Even the CIA is developing an AI chatbot

The CIA and other US intelligence agencies will soon have an AI chatbot similar to ChatGPT. The program, revealed on Tuesday by Bloomberg, will train on publicly available data and provide sources alongside its answers so agents can confirm their validity. The aim is for US spies to more easily sift through ever-growing troves of information, although the exact nature of what constitutes “public data” could spark some thorny privacy issues.

“We’ve gone from newspapers and radio, to newspapers and television, to newspapers and cable television, to basic internet, to big data, and it just keeps going,” Randy Nixon, the CIA’s director of Open Source Enterprise, said in an interview with Bloomberg. “We have to find the needles in the needle field.” Nixon’s division plans to distribute the AI tool to US intelligence agencies “soon.”

Nixon says the tool will allow agents to look up information, ask follow-up questions and summarize daunting masses of data. “Then you can take it to the next level and start chatting and asking questions of the machines to give you answers, also sourced,” he said. “Our collection can just continue to grow and grow with no limitations other than how much things cost.”

The CIA hasn’t specified which AI tool (if any) it’s using as the foundation for its chatbot. Once the tool is available, the entire 18-agency US intelligence community will have access to it. However, lawmakers and the public won’t be able to use it.

Nixon said the tool would follow US privacy laws. However, he didn’t state how the government would safeguard it from leaking onto the internet or using information that’s sketchily acquired but technically “public.” Federal agencies (including the Secret Service) and police forces have been caught bypassing warrants and using commercial marketplaces to buy troves of data. These have included phones’ locations, which the government can technically describe as open-source.

“The scale of how much we collect and what we collect on has grown astronomically over the last 80-plus years, so much so that this could be daunting and at times unusable for our consumers,” Nixon said. He envisions the tool allowing a scenario “where the machines are pushing you the right information, one where the machine can auto-summarize, group things together.”

The US government’s decision to move forward with the tool could be influenced by China, which has stated that it wants to surpass its rivals and become the world’s de facto AI leader by 2030.

The US has taken steps to counter China’s influence while examining AI’s domestic and economic risks. Last year, the Biden administration launched a Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights, defining the White House’s generative AI values. It has also pushed for an AI risk management framework and invested $140 million in creating new AI and machine learning research institutes. In July, President Biden met with leaders from AI companies, who agreed to (non-binding) statements that they would develop their products ethically.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/even-the-cia-is-developing-an-ai-chatbot-192358767.html?src=rss

The FCC plans to restore Obama-era net neutrality rules

The Federal Communications Commission plans to reinstate net neutrality protections that were nixed in 2018 during the Trump administration. Restoring those Obama-era rules has been on President Joe Biden's agenda for years, but a deadlocked FCC has prevented that from happening during his time in the White House so far. Now, one day after Anna Gomez was sworn in as the third Democratic member on the FCC's five-person panel, the agency is pushing forward with an attempt to bring back net neutrality regulations.

When net neutrality rules are enforced, internet service providers are not allowed to block or give preference to any content. They can't throttle access to specific websites or charge the likes of streaming services for faster service. They must provide users with access to every site, content and app at the same speeds and conditions. Advocates tout net neutrality protections as the foundation of an open and equitable internet.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, a long-term supporter of net neutrality rules, announced a plan to restore the protections on Tuesday. "This afternoon, I'm sharing with my colleagues a rulemaking that proposes to reinstate net neutrality," Rosenworcel said at an event at the National Press Club. "We will need to develop an updated record to identify the best way to restore these policies and have a uniform national open internet standard."

The aim is to "largely return to the successful rules" that the FCC adopted in 2015 when President Barack Obama was in office. The proposal aims to reclassify both fixed and mobile broadband as an essential communications service under Title II of the Communications Act, akin to water, power and phone services.

"The Chairwoman is proposing the FCC take the first procedural steps toward reaffirming rules that would treat broadband internet service as an essential service for American life," the FCC said. "As work, healthcare, education, commerce, and so much more have moved online, no American household or business should need to function without reliable internet service."

Rosenworcel noted that this is a first step in the process of reviving net neutrality. It will take quite some time until the previous rules are restored, as Bloomberg notes. The FCC commissioners will vote on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at their next monthly meeting on October 19.

If, as seems likely, the agency votes in favor, it will start a new rulemaking and then seek public comments on the proposal. After reviewing the comments, Rosenworcel will decide how to move forward. In all likelihood, the commissioners will then vote on whether to adopt the final rules. While the push to restore net neutrality rules may prove successful, the implementation could still be delayed by legal challenges.

