Google Adds Interpreter Mode for Real-Time Translations to Assistant on Phones

Google added a conversation mode to its Translate app way back in 2011, but that requires installing an app. That’s so old-fashioned. Google also added an interesting interpreter mode to Assistant smart speakers recently, but that wasn’t helpful for travel. Now, interpreter mode is available on phones, allowing you to instantly converse in another language with no tedious downloading or setup. 

This feature is rolling out to all smartphones with Assistant starting today. That includes Android phones with Assistant built-in and Apple devices running the Assistant app. Just open Assistant and tell it you want to do some translating. You can use phrases like “Be my German translator” or Help me speak Spanish.” You can also specify a language afterward by saying “Turn on interpreter mode.” If you don’t have the feature yet, Assistant will route you to the Translate app. 

The interpreter mode in Assistant defaults to the “auto” setting, which listens for speech and translates it instantly to the chosen language. Someone else can reply in their language, and Assistant transcribes that back into your language. Google has also integrated smart replies with interpreter mode, something that was not feasible with smart speakers. After transcribing a reply, Assistant might suggest replies the same way it does in notifications and the Messages app on Android. You can tap one of these to have it translated for the other party. 

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The language in Assistant output appears on the screen, but you can also have it spoken aloud. Like the Translate app’s conversation mode, you can keep this back and forth going, letting Assistant translate in real time. It can even use your location to make sure it chooses the right regional dialect—think standard French versus Quebecois French. 

On smart speakers, the interpreter mode only supported 29 languages, but the phone version can handle translation in 44 languages. Again, you don’t have to download anything ahead of time. You will, however, need an internet connection. It won’t need to be especially fast, but the text still has to get to Google’s servers. If you’re going to be someplace without reliable internet access, you’ll still want to get the Translate app and download the necessary offline language packs. It’s possible Assistant will get some sort of AI-powered offline translation capabilities in the future, but that’s not on the current product roadmap.

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Student protest police officer cleared of baton attack

Alfie Meadows had more than 100 staples put in his head after he was hit during a 2010 protest.

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Intel’s Manufacturing Roadmap Shows a Return to Regular Cadence Through 2029

Intel is shipping 56-core solutions now, like Cascade Lake-AP. Those didn’t exist when 14nm was new.

One major topic of discussion at the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) this week has been the future of process nodes at 5nm, 3nm, and below. At present, there are just three manufacturers building on the leading edge — Intel, Samsung, and TSMC. ASML initially released a slide showing Intel’s roadmap at the conference this week, but while the bulk of the information presented in the slide was accurate, ASML had added dates to the slide that Intel didn’t originally put there.

The original slide we’ll be discussing, as presented by Intel:

Image by Intel

The altered version created by ASML and initially published by Anandtech as part of their coverage of this topic:


Image by Anandtech

ASML’s version of the slide takes the implied relationship between process nodes and when these nodes will be introduced and makes it explicit, assigning each new node to a specific upcoming year and naming the improvements from 10nm down to 1.4nm. ASML’s modifications to the slide aren’t crazy, but it’s important to draw the distinction between what Intel has explicitly said and what it hasn’t.

According to Intel, the 10nm node it’s shipping today is already 10nm+, with 10nm++ being used as the basis for 7nm development. 10nm+ is available in 2019, 10nm++ is coming in 2020, and 10nm+++ arrives in 2021. While Intel is developing 10nm++ and 10nm+++ it’ll simultaneously be preparing to deploy 7nm, which also launches in 2021 with Intel’s datacenter Xe GPU. The implication here is that Intel may use different process nodes for different product lines into the indefinite future, as opposed to migrating its entire product family over to the same node in stages over time.

The “backport opportunity” refers to a capability Intel is engineering into its products going forward, to help avoid a logjam like the one that choked the company on 10nm. There have been rumors for years that Intel would backport certain features to 14nm products even if they were originally intended for 10nm. The goal with explicit backporting is to make certain that features designed for a 7nm CPU could instead be deployed on a 10nm+++ CPU if 7nm faces further delays. We’ll have to see what the practical impacts of this capability are; it’s obviously the kind of feature Intel would prefer not to use in the first place.

This is an aggressive roadmap for Intel to set for itself, particularly given the difficulties the company has faced on 10nm. It will be particularly interesting to see how the company fares as it works through its 10nm ramp. If Intel can keep to this cadence, we might see GPUs deploying on 7nm in 2021 (using EUV). We don’t know yet when desktop CPUsSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce will move off 14nm — Intel has yet to announce any 10nm desktop chips — but presumably 10nm+++ would recover enough of the clock speed Intel lost when it went from 14nm to 10nm to make it viable for desktops again.

