Hashtag Trending Jan 11- Microsoft’s text-to-speech AI; New Jersey and Ohio ban TikTok on Government devices; Coinbase job cuts

Microsoft’s new AI can simulate voices with just three seconds of audio, New Jersey and Ohio ban TikTok on Government devices, and Coinbase cuts its workforce.

That’s all the tech news that’s trending right now. Welcome to Hashtag Trending. It’s Wednesday, January 11th and I am your host, Ashee Pamma.

Microsoft researchers announced a new text-to-speech AI model called VALL-E that can simulate a person’s voice based on a three-second audio sample. Once it learns a specific voice, the AI model can synthesize audio of that person saying anything. It will also try to match the speaker’s emotional tone. According to a report by Ars Technica, the creators of VALL-E said it could be used for high-quality text-to-speech applications, speech editing, and audio content creation when combined with other generative AI models such as GPT-3. VALL-E generates discrete audio codec codes from sound. It then analyzes how a person sounds, breaks that information into discrete components and uses training data to match what it “knows” about how that voice would sound if it spoke other phrases outside of the three-second sample. Microsoft rained VALL-E’s speech-synthesis capabilities on an audio library, called LibriLight.

New Jersey and Ohio are the latest U.S. states to ban TikTok on government devices over fears of Chinese surveillance. The two states join about 20 others amid growing concerns about TikTok’s safety. The governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy announced a cybersecurity order on Monday, to “prohibit the use of high-risk software and services,” on government owned devices. This order included the use of TikTok. The Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, also issued an executive order the same day, banning the use of any application, platform or website owned by an entity in China on state owned devices. Wisconsin has also announced plans to join the ban on Friday.

Coinbase is cutting its workforce as it looks to preserve cash during a downturn in the crypto market. The company is cutting about a fifth of its workforce or 950 jobs. According to CNBC, Coinbase already cut about 18 per cent of its workforce in the summer citing a need to manage costs and growing “too quickly” during the bull market. Coinbase said this move would result in new expenses of between $149 million and $163 million for the first quarter. Cryptocurrency markets have struggled recently following the collapse of one of the industry’s biggest players, FTX, which Coinbase CEO, Brian Armstrong noted when discussing the reason for the job cuts.

Scientists and Engineers are working to install solar panels on the ocean surface, providing power to those living onshore nearby. For example, getting energy to all of Indonesia’s islands is extremely difficult because it’s hard to connect cables to different islands. A BBC article reported that solar power is one option to provide those islands with energy since it’s become much cheaper over the past decade. Floating solar is already in use at a number of sites around the world, but on lakes, rather than the sea due to strong waves that can damage the solar panels. However, research is under way to find ways of keeping solar panels intact and working in rough water. A Dutch-Norwegian company called SolarDuck, is working with German energy company RWE to build a floating solar plant at a North Sea wind farm. The solar panels will sit on platforms raised several metres above the ocean surface and the plant will use the existing cabling for the wind farm to send electricity back to the shore. 

That’s all the tech news that’s trending right now. Hashtag Trending is a part of the ITWC Podcast network. Add us to your Alexa Flash briefings or your Google Home daily briefing. Make sure to sign up for our Daily IT Wire newsletter to get all the news that matters directly in your inbox every day. Also, catch the next episode of Hashtag Tendances, our weekly Hashtag Trending episode in French, which drops every Thursday morning. If you have a suggestion or a tip, drop us a line in the comments or via email. Thank you for listening, I’m Ashee Pamma.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Ashee Pamma
Ashee Pamma
Ashee is a writer for ITWC. She completed her degree in Communication and Media Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. She hopes to become a columnist after further studies in Journalism. You can email her at [email protected]

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