Microsoft’s new language learning app uses your phone’s camera and computer vision to teach vocabulary

Source: Microsoft more

Eight Microsoft interns have developed a new language learning tool that uses the smartphone camera to help adults improve their English literacy by learning the words for the things around them. The app, Read My World, lets you take a picture with your phone to learn from a library of over 1,500 words. The photo can be of a real-world object or text found in a document, Microsoft says.

The app is meant to either supplement formal classroom training or offer a way to learn some words for those who didn’t have the time or funds to participate in a language learning class.

Instead of lessons, users are encouraged to snap photos of the things they encounter in their everyday lives.

“Originally, we were planning more of a lesson plan style approach, but through our research and discovery, we realized a Swiss army knife might be more useful,” said Nicole Joyal, a software developer intern who worked on the project. “We wound up building a tool that can help you throughout your day-to-day rather than something that teaches,” she said.

Read My World uses a combination of Microsoft Cognitive Services and Computer Vision APIs to identify the objects in photos. It will then show the word’s spelling and speak the phonetic pronunciation of the identified vocabulary words. The photos corresponding to the identified words can also be saved to a personal dictionary in the app for later reference.

Finally, the app encourages users to practice their newly discovered words by way of three built-in vocabulary games.

The’s 1,500-word vocabulary may seem small, but it’s actually close to the number of words foreign language learners are able to pick up through traditional study. According to a report from the BBC, for instance, many language learners struggle to learn more than 2,000 to 3,000 words even after years of study. In fact, one study in Taiwan found that after 9 years of learning a foreign language, students failed to learn the most frequently-used 1,000 words.

The report also stressed that it was most important to pick up the words used day-to-day.

Because the app focuses on things you see, it’s limited in terms of replacing formal instruction. After gathering feedback from teachers and students who tested an early version, the team rolled out a feature to detect words in documents too. It’s not a Google Lens-like experience, where written words are translated into your own language — rather, select words it can identify are highlighted so you can hear how they sound, and see a picture so you know what it is.

For example, the app pointed at a student’s school supply list may pick out words like pencils, notebooks, scissors, and binders.

The app, a project from Microsoft’s in-house incubator Microsoft Garage, will initially be made available for testing and feedback for select organizations. Those who work with low literacy communities at an NGO or nonprofit, can request an invitation to join the experiment by filling out a form.

 


Microsoft’s new language learning app uses your phone’s camera and computer vision to teach vocabulary

Microsoft aims to train and certify 15,000 workers on A.I. skills by 2022

Source: Microsoft more

Microsoft is investing in certification and training for a range of A.I.-related skills in partnership with education provider General Assembly, the companies announced this morning. The goal is to train some 15,000 people by 2022 in order to increase the pool of A.I. talent around the world. The training will focus on A.I., machine learning, data science, cloud and data engineering and more.

In the new program’s first year, Microsoft will focus on training 2,000 workers to transition to a A.I. and machine learning role. And over the full three years, it will train an additional 13,000 workers with A.I.-related skills.

As part of this effort, Microsoft is joining General Assembly’s new A.I. Standards Board along with other companies. Over the next six months, the Board will help to define A.I. skills standards, develop assessments, design a career framework, and create credentials for A.I. skills.

The training developed will also focus on filing the A.I. jobs currently available where Microsoft technologies are involved. As Microsoft notes, many workers today are not skilled enough for roles involving the use of Azure in aerospace, manufacturing and elsewhere. The training, it says, will focus on serving the needs of its customers who are looking to employ A.I. talent.

This will also include the creation of an A.I. Talent Network that will source candidates for long-term employment as well as contract work. General Assembly will assist with this effort by connecting its 22 campuses and the broader Adecco ecosystem to this jobs pipeline. (GA sold to staffing firm Adecco last year for $413 million.)

Microsoft cited the potential for A.I.’s impact on job creation as a reason behind the program, noting that up to 133 million new roles may be created by 2022 as a result of the new technologies. Of course, it’s also very much about making sure its own software and cloud customers can find people who are capable of working with its products, like Azure.

“As a technology company committed to driving innovation, we have a responsibility to help workers access the AI training they need to ensure they thrive in the workplace of today and tomorrow,” said Jean-Philippe Courtois, executive vice president and president of Global Sales, Marketing and Operations at Microsoft, in a statement. “We are thrilled to combine our industry and technical expertise with General Assembly to help close the skills gap and ensure businesses can maximize their potential in our AI-driven economy.”


Microsoft aims to train and certify 15,000 workers on A.I. skills by 2022

Oh no, there’s A.I. whiskey now

Source: Microsoft more

Forget all those whiskey brands from musicians and celebs — there’s A.I. whiskey now. Microsoft this week announced it has teamed up with Finnish tech company Fourkind and Sweden-based distillery Mackmyra Whisky to create the “world’s first whisky developed with artificial intelligence.”

Oh no!

Here’s how it will work.

As part of the distillation process, whiskey first spends time — typically years — sitting in charred wooden casks. This turns the clear liquor a darker color, and gives it a unique flavor. How long it stays in the casks, and what the casks held before — like bourbon, wine, sherry, etc. — helps create a specific recipe. Master distillers tweak all these variables along with the different ingredients used to create the whiskey in the first place to come up with a variety of blends.

Until now, this entire process is done by humans with a specialized set of skills. For the A.I. blend, Mackmyra is turning part of the job over to the machines.

