Current and Future Trends Archive

Google fact-checking now applies to image searches

Articles

Google search about Dan Andrews - Chrome browser in Windows 10

Google to add fact checking to images in its search user interfaces

Google adds a fact check feature for images | CNet

From the horse’s mouth

Google

Bringing fact check information to Google Images (Blog Post)

My Comments

Increasingly, images and video are being seen as integral to news coverage with most of us seeing them, especially photographs, of importance when corroborating a fact or news story.

But these are becoming weaponised to tell a different truth compared to what is actually captured by the camera. One way is to use the same or a similar image to corroborate a different fact, with this including the use of image-editing tools to doctor the image so it tells a different story.

I have covered this previously when talking about the use of reverse-image-search tools like Tineye or Google Image Search to verify the authenticity of an image and . It will be the same kind of feature that Google has enabled in its search interface when you “google” for something, or in its news-aggregation platforms.

Google is taking this further for people who search for images using their search tools. Here, they are adding images to their fact-check processes so it is easy to see whether an image has been used to corroborate questionable information. You will see a “fact-check” indicator near the image thumbnail and when you click or tap on the image for a larger view or more details, you will see some details about whether the image is true or not.

A similar feature appears on the YouTube platform for exhibiting details about the veracity of video content posted there. But this feature currently is available to users based in Brazil, India and the USA and I am not sure whether it will be available across all YouTube user interfaces, especially native clients for mobile and set-top platforms.

It is in addition to Alphabet, their parent company, offering a free tool to check whether an image has been doctored. This is because meddling with an image to constitute something else using something like Adobe Photoshop or GIMP is being seen as a way to convey a message that isn’t true. The tool, called Assembler, uses artificial intelligence and algorithms that detect particular forms of image manipulation to indicate the veracity of an image.

But I would also see the rise of tools that analyse audio and video material to identify deepfake activity, or video sites, podcast directories and the like using a range of tools to identify the authenticity of content made available through them. This may include “fact-check” labels with facts being verified by multiple newsrooms and universities; or the content checked for out-of-the-ordinary editing techniques. It can also include these sites and directories implementing a feedback loop so that users can have questionable content verified.

Send to Kindle

Wi-Fi EasyMesh acquires new features in its second release

Articles – From the horse’s mouth

Telstra Smarty Modem Generation 2 modem router press picture courtesy of Telstra

Telstra Smart Modem Generation 2 – the first carrier-supplied modem router to be certified as compatible with Wi-Fi EasyMesh

Wi-Fi Alliance

Wi-Fi CERTIFIED EasyMesh™ enables self-adapting Wi-Fi® (Press Release)

Wi-Fi CERTIFIED EasyMesh™ update: Added features for operator-managed home Wi-Fi® networks {The Beacon blog post)

Technicolor

white-label manufacturer of carrier-supplied home-network modem routers

EasyMesh R2 Will Intelligently Manage Your Home Wi-Fi (Press Release)

Previous Coverage on HomeNetworking01.info about Wi-Fi EasyMesh

Wi-Fi defines a new standard for distributed wireless netowrks

Telstra is the first telco to supply home-network hardware that supports Wi-Fi EasyMesh

My Comments

The Wi-Fi EasyMesh standard that facilitates a distributed-Wi-Fi network without the need to have all equipment from the same equipment or chipset vendor has undergone a major revision. This revision, known as Release 2, is intended to improve network management, adaptability and security as well as supporting proper VLAN / multiple-ESSID operations that is especially required with guest, hotspot and community Wi-Fi applications.

What will Release 2 offer and how will it improve Wi-Fi EasyMesh?

Standardisation of diagnostic information sharing across the network

Wi-Fi EasyMesh Release 2 will make use of the Wi-Fi Data Elements to allow the Controller device to collect statistics and diagnostic information from each access point in a uniform manner. It doesn’t matter which vendors the different equipment in the EasyMesh-compliant Wi-Fi network come from.

Here, it will benefit companies like telcos, ISPs or IT support contractors in identifying where the weaknesses are in a Wi-Fi network that they provide support for. For those of us who support our own networks, we can use the tools provided with the main Wi-Fi router to identify what is going wrong with the setup.

