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Monthly Archives: March 2019

After Christchurch, Reddit bans communities infamous for sharing graphic videos of death

March 16, 2019 No Comments

In the aftermath of the tragic mosque massacre that claimed 49 lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, tech companies scrambled to purge their platforms of promotional materials that the shooter left behind. As most of the internet is now unfortunately aware, the event was broadcast live on Facebook, making it one of the most horrific incidents of violence to spread through online communities in realtime.

As Twitter users cautioned others from sharing the extraordinarily graphic video, some Reddit users actively sought the video and knew exactly where to look. The infamous subreddit r/watchpeopledie was quarantined (making it unsearchable) in September 2018 but until today remained active for anyone to visit directly. The subreddit has a long history of sharing extremely graphic videos following tragic events and acts of violence, like the 2018 murder of two female tourists in Morocco.

After Thursday’s shooting, the subreddit became extremely active with users seeking out a copy of the video, which was shot in first-person perspective from a head-mounted camera.

After the flurry of interest, one the subreddit’s moderators locked the a thread about the video and posted this statement:

“Sorry guys but we’re locking the thread out of necessity here. The video stays up until someone censors us. This video is being scrubbed from major social media platforms but hopefully Reddit believes in letting you decide for yourself whether or not you want to see unfiltered reality. Regardless of what you believe, this is an objective look into a terrible incident like this.

Remember to love each other.”

Late Thursday, the subreddit’s members were actively sharing mirrored links to the Christchurch video, though they did so largely via direct messaging. After watching the footage, many users returned to the thread to express that the content was extremely disturbing and to caution even their most violence-hardened peers from seeking the video.

The subreddit remained active until some time late Friday morning Pacific Time, when Reddit banned the controversial community.

Reddit declined to provide details about its decision to ban the long-running community after this particular act of violence. “We are very clear in our site terms of service that posting content that incites or glorifies violence will get users and communities banned from Reddit,” a company spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Subreddits that fail to adhere to those site-wide rules will be banned.”

The subreddit’s many detractors consider the act of seeking and sharing such graphic depictions of death both inherently disturbing and disrespectful to victims and their families.

The subreddit is unquestionably grisly but remains surprisingly well-loved by some devotees, who insist that its graphic depictions of death are in fact life-affirming.

“Definitely saved me and helped me figure out I didn’t necessarily have tomorrow to get my shit in order,” one former member said in a thread discussing the since-banned community.

“Don’t think it is the kind of place to spend too much time in but, we all need reminders.”

Reddit banned the adjacent subreddits r/gore and r/wpdtalk (“watch people die talk”) on Friday as well.


Social – TechCrunch


U.S. federal court jury finds Apple infringed three Qualcomm patents

March 16, 2019 No Comments

Mobile chipmaker Qualcomm has chalked up another small legal victory against Apple in another patent litigation suit.

A jury in a U.S. federal court in San Diego found Friday that Apple owes Qualcomm about $ 31M for infringing three patents, per Reuters.

Qualcomm has filed a number of patent suits against the iPhone maker in the U.S., Europe and Asia in recent years. The suits are skirmishes in a bigger battle between the pair over licensing terms that Apple alleges are unfair and illegal.

As we reported earlier the San Diego patent suit relates to the power consumption and speed of boot-up times for iPhones sold between mid-2017 and late-2018.

Qualcomm had asked to be awarded up to $ 1.41 in unpaid patent royalties damages per infringing iPhone sold during the period.

Reuters suggests the award could have wider significance if it ends up factoring into the looming billion dollar royalties suit between Apple and Qualcomm. By putting a dollar value on some of the latter’s IP, the San Diego trial potentially bolsters its contention that its chip licensing practices are fair.

At the time of writing it’s not clear whether Apple intends to appeal. Reuters reports the iPhone maker declined to comment on that point, after expressing general disappointment with the outcome.

We’ve reached out to Apple and Qualcomm for comment.