"For everyone, everywhere, to enjoy the full benefits of the internet age, internet access should be more than just accessible and affordable," Rosenworcel said. "The internet needs to be open." She added that repealing net neutrality protections "put the FCC on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law and the wrong side of the American public."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-fcc-plans-to-restore-obama-era-net-neutrality-rules-184624637.html?src=rss

PreSonus and Bitwig have teamed up to launch a universal file format for DAWs

While music producers typically have a favorite digital audio workstation (DAW), most creators are forced to swap between software suites to better suit different workflows and plugin options. This is easier said than done. You have to download the audio stems from one DAW and upload them to the next, and that’s just the first step. There’s more to worry about, like mix levels, plugin settings, virtual instruments and so much more. Industry veterans PreSonus and Bitwig have teamed up to try to solve these problems.

The companies have just announced a new file format intended for easy swapping between DAWs. The DAWproject file format will only be supported by Bitwig Studio 5.0.9 and PreSonus Studio One 6.5 for now, but it could theoretically be adopted by other companies in the future. Bitwig and Presonus are calling this a DAW-agnostic platform and stress that they’ve taken steps to make the technology as open to other companies as possible.

DAWproject files go much further than simple audio WAV data. The format keeps track of all relevant information across every track and channel in the entire project. This includes time data, audio information, automation, MIDI notes and plugin settings. All you have to do is save the song as a DAWproject file in one DAW and open it in another. That’s really it. The time data and automation stuff is really interesting, as this includes fades, time warping, transposition and other chores that are really annoying to re-do over and over again.

There are some limitations, as you can only transfer between Bitwig Studio and PreSonus Studio One until other software applications get on board. Also, your plugins must already be installed in both DAWs to instantly transfer settings. Luckily, both DAWs support the VST plugin format, so there shouldn’t be an issue there.

Apple has a limited version of this technology, as you can open up projects created in GarageBand right in Logic Pro X and maintain settings. The reverse, however, isn’t true, due to Logic Pro X being a much more robust application than GarageBand. Beyond that, this is the first universal project standard, well, ever. Here’s to hoping more popular DAWs like Protools, Ableton and Logic Pro X adopt this standard, or any standard, in the near future.

This isn’t Bitwig’s first foray into the world of open-source audio. The company recently teamed-up with virtual instrument experts U-he to create CLAP, an open-source plugin format. DAWproject files are available for use starting today, so long as you use Bitwig Studio or PreSonus Studio One.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/presonus-and-bitwig-have-teamed-up-to-launch-a-universal-file-format-for-daws-183943158.html?src=rss

Google Podcasts, which is an actual thing, to shut down next year

The Google Podcasts app is heading to a farm upstate run by Marc Maron and Sarah Koenig, as the service is shuttering next year. The app has been around since 2018, but it never approached the kind of mass adoption enjoyed by rivals Overcast, Spotify and the recently-improved Apple Podcasts. In other words, don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it.

The entire service is being folded into YouTube and its companion app YouTube Music. This is for good reason, as YouTube's already a popular destination for podcast fans. According to statistics provided by Edison Research and published by Variety, YouTube services 23 percent of podcast listeners in the US. Google Podcasts, on the other hand, accounts for just four percent of listeners, despite having podcasts right in the name. It’s easier to pick up stakes and head to the where the fish are instead of trying to lure the fish to a random podcast app that nobody knows about.

YouTube announced that 2024 will see a significant increase in its “investment in the podcast experience,” right after parent company Alphabet puts the kibosh on Google’s dedicated app. It looks like YouTube Music will receive the lion’s share of these investments, with forthcoming “robust creation and analytics tools” in addition to streamlined RSS uploads for podcasters.

The company promises to also expand the ability to listen to podcasts in more locations, stating they’ll be available “everywhere YouTube Music listeners are already consuming their favorite content — in the background, in the car, offline and more.” Additionally, new “YouTube-only” tools and capabilities will be coming to podcasts on YouTube Music, though Google remains cagey on the specifics.

As for current Google Podcasts users, there’s going to be a “simple migration tool” to help with the transition to YouTube Music. You’ll also be able to manually add podcast RSS feeds to your YouTube Music library. The company even announced options for adding current podcast subscriptions to rival platforms, if you just want to start fresh. Google's still gathering feedback regarding the migration process, so some of these features are liable to change before next year.

