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San Francisco Could Be The First US City To Ban Police From Using Facial Recognition, But Is It Too Extreme?



San Francisco is poised to be the first US city to ban police from using facial recognition.

The public dialogue that puts facial recognition and the technology that enables it into question has had a significant effect on lawmakers, many of whom have been very vocal on the risks that come with the said technology. And San Francisco, being one of the technology capitals of the world, is set to become the first U.S. city to ban authorities from using facial recognition technology for law enforcement.

Many of the government agencies in the U.S., especially the law enforcement agency (LEA), have since been criticized for using facial recognition technology against Americans. In the same manner, civil rights groups and advocates have slammed Amazon for selling its own version of the technology called Rekognition to law enforcement organizations amidst the warning of the scientific community of the risks that come with it.

Critics have since argued that without proper regulation of the technology, it could violate the privacy of Americans. One examples critics have mentioned is that a civilian who has never been arrested before could potentially be part of a police line-up without their consent or knowledge. They worry that the technology will limit people’s ability to move around without the fear of being identified and tracked.

Different private establishments and stores have already used the technology. There is a software that can guess a person’s age, gender, or mood as they walk by to show them targeted ads inside as they do their shopping.

Because of the red flags raised by different sectors against the use of facial recognition technology, San Francisco is considering to ban it from being used by the police and other city government agencies against their people. The ban could potentially ignite similar legislation from other cities, states, and even the federal government.

In the said ban, the California Legislature is considering a proposal to prohibit the use of facial recognition technology on body cameras worn by the police. This is a step up from the already existing senatorial bipartisan bill that exempts police applications but set limits on how private businesses can use the technology.

The bipartisan move, known as the Commercial Facial Recognition Privacy Act of 2019, was introduced by US Senators Roy Blunt and Brian Schatz in a bid to protect people’s facial recognition data and make it much harder for the data to be sold, now that information is treated as currency.

“Our faces are our identities. They’re personal. So the responsibility is on companies to ask people for their permission before they track and analyze their face,” Senator Schatz, ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, said.

“Consumers are increasingly concerned about how their data is being collected and used, including data collected through facial recognition technology,” said Senator Blunt. “That’s why we need guardrails to ensure that, as the technology continues to develop, it is implemented responsibly. This bill increases transparency and consumer choice by requiring individuals to give informed consent before commercial entities can collect and share data gathered through FR.”

The two senators, through their proposed bill, also want to address the reported underlying bias in FR technologies. In the first few months of the year, Z6 Mag has reported on how self-driving cars are more likely to run over a black person and that Amazon’s facial recognition technology is less likely to mismatch faces of women and black people. In response, Blunt and Schatz wanted all facial recognition technologies to undergo third-party testing prior to implementation to address accuracy and bias issues.

Other states and cities are also considering a ban on facial recognition. A similar legislation is also pending in Oakland California and another was proposed in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Commentators said that the ban in the “most technologically advanced city in our country” which is San Francisco is a necessary warning to other police departments. However, Daniel Castro, Vice President of the industry-backed Information technology and Innovation Foundation, expressed his concern in the ban saying that it is too extreme to be used as a model for other cities and states.

“It might find success in San Francisco, but I will be surprised if it finds success in a lot of other cities,” he said.

A consumer tech and cybersecurity journalist who does content marketing while daydreaming about having unlimited coffee for life and getting a pet llama.

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You Can Now Activate Alexa Hands-Free



Alexa is hands-free on Windows 10 PC

The rise of voice assistants has been a pivotal upgrade on the day to day living of most people. It adds convenience and portability for services that usually take time to finish. From only getting the latest news or booking your lunch, voice assistants have been of great significance for an on-the-go lifestyle. From the likes of Alexa, Cortana, Bixby, Hound, and Lyra, voice assistants have grown into a massive mobile service in the convenience of our voices.