The distillery is feeding its existing recipes, sales data and customer preferences to machine learning models, so the A.I. can suggest what recipes it should make next.

The A.I., Mackmyra says, is capable of generating over 70 million different recipes. And it will highlight those it predicts will be most popular and of the highest quality, based on the cask types that are currently on hand.

These models are powered by Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and Azure cognitive services. Fourkind developed the A.I. algorithms involved, explains Microsoft in its announcement.

However, the distillery notes it’s not actually replacing its Master Blenders with A.I. Instead, it’s using the A.I. to create the recipes which are then curated by the (still human) experts.

“The work of a Master Blender is not at risk,” insists Angela D’Orazio, Mackmyra’s Master Blender. “While the whiskey recipe is created by A.I., we still benefit from a person’s expertise and knowledge, especially the human sensory part, that can never be replaced by any program. We believe that the whiskey is A.I.-generated, but human-curated. Ultimately, the decision is made by a person.”

Microsoft says this is the first time A.I. has been used to augment the process of making whiskey. The finished product will be available in Autumn 2019.

Despite not knowing how the juice turns out, Fourkind wants to turn its algorithms to other industries where complex recipes are involved — including those for other beverages, and also things like perfumes, sweets, or sneaker designs.

This would not be the first time that A.I. has been put to work in a more artistic field.

For example, at Google’s I/O developer conference this month, the company showed off how A.I. could be used in artistic endeavors — including music, visual art, and even fashion.

Of course, when A.I. is tasked with making art, the end results tend to be strange, unworldly and sometimes a little frightening.

Which begs the question: how the hell will an A.I. whiskey taste?

(via TNW

 


Oh no, there’s A.I. whiskey now

Skype’s big redesign publicly launches to desktop users

Source: Microsoft more
 Earlier this year, Skype introduced a revamped version of its application offering a heavier focus on media sharing and social expression tools, in an effort to better compete with more modern social communication services, like Slack and even Snapchat. Today, the company is publicly launching the new version of Skype to the desktop, including on Mac, Windows 10 (November 2016 update and… Read More
Skype’s big redesign publicly launches to desktop users

Windows Ink, Cortana improvements and more arrive in the latest Windows 10 build out now

Source: Tech News – Enterprise
ink3-1024x683 It’s going to be a good Friday for those testing the latest releases of the Windows 10 operating system, as Microsoft is today rolling out a new build of its PC and mobile OS, which will allow users to try the newly announced Windows Ink experience for the first time. Windows Ink, announced at the Build 2016 event last month, offers improved pen support for Windows 10 PCs, including… Read MoreWindows Ink, Cortana improvements and more arrive in the latest Windows 10 build out now

Windows Ink, Cortana improvements and more arrive in the latest Windows 10 build out now

Source: Microsoft more
ink3-1024x683 It’s going to be a good Friday for those testing the latest releases of the Windows 10 operating system, as Microsoft is today rolling out a new build of its PC and mobile OS, which will allow users to try the newly announced Windows Ink experience for the first time. Windows Ink, announced at the Build 2016 event last month, offers improved pen support for Windows 10 PCs, including… Read More
Windows Ink, Cortana improvements and more arrive in the latest Windows 10 build out now

Skype voice and video calls now work plugin-free on Microsoft’s Edge browser

Source: Microsoft more
skype-video-calling-on-microsoft-edge1 Microsoft is making Skype in the browser plugin-free, the company announced this morning. But before you get too excited, be aware that this new experience only works in Microsoft Edge for now. Other browsers, including IE, Chrome, Firefox and Safari, will continue to require plugins as before. Skype for Web, the browser-based version of the online communications software rolled out publicly… Read More
Skype voice and video calls now work plugin-free on Microsoft’s Edge browser

Hulu Comes To Windows 10

Source: Microsoft more
Hulu Live Tiles 1 Hulu’s streaming service was already available on nearly all major platforms, including desktop, mobile, tablet, gaming consoles and other TV-connected devices. However, it was lacking support for one major computing platform: Windows 10. That changes today, as Microsoft and Hulu announce a new version of Hulu application, which includes Windows 10 specific features like Live Tiles… Read More
Hulu Comes To Windows 10

Microsoft’s New App “Fetch!” Tells You What Kind Of Dog You Are (And It Can ID Your Dog, Too)

Source: Microsoft more
fetch Even Microsoft’s new image recognition app has no idea what kind of dog I have. Oh well! If you don’t own a mixed-breed mutt saved from the kill shelter, however, you might have fun with the company’s latest Microsoft Garage project: Fetch!, a new iPhone app that looks at photos of dogs to identify its breed. Or, in the case when it can’t make an exact match, the app… Read More
Microsoft’s New App “Fetch!” Tells You What Kind Of Dog You Are (And It Can ID Your Dog, Too)

Bing’s New Apps For iOS And Android Focus On Finding Deals, Local Offers

Source: Microsoft more

iOSScreenshots Microsoft’s Bing is trying to carve out a niche for itself on mobile by focusing on the types of common searches and information requests people need to access while on the go. To that end, the company this week rolled out new iOS and Android applications with features like a barcode scanner for price comparisons, a tool to find the cheapest nearby gas prices, and, on iOS to start, a… Read More
Bing’s New Apps For iOS And Android Focus On Finding Deals, Local Offers