In a statement provided to the news agency Apple said: “Qualcomm’s ongoing campaign of patent infringement claims is nothing more than an attempt to distract from the larger issues they face with investigations into their business practices in U.S. federal court, and around the world.”

Cupertino filed its billion dollar royalties suit against Qualcomm two years ago.

It has reason to be bullish going into the trial, given a preliminary ruling Thursday — in which a U.S. federal court judge found Qualcomm owes Apple nearly $ 1BN in patent royalty rebate payments (via CNBC). The trial itself kicks off next month.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission also filed antitrust charges against Qualcomm in 2017 — accusing the chipmaker of operating a monopoly and forcing exclusivity from Apple while charging “excessive” licensing fees for standards-essential patents.

That trial wrapped up in January and is pending a verdict from Judge Lucy Koh.

At the same time, Qualcomm has also been pursuing several international patent suits against Apple — also with some success.

In December Apple filed an appeal in China to overturn a preliminary ruling that could have blocked iPhone sales in the market.

While in Germany it did pull older iPhone models from sale in its own stores in January. But by February it was selling the two models again — albeit with Qualcomm chips, rather than Intel, inside.

Mobile – TechCrunch


Suse is once again an independent company

March 16, 2019 No Comments

Open-source infrastructure and application delivery vendor Suse — the company behind one of the oldest Linux distributions — today announced that it is once again an independent company. The company today finalized its $ 2.5 billion acquisition by growth investor EQT from Micro Focus, which itself had acquired it back in 2014.

Few companies have changed hands as often as Suse and yet remained strong players in their business. Suse was first acquired by Novell in 2004. Novell was then acquired by Attachmate in 2010, which Micro Focus acquired in 2014. The company then turned Suse into an independent division, only to then announce its sale to EQT in the middle of 2018.

It took a while for Micro Focus and EQT to finalize the acquisition, though, but now, for the first time since 2004, Suse stands on its own.

Micro Focus says that when it acquired Attachmate Group for $ 2.35 billion, Suse generated just 20 percent of the group’s total revenues. Since then, Suse has generated quite a bit more business as it expanded its product portfolio well beyond its core Linux offerings and into the more lucrative open-source infrastructure and application delivery business by, among other things, offering products and support around massive open-source projects like Cloud Foundry, OpenStack and Kubernetes.

Suse CEO Nils Brauckmann will remain at the helm of the company, but the company is shaking up its executive ranks a bit. Enrica Angelone, for example, has been named to the new post of CFO at Suse, and Sander Huyts is now the company’s COO. Former Suse CTO Thomas Di Giacomo is now president of Engineering, Product and Innovation. All three report directly to Brauckmann.

“Our genuinely open, open source solutions, flexible business practices, lack of enforced vendor lock-in and exceptional service are more critical to customer and partner organizations, and our independence coincides with our single-minded focus on delivering what is best for them,” said Brauckmann in today’s announcement. “Our ability to consistently meet these market demands creates a cycle of success, momentum and growth that allows SUSE to continue to deliver the innovation customers need to achieve their digital transformation goals and realize the hybrid and multi-cloud workload management they require to power their own continuous innovation, competitiveness and growth.”

Since IBM recently bought Red Hat for $ 34 billion, though, it remains to be seen how long Suse’s independent future will last. The market for open source is only heating up, after all.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Excel Fuzzy Lookup for SEO: Effortless 404 and site migration redirects

March 16, 2019 No Comments

In recent years, the nature of SEO has become more and more data-driven, paving the way for innovative trends such as AI or natural language processing.

This has also created opportunities for smart marketers, keen to use everyday tools such as Google Sheets or Excel to automate time-consuming tasks such as redirect mapping.

Thanks to the contribution of Liam White, an SEO colleague of mine always keen on improving efficiency through automation, I started testing and experimenting with the clever Fuzzy Lookup add-in for Excel.

The tool, which allows fuzzy matching of pretty much any set of data, represents a flexible solution for cutting down manual redirects for 404 not-found pages and website migrations.

