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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

The Myth of Technophobia

Opinion: From the telegraph to cars, we’ve never feared tech as much as we think we have.
Source: Wired

Richard Stallman and the Fall of the Clueless Nerd

The controversial pioneer of free software resigned from MIT over his remarks on Jeffrey Epstein and Marvin Minsky. Stallman won’t be the last.
Source: Wired

Today’s Cartoon: Deselect Giant Snake

The privacy settings are in Python.
Source: Wired

Andrew Mason’s Descript snags $15M, acquires Lyrebird to let users type text to create audio in their own voices

The boom in popularity for podcasting has given a new voice to the world of spoken word content that had been largely left for dead with the decline of broadcast radio. Now riding the wave of that growth, a startup called Descript that’s building tools to make the art of creating podcasts — or any other content that involves working with audio — a little easier with audio transcription and editing tools, has a trio of news announcements: funding, an acquisition, and the launch of a new tool that brings some of the magic of natural language processing and AI to the medium by letting people create audio of their own voices based on text that they type.

Descript, the latest startup from Groupon founder Andrew Mason, created as a spinoff of his audio-guide business Detour (which got acquired by Bose last year), is today announcing $15 million in funding, a Series A for expanding the business (including hiring more  people) that’s coming from Andreessen Horowitz (it also funded the startup’s seed round in 2017) and Redpoint.

Along with that, the company has acquired a small Canadian startup, Lyrebird — which had, like Descript, also built audio editing tools. Together, the two are rolling out a new feature for Descript called Overdub: people will now be able to create “templates” of their voices that they can in turn use to create audio based on words that they type, part of a bigger production suite that will also let users edit multiple voices on multiple tracks. The audio can be standalone, or the audio track for a video.

(The video transcription works a little differently: when you add in words, or take them out, the video makes jumps to account for the changes in timing.)

Overdub is the latest addition to a product that lets users create instant transcriptions of audio text that can then be cut and potentially augmented with music other audio using drag-and-drop tools that take away the need for podcasters to learn sound engineering and editing software. The non-technical emphasis of the product has given Descript a following among podcasters and others that use transcription software as part of their audio production suites. The product is priced in a freemium format: no charge for up to four hours of voice content, and $10 per month after that.

In the age of market-defining, election-winning fake news aided and abetted by technology, you’d be forgiven for wondering if Overdub might not be a highway to Deep Fake City, where you could use the technology to create any manner of “statements” by famous voices.

Mason tells me that the company has built a way to keep that from being able to happen.

The demo on the company’s home page is created with a special proprietary voice just for illustrative purposes, but to actually activate the editing and augmenting feature for a piece of their own audio, users have to first record a number of statements that repeated-back, based on text created on the fly and in real time. These audio clips are then used to shape your digital voice profile.

This means that you can’t, for example, feed audio of Donald Trump into the system to create a version of the President saying that he is awfully sorry for suggesting that building walls between the US and Mexico was a good idea, and that this would not, in fact, make America Great Again. (Too bad.)

But if you subscribe to the idea that tech advances in NLP and AI overall are something of a Pandora’s Box, the cat’s already out of the bag, and even if Descript doesn’t allow for it, someone else will likely hack this kind of technology for more nefarious ends. The answer, Mason says, is to keep talking about this and making sure people understand the potentials and pitfalls.

“People have already have created the ability to make deep fakes,” Mason said. “We should expect that not everybody is going to follow the same constrants that we have followed. But part of our role is to create awareness of the possibilities. Your voice is your identity, and you need to own that voice. It’s an issue of privacy, basically.”

The developments underscore the new opportunity that has opened up in tapping some of the developments in artificial intelligence to address what is a growing market. On one hand, it’s a big market: based just on ad revenues alone, podcasting is expected to bring in some $679 million this year, and $1 billion by 2021, according to the IAB — one reason why companies like Spotify and Apple are betting big on it as a complement to their music streaming businesses.

On the other, the area of production tools for podcasters is a very crowded market, with a number of startups and others putting out a lot of tools that all work quite well in identifying what people are saying and transcribing it accurately.

On the front of transcription and the area where Descript is working, rivals include the likes of Trint, Wreally and Otter, among many others. Decript itself doesn’t even create its basic NLP software; it uses Google’s, since basic NLP is now an area that has essentially become “commoditized,” said Mason in an interview.

