Since the introduction of Datumbox service, several software engineers and researchers used our API in order to develop innovative new applications. In the past we have featured, many developers who chose to open-source their projects and contribute their code to the community. In this article I am happy to feature the newest most interesting projects that were developed by using Datumbox Machine Learning API.
Datumbox API client written in Ruby
Marlon Silva Carvalho, an experienced software engineer, published on Github an API client for Datumbox written in Ruby. His Ruby implementation is clean, easy to use and enables you to access all the functionalities of our platform by using a single class.
The Ruby API client is now available on our API page.
Datumbox API client written in Node.js
Hamza Waqas, CTO at Instinktech Inc and Principle Software Architect at Kuew Inc, developed an amazing API client for Node.js. His implementation is fully configurable, very well documented and fully functional, giving you access to all the services of our API by using a single Object. He published the code on Github and on Npm.
The Node.js API client is also available on our API page.
Sentiment Evaluation Tool written in Python
Viktor Pekar, an NLP/Sentiment Analysis researcher and developer, released a Sentiment Evaluation Tool written in Python which targets in comparing and evaluating the accuracy of the most well-known Sentiment Analysis APIs by using a manually annotated dataset. The tool is open-source and you can find its code on Github.
Improving Movie Recommendations by using Twitter Sentiment
Jonas Myrlund, a talented software engineer, explored whether Twitter data can be used to improve movie recommendations. He investigated the hypothesis that the general sentiment on Twitter covaries with “actual” ratings and thus can be a valuable data source when predicting ratings, especially for new content where CF techniques perform poorly. His complete research and his Python implementation is available on Github.
I would like to thank Marlon and Hamza for contributing the API clients; I am certain that many developers will find them very useful. Also I would like to thank Viktor and Jonas for using Datumbox API in their interesting projects.
If you build a Datumbox API Client that you would like to share with the community or an interesting new Application which uses our API, send us an email or tweet and we will cover it in an upcoming blog post!
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FYI: You do all know that America’s tech giants, even Google, supply IT to the US military, right?
Despite all those protests, internal and external, by tech workers against their employers’ selling AI to the US military, the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JIAC) this week said the biggest names in IT are lining up to supply Uncle Sam.
Founded in 2018, the JAIC focuses on deploying machine-learning systems to support America’s armed forces. It invests in all sorts of applications and platforms, from internal private clouds to drones.
Nand Mulchandani, who took over as acting director of the organization after Lieutenant General Jack Shanahan retired in June, told reporters in a briefing on Wednesday that the center has “major contracts with all the major tech companies – including Google.”
The acting director singled out the search giant presumably to highlight what he saw as a bout of hypocrisy by Google, which made a big play about not helping Uncle Sam develop instruments of death yet still provides tech services on the down-low.
In 2018, CEO Sundar Pichai pulled Google out Project Maven – a contract to provide the US military object-tracking AI to analyze drone surveillance footage – after a revolt by Googlers. Soon after, the chief exec publicly declared Google wouldn’t, among other things, “design or deploy … technologies that cause or are likely to cause overall harm” nor “weapons or other technologies whose principal purpose or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people.”
Later that year, Pichai also withdrew the web corp’s bid for the Pentagon’s $10bn winner-takes-all Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract because it did not align with his company’s values. An inability to gain the certification needed to offer cloud services to the military was also a little tiny roadblock, as was its fear of publicly losing out to Amazon or Microsoft. But in any case Google spun itself as a lofty pacifist and definitely not a digital arms manufacturer, and so it wasn’t going to get involved in this sort of stuff again.
Mulchandani, however, painted a different picture: the JAIC’s bonds with massive tech corps were “only getting stronger” no matter the protests and promises from Silicon Valley techies and executives, he claimed. Some of these technology suppliers may be working directly with the government, and some through a network of subcontractors. Some giants, particularly Microsoft, are outwardly proud to serve the US military, technology-wise.
Microsoft to staff: We remain locked and loaded with US military – and will keep adding voice to AI ethics debate
A study by Tech Inquiry, an investigative nonprofit led by an ex-Googler, revealed Google as well as Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Nvidia, Dell, HP, IBM, Twitter, Palantir, and others, supply the Department of Defense and the Feds with technology one way or another. For example, Google’s G Suite is used by the Navy and FBI, we see.
Tech Inquiry’s Jack Poulson noted: “On balance, Google’s position became supporting the DoD’s cloud and cybersecurity while avoiding direct contributions to weapons systems.”