In this post, we’ll go over the setup instructions and hands-on applications to make the most of the Excel Fuzzy Lookup for SEO.

1. Setting up Excel Fuzzy Lookup

Getting started with Fuzzy Lookup couldn’t be easier — just visit the Fuzzy Lookup download page and install the add-in onto your machine. System requirements are quite basic. However, the tool is specifically designed for Windows users — so no Mac support for the moment.

Unlike the not-exact match with Vlookup (which matches a set of data with the first result), Fuzzy Lookup operates in a more comprehensive way, scanning all the data first, and then providing a fuzzy matching based on a similarity score.

The score itself is easy to grasp, with a score of one being a perfect match, for instance. This score then decreases with the matching accuracy down to a score of zero where there is no match. Regarding this, it’s advisable not to venture below the 0.5 to 0.6 similarity threshold in the settings, as the results are not consistent enough for a site migration or 404 redirects purpose below that limit.

Example of accuracy score

For greater accuracy, it’s also desirable to trim the domain (or staging site equivalent) from the URLs, making sure that the similarity score is not altered by too many commonalities. For more information about the setup, you can also refer to this Fuzzy Lookup guide.

2. Redirect mapping automation and its benefits

Considering the time necessary to familiarize with the site, categories and products/services, it’s safe to assume that a person would manually match two URLs roughly every thirty seconds. If that doesn’t sound too bad, consider that it would take between five to eight hours for a website of 1,000 URLs. This would make it quite a tedious and time-consuming task.

Bearing in mind that Fuzzy Lookup can provide nearly immediate results with a reliable fuzzy matching for at least 30 to 40 percent of the URLs, then this approach starts to appear interesting. If we consider the savings in terms of time as well, this would translate to about three hours for a small site or over ten hours for large ecommerce site.

3. Dealing with site migration redirects

If you are changing the structure of a site, consolidating more domains into one, or simply switching to a new platform, then redirect mapping for a website migration is definitely a priority task on your list. Assuming that you already have a list of existing pages plus the new site URLs, then you are all set to go with Fuzzy Lookup for site migrations.

Once you have set up the two URL lists in two separate tables, you can fire up the Fuzzy Lookup and order the matched URLs by the similarity score. In my tests, this has proven to be an effective, time-saving solution, helping in cutting down the manual work by several hours.

As displayed in the screenshot below, the fuzzy matching excelled with product codes and services/goods (such as 20600 and corner-sofas, for example). This allows the matching of IDs with IDs, and the URL with the parent category, in the case where an identical ID is not available.

Example of site migration redirects

4. 404 error redirects

Pages with a 404 status code are part of the web and no website is immune, hosting at least a few of them. Having said that, 404 errors have the potential of creating problems, hurting the user experience and SEO. Fuzzy Lookup can help with that, requiring just one simple addition a recent crawl of your site to extract the list of live pages, like the example below:

Example of 404 redirects

The fuzzy matching works pretty well in this instance too, matching IDs with IDs, and leaving the match to the most relevant category if a similar product/service is not live on the site. As per the site migrations, the manual work is not completely wiped out, but it’s made a whole lot easier than before.

5. Bonus: Finding gap/similarities in the blog

Another interesting application for Excel Fuzzy Lookup can be found in analyzing the blog section. Why? Simply because if you’re not in charge of the blog then you are not likely to be aware of what’s in it now, and what has been written in the past.

This solution works in two ways as well, because if a similarity is found, then you have the confirmation that the topic has been already covered. If not, this means that there’s still room for creating relevant content that can be linked to the service/product category to improve organic reach as well.

Example of finding gaps and similarities in the blog

Wrapping up

Time is money, and when it comes to dealing with large numbers of URLs that need to be redirected, a solution like Fuzzy Lookup can help you in cutting down the tedious manual redirect mapping. Thus, why not embrace fuzzy automation and save time for more exciting SEO tasks?

Marco Bonomo is an SEO & CRO Expert at MediaCom London. He can be found on Twitter @MarcoBonomoSEO.