In April 2015, Gartner, a research firm predicted that 30 percent of interaction would be done virtually through conversations with smart machines powered by our voices. True enough, this year, the widely known Alexa has moved from push-to-talk service to a now hands-free virtual assistance. With just your voice, Alexa can now be activated on any Windows 10 PC.

The latest version of the Amazon-powered voice assistant still allows you to set alarms, book dinners, check the weather, get news and control your home. But this time, these can all be done by only using the “Alexa” wake word. Whether the app is running on the background, on the foreground or minimized, Alexa can easily be activated to do your bidding.

Alexa for Windows 10 app has been launched already since last November for only specific compatible PCs, but it has now expanded its reach to any Windows 10 PC. The push-to-talk feature is still functional for all users by pressing the button within the app or hitting the keyboard shortcut. But Windows 10 PC users can also switch between two modes of activating Alexa either by the button or through the wake word.

On the initial launch of Alexa for Windows 10 PC, it was not able to support control on any music streaming app, but the recent update now carries music streaming on Pandora, allowing users to listen on their favorite Pandora stations and control their playlist.

This recent update on Alexa is only a part of the ongoing collaboration between Amazon and Microsoft and the integration of their voice assistants on an Alexa app for Xbox One. Along with the new diverse avatars, Dolby Vision support for Netflix, the Alexa skill app enables users to summon Cortana from Alexa and vice versa. The feature on the Xbox One also allows users to turn on their console, adjust the volume and even launch a game which means you would be able to start your game by simply saying, “Alexa, launch Assassin’s Creed.”

When the hands-free Alexa was officially launched available for download through the Windows Store, users have immediately claimed that it will be the end for Cortana. However, despite offering the same service, Microsoft says that it sees Cortana rather than a competitor but as a compliment to the other voice assistant. Microsoft’s Jennifer Langston explains, “the goal is to have two integrated digital assistants who can carry out tasks across different dimensions of daily life.”

Despite the integration of the two virtual assistants, this recent update on Alexa has made Cortana fallen behind from both Alexa, and Google Assistant added to the fact that Cortana was removed from Microsoft’s Skype and had Alexa in its stead. However, The Verge CEO, Satya Nadella said that Cortana should be available for Microsoft 365 subscribers. “You should be able to use it on Google Assistant, you should be able to use it on Alexa, just like you use your apps on Android and iOS so that’s at least how we want to think about where it’ll go,” explains Nadella. But you can still command both Alexa and Cortana on Windows 10 PC by simply saying, “Hey Alexa, open Cortana,” or “Cortana, open Alexa.”

According to research, almost 10 percent of people who do not have a smart speaker will be most likely to purchase one. With these additional updates, it would not be far from the reality since these voice-powered virtual assistants whether they will last for long or will slowly disintegrate, this specific digital service has changed the game for day to day living of convenience and efficiency.

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Artificial Intelligence Toys Are Just Around The Corner in 2013



Artificial Intelligence Toys

If you’re hunting around for that perfect Christmas toy for your kid this Christmas it may not be on shelves yet. However current trends show that a new type of toy is coming right down the pipe and will be here soon. The Christmas 2012 holiday won’t see highly advanced AI Toys but if ToyTalk has anything to say about it, Christmas 2013 will.

On November 1st, 2012 a video was released on YouTube under the account Toy Talk Inc showing a teddy bear that can talk with your kid and interact with them. There is a bit of a catch, the technology and intelligence of this artificial intelligence teddy bear is not built inside the bear itself it seems, but inside your tablet. For now it looks like it’s an iPad that is Teddy’s brain. We hope it will advance to all tablets like Google’s Nexus 10 tablet due out soon.

