1. Alexa Goes to College
Just west of downtown St. Louis, a stone’s throw from the Gateway Arch, sits St. Louis University. Founded in 1818, this private, Catholic university is steeped in tradition and school pride. But the centuries-old school — the oldest university west of the Mississippi, in fact — is the first to put smart speakers in dorm rooms.
How do students feel about rooming with Alexa?
Pretty good, it turns out. Some are even involved in the setup process. Getting a free Echo Dot in your campus orientation packet is pretty cool. Kyle Collins, assistant vice president for technology transformation says, “The goal was really about students getting to know the campus and getting them comfortable with campus.”
2. Amazon Becomes Personal Stylist
In an apparent challenge to Stitch Fix, Amazon.com has added a styling service to its Prime Wardrobe subscription service. For $4.99 per month, customers can add a Personal Shopper, entitling them to one styling per month. Amazon then uses “a combination of technology innovation and a personalized human touch to curate items for you based on the information.”
Can Amazon consider this a win?
“This is probably a good move for Amazon, but it’s not an end game,” wrote Sterling Hawkins, co-founder of the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology on RetailWire. “I’m sure they’re going to continue to evaluate their progress into fashion and continue to iterate. One move isn’t likely to make a dramatic difference. However, continuous evaluations/adjustments over time do.”
3. AI Narrates E-Books
In China, appetite for audiobooks is on the rise, mirroring trends in the West. It is now a simple process to use text-to-speech technology to quickly generate an audio version of a book, using digitized, synthetic voices.
But most people prefer audiobooks that are “professionally narrated” by authors, actors or famous public figures.
And now, advances in machine learning and speech-to-text technologies mean that digitized voices are becoming more lifelike. In order to keep up with these trends, Chinese search engine Sogou is creating artificial-intelligence lookalikes to read popular novels in the authors’ voices.
They even gave the AI a name.
Yanny, an avatar developed by Sogou, was debuted as the company announced its plan for AI novel-readers.