Improved Wi-Fi radio channel management to assure service continuity

The second release of Wi-Fi EasyMesh will offer improved channel management and auto-tuning of the access point radio transceivers. This will make sure that the Wi-Fi network is able to adapt to new changes such as newer networks being setup nearby.

It wll also be about implementing DFS to make sure that Wi-Fi networks that use the 5 GHz bands are working as good neighbours to radar installations like weather radar located nearby and using those bands. This will happen not just on initial setup of any Wi-Fi EasyMesh node but continually which will be of concern when, for example, a local meteorological authority installs a new radar-based weather station in your neighbourhood.

Increased data security for the wireless backhaul

The wireless backhaul for a Wi-Fi EasyMesh R2 network will be more secure through the use of current Wi-Fi data-security protocols like Simultaneous Authentication Of Equals. There will even be the ability to support robust authentication mechanisms and newer stronger cryptographic protocols.

It is seen as necessary because the wireless backhaul is used as the main artery to convey all the network’s traffic between the access points and the main “edge” router. This can appeal to anyone who wishes to snoop on a user’s Internet traffic; and also conveys the fact that the Wi-Fi EasyMesh network is effectively a single LAN segment where all the data for Wi-Fi client devices moves around.

Secure wireless-backhaul support for VLAN-separated data traffic

Increasingly, home-network equipment is implementing VLAN technology for a range of reasons. One of these is to facilitate triple-play services and assure quality-of-service for IPTV and IP-based telephony services offered by the telco or ISP. The other is to facilitate guest/hotspot and community networks that use the same Internet service connection but are effectively isolated from the main home or small-business network.

This release of the Wi-Fi EasyMesh standard will support these setups by configuring each node to support the multiple virtual networks including their own separate extended-service-set configurations. The wireless backhaul will also be set up to create separate “traffic lanes” for each logical network that are securely isolated from each other.

Enhanced client steering

There will be the ability to steer client devices between access points, wavebands or channels to prevent one or more of these resources from being overloaded.

For example, it could be feasible to have dual-band client devices like most laptops, tablets and smartphones work on the 5GHz band if they are dealing with multimedia while keeping the 2.4GHz band for low-traffic needs and single-band devices. Similarly, if a client device “sees” two access points equally, it could be made to use whichever one isn’t being overloaded or has the batter throughput.

Of course, the enhanced client steering will provide a seamless roaming experience similar to what happens with the cellular-based mobile telephony/broadband networks that power our smartphones. This is a feature that is of importance with any device that is highly-portable in nature like a smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Key issues that may surface with Wi-Fi EasyMesh

A key issue that may crop up with Wi-Fi EasyMesh is supporting the use of multiple backhauls across the same network and offering “true-mesh” operation rather than hub-and-spoke operation. Here, it could be about opening up options for load-balancing and increased throughput for the backhaul or providing fault-tolerance for the network.

As well, the idea of a wired backhaul implementing IEEE 1905.1 small-network management technology has to be kept in scope when designing Wi-Fi EasyMesh devices or promoting and implementing this standard. This is more so to encourage HomePlug AV2 or G.Hn powerline-network technology as a companion “wired no-new-wires” backhaul approach for deploying satellite nodes in areas where a wireless backhaul may not perform to expectation but it would be costly or unfeasible to pull Ethernet cable across the premises.

How can this be deployed with existing Wi-Fi EasyMesh networks

There are measures built in to the Release 2 specifications to permit backward compatibility with legacy Wi-Fi EasyMesh network-infrastructure devices like the Telstra Smart Modem Generation 2 that exist in the network.

As well, some vendors are taking the approach of implementing the Release 2 functionality as software form. This makes it feasible for them to bake this functionality in to a firmware update for an existing EasyMesh-compliant router or access point without the need to worry about the device’s underlying hardware.

Conclusion

I see Wi-Fi EasyMesh Release 2 as offering the chance for Wi-Fi EasyMesh to mature as a standard for distributed-Wi-Fi setups within the home and small-business user space. This release may even make it affordable for small businesses to dabble with a basic managed distributed-Wi-Fi setup due to not being required to stay with a particular vendor/

Send to Kindle

Apple to use the ARM microarchitecture in newer Mac computers

Article

Apple MacBook Pro running MacOS X Mavericks - press picture courtesy of Apple

The Apple Mac platform is to move towards apple’s own silicon that uses ARM RISC microarchitecture

It’s Official: The Mac Is Transitioning to Apple-Made Silicon | Gizmodo

My Comments

This week, Apple used its WWDC software developers’ conference to announce that the Macintosh regular-computer platform will move away from Intel’s silicon to their own ARM-based silicon. This is to bring that computing platform in to line with their iOS/iPadOS mobile computing platform, their tVOS Apple TV set-top platform and their Watch platform that uses Apple’s own silicon.