This isn’t the first big move YouTube Music has made this year to shore up some of those sweet, sweet podcast dollars. Back in April, the app launched the ability to watch and listen to podcasts without requiring a paid subscription, though you’ll still have to suffer through endless ads for Better Help. Podcasts on YouTube Music are already full-featured, with offline downloads, background play and the ability to switch between audio and visual content on smart speakers.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/google-podcasts-which-is-an-actual-thing-to-shut-down-next-year-172640308.html?src=rss

LinkedIn adds accessibility features with the help of Microsoft’s Immersive Reader

LinkedIn is making its platform more accessible by integrating Microsoft’s Immersive Reader. The service says that, in honor of Dyslexia Awareness Month and National Disability Employment Awareness Month, it's providing users with more ways to digest articles and newsletters. That seems particularly useful at a time when LinkedIn has been embracing longer-form content.

Every article and newsletter will feature the Immersive Reader icon, which provides access to several accessibility tools. A text-to-speech function can read articles out loud. LinkedIn says that "distinguishing between words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently makes it easier for auditory learners and those with visual impairments to consume and process content." The tool supports more than 60 languages. On a similar note, Immersive Reader powers real-time translation for more than 100 languages.

GIF showing the features of LinkedIn's Immersive Reader tool, including a text-to-speech function, isolating text from other content and translation options.

Other features include one called Content Isolation. This separates the main text of an article or newsletter from everything else that's on the screen to help people focus on reading. Immersive Reader is able to isolate a line or two at a time as well. It also supports a feature called Syllable Splitting. According to LinkedIn, this breaks more complex words down into smaller components to help users understand and pronounce them.

Immersive Reader has been making its way into several Microsoft products and services over the last few years. It's been available in Office and Minecraft: Education Edition for some time. Bringing the tool to LinkedIn should make the platform easier to use for folks with dyslexia and other conditions.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/linkedin-adds-accessibility-features-with-the-help-of-microsofts-immersive-reader-170923659.html?src=rss

The FTC accuses Amazon of ‘monopolistic practices’ in long-expected antitrust suit

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon today in Western Washington district court, with 17 states joining the federal agency. The case isn’t surprising (the FTC was reportedly nearly ready to file in late August), but its specifics weren’t yet known.

The FTC accuses the online retailer of monopolistic practices, including preventing merchants from offering lower prices on other platforms and forcing them to use Amazon’s logistics service if they wanted to be included in customers’ Prime shipping perks. Those anticompetitive practices allegedly led to higher prices and an inferior shopping experience.

The suit describes “Amazon's one-two punch of seller punishments and high seller fees” that forces vendors to “use their inflated Amazon prices as a price floor everywhere else.” The complaint reads, “Amazon's punitive regime distorts basic market signals: one of the ways sellers respond to Amazon's fee hikes is by increasing their own prices off Amazon.”

“Today’s lawsuit seeks to hold Amazon to account for these monopolistic practices and restore the lost promise of free and fair competition,” said FTC chair Lina Khan, according toThe New York Times.

“Amazon is a monopolist,” the lawsuit reads. “It exploits its monopolies in ways that enrich Amazon but harm its customers: both the tens of millions of American households who regularly shop on Amazon's online superstore and the hundreds of thousands of businesses who rely on Amazon to reach them.”

The 17 states joining the FTC include New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

The FTC has had its eye on Amazon for several years. This is the fourth action the agency has taken against the company this year. Amazon settled a previous lawsuit (for $30.8 million) filed in May over Alexa children’s privacy concerns and snooping with Ring cameras. In June, the FTC sued the retailer again, claiming the company tricked customers into signing up for Prime subscriptions and then made it hard to cancel them.

Amazon claimed that the FTC’s actions are out of line. “Today’s suit makes clear the FTC’s focus has radically departed from its mission of protecting consumers and competition,” said David Zapolsky, Amazon's Senior Vice President of Global Public Policy and General Counsel. “The lawsuit filed by the FTC today is wrong on the facts and the law, and we look forward to making that case in court.”

The media’s narrative about the suit will likely frame it as a long-awaited title bout between Khan and Amazon. The FTC chair gained prominence by publishing a 2017 Yale Law Journalpaper arguing US antitrust laws fell short of adequately reining in the tech giant. That helped begin a national conversation about whether the nation’s anti-monopoly laws were prepared to handle modern Silicon Valley behemoths. 

But more important than one-on-one championship fight framing, the showdown will serve as a test for Washington regulators and Amazon, as the federal agency tests its authority and the retailer faces its most consequential political fight to date.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-ftc-accuses-amazon-of-monopolistic-practices-in-long-expected-antitrust-suit-165035712.html?src=rss

Uber partners with LA taxi companies to expand its fleet

Uber announced Tuesday that it’s struck a deal with Los Angeles Yellow Cab to deploy taxi fleets across Southern California. The multi-year partnership, also extending to five other SoCal affiliates, will allow traditional yellow taxis to pick up Uber passengers. The collaboration between the strange bedfellows follows similar trials in New York City and San Francisco.

