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‘The Rolex of smartphones’ is impossible to mass-produce using the existing tooling and manufacturing techniques. Because Apple custom-designs everything, it shouldn’t surprise you that it also designs its own manufacturing processes, techniques and cutting-edge production equipment.
Just how does the company utilize its billions on these pricey robots?
We already know from Apple’s Form 10-K filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that the company over the next year is investing a whopping $10.4 billion on supply chain robots and machinery you’ll never see, except in Apple’s polished product videos.
According to the Bloomberg piece:
That includes equipment to polish the new iPhone 5c’s colorful plastic, laser and milling machines to carve the MacBook’s aluminum body, and testing gear for the iPhone and iPad camera lens, said people with knowledge of the company’s manufacturing methods, who asked not to be identified because the process is private.
Reporter Adam Satariano writes that “Apple engineers often spend weeks at facilities in Asia making sure the parts and equipment they buy or make are working properly”.
Interestingly, the article suggests that Apple’s manufacturing process has “taken on heightened urgency” under Tim Cook’s watch.
Of course, Apple owes much of its production prowess, manufacturing expertise and operational efficiency to the current CEO Tim Cook who under the Steve Jobs regime served as Apple’s operations chief.
The position is now occupied by SVP of Operations, Jeff Williams.
As such, Cook is largely attributed with Apple’s uncanny ability to tap a vast network of suppliers and production partners in Asia in Taiwan and build high-quality products, on time and in volume.
“Their designs are so unique that you have to have a very unique manufacturing process to make it,” said Muthuraman Ramasamy, an analyst with consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, who has studied the use of the machinery.
“Apple has so much cash that they can invest in cutting-edge, world-class machinery that is typically used for aerospace and defense.”
This is how Apple’s U.S. plant makes the Mac Pro’s enclosure.
Like with components, Apple is said to be increasingly striking exclusive machinery deals, placing the machines in the factories of its suppliers. There really is no other way to mass-produce so uniquely designed gadgets.
The most recent example involves the upcoming sapphire glass plant in Mesa, Arizona requiring Apple to prepay $578 million to GT Advanced for the next-generation equipment such as large capacity ASF furnaces.
Contrast Apple’s approach to its rivals:
“Most companies will hire a design firm to create a rendering of a product, throw it over the wall to China and then it’s the Chinese engineers who do the detailed engineering work,” said Cormac Eubanks, product development director at industrial design firm Frog Design.
“What Apple does is hard and it takes a lot of time and money.”
Another example is the gyro inside the iPhone 4:
No testing equipment existed for the scale Apple needed – so its engineers built one, said the person.
The resulting contraption has a granite base and cubes that spin several iPhones around 30 degrees a second to test that the movement-tracking technology is functioning, said the person. Apple then had enough of the machines made to place at the end of suppliers’ assembly lines in China for iPhones to run through, said the person.
Here’s a custom-built machine Apple Stores use to calibrate the iPhone’s display.
I suggest reading the entire Bloomberg piece for more tidbits.
Terry Gou, who runs Foxconn – the world’s largest contract manufacturer which assembles many Apple products – last year said the iPhone 5 was “the most difficult device” his company had ever assembled.
“It’s not easy to make the iPhones,” Gou told Reuters. “We are falling short of meeting the huge demand”.
Little did Gou know that only a few months later his world-class manufacturing operation would suffer losses after Apple started returning millions of iPhone 5 units over quality control issues dealing with Scuffgate.
As the production woes inevitably resulted in a near-term gross margin hit, Apple eventually contracted two new Taiwanese manufacturers to build iOS gadgets, Wistrol and Compal Communications.
Are you glad that Apple is investing billions into materials research, production processes and sophisticated machinery?
Do you care about Apple’s design and build quality?
And how important to you is the way a product feels in your hands?
You're reading Bloomberg Details Apple’s Sophisticated Robots And Production Machinery
Lets check out some specification for Lumia 920 and Lumia 820 :
The Lumia 920 has a 4.5in display with a 1,280 x 768 pixel resolution (WXGA), the highest of any smartphone.