Here, this silicon will use the ARM RISC instruction-set microarchitecture rather than the x86/x64 architecture used with Intel silicon. But Apple is no stranger to moving the Macintosh computing platform between microarchitectures.

Initially this platform used Motorola 680×0/PowerPC silicon which used a Motorola RISC instruction set microarchitecture. This platform initially had more chops compared to Intel’s x86 platform especially when it came to graphics and multimedia. Then, when Apple realised that Intel offered cost-effective microprocessors using the x86-64 microarchitecture and had the same kind of multimedia prowess as the Motorola processors, they moved the Macintosh platform to the Intel silicon.

But Apple had to take initiatives to bring the MacOS and Mac application software over to this platform. This required them to supply software development tools to the software-development community to allow programs that they write to be compiled for both Motorola and Intel instruction sets. They also furnished an instruction-set translator or “cross-compiler” called Rosetta to Mac users who had Intel-based Macs so they can run extant software that was written for Motorola silicon.

For a few years, this caused some awkwardness with Mac users, especially those who were early adopters, due to either the availability of software natively compiled for Intel silicon. Or they were finding that their existing Motorola-native software was running too slowly on their Intel-based computers thanks to the Rosetta instruction-set-translation software working between their program and the computer’s silicon.

Apple will be repeating this process in a very similar way to the initial Intel transition by the provision of software-development tools that build for Intel i86-64 based silicon and their own ARM-RISC based silicon. As well they will issue Rosetta2 which does the same job as the original Rosetta but translate i86-64 CISC machine instructions to the ARM RISC instruction set that their own silicon uses. Rosetta2 will be part of the next major version of MacOS which will be known as Big Sur.

The question that will be raised amongst developers and users of high-resource-load software like games or engineering software is what impact this conversion will have on that level of software. Typically most games are issued for the main games consoles and Windows-driven Intel-architecture PCs over Macs or tvOS-based Apple TV set-top devices, with software ports for these platforms coming later on in the software’s evolution.

There is an expectation that the Rosetta2 “cross-compiler” software could work this kind of software properly to a point that it can satisfactorily perform on a computer using integrated graphics infrastructure and working at Full HD resolution. Then there will be the issue of making sure it works with a Mac that uses discrete graphics infrastructure and higher display resolutions, thus giving the MacOS platform some “gaming chops”.

I see the rise of ARM RISC silicon in the tradition regular computing world and having it exist alongside classic Intel-based silicon in this computing space like what is happening with Apple and Microsoft as a challenge for computer software development. It is although some work has taken place within the UNIX / Linux space to facilitate the development of software for multiple computer types thus leading to this space bringing forth the open-source and shared-source software movements. This is more so with Microsoft where there is an expectation to have Intel-based silicon and ARM-based silicon exist alongside each other for the life of a common desktop computing platform, with each silicon type serving particular use cases.

Send to Kindle

What can be done about taming political rhetoric on online services?

Article

Australian House of Representatives ballot box - press picture courtesy of Australian Electoral Commission

Online services may have to observe similar rules to traditional media and postal services when it comes to handling election and referendum campaigns

There’s a simple way to reduce extreme political rhetoric on Facebook and Twitter | FastCompany

My Comments

In this day and age, a key issue that is being raised regarding the management of elections and referenda is the existence of extreme political rhetoric on social media and other online services.

But the main cause of this problem is the algorithmic nature associated with most online services. This can affect what appears in a user’s default news feed when they start a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram session; whether a bulk-distributed email ends up in the user’s email inbox or spam folder; whether the advertising associated with a campaign appears in search-driven or display online advertising; or if the link appears on the first page of a search-engine user experience.