As for the JAIC, it takes an interest in things like the role of machine learning in warfighting operations, warfighter health, logistics, and information warfare. Mulchandani said that most of the organization’s budget is funneled into warfighting operations. “It is true that many of our products we work on now will go into weapon systems,” he said.
But he was quick to insist none of those systems were autonomous: humans still give the final commands, we understand. In other words, the center isn’t building killer robots or weapons that decide solely whether someone lives or dies. “It’s such an outer edge case,” he said. “We are nowhere near that in a platforms, hardware, software, or algorithms perspective to even get near that.”
Another controversial area that the JAIC said it wasn’t involved in is facial recognition. Mulchandani acknowledged that other countries, such as China and Russia, are more ready to deploy this sort of tech compared to his operation. “[We’re] not behind, it’s just that we don’t build [those systems]. We don’t build surveillance and censorship technologies,” he insisted. ®
Microsoft announces new Azure AI capabilities for apps, healthcare, and more
The latest announcements will help companies enhance their voice-enabled application experiences and provide critical data management across healthcare industries.
In the era of digital transformation, more organizations across industries are looking to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance day-to-day operations. In recent weeks, a number of organizations have tapped AI to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. These applications range from using AI systems to monitor social distancing and contact tracing to identifying potential treatments for COVID-19. Earlier today, Microsoft announced a series of updates to the Azure AI system to help with everything from enhanced healthcare data management to leveraging the latest voice-enabled technologies for enhanced customer engagement experiences.
In partnership with the Allen Institute of AI and other research groups, Microsoft developed the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset. Utilizing nearly 50,000 scholarly articles, the team created a COVID-19 search engine. This search engine uses Microsoft Cognitive Search and Text Analytics for health to allow researchers to produce new medical insights to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)
As part of the Microsoft announcement, the company unveiled a new Text Analytics for health feature. This new Text Analytics feature will allow healthcare organizations, providers, and researchers to gain insights and correlations from unstructured medical information. This new feature has been trained on a wide spectrum of medical information and is capable of “processing a broad range of data types and tasks, without the need for time-intensive, manual development of custom models to extract insights from the data,” per Microsoft.
Currently, unstructured medical data is stored in forms comprised of objects, tables, and other ordering components. To effectively gain insights from this unstructured data, people historically have had to manually label or code each of these document types. To assist with this arduous process, Microsoft also announced a generally available Form Recognizer tool enabling individuals more expeditiously extract this data in an accurate and efficient way.
“Our Cognitive Document Processing (CDP) offer enables clients to process and classify unstructured documents and extract data with high accuracy resulting in reduced operating costs and processing time. CDP leverages the powerful cognitive and tagging capabilities of the Form Recognizer to extract effortlessly, keyless paired data and other relevant information from scanned/digital unstructured documents, further reducing the overall process time,” said Mark Oost, chief technology officer at Sogeti.
SEE: Hiring Kit: Computer Research Scientist (TechRepublic Premium)
Microsoft also announced a Custom Commands feature designed to assist with voice-enabled applications and integration. Overall, the feature merges the Azure’s Speech to Text, Text to Speech, and Language Understanding allowing customers to quickly add their voice capabilities to their apps “with a low-code authoring experience.” Custom Commands uses Speech in Cognitive Services capabilities and is now generally available. Microsoft also announced that its Neural Text to Speech would be offering language support with “15 new natural-sounding voices based on state-of-the-art neural speech synthesis models.”
Giving your content a voice with the Newscaster speaking style from Amazon Polly
Audio content consumption has grown exponentially in the past few years. Statista reports that podcast ad revenue will exceed a billion dollars in 2021. For the publishing industry and content providers, providing audio as an alternative option to reading could improve engagement with users and be an incremental revenue stream. Given the shift in customer trends to audio consumption, Amazon Polly launched a new speaking style focusing on the publishing industry: the Newscaster speaking style. This post discusses how the Newscaster voice was built and how you can use the Newscaster voice with your content in a few simple steps.