The post Excel Fuzzy Lookup for SEO: Effortless 404 and site migration redirects appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


5 Must Watch PPC Reporting Metrics For Small Businesses

March 15, 2019 No Comments

Let’s dive into the data that PPC platforms like Bing and Google provide small businesses and identify 5 easy ways you can use the wealth of information available to make little PPC campaign tweaks that add up to big results.

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero


In a challenge to Twitch and YouTube, Facebook adds ‘Gaming’ to its main navigation

March 14, 2019 No Comments

Facebook’s gaming efforts and challenge to Twitch are taking another big leap today, as the social network begins the initial rollout of a dedicated Facebook Gaming tab in the main navigation of Facebook’s app. The goal with the new addition is to help people more easily find games, streamers and gaming groups they follow, as well as discover new content, based on their interests.

After clicking the new Gaming tab, there will be a feed of content that points you to instant games you can play with friends; videos to watch from top streamers, esports organizations, and game publishers; and updates from your various gaming groups, the company says.

The new Facebook Gaming tab builds on the gaming video destination the site launched last year as Fb.gg. That hub had offered a collection of all the video games streaming on Facebook, and a way to for gamers and fans to interact. As a top-level navigation item, Facebook’s new Gaming tab will now further extend the gaming hub’s reach.

While Twitch and YouTube are today dominating the gaming space, Facebook’s advantage – beyond its scale – are its promises of a reduced cut of transactions. On Fb.gg, gamers were able to attract new fans with the aid of Facebook’s personalized recommendations based on users’ activity, and then monetize those viewers through a virtual tipping mechanism.

Facebook’s cut of those tips ranges from 5 to 30 percent, with the cut getting smaller when users buy larger packs of the virtual currency. Meanwhile, Facebook’s fan subscriptions payments for streamers also see it taking a cut of up to 30 percent, the same as YouTube but smaller than Twitch’s roughly 50 percent.

That could potentially attract streamers who want to maximize their earnings and believe they can port their audience over to a new destination. Of course, some streamers may not trust Facebook to maintain those same percentages over time, nor believe it will ever offer the sorts of features and innovations that a more focused gaming destination like Twitch can.

Facebook also last year experimented with making its gaming hub mobile with the launch of Fb.gg as a standalone mobile app.

The app, like the web-based gaming hub, offered a way for gamers and fans to discover content, join communities, and even play instant games like Everwing, Words with Friends, Basketball FRVR, and others.

However, the strategy of keeping Facebook’s Gaming efforts more separated from Facebook’s main site may not have paid off – the Fb.gg Android app, for example, only has some 100,000+ installs according to Google Play.

Instead, much like YouTube recently decided – Facebook will now leverage the power of its platform to boost interest in its gaming content.

YouTube in September said it was giving its Gaming hub a new home right on the YouTube homepage, and would shut down its standalone Gaming app. (The latter doesn’t seem to have occurred, however). As YouTube noted, gaming was a popular category, but the majority of viewers weren’t looking for a separate app or experience – they were just visiting YouTube directly.

Similarly, Facebook today says that over 700 million people play games, watch gaming videos or engage in gaming groups on Facebook. That’s a far larger number than those who downloaded the Fb.gg app, and surely a much larger number than those who have been visiting the Fb.gg destination directly.

That said, Facebook is continuing its tests on mobile with a standalone (rebranded) Facebook Gaming app on Android, which will have more features that the Gaming tab.

Facebook says it will roll out the Gaming tab to a subset of the over 700 million Facebook game fans, and will expand it over time to more gaming enthusiasts across the network. If you don’t see the new tab in your main navigation bar, you can still find it by going to the Bookmarks menu on Facebook.

 

 


Social – TechCrunch


Firework officially launches a short-form video storytelling app, backed by Lightspeed

March 14, 2019 No Comments

Facebook usage has declined for the first time in a decade, while video-centric apps like TikTok are being touted as the future of social media. Entering this redefined playing field comes Firework, a fast-growing social video app whose clever trick is something it calls “reveal videos” — a way for creators to take both horizontal and vertical video in one shot from their mobile device. Video viewers can then twist their phone as the video plays to watch from a new perspective and see more of the scene.

