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Mozilla’s new open source model aims to revolutionize voice recognition

You may have noticed the steady and sure progress of voice recognition tech in recent times – all the big tech firms want to make strides in this arena if only to improve their digital assistants, from Cortana to Siri – but Mozilla wants to push harder, and more broadly, on this front with the release of an open source speech recognition model.The initial release of this Automatic Speech Recognition engine has just been unleashed, based on work carried out by the Machine Learning team at Mozilla. The engine is modelled on ‘Deep Speech’ papers published by Baidu, which detail a trainable multi-layered deep neural network.Mozilla says that its project initially had a goal of hitting a ‘word error rate’ of less than 10%. However, the firm says the engine’s word error rate on LibriSpeech’s test-clean set is now 6.5%, clearly beating this goal, and achieving close to the Holy Grail of human-level performance (which occurs at around 5.8%, according to the Deep Speech 2 paper).Mozilla has worked hard to train the speech recognition model using ‘supervised learning’ and a huge dataset of thousands of hours of labeled audio, drawn from all manner of sources including free (TED-LIUM and LibriSpeech) and paid (Fisher and Switchboard) speech corpora.Further labeled speech data was pulled from the likes of language study departments in universities, and public TV and radio stations, all of which was more fuel to the fire for honing the speech recognition engine.And of course the huge strength of this project, its open source nature, means that this honed technology is now open to anyone to use in their speech recognition projects.
Streamlined speech
Mozilla further notes that the plan for the future is to release a model that’s light and fast enough to run on a smartphone or single-board computer like the Raspberry Pi.The company has also unleashed its Common Voice initiative, which is an open and publicly available voice dataset containing some 400,000 recordings from 20,000 different speakers – that represents around 500 hours of speech.As Mozilla puts it, the idea here is to “build a speech corpus that’s free, open source, and big enough to create meaningful products with”, running in parallel with the new speech recognition model.Microsoft is also making big strides on the voice recognition front, having achieved a word error rate of 5.1% in the Switchboard speech recognition benchmark, as announced back in the summer.
We’ve picked out the best voice recognition software of 2017

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Bose adds Soundlink Micro to its family of mobile speakers

Bose has added a tiny new member to its Bluetooth-enabled portable speaker line-up. The SoundLink Micro is the company’s smallest speaker to date and comes with an IPX7 waterproof rating.The Soundlink Micro speaker uses Bluetooth to connect to your iOS or Android device and lets you playback music, answer calls or bring up Siri or Google Assistant.Bose claims that “no other Bluetooth speaker this small sounds as good” and that “you’ll never want to leave it behind.”Packed with a new custom transducer, miniature dual-passive radiators, and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the Micro delivers up to 6 hours of audio from an enclosure that measures 9.83cm wide and deep, 3.48cm high and weighs just 0.29 kgs.

The Bose Micro is waterproof from the inside out and is made to withstand soapy water, chlorinated water, and salt water. Its silicone exterior protects it from scratches, dents, falls, dust and dirt.  Micro also works with Bose Connect app that can sync with other SoundLink speakers for Stereo Mode (left-right channel) or Party Mode (to play music simultaneously).The new SoundLink Micro comes in black, midnight blue, and bright orange. It will be available from 29th November for AED 499 (US$135) at Bose retail stores and authorized Bose dealers. 

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PC market to slump in 2018 but hybrids like Microsoft Surface remain a bright spot

A major analyst firm is predicting that sales of PCs will drop by 2.7% for 2017 (compared to the previous year), and things are set to get worse with shipments slumping by 4% year-on-year in 2018.After some brighter forecasts this year, this is back to the traditional doom and gloom with IDC’s latest report which is for the shipments of ‘personal computing devices’, meaning traditional desktop PCs, laptops and workstations, as well as tablets.Looking further ahead to 2021, shipment volumes are expected to drop to 394 million units from 423 million units this year, which represents a decrease of around 7% in terms of pure volume.Most of that predicted decline will come from weakness in the traditional desktop PC and also tablet markets, while laptops, workstations and detachable tablets (hybrids like Microsoft’s Surface devices) will actually make some positive gains according to IDC.Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC’s Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, highlighted detachables as a particular strong point, with most of these being Windows devices.Reith noted: “Detachable tablets are expected to see double-digit growth from 2018 through 2021. Windows-based detachables already count for close to 50% of the volume in this category and this isn’t expected to change much over the duration of the forecast. Apple’s iPad Pro line-up will remain at 30-35% of the category with the remainder going to Google-based devices.”Unfortunately, detachable hybrids are still not a massive part of the overall PC market, representing 5% of shipment volume this year, although that will grow to a healthy 9.4% in 2021.
Short on supply
IDC further observed that the traditional PC market did actually outperform expectations this year, despite problems such as component shortages, including issues with the supply levels of SSDs which we highlighted back in the spring.Jay Chou, research manager with IDC’s Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker, commented: “IDC believes the shortage issues should ease as we head toward 2018. Despite shrinking demand overall, IDC remain optimistic the market can expect continued growth in emerging form factors such as convertibles and ultraslim notebooks, which when combined will form the dominant notebook form factor by 2019.”
We’ve picked out the best business laptops right here

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