This is compared to what happens with traditional media or postal services while there is an election or referendum. In most of the democracies around the world, there are regulations overseen by the electoral-oversight, broadcasting and postal authorities regarding equal access to airtime, media space and the postal system by candidates or political parties in an election or organisations defending each option available in a referendum. If the medium or platform isn’t regulated by the government such as what happens with out-of-home advertising or print media, the peak bodies associated with that space establish equal lowest-cost access to these platforms through various policies.

Examples of this include an equal number of TV or radio commercial spots made available at the cheapest advertising rate for candidates or political parties contesting a poll, including the same level of access to prime-time advertising spaces; scheduled broadcast debates or policy statements on free-to-air TV with equal access for candidates; or the postal service guaranteeing priority throughput of election matter for each contestant at the same low cost.

These regulations or policies are to make it hard for a candidate, political party or similar organisation to “game” the system but allow voters to make an informed choice about whom or what they vote for. But the algorithmic approach associated with the online services doesn’t guarantee the candidates equal access to the voters’ eyeballs thus requiring the creation of incendiary content that can go viral and be shared amongst many people.

What needs to happen is that online services have to establish a set of policies regarding advertising and editorial content tendered by candidates, political parties and allied organisations in order to guarantee equal delivery of the content.  This means marking such content so as to gain equal rotation in an online-advertising platform; using “override markers” that provide guaranteed recorded delivery of election matter to one’s email inbox or masking interaction details associated with election matter posted on a Facebook news feed.

But the most important requirement is that the online platforms cannot censor or interfere with the editorial content of the message that is being delivered to the voters by them. It is being seen as important especially in a hyper-partisan USA where it is perceived by conservative thinkers that Silicon Valley is imposing Northern-Californian / Bay-Area values upon people who use or publish through their online services.

A question that can easily crop up is the delivery of election matter beyond the jurisdiction that is affected by the poll. Internet-based platforms can make this very feasible and it may be considered of importance for, say, a country’s expats who want to cast their vote in their homeland’s elections. But people who don’t live within or have ties to the affected jurisdiction may see it as material of little value if there is a requirement to provide electoral material beyond a jurisdiction’s borders. This could be answered through social-media and email users, or online publishers having configurable options to receive and show material from multiple jurisdictions rather than the end-user’s current jurisdiction.

What is being realised here is that online services will need to take a leaf out of traditional regulated media and communication’s playbook to guarantee election candidates’ fair equal access to the voters through these platforms.

Send to Kindle

Linksys and Deutsche Telekom bring Wi-Fi 6 home networks to the mainstream

Linksys MR7350 Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Router press picture courtesy of Belkin

Linksys MR7350 Wi-Fi 6 Broadband Mesh router – the first of the affordable Wi-Fi 6 routers

Articles

Deutsche Telekom Speedport Smart 4 Plus

Telekom Speedport Smart 4 Plus mit Wi-Fi 6 steht in den Startlöchern {Telekom Speedport Smart 4 Plus with Wi-Fi 6 is in the starting blocks) | Caschy’s Blog (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

Linksys MAX-STREAM AX1800 Mesh Wi-Fi 6 Router

Linksys unveils a more affordable mesh router with WiFi 6 | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Linksys

Linksys Expands MAX-STREAM Mesh Router Portfolio With Its Most Affordable WiFi 6 Solution (Press Release)

MAX-Stream Mesh Wi-Fi 6 Router (MR7350) – Product Page

My Comments

Two companies have pushed Wi-Fi routers which are about bringing Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) technology within the reach of everyone who is establishing a home network based around a fixed broadband Internet service. This is being drawn out of necessity thanks to smartphones, tahlets and laptops released through this year being equipped with Wi-Fi 6 connectivity.

The first of these is Deutsche Telekom who have poised to release in to the German market a unit that will be typically supplied to a household signing up for fixed broadband Internet offered by that telco. This unit, known as the Speedport Smart 4 Plus is equipped with Wi-Fi 6 and will be about providing this technology in a turnkey manner to a home Internet service customer. It is ready to be launched at the IFA 2020 trade fair at Berlin in September.

The other is Linksys who have offered the MR7350 broadband router through retail channels for USD$149. It is rated as an AX1800 unit which will provide an average throughput for a Wi-Fi 6 router. But it is able to be part of Linksys’s Intellignent Mesh distributed-Wi-Fi setup, thus allowing you to expand your network’s Wi-Fi range when teamed with a compatible Linksys Wi-Fi router.

