Technological World for June 29, consumer tech: Alexa and voice cloning, Twitter Notes being tested in Canada

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Amazon wants Alexa to connect with you on an emotional level; Twitter experimenting with longform writing.

Amazon’s re:Mars conference shocks with demonstration of voice cloning

Amazon’s conference about machine learning, automation, robotics, and space was in the news last week because of a moment during the keynote address by Amazon’s Rohit Prasad.

Prasad runs the research into artificial intelligence for the Alexa program, and in his presentation he talked about how machine learning would allow Alexa to use an audio recording of a real person to mimic that voice. In the demonstration, a boy has Alexa read a book in his grandmother’s voice.

It’s called voice cloning and it’s been around for as long (longer?) as we’ve had deepfake videos, and it’s been used to recreate Anthony Bourdain’s voice as well as Val Kilmer’s voice in Top Gun: Maverick.

Twitter testing new longform functioning in Canada

Twitter is expanding the number of characters that a select group of writers can use in their posts with the new Notes function.

Notes allows posts to include images, animated gifs, videos, and other Twitter posts. And they can be edited by writers.

While readers cannot – yet – comment directly on the note, you can thread comments under Twitter posts promoting the Note.

The new functionality is being tested by writers from Canada, the U.S., the UK, and Ghana, but Notes published by these individuals can be seen anywhere. Canadian writers participating in the initiative include Bee Quammie, who posted a Note about trying to find a mommy blog written by Black Canadian mothers, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, who republished a commentary about the importance of Inuit instutitions being led by Inuit, and Terese Mason Pierre, writing about finishing a poetry manuscript.

At the moment, Notes feel like a return to blogging platforms from ten years ago, and that’s kind of how Twitter got started, by providing a place where longform content published elsewhere could be promoted and aggregated. The difference now is that you can read the full post on Twitter, instead of having to go elsewhere online.

And the people who are publishing Notes are an interesting group that has been carefully curated by the Twitter Write editors. I’m curious to see who else gets invited to publish Notes. Just how wide will this new functionality go?


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