Bytes: What’s new in tech
Machines are beginning to beat humans at lip reading, said Jamie Condliffe in TechnologyReview.com. Using video of people saying three-second sentences, researchers at Oxford University were able to build an artificial-intelligence system “similar to the kind often used to perform speech recognition,” but for reading lips. The program, dubbed LipNet, was able to correctly identify 93.4 percent of words when tested, compared with 52.3 percent for volunteer human lip-readers. A more ambitious collaboration between Oxford and Google Deep Mind is using 100,000 video clips taken from BBC television to build and train a lipreading AI. That project’s AI accuracy is lower—46.8 percent—because of greater variations in lighting, language, and mouth position. But it still outperformed humans, who identified “just 12.4 percent of words without a mistake.”
Facebook warms to Chinese censors?
Facebook appears willing to help Chinese censors if it means being allowed to operate in the country, said Mike Isaac in The New York Times. The social network has been blocked in China since 2009 because of the government’s strict control of internet content. But Facebook “has quietly developed software to suppress posts from appearing in people’s news feeds in specific geographic areas.” The software would reportedly allow a third party—like a Chinese partner company—to monitor popular stories and topics, with the power to block certain posts. The project is said to be controversial within Facebook, with several employees departing the company over their misgivings. But, “like many experiments inside Facebook, it may never see the light of day.”
Feds tackle distracted driving
Federal officials want smartphone makers to block motorists from using certain apps while driving, said Todd Shields and Alan Levin in Bloomberg.com. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released voluntary guidelines last week calling on phone manufacturers to build new features that would stop drivers from watching video or entering text while behind the wheel. Officials said one way to do this would be to create a “driver mode” for connected phones that kicks into effect when a vehicle’s transmission shifts from “park” to “drive.” The proposal comes after U.S. highway deaths “spiked to 35,092 last year in the highest one-year increase since 1966.” At least 3,500 of those were caused by distractions.