Engadget’s review described the Linksys MR7350 router as being fit for starting a Wi-Fi 6 network to cover an average-sized apartment or townhome unit. It can also be seen as an affordable infill access point for a Linksys Intelligent Mesh distributed-Wi-Fi setup, especially if you decide to put a better router from that product range as the Internet edge of your home network.

But what I am pleased about these devices is that they are an effort to bring Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) technology in to most home networks. These efforts may be continued on by other carriers, and home-network equipment manufacturers.

Send to Kindle

Facebook now offers a way to turn off political ads on its main platforms

Article Facebook login page

Don’t want political ads in your Facebook or Instagram feed? You’ll be able to turn that off | CNet

From the horse’s mouth

Facebook

Launching The Largest Voting Information Effort in US History (Press Release)

Videos

Control Political Ad Content on Facebook (Click or tap to play)

Control Political Ad Content on Instagram (Click or tap to play)

My Comments

Facebook is introducing a feature that allows its users to effectively “mute” political advertising including issues-driven advertising on their main social-Web platform as well as Instagram.

This feature will be available to USA-based accounts as part of Facebook’s voter-information features for the 2020 Presidential Elections. That includes information on how and where to register along with where and when to vote, including early-voting (pre-poll voting) and postal-voting information. It underscores Facebook’s role as part of Silicon Valley’s effort to “get out the vote” in the USA.

Personally I am not sure whether this setup will provide information relevant to American expats who have moved to other countries like how their local US embassy or consulate is facilitating their vote. It is because in most cases these expats will still have voting rights of some sort for US elections.

The option will be available in the “Ad Preferences” option for your platform’s user-account settings on both Facebook and Instagram. Or both platforms will have a contextual option, highlighted under a stylised “i”, available for political ads allowing you to see fewer ads of this type, This can be set up using your Web-based user experience or the official native mobile-platform apps that you use for working these platforms with.

Of course, there won’t be the ability to regulate editorial content from media organisations that is posted or shared through Facebook or Instagram. This will be an issue when you deal with media outlets that have a highly-partisan editorial policy. Nor will there be the ability to control posts, shares and comments from Pages and Profiles that aren’t shared as a paid advertisement.

There may also be questions about whether your favourite politician’s, political party’s or civic-society organiation’s Facebook or Instagram traffic will appear in your platform’s main view especially if they pay to increase viewership of these posts. It can be of concern for those of us who have a strong role in political and civic society and see the Facebook traffic as a “news-ticker” for the political entities we engage with.

Facebook has an intent to roll this feature out to other countries where they have established systems for managing and monitoring political advertising on their platforms. At least they are the first online ad platform that allows users to have control over the political and issue advertising that they see while they use that platform.

Send to Kindle

Qualcomm launches a 5G chipset for affordable smartphones

Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 5G reference phone press picture courtesy of QualcommArticles

Qualcomm brings 5G to cheaper phones with Snapdragon 690 processor | CNet

Snapdragon 690 announced: 5G comes to Qualcomm’s mainstream chip family | Android Authority

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 690 chipset brings 5G to cheaper phones | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Qualcomm

Qualcomm Announces First 5G Snapdragon 6-Series Mobile Platform (Press Release)

My Comments

5G mobile broadband technology will be coming to an affordable smartphone near you thanks to a new chipset that Qualcomm has now launched.

This chipset, known as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 chipset doesn’t just have a 5G modem for this class of product but also has processing power to handle some high-end tasks like 192 megapixel high-resolution photography or 4G HDR videography. There will also be support for Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5.1 technology along with support for improved artificial-intelligence / machine-learning. It is although Qualcomm haven’t built mmWave support in to the 5G mobile broadband modem.

The silicon is being rolled out at the moment and will have a low bill-of-materials price compared to premium or midrange chipsets that Qualcomm offers. This will mean that a finished Android smartphone product would be expected to retail between USD$300-USD$500 before any telco subsidies. This is compared to the Apple iPhone SE which is a4G only product going for USD$400.

Phones based on this chipset will typically be manufactured by the likes of LG, Motorola, HMD Global (Nokia), Sharp, TCL (Alcatel) and the like. This will include various original-equipment-manufacturers who specialise in selling products under a private-label agreement with the distributor, retailer or telco.