Server and mobile chips would evolve through 10nm+ and 10nm++, while Intel potentially backports some of the features it’ll introduce in these families to its current line of 14nm products. We’ve been hearing rumors on this front for at least a year, and there’s a conspicuous spot on the desktop roadmap where 10nm chips ought to sit in 2020, but currently don’t. If Intel needs time to get its 10nm up to snuff in terms of yield or clock for desktop, it could do worse than improving the feature set on its 14nm CPUs.

According to Intel’s slide, it’s currently developing the technology it needs to bring 7nm online, defining the characteristics of 5nm, and exploring further R&D options for integration at 3nm and what ASML has labeled as 1.4nm, which could theoretically appear in 2029. Intel is pledging to deliver the equivalent of a full node’s worth of improvements as each node improves, in much the same way as 14nm++ has significantly better performance characteristics than Intel’s 14nm. Whether the company can keep these timelines remains to be seen, but Intel’s official position appears to be that its 10nm logjam was a one-time affair.

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Facebook Will Now Use Oculus VR Data for Ads Just as Everyone Expected

Well, here it is. When Facebook bought Oculus, it assured users that it wouldn’t be using any data gathered via Oculus VR for advertising. It’s a question that’s come up again and again over the years, and it’s always been answered the same way: Oculus and Facebook do not and will not combine data…

Except, now, they do. Oculus has announced changes to its privacy policy regarding how data is shared between Oculus and Facebook when you connect an Oculus Rift to your FB account. You are not required to connect your Oculus account to Facebook in order to use your Rift. Oculus’ FAQ claims that one reason for the tighter integration between the two companies is that Facebook wants to create more social experiences in VR, and the company is launching a new social platform for VR gamers to connect on Facebook. That’s not a terrible idea given that VR suffers from a limited player base, but it’s not an option I’d choose, personally. I’m more a fan of single-player games in the first place.

As far as what data the company is going to collect and use, here’s the official statement:

Facebook will now use information about your Oculus activity, like which apps you use, to help provide these new social features and more relevant content, including ads. Those recommendations could include Oculus Events you might like to attend or ads for VR apps available on the Oculus Store. These changes won’t affect third-party apps and games, and they won’t affect your on-device data.

If you choose not to log into Facebook on Oculus, we won’t share data with Facebook to allow third parties to target advertisements to you based on your use of the Oculus Platform.

The FAQ offers additional information on which data is shared, including:

The VR apps you use, so we can recommend new apps you haven’t tried yet
Your Facebook friend list, so you can join your Facebook friends who are also on Oculus in VR if you choose to
Invites and acceptances for events you create
Information like your name and messaging metadata for chats in Oculus, so that Facebook can send those messages
Your photos and related content like captions, likes and comments if you use the “share photos” feature to share photos from VR to your Facebook Timeline
Information about your Oculus activity, like which apps you use, to show you ads for other VR apps you may like

You have the option to stop sharing data with Facebook by de-linking your Oculus and FB accounts. If you do so, a small amount of data will still be shared (accounts that have been flagged for abuse, for example, are flagged as such on both FB and Oculus sites).

Data Silo Agreements All Come With Expiration Dates

It’s not surprising to see Facebook making this move, but I’d like to hope the tech community can take a lesson from it. When a company claims that it’ll keep two different databases of information separate as a condition of a merger or legal settlement, it doesn’t mean “Forever.” It appears to mean something more like “4-5 years.”

Facebook isn’t making an FB account mandatory to use Oculus Rift — not yet — but I wouldn’t bet on things staying that way long-term. Right now, VR is still a very early market. The various companies trying to promote growth are playing pretty nice with each other, partly because nobody wants bad press to kill a nascent golden goose. But should Oculus start generating the kind of interest that might look like the nucleus of a new user base, don’t be surprised to see Facebook get rather grabby about exactly what kind of accounts people are allowed to have and what the data-sharing arrangements are.

What Facebook has announced, in and of itself, is fine. It might even be pleasantly useful, if you have a large group of VR-playing friends. Inevitably, though, we’re reduced to the meta-question: “Do you actually trust Facebook?” If you do, the company has delivered a lovely feature. If you don’t, you can keep using a separate login ID and keeping your data private (ish).

But I wouldn’t take bets on how long that door will hold. Not if VR actually starts being popular.

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Sony May Be Prepping PSVR 2 Headset With Built-in Cameras, AR Support

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