That makes creating new features, tapping into AI and other advances, all the more essential, as we look to see if one tool emerges as a clear leader in this particular area of SaaS.

“In live multiuser collaboration, there is still no other tool out there that has done what we have done with large uncompressed audio files. That is no small feat, and it has taken time to get it right,” said Mason. “I have seen this transition manifest from documents to spreadsheets to product design. No one would have thought of something like product design to be huge space but just by taking these tools for collaboration and successfully porting them to the cloud, companies like Figma have emerged. And that’s how we got involved here.”


Source: TechCrunch

Huawei ban: Full timeline as Microsoft seeks government​ evidence about security threat – CNET

Here’s a breakdown of how the saga of the controversial Chinese telecom giant and phone maker has unfolded.
Source: CNET

Cybersecurity company Acronis hits unicorn status after raising $147 million led by Goldman Sachs

Cyber security solutions provider Acronis announced today that it has raised $147 million in funding led by Goldman Sachs, bringing it to unicorn status. The company did not disclose its valuation, but founder and CEO Serguei Beloussov told TechCrunch that it is between $1 billion and $2 billion.

Founded in Singapore as a data backup and recovery company in 2003 and now headquartered in Switzerland, Acronis currently has more than 1,400 employees in 18 countries. Its cyber protection technology is used by 5 million consumers and 500,000 businesses.

Beloussov says this is the first time the company has raised capital. In 2004, Acronis sold part of its business to an outside firm in a secondary transaction for $11 million. Since then it has been profitable, but it is now aiming for very rapid growth, targeting $1 billion in revenue by 2022. The company wants to take advantage of increasing demand for cybersecurity solutions by expanding its research and development teams and making several acquisitions in the cybersecurity space.

In a statement, Holger Staude, the vice president of Goldman Sachs Growth, said “We are excited to invest in Acronis at this stage of rapid growth. The traditional backup and data protection market is being disrupted by Acronis Cyber Protection, an innovative solution delivered efficiently through a vast channel of service providers.�

Acronis’ products include Cyber Protection to safeguard data, a platform that allows third-party developers to integrate Acronis’ technology into their own applications and Cyber Cloud, which enables enterprise IT to deliver Acronis’ cyber protection services to end customers. It plans to grow its product roster by acquiring companies that protect applications it doesn’t already support. Beloussov says that the company will also add long-term protection for applications and data and integrate more data destinations.

“We are growing because we have completely changed the company strategy from being a data protection company to a cyber protection company, from data protection applications to being a cyber protection platform, and being a data protection provider to building a cyber protection infrastructure,� says Beloussov, adding that demand is being driven by three trends.

The first is the increasing adoption of edge computing and end point computing, which means more devices outside of data centers need to be protected. The second is the increasing sophistication of cyber crime. Companies need to protect themselves against attacks, but also be prepared to perform recovery and forensics when they happen. The third is the cost of protecting large amounts of data, meaning providers who are able to offer the lowest pricing gain an advantage.

Beloussov says Acronis differentiates from other data backup and security companies, like Veeam or Carbonite, by providing a comprehensive solution that addresses what Acronis refers to as the “Five Sectors of Cyber Protection�: safety, accessibility, privacy, authenticity and security of data. By being able to rely on one provider for more of their cybersecurity needs, companies can save money. Acronis also has a flexible business model, allowing customers to combine its products in a way that saves on costs, Beloussov adds.

“We have very aggressive plans and hope to provide cyber protection for as many workloads, customers and people as possible,� Beloussov says.


Source: TechCrunch

Take a look at photos from the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max – CNET

Apple launched three new phones each with an updated camera system. Check out the photos I took with each model testing out the new ultra-wide angle lens as well as Night Mode.
Source: CNET

Pixel 4 and 4 XL rumors and specs: Launching Oct. 15 with Face ID-type gesture controls and orange color – CNET

Google’s next flagship is definitely on its way. Keep tabs on the other rumors about the Pixel 4 and 4 XL.
Source: CNET

Up close with the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max – CNET

Take a look at Apple’s new iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max before they hit stores on Sept. 20.
Source: CNET

Ford wants to sell you a little bit of Raptor suspension tech for your F-150 and Ranger – Roadshow

The Blue Oval is offering an official suspension upgrade kit with Fox Shocks and, importantly, a sweet warranty.
Source: CNET

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