The coronavirus plague, with the various event and business shutdowns associated with it, has  thrown a spanner in the works regarding bringing 5G mobile broadband in to the mainstream. As well there hasn’t been much market interest in newer smartphone technology and there would be a strong market for affordable smartphones thanks to people concerned about how much they spend, forced by the COVID-19-driven financial downturn.

But this chipset may also be about allowing manufacturers to take less of a gamble when it comes to creating a smartphone or tablet product that embodies a unique form of innovation or answers a particular market’s needs. An example that could come to mind would be a smartphone that has its radio circuitry optimised for long-range reception and pitched for rural and remote areas. Similarly, LG could pull it off again with a smartphone that has a DAB+ digital-radio tuner that would have a greater zone of relevance thanks to more European countries running DAB+ digital radio full time.

What is being highlighted here is that Qualcomm is making it feasible to provide 5G mobile broadband technology at a price affordable for the masses.

Send to Kindle

Hair clippings will be ending up as a source material for OLED displays

Barber shop courtesy of Tim Mossholder (Unsplash)

Hair cuttings from these barbershops can end up as a material for OLED displays in many devices
(Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash)

Article

Future Flexible OLED Displays Could Be Made From Human Hair | Gizmodo Australia

My Comments

There is an increased interest in the use of OLED displays for all display applications, what with doing away with a backlight layer which means increased application flexibility and power efficiency; as well as yielding high contrast. But this technology comes at a price which may be out of the range of most commodity applications, especially equipment user-interface displays.

But researchers at the Queensland University of Technology have used hair clippings from a local barber shop to experiment with the use of hair strands into self-illuminating carbon nanodots fit for a light-emitting device. Here, it’s about breaking down the hair strands then heating it to 240 degrees Celsius, equivalent to a very hot oven to create these displays. The carbon nanodots are a form of quantum dot that can yield the bright vivid colours due to their expertise at illuminating a single primary colour.

Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction inkjet printer detailed function display

… like displays on printers such as this Brother unit

This application may not be bright enough for a TV screen intended to be viewed at a distance but could be bright enough for an application that is intended to be viewed up close. The core applications would be smartphones, tablets and wearables. But I would also see this extend to equipment or automotive displays that give a really distinct level of brightness and contrast like the vacuum-fluorescent displays used an a lot of consumer-electronics equipment made through the 1980s and 1990s.

The advantage here is that hair is a natural source of nitrogen and carbon and can be easily harvested from local barbers and hairdressers as part of a recycling program. The applications then end up as being part of a circular economy and there is further research in to using animal hair for this same application, which may allow the use of pet hair salvaged from veterinarians, animal breeders or dog groomers for this purpose.

As well, the idea of a component of this display being cheaply sourced through recycling programs may lead to the cost of these displays going downhill and allow them to displace LCD technology as the display technology of choice for small colour displays.

Send to Kindle

The BBC to develop its own voice assistant for finding AV content

Article

Amazon Echo on kitchen bench press photo courtesy of Amazon USA

The BBC is working on a voice-driven assistant of its own

BBC planning Alexa rival | Advanced Television

BBC’s Beeb voice assistant goes beta | Advanced Television

BBC launches voice assistant that will learn regional accents | Mashable

From the horse’s mouth

British Broadcasting Corporation

What’s next for Beeb: The new voice assistant from the BBC (Press Release)

My Comments

The BBC have started work on the first voice-driven assistant platform that is designed in the UK and for British conditions. This platform is named Beeb which is one of the common affectionate nicknames for that public-service broadcaster.

It will be initially rolled out to UK participants of Microsoft’s Windows Insider program and is at beta stage, thus limiting it to use on regular computers at the moment. It is based on the BBC’s iPlayer content-directory effort and will be primarily about bringing up audio content like live and on-demand radio content, music or podcasts. It will also be able to bring forth local news and weather information.

UK Flag

… optimised for UK accents and likely to place the UK in the voice assistant sphere

There will even be the ability to respond from material written by BBC comedy writers when you ask for a joke, including the ability to ask for a joke from a particular show. This is thanks to the amount of intellectual property that they have built up over the years including all those legendary sitcoms and other comedy associated with British telly.

