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A completely private, blockchain-backed Alexa alternative

(TECHNOLOGY) With smart speakers like Alexa violating users’ privacy expectations, a French startup seeks to turn the problem on its head.

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It’s hard not to wear a tinfoil hat about voice assistants like Siri and Alexa. As recently as this May, an Alexa user reported a private conversation was sent to a random contact. Amazon insists they aren’t always recording, and this was simply a series of whoopsie-doopsies.

However, back in 2014, Amazon filed a patent to record even without hearing the “wake word,” in order to target advertising. While this is still in application status, it certainly doesn’t assuage privacy concerns about the future of voice assistants.

Amazon also recently announced the launch of Alexa for Hospitality, a voice control system for hotels. Voice assistants are expanding their scope, becoming more integrated into our daily lives and consistently raising questions about privacy.

French startup, Snips offers a solution to data privacy and security issue with their decentralized software. Founded in 2013 by three PhDs, Snips now operates out of Paris and New York City offering a meaningful AI platform (not the physical smart speaker).

Snips creates white-label voice assistant technology for enterprise device manufacturers. Their software is completely independent from the cloud, and runs fully on-device. Now they’re branching out to consumer business.

Co-Founder and CEO, Dr. Rand Hindi noted, “consumers are increasingly aware of the privacy concerns with voice assistants that rely on cloud storage — and that these concerns will actually impact their usage.”

In a consumer study conducted by Snips, 90 percent of respondents said they would sacrifice convenience for more control over how corporations use their data. Snips plans to use blockchain to “create safer and fairer alternatives for voice assistants.”

Instead of using consumer data, Snips will issue a cryptographic token via an ICO. Their goal is to create a platform that can be improved over time using decentralized machine learning and cyrptography.

Snips hopes that issuing a cyrptographic token will incentivize developers to work on the platform. Crytographic tokens are essentially a way to level the playing field in an organization.

Traditional top-down management involves many layers of coordination and levels of approval. This is where we see a standard CEO-to-management to non-management relationships most often reflected in companies.

With decentralized organizations, there is no centralized legal entity or employment contracts. Everyone is connected and decisions are made by autonomous stakeholders. Hindi says there are already 14,000 developers on board.

So far, Snips has raised over $24M in funding from investors, including BPI France, Eniac Ventures, Korelya Capital, and MAIR Avenir.

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

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Artificial intelligence wants to improve your resume

(TECHNOLOGY) Artificial intelligence can do everything from drive a car to improve your resume – we’re movin’ on up!

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skillroads artificial intelligence resume builder

Remember the career service office in college, who gave you your first lesson on resume writing? Or maybe you remember the coaching company who helped you tweak your cover letter and professional story for a career change?

Now, imagine all those experiences automated by artificial intelligence (AI). Seems farfetched? It’s closer than you think.

Enter Skillroads, an “AI career service to help you land a dream job.” This tool acts as a new resume builder, a current resume evaluator, and a cover letter builder, to set you up with the most optimal job app documents.

The resume builder takes your desired position, and a questionnaire outlining your experience, and a list of your skills and turns it into a resume for you. Powered by “smart data sourcing and natural language,” Skillroads turns those inputs into “strengths and skills that suit you best,” likely by matching your skills with desirable keywords.

That same technology fuels the “smart resume check.” You can upload your current resume, and the tool will grade it on ATS (applicant tracking systems) compatibility, formatting, and sectioning, among other things. In addition to the quantitative scores, the tool offers steps to fix and improve the document.

Once your resume is ready, next up is the Cover Letter Builder. Using your resume details, Skillroads automatically identifies key competencies to address in the letter, then builds the language and story using best writing practices.

The tool itself wants to appeal to users targeting Fortune 500 Job Opportunities, as the tool also incorporates a search engine for jobs at those companies. The tool can match the documents it creates with open opportunities, to save people time during the job hunt.

So, how does it stack up to a resume writing service?

A human review can give you different perspectives from different people; unless all such perspectives are accounted for in an algorithm, you may not receive the most comprehensive audit possible. Furthermore, you can’t get feedback on things like in-person interview or phone screen performance from an algorithm. Not yet, anyways.

While a human review is still superior, this is a good first step to integrate artificial intelligence into a algorithm-oriented job application environment.

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How to opt out of Google’s robots calling your business phone

(TECH) Google’s robots now call businesses to set appointments, but not all companies are okay with talking to an artificial intelligence tool like a person. Here’s how to opt out.

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You know what’s not hard? Calling a restaurant and making a reservation. You know what’s even easier? Making that reservation though OpenTable. You know what we really don’t need, but it’s here so we have to deal with it? Google Duplex.

Falling under “just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should do it,” Duplex, Google’s eerily human-sounding AI chat agent that can arrange appointments for Pixel users via Google Assistant has rolled out in several cities including New York, Atlanta, Phoenix, and San Francisco which now means you can have a robot do menial tasks for you.

There’s even a demo video of someone using Google Duplex to find an area restaurant and make a reservation and in the time it took him to tell the robot what to do, he could’ve called and booked a reservation himself.

Aside from booking the reservation for you, Duplex can also offer you updates on your reservation or even cancel it. Big whoop. What’s difficult to understand is the need or even demand for Duplex. If you’re already asking Google Assistant to make the reservation, what’s stopping you from making it yourself? And the most unsettling thing about Duplex? It’s too human.

It’s unethical to imply human interaction. We should feel squeamish about a robo-middleman making our calls and setting our appointments when we’re perfectly capable of doing these things.

However, there is hope. Google Duplex is here, but you don’t have to get used to it.

Your company can opt out of accepting calls by changing the setting in your Google My Business accounts. If robots are already calling restaurants and businesses in your city, give your staff a heads-up. While they may receive reservations via Duplex, at least they’ll be prepared to talk to a robot.

And if you plan on not opting out, at least train your staff on what to do when the Google robots call.

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Bose launches headphone-less headphones for your face

(TECHNOLOGY) Bose is using augmented reality in a fascinating new way (even if we’re poking fun at it).

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Just in time for the holidays, Bose releases Frames, their new breakthrough sunglasses that combine the protection and style of premium sunglasses, the functionality and performance of wireless headphones, and the world’s first audio augmented reality platform.

At $199 per pair, they’re the perfect gift for the person who has everything and who will eventually lose them in a lake, leave them in a fitting room, or crush them in a car seat.

Frames have the ability to stream music and information, take and make calls, and access virtual assistants. Bose promises that your playlists, entertainment, and conversations will stay private, although how your conversations will remain private is unclear. Expect confusion from every stranger within earshot.

Bose is calling Frames a revolutionary wearable, but aren’t these just headphones for your face? Very cool headphones for your face?

Bose is pushing the AR functionality hard.

Although they can’t change what you see, they know what you’re seeing using a 9-axis head motion sensor and the GPS from your iOS or Android. Once they know what you see, the AR automatically tunes you into audio commentary for that place, opening users to endless possibilities for travel, learning, entertainment, and gaming.

They claim Frames are hands-free and clear-eyed, but even if that’s the case, do we really need more people walking around under the influence of distraction? As if it weren’t enough to have people’s eyes glued to their phones, now we can have people in matching sunglasses wandering around talking to themselves. Now who looks bonkers?

Frames are available for preorder now and are expected to ship in January 2019. Look for Bose to release updates to their AR at SXSW in March.

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