While Snapchat pioneered the idea of vertical video, newer companies are trying to free viewers from format constraints.

For example, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s mobile streaming service Quibi is pitching its ability to offer an ideal viewing experience no matter how you hold your phone. As Quibi CEO Meg Whitman explained last week in an interview at SXSW, the company has “created the ability to do full-screen video seamlessly from landscape to portrait,” she said.

That sounds a lot like Firework, in fact.

Firework has filed a patent on its own flip-the-screen viewing technology, which it believes will give creators new ways to tell stories. Besides letting viewers in on more of the action, “reveal videos” also provide an opportunity for things like unexpected plot twists or surprise endings.

The way this works is that creators hold their smartphone horizontally to film, and Firework places a vertical viewfinder on the screen so they know which part of their shot will appear to viewers when they hold their phone straight up and down.

This recording screen has some similarities to TikTok, as you can stop and start recording, reshoot the various parts and add music.

“Snapchat really pushed being vertical only,” explains Firework Chief Revenue Officer Cory Grenier, who joined the company from Snapchat, where he was the first director of Sales & Marketing.

“What we see is that most professional filmmakers want to show their work on Vimeo first, and second on YouTube. There isn’t this world where you can really frame the context and the characters of a cinematic story on vertical — it just can’t happen,” he says.

Beyond the technology involved with Firework’s new filming technique, the company is also aiming to carve out a space that will differentiate it from other short-form video — whether that’s TikTok or, soon, Quibi.

Firework’s videos are longer than TikTok’s at 30 seconds instead of just 15, but far shorter than Quibi’s eight minutes.

“Thirty seconds is really the sweet spot between the Snaps that are 10 seconds and something that’s longer-form,” notes Grenier. “Ten seconds is too short to really tell a story. You want to have a powerful opening, a clear middle and a really interesting or unexpected ending,” he says.

This format lends itself better to short stories, rather than the remixed, music-backed memes found on TikTok, the company believes. But it also remains user-gen, as opposed to the high production value “TV quality” content shot for Quibi using two cameras. (And a lot more money).

Instead, Firework is focused on what it calls “premium user-gen” — meaning it will feature a mix of professional creators and up-and-comers. To date, Firework has worked with names like Flo Rida, Dexter Darden (“Maze Runner”), model and Miss USA Olivia Jordan, Disney star Jordyn Jones, Frankie Grande and others.

It’s also working with a handful of brands, including Refinery29 and Complex Networks. But the company doesn’t want to inundate the app with content from brands, it says.

In addition to the horizontal-to-vertical trick, Firework is also doing something different in terms of fan engagement: it’s ditching comments. Users can only privately message a video’s creator — they can’t comment on the video itself.

“Haters and trolls, they want an audience — they want to elicit a polarizing reaction. We remove that,” says Grenier.

And instead of “liking” a video, users can only bookmark the video or share it — an engagement that is styled like a retweet, as the video is posted to your profile with all the original credit intact.

Founded less than two years in Mountain View and now relocated to Redwood City with teams in LA, Japan and Brazil, Firework parent Loop Now tested a couple of apps that didn’t find product market fit before launching Firework.

Its team of 51 full-time today combines both tech talent and Hollywood expertise.

This includes: CEO Vincent Yang, a Stanford MBA and previously co-founder and CEO at EverString; co-founder and COO Jerry Luk, employee No. 30 at LinkedIn and previously at Edmodo; biz dev head Bryan Barber, formerly of Warner Brothers, Universal Pictures and Fox; and CRO Corey Grenier, noted above.

Unlike Quibi, Firework’s parent company Loop Now Technologies has raised “millions” — not a billion dollars — to get off the ground. Its early backers include original Snap investor Lightspeed, IDG Capital and an (undisclosed) early investor in Musical.ly. (Firework is poised to announce its Series A in a few weeks, so is holding off on investment details for now.)