Uber describes the alliance as mutually beneficial for all parties. Taxi drivers, struggling to recover from pandemic losses while competing with ridesharing, get access to Uber referrals. Meanwhile, riders could see faster pickups. (They can opt out of yellow taxis in the app if they prefer typical ridesharing cars.) And, of course, Uber gains a greater supply of rides.

The partnership stretches down the SoCal coast to the Mexico border. It includes 1,200 vehicles from Los Angeles Yellow Cab, San Diego Yellow Cab, California Yellow Cab, Long Beach Yellow Cab, Fiesta Taxi Cooperative, Inc. and United Checker Cab. Onboarding for taxicab drivers in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties begins this week. Once fully onboarded, drivers can start accepting trips at UberX prices.

The unusual pairing follows years of contentiousness between ridesharing and traditional taxi businesses. The two sides have often been at war since the early 2010s when Uber and Lyft’s existence began threatening the taxi industry. Uber claims cab drivers who took ridesharing fares in the NYC and SF pilots raked in an extra $1,767 per month from those trips alone and earned 23.8% more on average than taxi drivers who eschewed Uber.

“We are thrilled to announce this partnership with Uber because it’s a clear win-win for drivers and riders,” said William Rouse, CEO of Yellow Cab of Los Angeles. “We anticipate that this partnership will have a positive impact for our driver-owners as the pandemic recovery continues. No longer will drivers have to worry about finding a fare during off peak times or getting a street hail back into the city when in the outer suburbs.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/uber-partners-with-la-taxi-companies-to-expand-its-fleet-161206363.html?src=rss

Beats Studio Buds + earbuds fall to a new low of $100

The well-reviewed Beats Studio Buds + earbuds have fallen to an all-time low price of $100, beating a previous record discount by a whopping $30. All told, that’s a 40 percent discount, as the MSRP for these earbuds is $170. You can only access this deal at Amazon-owned Woot for the next five days or until the stock flies away into the loving arms of happy customers.

We gave these earbuds a score of 84 in our review and a primary ding was the price increase over the previous version, which this sale more than makes up for. Otherwise, the Beats Studio Buds + earbuds are a marked improvement over the previous gen, with larger microphones, acoustic vents added to the front and side and a 16 percent increase in battery life. The control button has also been moved to limit accidental presses during use.

All of these improvements combine to create a stellar pair of earbuds with top-notch sound quality and active noise canceling technology. Like many modern personal audio devices, there’s also a robust transparency mode so you can adjust the level of ambient noise you hear. The company’s custom acoustic platform has been designed to provide immersive sound when listening to music or when taking calls.

This Beats product ships with four pairs of silicone tips to suit different ear canal sizes, all while maintaining a comfortable seal. They are IPX4 rated for sweat and water-resistance, in addition to offering Bluetooth support and the capacity for spatial audio.

These earbuds are only four months old, so a refresh is still a ways off. It’s practically unheard of to get a discount this steep so early in the lifespan of a product, so take advantage if you need a new pair of buds. Remember, the Woot sale ends in five days or when the stock runs out, and the latter is likely to happen before the former.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/beats-studio-buds--earbuds-fall-to-a-new-low-of-100-154451352.html?src=rss

How to make a Contact Poster in iOS 17

Apple officially released iOS 17 into the wild on September 18. The latest update packs a number of new tools that make engaging with your iPhone a more personal experience. One of those features, Contact Posters, allows you to create your own digital calling card that pops up on other people’s iPhones when you call them.

While a Poster is visual, it's linked to your contact information, such as your phone number or email address. There’s also the option to link a Medical ID through the Poster, which may be helpful for people who have allergies or serious medical conditions. If you're keen on jampacking your contact card with links to things like your Instagram profile, or if you simply are not sure how to digitally connect a Medical ID, just follow these instructions.

Select your sharing settings

To create your Poster open the Contacts app and navigate to My Card at the top of the screen, then select Contact Photo & Poster. Before editing or creating your Poster, you have the option to enable or disable sharing. If you toggle the green button to off, when you call or text a new number they won't see your Poster or associated info.

Poster Card
Malak Saleh

If you choose to keep the sharing feature on, you have two options. First, you can select to automatically share your contact photo with existing contacts only. Alternatively, you can enable the Always Ask feature, which will prompt you for approval before you share your contact with new people.

