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Amazon’s Alexa is learning new language and speechcons, becoming more human

(TECH NEWS) Amazon’s VR assistant Alexa is learning new lingo and new ways to talk to make interactions with her a bit more human.

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superjack alexa speechcons silentecho

So it begins

Move over Siri, Amazon’s VR Assistant Alexa is becoming more human.

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Amazon announced the addition of new speaking skills for Alexa this week, which will give more humanlike qualities to her speaking patterns.

Humanizing Alexa

The current version of Alexa already has quite the personality, which developers tried to emulate after seeing the popularity of Apple’s Siri. Certain characteristics that she already possesses, like the ability to joke, sing and answer questions about her, were developed so that users could feel a real connection.

In this way, Alexa will serve as more than just another cool gadget.

However, no matter what the context of the response, it was noted that Alexa’s voice still sounded robotic. Her speech patterns lacked natural pauses and emotion, especially when talking in long phrases.

New inflexion

To resolve this issue, developers added five new tags that users can incorporate as they wish. These speech features include whispering, expletive bleeps, emphasis, sub (which allows Alexa to say something different than what is written) and prosody. The last feature refers to controlling volume, pitch and rate of speech.

While Alexa bleeping out certain language doesn’t seem like such a human thing to do, developers think it is a skill that can be beneficial for some users.

However, there are still limitations to how human Alexa can get. At the end of the day, Amazon still wants Alexa to retain her technological qualities, so they have set limits on the amount of changes her speech can undergo. No need to expect your Alexa to start spontaneously screaming or laughing in the future.

Slang

Developers have also introduced “speechcons” in certain countries across the globe. Speechcons refer to words or phrases that Alexa will recognize and make more expressive. For instance, in the US, speechcons include “Aloha,” “Yay,” and “Ahem.” Developers in the UK and Germany are currently working on their own phrases in addition to the new speech changes.

The goal of speechcons is to make Alexa’s dialect specific to each region.Click To Tweet

This, in addition to the added human characteristics will create more engaging and personal interactions between Alexa and its users.

#AlexaSpeechcons

Natalie is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and co-founded an Austin creative magazine called Almost Real Things. When she is not writing, she spends her time making art, teaching painting classes and confusing people. In addition to pursuing a writing career, Natalie plans on getting her MFA to become a Professor of Fine Art.

Tech News

How to build apps without knowing how to code (it’s actually common!)

(TECHNOLOGY) No-code app-building tools are becoming more available to the everyday user, which could lead to more inventive and original apps.

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no-code website

“Learn to code” is a common, frustrating refrain often hurled at job-seekers, entrepreneurs, creative professionals, and others. Depending on who’s saying it, the intent could range from well-meaning to willfully hurtful.

It does, in a way, make sense. Computer programming is the foundational language that modern life is built on. And while many people use technology that they don’t understand every day—from microwaves to cars—there’s something a little different about programming. It’s omnipresent for just about anyone, just about everywhere, whether they use it for work or not. And more people use it for work than ever. It’s the single most sought-after skill in the job market.

But “learn to code” isn’t practical for everyone. Not everyone with an app idea has the time to learn how to build an app from scratch, or the money to hire people to do it for them. That’s where the low-code/no-code movement comes in. It’s all about giving the people the tools they need to execute on an idea without having to learn an entire new skill set. When you bake a cake, you probably don’t grind wheat into flour, and when you build an app, you don’t have to start with Python.

No-code isn’t really a new idea.

The fact that computers have menus and icons is the result of early programmers realizing that non-programmers would have to use a computer sometimes. You could look to tools like RPG Maker that let people build their own video games back in 1992. RPG Maker was like a Lego kit for making a video game. And not only is it still going strong, it proved itself prophetic. It turns out that giving people tools and a sand box is a great way to enable creativity.

This has been the long arc of the Internet, too. There was a time when participating in the World Wide Web in a meaningful way meant learning to program. Places like Geocities gave you real estate to set up a website. But you had to build that site yourself. We’ve moved away from that as the Internet commodified. Sites like Facebook and Twitter remove customization in the name of uniformity.

But creative tools persist. Consider “WYSIWYG,” or “What You See Is What You Get” web editors. These are tools like WordPress that reclaimed some of that Internet customization. They give you assets to build a website, and you plug them in where you want.

It’s a middle ground between building from scratch, and having everything handed to you. It’s the sweet spot of accessible creativity. (If you’ve never heard anyone say “WYSIWYG,” that’s probably because these web development tools are so common that they don’t really need a special name anymore.)

Right now, one of the biggest areas of no-code design is in app development. These app dev tools are similar to building a WordPress site. They give you the raw materials, and you customize and assemble them however you want to. Adalo, a no-code platform for building apps, lets your bring assets and ideas to the table, and gives you a framework to organize those ideas into an app.