The app launched last year and has been in an open beta until now.

According to data from Sensor Tower, it has 1.8 million installs on iOS, 55 percent in the U.S.

Firework claims it has 2 million registered users across iOS and Android.


Startups – TechCrunch


Amazon New-to-Brand Metrics & What They Can Do For You

March 14, 2019 No Comments

Amazon has launched new metrics for brands advertising on the platform to better understand their audiences and who is buying on the platform. There are four new metrics that offer new-to-brand insights for advertisers. The metrics give an idea of what percent of purchasers and orders are new to brand versus returning customers coming from […]

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero


A first look at Twitter’s new prototype app, twttr

March 13, 2019 No Comments

Yesterday, Twitter rolled out its much-anticipated prototype application to the first group of testers. We’ve now gotten our hands on the app and can see how the current version differs from the build Twitter introduced to the world back in January. While the original version and today’s prototype share many of the same features, there have been some small tweaks as to how conversation threads are displayed, and the color-coded reply labeling system is now much more subtle.

“Twttr,” as the prototype build is called, was created to give Twitter a separate space outside its public network to experiment with new ideas about how Twitter should look, feel and operate. Initially, the prototype focuses on changes to replies, with the goal of making longer conversations easier to read.

However, the company said it will likely continue to test new ideas within the app in the future. And even the features seen today will continue to change as the company responds to user feedback.

In the early build of the twttr prototype, the color-coded reply system was intentionally designed to be overly saturated for visibility’s sake, but Twitter never intended to launch a garish color scheme like this to its testers.

The new system is more readable and no longer color codes the entire tweet.

Below are a few screenshots of what the public Twitter app looks like when compared with the new prototype, plus other features found in twttr alone.

Feedback

Above: regular Twitter on the left; twttr on the right

Before digging into twttr’s key features, it’s worth noting there’s an easy way for testers to submit feedback: a menu item in the left-side navigation.

Here, you can tap on a link labeled “twttr feedback” that takes you directly to a survey form where you can share your thoughts. The form asks for your handle, and what you liked and disliked, and offers a space for other comments.

Reply threads

Left: Original Twitter; Right: twttr prototype

This is the big change Twitter is testing in the prototype.

In the photo on the left, you can see how replies are handled today — a thin, gray line connects a person replying to another user within the larger conversation taking place beneath the original tweet. In the photo, TechCrunch editor Jonathan Shieber is replying both to the TechCrunch tweet and the person who tagged him in a question in their own reply to the TC tweet.

In twttr, Shieber’s reply is nested beneath that question in a different way. It’s indented to offer a better visual cue that he’s answering Steven. And instead of a straight line, it’s curved. (It’s also blue because I follow him on Twitter.)

You’ll notice that everyone’s individual responses are more rounded — similar to chat bubbles. This allows them to pop out on the contrasting background, and gives an appearance of an online discussion board.

Left: Original Twitter; Right: twttr prototype

This is even more apparent when the background is set to the white day theme instead of the darker night theme.

Color-coded replies

Here’s a closer look at nested replies.

People you follow will be prominently highlighted at the top of longer threads with a bright blue line next to their name, on the left side of their chat bubble-shaped reply. Twitter says the way people are ranked is personalized to you, and something it’s continuing to iterate.

Left: Original Twitter; Right: twttr prototype

In the public version of the Twitter app, the original poster is also highlighted in the Reply thread with a prominent “Original Tweeter” label. In the prototype, however, they’re designated only by a colored line next to their name, on the left side of the chat bubble. (See Jordan’s tweet above.)

This is definitely a more subtle way to highlight the tweet’s importance to the conversation. It’s also one that could be overlooked — especially in the darker themed Night Mode where the gray line doesn’t offer as much contrast with the dark background.

In the day theme, it’s much easier to see the difference (see below).