Edit your photo and Poster

After tapping Contact Photo & Poster and customizing your sharing settings, you'll be directed to a page that displays your current Poster if you had one previously set up. If not, it will be blank and prompt you to create a new one.

If you choose to create a new Poster, you have several options for a lead visual. You can select a main image from your recent photos, take a new photo using the camera button or use a straightforward monogram. Alternatively, you can opt to use a Memoji — a virtual avatar that you can design to resemble yourself as a human or a cartoon animal. Once you've chosen your Poster image or created an avatar, you'll need to crop it or select a different visual for your Contact photo, which appears in the circular bubble in Messages.

Malak Saleh Poster
Malak Saleh

From there, you can insert whatever personal information you want available to your contacts. Besides the traditional options to share alternative phone numbers, emails and a home or work address, you can also add pronouns, social media profiles and personalized notes. You can also link contacts like family or loved ones to your own contact card, creating a clear digital association.

contact information on iPhone
Malak Saleh

Create a contact card for your friends and family

Similarly, you can add or modify a contact's Poster right on the Contacts app landing page. By clicking the + button located at the top of your contacts list, you'll generate a blank card for a new contact. When you choose tap to Add Photo, you'll go through the same process you used to create your own Poster in order to complete the new contact's card. This feature becomes particularly handy if the other person either doesn't have a pre-existing Poster made or if the user does not have an iPhone with the updated iOS 17 software. Apple says Posters will also be available for third-party calling apps.

New friend Poster
Malak Saleh

Create a Medical ID on your contact card

Through the contact card, you can now create a Medical ID that links to your name and phone number. This can include your medical history, specify allergies or list medications you're currently taking. You can also report your blood type, indicate whether you're an organ donor, and link emergency contacts.

This could be helpful for people dealing with chronic health issues or for those who have loved ones with chronic medical conditions. While it’s unclear how beneficial this would be during an actual emergency, you have the option to automatically send your Medical ID to either an emergency contact or emergency services if you initiate a crisis call. In other words, when and if you call 911 from your iPhone, it will instantly share your vital medical information.

Medical ID
Malak Saleh

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/how-to-make-a-contact-poster-in-ios-17-153026970.html?src=rss

AIAIAI unveils portable wireless studio monitors with low-latency tech

AIAIAI, which is best known for its headphones, is moving into new territory with a set of wireless speakers. The Unit-4 Wireless+ studio monitors use the same low-latency tech as the Danish brand's headphones. AIAIAI suggests that they will enable folks "to create and mix music with accurate sound representation and powerful performance" wherever they might happen to be.

That suggests the speakers will be useful for those who like to make music while they're on the road, but would rather have studio monitors than headphones despite the extra bulk. (Even though they weigh a relatively paltry 2.5kg, the speakers will be more cumbersome than carrying around a set of cans.). The speakers may also be useful for garden DJ sets or any other environment in which latency is key and wired options are impractical. They will run you $800 for a pair.

These monitors employ W+ Link wireless technology, which requires the use of an X02 transmitter (you can also use Bluetooth 5.2 or a cable to connect them to an audio source). AIAIAI says they have 16ms of latency via W+ Link and deliver uncompressed audio. The system employs dual antennas and higher bandwidth than Bluetooth can handle in an effort to maintain a robust connection. The batteries will run for up to 20 hours on a single charge, the brand claims, and it will take two hours to fully recharge them.

AIAIAI Unit-4 Wireless+ studio monitors on wither side of a laptop someone is using.

AIAIAI says these speakers offer reference monitor sound. You'll be snapping up a two-way active monitor that features a four-inch high-excursion woofer and one-inch silk-dome tweeter. Thanks to a bass vent (which can also be used as a carrying handle) and tuned boosting EQ, the monitors will deliver "a clean bass extension down to 40Hz," AIAIAI claims. Since they employ a stage monitor design, you can angle the speakers horizontally to optimize the audio for your surroundings.

Using the AIAIAI Unit-4 app, you'll be able to further align the sound field with the environment you're working in. There's a customizable five-band EQ and five presets. You can use the app to adjust the brightness of the LED ring too.

Meanwhile, AIAIAI has designed the Unit-4 speakers with sustainability in mind. The main plastic components are made with 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic. The monitors have a glue-free design, so it should be easy to replace components such as the battery or speaker drivers when necessary. You'll be able to upgrade parts as well. On top of that, the Unit-4 is designed to be completely recyclable.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/aiaiai-unveils-portable-wireless-studio-monitors-with-low-latency-tech-150102242.html?src=rss