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BBC releases first beta of its Beeb voice assistant to UK Windows Insider members

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Back in August 2019, the BBC made some waves with the news that it was developing a voice assistant called Beeb, an English language “Alexa” of its own that could interact with and control its array of radio and TV services, and its on-demand catalogue, and able to understand the array of accents you find across the BBC’s national footprint, to boot.

Ten months on, it’s releasing its first live version of the service in the form of a beta to a select group of early adopters: U.K.-based members of the Windows Insider Program, a beta-testing, bug-seeking, early-adopter group popular in the Windows community, with more than 10 million users globally.

The idea with the limited release beta — according to Grace Boswood, COO of BBC Design and Engineering — will be to get Insiders to try out various features and stress test Beeb in the early beta, while at the same time giving the BBC a trove of usage data that can help it continue to train Beeb further, ahead of a wider release. The BBC is not naming a date yet for the general release.

(Those interested in trying out the early beta need to apply for the Insider Programme. When you are a member in the U.K., you have to be using the latest release of Windows 10, and then you download Beeb BETA from the Windows App Store.)

The BBC today has integrations with a number of major voice assistants that power home hubs, smartphone interactions and other connected devices, and a spokesperson said that its Alexa skill (the customised mini-apps that you use with Amazon’s voice service) is one of the most popular skills in the U.K. So why is the BBC building its own assistant?

The short answer is independence and autonomy — and as a result, what the BBC hopes will be a better service for more people.

“An assistant of our own will give the BBC the ability to build and develop services like this, as well as the freedom to experiment with new programmes, features and experiences without someone else’s permission to build it in a certain way,” the spokesperson said Tuesday. “It will also allow us to be much more ambitious in the content and features that listeners can enjoy.”

The interactive voice market today is dominated by a group of tech giants — specifically, Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft — but even what looks like a relatively small list speaks of lengthy fragmentation.

Building a service for any one of them requires specific customisations, and even small changes require approvals from platform owners. Given that several on this list are also building (or already have) hefty entertainment and other content catalogues of their own, the BBC effectively is handing over the critical link between user and service to a business competing for those users’ attention (and for their usage data, itself a hot commodity these days).

On that subject, it’s notable that the BBC has chosen Microsoft as its development partner. Not only is it a longtime partner of the BBC, but it’s the only one of the four that doesn’t have a big content play of its own at the moment that stands to compete against the BBC. Beeb is being built leaning heavily on Microsoft’s Azure AI, among other services and tech.

The other side of the coin is the public service remit of the BBC. The corporation — “Auntie,” as a lot of people over here like to fondly (or sometimes sarcastically) refer to it — is funded by public money, and so it has a mandate to build services that continue to keep it as accessible as possible.

Some of that accessibility is coming in the form of delivery: Beeb is programmed from the get-go to understand all kinds of different accents (we sure have come a long way since Received Pronunciation). And some of that accessibility is coming in the form of functionality.

While a skill on Alexa will let you interact with a third-party app, these are never as good as using a service directly (in my house, we’ve lost track of the amount of times we’ve given up on trying to find something on Spotify we know is there, but Alexa cannot fish out). So to really make a voice service accessible, to use it to truly dive into the BBC universe, regardless of the platform you’re using, it has to be something built from the ground up by the BBC itself.

That also means a much more BBC experience overall. There will be jokes on Beeb written by BBC comedy writers, QI facts from Sandi Toksvig and Mash Reports for your daily dose of news satire.

(And again, with data being a huge asset in itself, even if the BBC will never sell ads or charge users in the U.K., building a platform that lets it amass and learn from what users are directly asking for, saying and consuming without an intermediary will give the BBC a huge trove of information that it can in turn use in its international services, which do generate a lot of income.)

Still, some of this feels a bit like putting the cart before the horse. Voice-based interactive services are not exactly ubiquitous today — as of last year only one in five households in the U.K. had a smart speaker, according to research from Strategy Analytics, and my guess is that many people are not using them all too frequently — yet it’s still a market that is growing. Building a voice-based interface is, like the now-huge iPlayer the BBC built many years ago to interact with its on-demand catalog, a smart piece of future proofing.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/06/02/bbc-releases-first-beta-of-its-beeb-voice-assistant-to-uk-windows-insider-members/

BBC

Ledger Acknowledges Data Breach; Grayscale Hits ATH Numbers; Missing Cryptoqueen Podcast Returns!

