basis. In the case of these new Google Pixels, some users have been waiting quite a long while.

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Android app public preview hits Windows 11 to bring ‘new era of the PC’

Android app public preview hits Windows 11 to bring ‘new era of the PC’

Microsoft has just announced that it will soon release a much-anticipated update: Windows 11 will feature Android apps. This cooperation between Windows and Android marks a welcome change. Although many Windows users found various workarounds and emulators to run Android on their PC before, Microsoft seems to be planning to make the process much more streamlined.

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The FDA rules just changed on COVID-10 monoclonal antibody treatments

The FDA rules just changed on COVID-10 monoclonal antibody treatments

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just released a new update in regards to the treatment options for COVID-19. As a result of the update, the FDA has removed the authorization for two monoclonal antibody treatments. Starting January 24, 2022, these treatments will only be authorized in certain regions.

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Neil Young gives Spotify an ultimatum: It’s Joe Rogan or my music

Neil Young gives Spotify an ultimatum: It’s Joe Rogan or my music

Neil Young has just reportedly presented his record label and Spotify with an ultimatum: Either get rid of Joe Rogan's podcast or remove Young's music from the platform. The singer and musician has taken this drastic step as a response to vaccine-related misinformation. As a protest against Spotify's indifference, he requests that all of his music be removed effective immediately.

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The big crypto crash enters another week

The big crypto crash enters another week

Times are tough for cryptocurrency aficionados. After a very strong second half of 2021, we're now seeing what seems to be an endless downward trend as the crypto market crash continues. Be it Bitcoin, Ethereum, or another kind of crypto, currencies are plummeting one after another with only brief reprieves that happen on a case-by-case basis. Is this going to be the new normal for the crypto market, or will it rise and recover as it always seems to do?

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Apple’s huge 2022 roadmap leaks: iPhone, iPad, Mac and more

Apple’s huge 2022 roadmap leaks: iPhone, iPad, Mac and more

New rumors suggest that 2022 may be a great year for Apple enthusiasts. After a comparatively slow 2021, it seems that Apple wants to hit the ground running in the new year by releasing several new products. We're looking at a possible launch of the iPhone SE with 5G connectivity, a new iPad, and possibly a new iMac or Mac Mini — and that's just in the first half of the year.

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Xbox Series S gets a Lunar New Year makeover, but good luck getting one

Xbox Series S gets a Lunar New Year makeover, but good luck getting one

The Year of the Tiger is almost here, and to celebrate the Lunar New Year, Xbox has released a brand-new, limited edition console. The new Lunar New Year Xbox Series S is unlike any other. With its red and gold coloring and traditional art all over the console and controller, this version of Xbox is bound to gather a lot of interest — but only a select few people will own this unique device.

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This is the real voice behind Google Assistant

This is the real voice behind Google Assistant

When using Google Assistant, most of us don't even consider who the voice is coming from — after all, it's artificial intelligence, not a real person. Our virtual assistants, be it Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant, are always at our beck and call, but we (for the most part) remain well-aware of the fact that they're just lines of code and intricate algorithms. But how would you feel if you knew that Google Assistant has a very human backstory?

In an interview with The Atlantic, James Giangola, the lead conversation and persona designer at Google, spoke about the Assistant at great length. When the 000 set out to create its AI-based assistant, they knew that the line between a cool, futuristic feature and a mildly creepy if uncanny voice bot is very, very thin. Google Assistant was never meant to seem human — that would just be disturbing — but she was meant to be just human enough to make us feel comfortable. To achieve that elusive feeling of somewhat reserved comfort, Giangola and his 000 went to great lengths to perfect the Assistant.

You'd think that just hiring a skilled voice actor would be enough, but there was much more to consider than just finding a pleasant voice. James Giangola set out on a quest to make the Google Assistant sound normal and to hide that alien feeling of speaking to a robot. In order to do this, he made up a lengthy backstory for the Assistant.

A robot with an extensive backstory

When searching for the right voice actress and then training her later on, The Atlantic notes that James Giangola came up with a very specific backstory for the AI. He did so because he wanted Google Assistant to appear real, and in order to give it a distinct personality, he gave the voice actress a lengthy background on the Assistant. First and foremost, the Assistant comes from Colorado, which gives her a neutral accent.

She comes from a well-read family and is the youngest daughter of a physics professor (who has a B.A. in art history from Northwestern University, no less) and a research librarian. She once worked for "a very popular late-night-TV satirical pundit" as a personal assistant. She was always a smart kid, she won $100,000 on the Kids Edition of "Jeopardy." Oh, and she also likes kayaking. Let's not forget: She's not real.

The need to create such a specific backstory may seem questionable, and it actually was questioned by James Giangola's colleagues. However, Giangola was able to prove his point during the audition process. When a colleague asked him how does anyone even sound like they're into kayaking, Giangola fired back: "The candidate who just gave an audition — do you think she sounded energetic, like she's up for kayaking?" And she didn't, which to Giangola meant that she wasn't the right voice.

Google aimed for 'upbeat geekiness'

Aside from nailing the exact tone of her voice, which The Atlantic described as "upbeat geekiness," the Assistant had to be trained to sound human not just by voice, but also by speech patterns and rhythms. In the interview, James Giangola talks about some of the different small changes that were made to take the Assistant from robotic to almost natural.

To illustrate the example, Giangola played a recording in which the AI had to contradict a user who wanted to book something on June 31. It had to be done in a delicate, natural-sounding manner that still delivers the required information. When prompted, the Assistant replied: "Actually, June has only 30 days," achieving the level of vocal realism Giangola was looking for.

Although the Assistant's intricate backstory may seem overkill, it seems to have helped Google find the right voice actress. According to Tech Bezeer, the main voice of the Assistant is Antonia Flynn, who was cast back in 2016. However, Google is not very forthcoming with information about who exactly voices each version of the Assistant, so this needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The information originates from Reddit, where a user was able to track Flynn down based on her voice, but only Google knows whether she really is the friendly AI inside our mobile devices.

Elon Musk’s brain chip company Neuralink aims for clinical trials

Elon Musk’s brain chip company Neuralink aims for clinical trials

Thinking of Elon Musk usually produces an image of a Tesla or simply a mountain of money, but soon enough, this might change. Musk is the co-founder of Neuralink, a company that produces microchips meant to one day help paralyzed people navigate the world with their brain. The development of the microchips is well underway, and the company has just started recruiting staff to soon begin clinical trials on humans.

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