The video was titled, “ToyTalk Trailer – Your teddy bear has so much to tell you.” The description from the Toy company about themselves on the video is, “ToyTalk is a family entertainment company. Our mission is to create entertainment powered by characters and conversation. This is our first video. There will be more – subscribe to our YouTube channel:

The artificial intelligence toy company is growing fast and is already posting engineering jobs for AI core development and more. In the job listing we found ToyTalk explains their company as this, “ToyTalk is a company with amazingly talented people trying to tackle a pretty radical idea. We are a family entertainment company. Our mission is to create entertainment powered by characters and conversation. ToyTalk is a venture backed start-up in San Francisco’s SOMA district.  Here at ToyTalk, we offer competitive salaries, stock options, and a comprehensive benefits package.”

The company that developed the beginnings to Apple’s virtual assistant Siri was called SRI international. The CTO of ToyTalk is Martin Reddy who was working in the Artificial Intelligence Center at SRI International. The CEO of ToyTalk is an ex-Pixar Chief Technical Officer. The CEO is named Oren Jacob and his projects at Pixar were movies like Bugs Life, Finding Nemo, Toy Story 1 and 2.

According to VentureBeat the ToyTalk company is getting quite a bit of attention and money thrown it’s way. Venture Beat talks about talking Teddy Bears raising $11.5 million and lays out the details stating, “ToyTalk’s total capital raised to almost $16 million, following a $4 million seed round led by Greylock partners, with participation from True Ventures, First Round Capital, and angel investors.”

Now the world awaits for smart toys sitting in bedrooms having conversations with kids. What’s next now that Siri-like friends have infiltrated your kids bedroom?

ToyTalk Trailer – Your teddy bear has so much to tell you

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University Sues Apple for Siri Patent Violations



Taiwan University Sues Apple Siri

A Taiwanese university has filed a lawsuit (View Below) claiming that Apple’s popular personal assistant program, Siri infringes on several of their copyrights. Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University has not said how much it will seek in damages, but it is also seeking a permanent injunction against Apple along with the cost and damages.

“As a result of Apple’s infringement … NCKU has suffered monetary damages in an amount not yet determined, and will continue to suffer damages in the future unless Apple’s infringing activities are enjoined by this court,” NCKU argued.

In an interview with Reuters, the legal manager for National Cheng Kung University stated that the suit was brought in a Texas court “because it processes faster and its rulings are usually in favor of patent owners and the compensations are usually higher.”

The school claims that it filed a patent for speech-data matching software in 2005 (it received in 2010) and one for speech recognition in 2002 (it received in 2007). The NCKU is seeking a block on all Apple products that use Siri. This currently only applies to the iPhone 4s, but Siri functions are expected to spread to Apple’s iPad and the new iPhone 5 by the end of the year. Damages will include a fee for every Siri equipped device sold and restitution for lawyer’s fees. They have not set an estimate on what the overall damages will be.Apple Sued Over Siri

Apple bought the Siri platform in 2010, the Siri company was founded in 2007.

Earlier in July 2012, a Shanghai-based company called Zhizhen Network Technology also sued Apple for copyright infringement involving Siri. The suit claims Siri copies a “type of instant messaging chat bot system” called Xiaoi Bot.

Siri is also under fire for allegations of false advertising. A class-action suit was filed against the company earlier this year relating to the commercials Apple produced marketing Siri on the iPhone4S. The suit claims that advertisements that show the speed and accuracy of the program are “fundamentally and designedly false and misleading.”

The plaintiff in the advertising suit, Frank M. Fazio, claims that the advertising was deceiving and convinced him to buy the iPhone 4S over the cheaper iPhone 4. In recent advertisements, Apple has issued disclaimers stating that the Siri sequences are shortened for advertising purposes.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, marketing professor suggests the suit may have merit.

“The claims have to be substantiated in a reasonable laboratory environment and in field tests,” he said. “But what really matters is if the average consumer understands how the product will work.”

Legal troubles from Asia have caused Apple considerable headaches over the past year. Earlier in July 2012, Apple paid $60 million to Proview Technology to end the legal dispute to the iPad trademark in China that postponed the Chinese launce of the iPad 3.

Apple Sued Over Siri

Apple is being sued over the iPhone’s personal voice assistant, called Siri.


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