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TL;DR: Welcome to In Case You Missed It (ICYMI), a daily crypto news update. Ledger acknowledges customer data breach. Grayscale reaches ATH numbers. Coinbase to offer interest on Dai savings. Ethereum price hike causes GPU shortage. BBC podcast The Missing Cryptoqueen to continue, and Central Bank of Philippines considers issuing a digital currency.

Ledger Acknowledges Customer Data Breach

Ledger

Ledger, one of the leading hardware wallet manufacturers, acknowledged it suffered a recent data breach that compromised customer information. The company announced this was the result of an exploit previously patched that was leveraged by an attacker to obtain customer’s email addresses, also first and last names, postal addresses, and phone number in some cases. More than 9,500 customers were affected, but Ledger claims neither payment information nor credentials were leaked.

Grayscale Hits ATH Numbers in Assets Under Management

The latest cryptocurrency market pump made institutional holders aware of the importance of it, and institution focused exchanges are profiting. Grayscale, the biggest cryptocurrency investment fund, reached ATH numbers of assets under management, $5.1 billion. This is in part because investors are paying premiums to enjoy these kinds of instruments. In just one day, the number of assets under management rose $300 million, according to updates offered by Grayscale’s Twitter account daily.

Coinbase to Offer Interest on Dai Savings

Ledger

Coinbase, a normie friendly cryptocurrency exchange, announced it will start paying its customers 2% APY for saving in Dai, an Ethereum-based stablecoin. The company is rolling these changes in US, UK, Netherlands, Spain, France, and Australia. With interests offered by banks at absolute lows all around the world, Coinbase introduces these instruments as an attractive way of generating passive income with cryptocurrency assets. Coinbase also offers this kind of instrument for USDC, another stablecoin issued by the same exchange.

Ethereum Price Rise Creates GPU Shortages

Ledger

The recent price hike experienced by Ethereum made people consider Ethereum mining as a considerable source of income, creating shortages in the availability of GPUs in the market. Nvidia, one of the leading GPU manufacturers, is also being blamed, in part because it is phasing out its latest graphics product (RTX 20 series) at the wrong time, among coronavirus pandemic woes. A miner manufacturer stated GPU companies “limit the mining industry’s procurement to avoid the impact on the subsequent consumer market.”

BBC Announces “The Missing CryptoQueen” Podcast Will Continue

BBC Sounds and Jamie Bartlett, the producer of The Missing Cryptoqueen podcast, that deals with the scam scheme of OneCoin, announced there will be a continuation of this podcast in the near future. “You didn’t think we were going to stop, did you?,” declares the new teaser posted on BBC Sounds. It that promises to reveal more of the secrets the OneCoin scam and its leader Ruja Ignatova, who took approximately $4 billion from investors all over the world, and disappeared without a trace back in 2017.

Philippines Considers to Issue Official Central Bank Digital Currency

The Central Bank of Philippines is considering issuance of an official central bank digital currency, according to reports from Bloomberg. The institution created a committee to research the feasibility of this idea and how it could be executed. “We have to first look at the findings of the group before making a decision,” declared Governor Benjamin Diokno in a virtual briefing. Philippines is just the last country to examine the possibility of the creation of a digital currency, while China is already in the testing stages.

LedgerCONTINUE THE SPICE and check out our piping hot VIDEOS. Our podcast, The CoinSpice Podcast, has amazing guests. Follow CoinSpice on Twitter. Join our Telegram feed to make sure you never miss a post. Drop some BCH at the merch shop — we’ve got some spicy shirts for men and women. Don’t forget to help spread the word about CoinSpice on social media.

DYOR: CoinSpice is your home for just spicy crypto things. We’re not affiliated with any cryptocurrency project or token. Each published piece is intended for information purposes only, not investment advice and not in the hope of impacting speculative markets. There are plenty of trading sites and coin-specific advocacy journals out there, we’re neither. CoinSpice strives for rigorous accuracy in our reporting. Information presented here is contingent usually on a host of factors, and the ecosystem moves fast — prices change, projects change, and at warp speed. Do your own research.