Engagements are hidden

Another thing you’ll notice when scrolling through conversations on twttr is that engagements are hidden on people’s individual tweets. That is, there’s no heart (favorite) icon, no retweet icon, no reply bubble icon and no sharing icon, like you’re used to seeing on tweets today.

Instead, if you want to interact with any tweet using one of those options, you have to tap on the tweet itself.

The tweet will then pop up and become the focus, and all the interaction buttons — including the option to start typing your reply — will then become available.

“Show more”

Another change to conversations is that some replies are hidden by default when you’re reading through a series of replies on Twitter.

Often, in long conversation threads, people will respond to someone else in a thread besides the original Tweeter. Both are tagged in the response when that occurs, but the reply may not be about the original tweet at all. This can make it difficult to follow conversations.

Above: “Show more,” before being expanded

In twttr, these sorts of “side conversations” are hidden.

In their place, a “Show more” button appears. When tapped, those hidden replies come into view again. They’re also indented to show they are a part of a different thread.

This change highlights only those replies that are in response to the original tweet. That means people trolling other individuals in the thread could see their replies hidden. But it also means that those responding to a troll comment to the original poster — like one offering a fact check, for example — will also be hidden.

There are other reasons to hide some replies, notes Twitter — like if the original response was too large or the thread has too many replies. It’s not always about the quality of the responses.

Above: after being expanded

The icon!

Twttr is very much a prototype. That means everything seen here now could dramatically change at any point in the future. Even the twttr icon itself has gone through different iterations.

The first version of the icon was a very lovely bird logo that looked notably different from original Twitter. The new version (which we’ll dub twttr’s Yo icon), is a plain blue box.

Twitter has its reasons for that one… and clearly, it didn’t ask for feedback on this particular change.

Where’s that feedback form again?


Social – TechCrunch


Google’s new voice recognition system works instantly and offline (if you have a Pixel)

March 13, 2019 No Comments

Voice recognition is a standard part of the smartphone package these days, and a corresponding part is the delay while you wait for Siri, Alexa or Google to return your query, either correctly interpreted or horribly mangled. Google’s latest speech recognition works entirely offline, eliminating that delay altogether — though of course mangling is still an option.

The delay occurs because your voice, or some data derived from it anyway, has to travel from your phone to the servers of whoever operates the service, where it is analyzed and sent back a short time later. This can take anywhere from a handful of milliseconds to multiple entire seconds (what a nightmare!), or longer if your packets get lost in the ether.

Why not just do the voice recognition on the device? There’s nothing these companies would like more, but turning voice into text on the order of milliseconds takes quite a bit of computing power. It’s not just about hearing a sound and writing a word — understanding what someone is saying word by word involves a whole lot of context about language and intention.

Your phone could do it, for sure, but it wouldn’t be much faster than sending it off to the cloud, and it would eat up your battery. But steady advancements in the field have made it plausible to do so, and Google’s latest product makes it available to anyone with a Pixel.

Google’s work on the topic, documented in a paper here, built on previous advances to create a model small and efficient enough to fit on a phone (it’s 80 megabytes, if you’re curious), but capable of hearing and transcribing speech as you say it. No need to wait until you’ve finished a sentence to think whether you meant “their” or “there” — it figures it out on the fly.

So what’s the catch? Well, it only works in Gboard, Google’s keyboard app, and it only works on Pixels, and it only works in American English. So in a way this is just kind of a stress test for the real thing.

“Given the trends in the industry, with the convergence of specialized hardware and algorithmic improvements, we are hopeful that the techniques presented here can soon be adopted in more languages and across broader domains of application,” writes Google, as if it is the trends that need to do the hard work of localization.

Making speech recognition more responsive, and to have it work offline, is a nice development. But it’s sort of funny considering hardly any of Google’s other products work offline. Are you going to dictate into a shared document while you’re offline? Write an email? Ask for a conversion between liters and cups? You’re going to need a connection for that! Of course this will also be better on slow and spotty connections, but you have to admit it’s a little ironic.

Gadgets – TechCrunch