Thursday, April 28, 2016

Inventors Create Gloves That Translates Sign Language Into Speech

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Expresso app will show you everything wrong with your writing

If you want to see how well you’re writing, the free text-analyzer Expresso will give you a detailed breakdown of whatever you give it. 

The web-based Expresso, spotted on Product Hunt, allows you to type or paste in text to see different metrics of your writing. Hit the "Analyze text" button to see things like what percentage of sentences are extra-long or short, which words are filler and which verbs are weak. After clicking different metrics, Expresso will highlight the corresponding text with different colors.

You can highlight different parts of text in Expresso. Here, weak verbs are blue and filler words are green.
Expresso, currently in beta, lets you closely examine how you write and how often you use certain types of words. By analyzing my own writing, I can see that I often use clustered nouns. What are clustered nouns? Expresso will tell you they are "three or more consecutive nouns." Hovering your cursor over any metric that you don't know will give you a concise explanation, so don't worry if you can't pick out a nominalization or modal on your own.
Expresso explains any writing metrics that might be confusing to non-English majors.
While Expresso gives you all these helpful extensive metrics, that's all it really does, so don't go uninstalling Microsoft Word. There are no options to format the text in any way or save it, so it's more of a handy tool that fits alongside a good text editor.
Expresso has an obvious appeal for writers, but it could also be a helpful for editors or teachers to quickly paste in text and catch weak parts that could be overlooked or get an idea for writers' different patterns.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Facebook’s iPhone app is helping blind people see

On April 4, Facebook rolled out automatic alternative (alt) text for visually impaired and blind users on its iOS app. The feature uses artificial intelligence to scan the picture, recognize objects and create a text description. The feature is available immediately on the Facebook for iPhone as long as users have Apple’s built-in screen reader VoiceOver enabled.
Currently the feature is only available for English-speaking iPhone users in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but the company’s recent blog post explaining the technology states it hopes to roll it out to other platforms, languages and countries soon. The blog post also says serving the 39M worldwide blind population and 246M visually-impaired population furthers Facebook’s mission to “make the world more open and connected.”
Facebook used object recognition technology to create alt text based on, “a neural network that has billions of parameters,” and is trained with millions of examples from Facebook’s large repository of images.
The feature promises the ability to recognize objects, people, basic emotions and background locations. In our test of the new feature, only one out of three pictures had alt text enabled, but the one that did was accurate. While the tech is still clearly a work in progress, alt text makes scrolling through Facebook far more engaging when it works. Facebook is an extremely visual platform, and without alt text, each photo is merely described by VoiceOver as a “photo.” The company noted that this can lead to blind and visually impaired users feeling left out from the fun of the social app, linking to a recent joint study conducted with Cornell University.
Microsoft featured a similar technology called Seeing AI at its recent Build conference in San Francisco, California. Seeing AI provides the same simple recognition as the Facebook feature, able to recognize objects, people and basic emotions. Google is working on image content analysis technology as well, with Cloud Vision API.