They aren’t alone. AppOnboard, a no-code software development suite, purchased Buildbox, a leading no-code game development platform. Their combined resources represent a stunning library of assets, full of potential.

What does this mean for coders? Probably not much. Specialized skills are still in high demand. But for the rest of us, a slow democratization of development is taking place, and it’s exciting to watch it take shape.

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Tech News

Recall announced by Daily Harvest via aesthetic post, gets major backlash

(BUSINESS) Trendy meal delivery service, Daily Harvest, sticks to branding by announcing a serious food recall via Instagram, met with obvious backlash.

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Man looking up Daily Harvest recall on computer.

What NOT to do when things go south.

We can learn a lot from other businesses’ mistakes. Check out Daily Harvest, for example.

Daily Harvest is a trendy food home delivery service. They are under heavy backlash from their customers following a recall on their lentil and leek crumbles meal. Multiple customers have reported stomach issues after eating this meal.

Users across social media accounts such as Reddit, Twitter, and Instagram have complained about nausea, vomiting, and liver damage symptoms after consuming this dish. Several customers even reported hospitalization.

How did Daily Harvest react?

As entrepreneurs, we are all aware that things are going to go wrong from time to time. And as humans, we know that how we respond to these issues determines the future of our business.

Well, Daily Harvest’s social team didn’t get the memo as you’ll see by their response on social.

They issued a recall notice by using a vague aesthetic product image of the questionable lentil meal with a caption that read “UPDATE 6/19: An important message regarding our French Lentil + Leek Crumbles. Link in bio with details.” Daily Harvest’s inability to take control and react with clear communication to aid their customers shows us how NOT to handle an urgent situation. Their ambiguous caption provides no real information or help to their consumers and they have noticed.

They have since deleted the original post from Instagram, but we all know the internet never forgets. This is how they launched their product recall.

Daily Harvest Instagram Post

As of 10:58 – June 22, 2022 this is how the notice appears on the main page of their website:

Daily Harvest Main Page

Upon further examination, I can find hardly a mention of the recall other than the home page and the actual product listing itself. I did confirm that I was not able to purchase the product through their web-based system at this time. Maybe most of their traffic lands on the home page, but why not go ahead and put the banner at the top of every page until this gets resolved? Not to mention how it appears at the top of the home page. It’s barely noticeable.

Daily Harvest Best Sellers

If you click on the details, the notice on their website details the steps Daily Harvest claims to be taking to handle the sickness reports from the voluntary recall, to direct consumer communication, and the investigation with the FDA along with current results.

Daily Harvest Recall

What’s the takeaway?

Do better than Daily Harvest and you’ll already be a winner.

No, seriously you will!

But first, consider posting eye-catching imagery or text for your consumer. The text should be in the image posts themselves and in the captions. Pin it to the top of your social media accounts. Share it to stories. Make sure every page on your website has a banner and it’s noticeable. Over-communicate with your customers.

Do all of these and you’re already beating Daily Harvest.

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Tech News

Make your current tech tools as useful as possible with these productivity hacks

(TECHNOLOGY) No downloading obscure apps to increase your production here. This site gives you productivity hacks to utilize the tools you already have.

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productivity hacks with productivity.so

If you find yourself searching for productivity hacks on the internet, chances are you’re already procrastinating. We’ve all been there and sometimes you do need to invest a little time upfront in order to save time long-term. The problem is that most “productivity hacks” recommend you download a new app or software which means you need to invest time in learning how to use it. All of this strays you further and further from your original goal of working more efficiently and saving time.

A new website called Productivity.so is designed to save you time by better utilizing the tools you’re already using. The websites founders are self-proclaimed productivity lovers who have devoted their own time to collecting a pool of productivity hacks for you iPhone, computer, Gmail, and more. No downloading obscure apps to increase your productivity here.

This website focuses on helping you make your current technology as useful as possible.

It’s a safe bet that there are dozens of ways you could be using your phone, computer, or tablet more efficiently. No one stops to read the instruction manual and even if you did it would only be so helpful because modern technology updates. Everything from your computer to your favorite social media app is constantly pushing out updates with new productivity hacks just waiting to be found.

It’s impossible to keep up on your own! Earlier today I realized you can switch between Twitter accounts by holding down the home button. I use this app every day, but I couldn’t tell you if this a new feature or if I just noticed it.

Productivity.so could be a great way to stay up to date on the latest UX tricks that will help you and your team speed up your workflow. The website currently hosts a small library of hacks that users can browse through. The next great breakthrough in your productivity could be waiting.

The website also offers a free weekly newsletter which promises to send you two new productivity hacks each week. These hacks will be simple tricks like switching between Gmail accounts by holding down your avatar. They’re easy enough that you can start implementing them into your daily routine right away.

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