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Microsoft spins out 5-year-old Chinese chatbot Xiaoice – TechCrunch

Microsoft is shedding its empathetic chatbot Xiaoice into an independent entity, the U.S. software behemoth said (in Chinese) Monday, confirming an earlier report by the Chinese news site Chuhaipost in June.

The announcement came several months after Microsoft announced it would close down its voice assistant app Cortana in China among other countries late last year.

Xiaoice has over the years enlisted some of the best minds in artificial intelligence and ventured beyond China into countries like Japan and Indonesia. Microsoft said it called the shots to accelerate Xiaoice’s “localized innovation” and buildout of the chatbot’s “commercial ecosystem.”

The spinoff will see the new entity license technologies from Microsoft for subsequent research and development in Xiaoice and continue to use the Xiaoice brand (and Rinna in Japanese), while Microsoft will retain its stakes in the new company.

In 2014, a small team of Microsoft’s Bing researchers unveiled Xiaoice, which means

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The world is eating tech – TechCrunch

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You could almost hear the internet cracking apart this week as international businesses pulled away from Hong Kong and the US considered a ban on TikTok. Software can no longer eat the entire world like it had attempted last decade. Startups across tech-focused industries face a new reality, where local markets and efforts are more protected and supported by national governments. Every company now has a smaller total addressable market, whether or not it succeeds in it.

Facebook, for example, appears to be getting an influx of creators who are worried about losing TikTok audiences, as Connie Loizos investigated this week. This might mean more users, engagement and ultimately revenue for many consumer startups, and any other companies that rely on paid marketing

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Space tourists could ride this cosmic balloon to the edge of space

Competition in the space tourism industry is heating up, and a new company is taking a unique approach to near-space exploration.

IMAGE: Space Perspective

The prospect of space travel has long-since enchanted humanity. Now, as competition heats up across the burgeoning spaceflight industry, this sci-fi fantasy may soon become reality. The company Space Perspective is offering a unique transport twist on the standard spacefaring business model. Rather than harnessing the latest propulsion technology or rocket busters, the company is using a pressurized cabin and a high-altitude balloon to chauffeur tourists to the cusp of the final frontier. But how much will it cost? Also, why balloons?

Space Perspective was founded by co-CEOs Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum. While a balloon may not immediately strike some as the ideal mode of transport for such an undertaking, the “serial entrepreneurs” behind the company have a rich history of lofty ideas

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CBP says it’s ‘unrealistic’ for Americans to avoid its license plate surveillance – TechCrunch

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has admitted that there is no practical way for Americans to avoid having their movements tracked by its license plate readers, according to its latest privacy assessment.

CBP published its new assessment — three years after its first — to notify the public that it plans to tap into a commercial database, which aggregates license plate data from both private and public sources, as part of its border enforcement efforts.

The U.S. has a massive network of license plate readers, typically found on the roadside, to collect and record the license plates of vehicles passing by. License plate readers can capture thousands of license plates each minute. License plates are recorded and stored in massive databases, giving police and law enforcement agencies the ability to track millions of vehicles across the country.

The agency updated its privacy assessment in part because Americans “may not be

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Natural language processing: A cheat sheet

Learn the basics about natural language processing, a cross-discipline approach to making computers hear, process, understand, and duplicate human speech.

Image: Visual Generation, Getty Images/iStockphoto

It wasn’t too long ago that talking to a computer and having it not only understand, but speak back, was confined to the realm of science fiction, like that of the shipboard computers of Star Trek. The technology of the 24th century’s Starship Enterprise is reality in the 21st century thanks to natural language processing (NLP), a machine learning-driven discipline that gives computers the ability to understand, process, and respond to spoken words and written text.

Make no mistake: NLP is a complicated field that one can spend years studying. This guide contains the basics about NLP, details how it can benefit businesses, and explains where to get started with its implementation.

SEE: Managing AI and ML in the enterprise 2020: Tech leaders

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The path to real-world artificial intelligence

Experts from MIT and IBM held a webinar this week to discuss where AI technologies are today and advances that will help make their usage more practical and widespread.

Image: Sompong Rattanakunchon / Getty Images

More about artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence has made significant strides in recent years, but modern AI techniques remain limited, a panel of MIT professors and IBM’s director of the Watson AI Lab said during a webinar this week.

Neural networks can perform specific, well-defined tasks but they struggle in real-world situations that go beyond pattern recognition and present obstacles like limited data, reliance on self-training, and answering questions like “why” and “how” versus “what,” the panel said.

The future of AI depends on enabling AI systems to do something once considered impossible: Learn by demonstrating flexibility, some semblance of reasoning, and/or by transferring knowledge from one set of tasks to another, the group said. 

SEE:

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