Building the Newscaster style voice
Until recently, Amazon Polly voices were built such that the speaking style of the voice remained the same, no matter the use case. In the real world, however, speakers change their speaking style based on the situation at hand, from using a conversational style around friends to using upbeat and engaging speech when telling stories. To make voices as lifelike as possible, Amazon Polly has built two speaking style voices: Conversational and Newscaster. Newscaster style, available in US English for Matthew and Joanna, and US Spanish for Lupe, gives content a voice with the persona of a news anchor. Have a listen to the following samples:
With the successful implementation of Neural Text-to-Speech (NTTS), text synthesis no longer relies on a concatenative approach, which mainly consisted of finding the best chunks of recordings to generate synthesized speech. The concatenative approach played audio that was an exact copy of the recordings stored for that voice. NTTS, on the other hand, relies on two end-to-end models that predict waveforms, which results in smoother speech with no joins. NTTS outputs waveforms by learning from training data, which enables seamless transitions between all the sounds and allows us to focus on the rhythm and intonation of the voice to match the existing voice timbre and quality for Newscaster speaking style.
Remixd, a leading audio technology partner for premium publishers, helps publishers and media owners give their editorial content a voice using Amazon Polly. Christopher Rooke, CEO of Remixd, says, “Consumer demand for audio has exploded, and content owners recognize that the delivery of journalism must adapt to meet this moment. Using Amazon Polly’s Newscaster voice, Remixd is helping news providers innovate and keep up with demand to serve the growing customer appetite for audio. Remixd and Amazon Polly make it easy for publishers to remain relevant as content consumption preferences shift.”
Remixd uses Amazon Polly to provide audio content production efficiencies at scale, which makes it easy for publishers to instantly enable audio for new and existing editorial content in real time without needing to invest in costly human voice talent, narration, and pre- and post-production overhead. Rooke adds, “When working with news content, where information is time-sensitive and perishable, the voice quality, and the ability to process large volumes of content and publish the audio version in just a few seconds, is critical to service our customer base.” The following screenshot shows Remixd’s audio player live on one of their customer’s website Daily Caller.
“At the Daily Caller, it’s a priority that our content is accessible and convenient for visitors to consume in whichever format they prefer,” says Chad Brady, Director of Operations of the Daily Caller. “This includes audio, which can be time-consuming and costly to produce. Using Remixd, coupled with Amazon Polly’s high-quality newscaster voice, Daily Caller editorial articles are made instantly listenable, enabling us to scale production and distribution, and delight our audience with a best-in-class audio experience both on and off-site.”
The new NTTS technology enables newscaster voices to be more expressive. However, although the expressiveness vastly increases how natural the voice sounds, it also makes the model more susceptible to discrepancies. NTTS technology learns to model intonation patterns for a given punctuation mark based on data it was provided. Because the intonation patterns are much more extreme for style voices, good annotation of the training data is essential. The Amazon Polly team trained the model with an initial small set of newscaster recordings in addition to the existing recordings from the speakers. Having more data leads to more robust models, but to build a model in a cost- and time-efficient manner, the Amazon Polly team worked on concepts such as multi-speaker models, which allow you to use existing resources instead of needing more recordings from the same speaker.
Evaluations have shown that our newscaster voice is preferred over the neutral speaking style for voicing news content. The following histogram shows results for the Joanna Newscaster voice when compared to other voices for the news use case.
Using Newscaster style to voice your audio content
To use the Newscaster style with Python, complete the following steps (this solution requires Python 3):
- Set up and activate your virtual environment with the following code:
- Install the requirements with the following code:
- In your preferred text editor, create a file
say_as_newscaster.py. See the following code:
- Run the script passing the name and text you want to say:
This generates newscaster.mp3, which you can play in your favorite media player.
This post walked you through the Newscaster style and how to use it in Amazon Polly. The Matthew, Joanna, and Lupe Newscaster voices are used by customers such as The Globe and Mail, Gannetts’ USA Today, DailyCaller and many others.
About the Authors
Joppe Pelzer is a Language Engineer working on text-to-speech for English and building style voices. With bachelor’s degrees in linguistics and Scandinavian languages, she graduated from Edinburgh University with an MSc in Speech and Language Processing in 2018. During her masters she focused on the text-to-speech front end, building and expanding upon multilingual G2P models, and has gained experience with NLP, Speech recognition and Deep Learning. Outside of work, she likes to draw, play games, and spend time in nature.
Ariadna Sanchez is a Research Scientist investigating the application of DL/ML technologies in the area of text-to-speech. After completing a bachelor’s in Audiovisual Systems Engineering, she received her MSc in Speech and Language Processing from University of Edinburgh in 2018. She has previously worked as an intern in NLP and TTS. During her time at University, she focused on TTS and signal processing, especially in the dysarthria field. She has experience in Signal Processing, Deep Learning, NLP, Speech and Image Processing. In her free time, Ariadna likes playing the violin, reading books and playing games.
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