It got a LCD touchscreen with PureMotion HD+ technology and Qualcomm S4 1.5GHz dual-core processor, becoming the the first Lumia smartphone with dual-core technology.
It equates to a pixel density of 332 PPI, which is a higher than the Retina featured on the iPhone 5.
As for look and feel, the Lumia 920 inherits much from the Lumia 900, with attractive synergy of rounded vertical sides and sharp horizontal edges and corners, more like a flattened elliptical cylinder.
It is provided with a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass which ensure the scratch-resistant screen
Camera is featured with optical sensor that reaches an impressive 8.7-megapixels, featured with an innovative optical image stabilization technology, a BSI sensor, a superfast f/2.0 aperture, and a dual LED flash.
Come with Carl Zeiss optics, full HD video recording capabilities, and camera resolution of 3,264 x 2,448 pixels.
It also has an HD ready front facing camera
Ram : 1GB , Has 8 GB Onboard storage and also provided with with a microSD card slot capable of expanding capacity up to 32GB
Uses an Adreno 225 GPU and offers 7GB of online cloud storage to new users.
It has a 2,000mAh engine and is Provided with the most interesting ability of wirelessly charging, utilizing Qi technology.
Have NFC capabilities, Bluetooth 3.1, Wi-Fi, a microUSB port, and are compatible with 4G LTE networks
Available in yellow, red, grey, white and black
Nokia Lumia 820
The Lumia 820 has a slightly smaller 4.3in display with a disappointing 800 x 480 pixel resolution at 217 PPI.
On the looks, this phone is all about curves, a decision partly driven by the fact that it features changeable shells.
It hits 8-megapixels and has a f/2.2 aperture speed.
Come with Carl Zeiss optics, full HD video recording capabilities, and camera resolution of 3,264 x 2,448 pixels.
Ram : 1GB , Has 8 GB Onboard storage and also provided with with a microSD card slot capable of expanding capacity up to 32GB
It also uses an Adreno 225 GPU
Offers 7GB of online cloud storage to new users
It has a 1,650 mAh battery and boast the ability to wirelessly charge, utilizing Qi technology.
Have NFC capabilities, Bluetooth 3.1, Wi-Fi, a microUSB port, and are compatible with 4G LTE networks.
Available in red, yellow, grey, cyan, purple, white and black
Comparision between Lumia 920 and Lumia 820:
Lumia 920 is bigger, thicker and heavier than the Lumia 820, though both handsets can be described as being chubby and sizeable.
Both devices offer LTE capabilities, with the the Lumia 820 therefore emerging as the arguably the most affordable 4G-ready handset on the market.
When battery back up is compared the Lumia 920 provide talk time of 10 hours vs 8 hours on the Lumia 820, standby of 400 hours vs 330 hours respectively, better music playback duration (67 hours vs 55 hours), and superior video playback time (5 hours vs 6 hours.
Lumia 820 lacks the BSI sensor as compared to Lumia 920.
There’s also an HD ready front facing camera on the Lumia 920, though the Lumia 820 has to make do with a secondary VGA snapper.
The Nokia has announced that Lumia 620 will arrives in February and will become available in black, white, yellow, magenta and cyan . For now the Nokia Lumia handsets has commanded inmost of the metro citie markets in India where the Nokia Lumia 920 will have a price tag of INR 38199, whilst the Nokia Lumia 820 will command a price tag of roughly INR 27559. The price tag for the Nokia Lumia 620 is currently unknown but will be announced when the handset goes up for sale.
We’ve all heard of economies of scale, right? The more you produce of a good/service the easier and more cost-effective it becomes. However, there is also a term called “diseconomies of scale” which states that as you produce more and more, you begin to lose control, which could ultimately lead to lower quality and higher per-unit costs.
The positive and negative aspects of scaling are issues that many content marketers are starting to face as the demand for content production, specifically quality content production, continues to rise.
Whether you are an enterprise brand with an entire content marketing department producing daily content, or just an SMB with one Swiss-army-knife marketing employee creating a handful of blog posts every month, you inherently have a point at which the production level of content becomes too difficult to control.