Source: https://coinspice.io/news/ledger-acknowledges-data-breach-grayscale-hits-ath-numbers-missing-cryptoqueen-podcast-returns/

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News outlets will digitally watermark content to limit misinformation

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BRAZIL - 2020/06/15: In this photo illustration the Facebook logo is displayed on a smartphone and a red alerting word "FAKE NEWS" on the blurred background. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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In the run-up to the 2020 US election, a group of major media organizations will once again work together to try and clamp down on fake news. The Trusted News Initiative (TNI) is a coalition of blue-chip publishers and Microsoft which have pledged to work together to tackle disinformation. And, this year, the team will try using a new verification technology, dubbed Project Origin, to try and watermark legitimate content. That way, it’s hoped, scammers can’t mock up a headline and pass it off as real news as easily as they once did.

“Brand marks, styles and other traditional indicators of trust,” says the BBC in a statement, “they are no longer enough to ensure content legitimacy.” That’s why Project Origin will attach a “digital watermark” to stories from TNI partners that shows them that the news has come from an official source. The idea is both to help people find trusted news, but also to filter out faked content. Unfortunately, there’s no word on how this will work yet — the standards for Project Origin have yet to be published.

TNI Members include the BBC, NYT, CBC and the WSJ as well as Google, Facebook and Microsoft, with the AP and Washington Post joining this year. It’s likely that Google and Facebook will have to shoulder the bulk of the responsibility after being willing incubators of fake news for so long. Sadly, Project Origin isn’t going to be standard from now on, and instead will run in the month just before the 2020 election. That means that malign actors have got from now until early October to get their material in front of people. 

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/bbc-fake-news-111000601.html

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Stephanie Winston Wolkoff: Melania Trump’s former aide to publish book

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A former aide to Melania Trump has written a memoir about her 15-year friendship with the US first lady.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s book, Melania and Me, is due out on 1 September.

In 2018, Ms Winston Wolkoff was reportedly forced out of the White House, amid allegations that she had been profiteering from President Trump’s inauguration.

But the former aide has said she was “thrown under the bus”.

She denied claims her company received $26 million (£20 million) in payments to help plan the 2017 ceremony and surrounding events, saying her firm “retained a total of $1.62 million”.

“In her memoir, Wolkoff chronicles her journey from their friendship that started in New York to her role as the First Lady’s trusted advisor to her abrupt and very public departure, to life after Washington,” according to a description of the book published by Vanity Fair.

The book, which will be on sale ahead of the November presidential election – when Mr Trump will take on Democrat nominee Joe Biden, is the latest controversial memoir involving the Trumps.

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s new book, The Room Where It Happened, portrays a president ignorant of basic geopolitical facts and whose decisions were frequently driven by a desire for re-election.

He accuses Mr Trump of wanting help from China to win re-election, while offering approval for China’s plan to build forced-labour camps for its Muslim Uighur minority. He also backs up Democrat allegations that sparked impeachment efforts against the president.

Meanwhile, the president’s niece, Mary Trump, is due to publish Too Much And Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man later this month.

An Amazon blurb for the book says the author will set out how her uncle “became the man who now threatens the world’s health, economic security and social fabric”.

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Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-53315986

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US to withdraw visas for foreign students if classes moved fully online

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Foreign students will not be allowed to stay in the US this autumn if their universities have moved classes fully online, unless they switch to a course with in-person tuition.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said people could face deportation if they do not comply with the rules.

Many universities are moving classes online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is not clear how many students will be affected.

Large numbers of foreign students travel to the US to study every year and are a significant source of revenue for universities as many pay full tuition.

Harvard has announced all course instruction will be delivered online when students return for the new academic year, including those living at the university.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which is run by ICE, had permitted foreign students to continue with their spring and summer 2020 courses online while remaining in the country.

But Monday’s announcement said foreign students who remain in the US while enrolled in online courses and fail to switch to in-person courses could face “immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings”.

The rule applies to holders of F-1 and M-1 visas, which are for academic and vocational students. The State Department issued 388,839 F visas and 9,518 M visas in the fiscal year 2019, according to the agency’s data.

According to the US Commerce Department, international students contributed $45 billion (£36 billion) to the country’s economy in 2018.

Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-53315651

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