This Week In Digital – Week 16, 2019

Data centers to run on renewable energy by 2020, Voice assistants are recording you and here’s how to prevent it, and AI predicts depression severity from sight and sound. Here’s your weekly dose of This Week In Digital with many latest tech updates.

How Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung treat your voice data – Kyle Wiggers, April 15, 2019.

Alexa. Cortana. Google Assistant. Bixby. Siri. Hundreds of millions of people use voice assistants developed by Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Samsung, and Apple every day, and that number is growing all the time. According to a recent survey conducted by tech publication Voicebot, 90.1 million U.S. adults use voice assistants on their smartphones at least monthly, while 77 million use them in their cars, and 45.7 million use them on smart speakers. Juniper Research predicts that voice assistant use will triple, from 2.5 billion assistants in 2018 to 8 billion by 2023.

Microsoft’s green plan: Our data centers will run on 60% renewable energy by 2020 – Liam Tung, April 16, 2019.

Microsoft says at the end of 2018 half the power used by its data centers came from renewable energy and it should hit 60 percent by the end of 2019. With the 60 percent milestone in sight, the company is now targeting over 70 percent renewable energy for its data centers by 2023. Microsoft is aiming to cut its carbon emissions by 75 percent by 2030 and as part of that effort has raised its internal carbon ‘tax’ to $15 per metric ton on all carbon emissions, which is nearly double the current rate for carbon emissions, according to Microsoft president Brad Smith.

How to keep Alexa, Cortana, Siri, Google Assistant, and Bixby from recording you – Kyle Wiggers, April 16, 2019.

At their best, voice assistants from the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Google, Samsung, and Amazon empower us to be more productive. They queue up our favourite songs, give us previews of our weekly agendas, and place phone calls to friends and loved ones. But they’re also recording the commands we utter for posterity (and in some cases human review), which predictably doesn’t sit right with everyone.

AI estimates depression severity from sight and sound – Kyle Wiggers, April 17, 2019.

Detecting emotional arousal from the sound of someone’s voice is one thing — startups like Beyond Verbal, Affectiva, and MIT spinout Cogito are leveraging natural language processing to accomplish just that. But there’s an argument to be made that speech alone isn’t enough to diagnose someone with depression, let alone judge its severity.

Facebook is working on a voice assistant to rival Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri – Salvador Rodriguez, April 17, 2019.

Facebook is working on a voice assistant to rival the likes of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant, according to several people familiar with the matter. The tech company has been working on this new initiative since early 2018. The effort is coming out of the company’s augmented reality and virtual reality group, a division that works on hardware, including the company’s virtual reality Oculus headsets.

Apple in talks with potential suppliers of sensors for self-driving cars – Stephen Nellis, April 17, 2019.

Apple Inc has held talks with at least four companies as possible suppliers for next-generation lidar sensors in self-driving cars, evaluating the companies’ technology while also still working on its own lidar unit, three people familiar with the discussions said. The moves provide fresh evidence of Apple’s renewed ambitions to enter the autonomous vehicle derby, an effort it calls Project Titan. The talks are focused on next-generation lidar, a sensor that provides a three-dimensional look at the road.

Volkswagen Group Joins Responsible Sourcing Network – April 18, 2019, Volkswagen Group.

Blockchain technology complements both current assessment and audit procedures as well as supports responsible sourcing standards developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), enabling a permanent record to help address compliance requirements. Traditionally, miners, smelters and consumer brands had to rely on third-party audits and laborious manual processes to establish compliance with generally accepted industry standards.

Google will block sign-ins from embedded browser frameworks starting from June – Jay Bonggolto, April 19, 2019.

Google made it mandatory late last year for users to sign in to their account with JavaScript enabled on their web browser so that it would be able to assess risks in real time. The ultimate goal was to protect users from phishing attacks, in particular, by blocking the sign-in process if Google’s security system detects suspicious activity in it. However, the threat landscape undeniably continues to expand and Google is well aware of the need for its security measures to adapt as well. That is why, beginning in June, it will no longer allow sign-ins from embedded browser frameworks, Jonathan Skelker, Product Manager for Account Security at Google, announced in a blog post.

Google Assistant and Alexa can now answer questions about U.K. passports, bank holidays, and more – Kyle Wiggers, April 21, 2019.

Wondering how to apply for a new passport, which organizations offer free childcare, or when the next bank holiday might be? If you’re based in the U.K. and you’ve got a speaker, smartphone, or smart display powered by Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa, you’ll be able to get answers to those questions hands-free starting this week.

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