Beeb will be voiced with a male voice that has a northern English accent. As well, its initial setup will have the user determine what UK regional accent they have so it understands their accent better. This is part of an effort by the BBC to preserve local British accents in the face of other voice-driven assistants which force users to use standard British English pronunciation over regional accents.

There is an intent to roll it out to other devices which are software-programmable and it will also to be part of revisions to the iPlayer app and BBC Website. But personally, I see the BBC’s Beeb effort as a candidate for the Voice Interoperability Initiative driven by Amazon and Microsoft that allows a device to run with multiple voice assistants and respond to each assistant’s “wake word”. That is an activity that the BBC are infact a participant in.

Support for regional and local accents

But personally, I see the Beeb voice assistant as opening a path for UK companies to develop their own voice-driven assistants that respect UK language, dialects, accents and culture. It can also be an example of fine-tuning a voice-driven assistant platform to work with the various local accents and dialects used within a country or language and avoid steering the user towards what is seen as a standardised pronunciation for that language.

What will eventually need to happen would be to allow automatic detection of a user’s accent and to work with that accent automatically when they speak, rather than requiring a user to determine which accent they are using during setup. Having to determine which accent you are using during the setup phase can be a problem for households with members that come from different regions.

I would also see efforts like Beeb end up being about local-speech “modules” for voice-driven assistant platforms that enable these platforms to support a country’s or language’s local peculiarities when it comes to regular use. It will then avoid the need for people to resort to using “standard” diction rather than the accent they are comfortable with to deal with voice assistants. Similarly, it could be about different “voicings” that maintain local characteristics for the assistant’s speech.

Who knows what this could mean for making voice-driven assistants locally relevant?

Send to Kindle

Bouygues Télécom to get rid of the set-top box through a Samsung smart-TV app

Articles – French language / Langue française Flag of France

Bouygues Telecom s’associe à Samsung pour faire disparaître les box TV | 01Net.com

Samsung et Bouygues Telecom s’associent pour faire disparaître le décodeur TV | ZDNet.fr

My Comments

The highly-competitive French Internet and telecommunications market is drawing out another key trend regarding provision of TV service. Nearly every French telco is offering a “décodeur” set-top-box along with their modem-router “box” that is above ordinary for this class of carrier-supplied equipment. It is typically part of the deal when a customer signs up for a single-pipe triple-play Internet service with these operators.

This led to some systems like the Freebox Révolution which demonstrated high “media-centre” capability and even the Freebox Delta being the basis of a France-owned French-speaking voice-driven home assistant platform. I have also seen this level of innovation raise the bar for European personal information/communication technology sector.

But Bouygues Télécom is heading towards the smart-TV approach through the use of their B.TV app that runs on compatible Samsung smart TVs. It is in lieu of a décodeur set-top box that normally is part of the deal for watching the TV channels provided as part of these services.

The single-pipe triple-play package is expected to cost EUR€39.99 per month over a 24-month contract and is available to areas that are served by Bouygues Télécom with fibre-to-the-premises technology. Bouygues Télécom are also offering a Samsung 4K UHDTV for people who are signing up to this deal. This is the Crystal 4K UHD model with a 43” variant for EUR€49, a 55” variant for EUR€199 or a 65” variant for EUR€349.

It is part of a trend affecting the highly-competitive French ISP market to telcos to have a “set-top-box as an app” using smart-TV platforms for their n-box triple-play service, with SFR also on the bandwagon. Here, this will offer the IP-delivered linear and on-demand TV content and a lean-back user interface for the TV service through the app.

Questions that will come up with this app-based approach include whether the app will be delivered to other mobile and connected-TV/set-top-box platforms; along with the availability of a set-top-box for people to use with existing TV sets. It is although these offers will be pitched towards the ownership of certain Samsung TVs but there is the reality of older TVs being pushed to secondary viewing areas. There will also be the issue of maintaining these apps even if the TV or set-top-box manufacturer declares end-of-support on their device.

B.TV is what I would see as part of a Europe-wide effort to provide “set-top-box-free” TV service for IP-based multichannel TV providers including telcos who are part of this game. This is to avoid the need to buy a huge quantity of hardware to get one of these services off the ground.

Send to Kindle