Don’t fret, as with everything on the internet, there is a way to “optimize”.
Increasing your company’s level of content production is a necessity in today’s marketing environment, and if you can learn the tricks of the trade for maximizing your critical point, then you will be able to produce high-quality content and more of it.
My company, CopyPress, has built a successful platform for scaling quality content, and I’m going to walk you through our process and show you how you can scale content without sacrificing quality (This interactive graphic also shows the process).
The best part is, while these steps are highly applicable for brands, agencies can also use the steps to improve their processes for handling large production orders.
Disclaimer: This post will only focus on the process of content production. It takes the presumption that you have an effective strategy already in place and are looking to increase the amount of created content.Step 1: Identify What High-Quality Content is to You
Probably the most important step in the entire process is identifying what your expectations are for the content’s quality.
There are several ways to go about understating expectations, but a good place to start is with a thorough questionnaire that covers the following main points:
Who is your target audience? You will most likely have two targets. The first is the holistic target audience. Second should be the target buying stage the content will be directed to. These “buyer personas” should be outlined prior to ever creating content.
What is your brand voice? This question requires a great deal of information about the subject matter of your brand, the style associated with the brand’s identity, and the general personality that you want to portray.
What is the purpose of the content? This will vary depending on the content, but it is a vital question to consider before scaling any campaign. Are you creating the content to inform, entertain, generate traffic, improve backlinks, or increase sales? Knowing how the content will be measured before it is created will help to ensure expectations are met.
What are the parameters of your content? With the objectives out of the way, it is time to start considering the specifications and scope of the content. If you are creating articles, how many words and how many articles do you need to create to reach your goal? Try to develop concrete parameters when you can.
Find an example that matches your expectations: Your content will likely fall into a similar structure whether it is a blog article, white paper, infographic, interactive, vide, etc. Look for an example of a form of content that matches your goals. Even if it doesn’t match your industry or topics, you might like the design or flow, so use that to provide a concrete idea of your expectations.Step 2: Put Your Expectations Down into a Style Guide
After you’ve collected the information about what level of quality you are looking for and you have a clear idea of expectations, you need to put it into a style guide. Each project will have different parameters and should also have a different style guide.
For instance, if you are looking to produce a thousand 500 word blog articles over the next 12 months, you would create a style guide for that project much differently than if you were producing a hundred 2-minute videos over the next 12 months.
A style guide is a project blueprint and measurement tool and the more descriptive you can be, the better!
Keep in mind that scaling a large project needs uniformity, but it shouldn’t remove all creative freedom. Structure your style guides so you clearly define the necessary parameters, such as brand voice, target audience, length and type of content, targeted keywords, and other macro-level specifics. Leave room for micro-level freedom, such as article titles and direction.
It should be a living style guide, meaning that as the project continues, different parameters may be adjusted or iterated based on performance.Step 3: Develop an Internal QA Process and Campaign Manager
Scaling content creation means you are spreading the control of your work exponentially to each creative that takes part in the production of content. Develop an internal QA process or project manager to counteract the lack of control. The QA team will be used post-production to access the content against the campaign style guide.
They will be the individuals cross-referencing the content, sending back any revisions and ultimately approving the content when it meets expectations. The most efficient QA process is one that uses someone with a background in content creation and your company. If you can justify hiring an internal team, that would be the way to go. This gives you the most control and will keep the production in line with your company’s objectives.Step 4: Find Content Creators
Steps four and five can be done independently of the first three. In fact, you can start the acquisition and vetting process as early as you’d like.
The most cost-effective strategy for scaling content is to find reliable freelancers you can outsource on a per-project basis. This keeps you from bringing employees on without consistent workflow, and since you have an internal QA process and campaign manager set up, you can maintain some control internally, even though the project is completed outside the company.
Have your project manager look for creatives that have experience producing the type of content you need for the current campaign and possible long-term projects. If they have experience within your industry, it’s even better.
If you aren’t able to find videographers, designers, or developers with experience in your industry’s vertical, anchor the content with a strong writer or editor that has a background in your market.
There are many places you can use to find creatives, but some of the most well-known are:
Independent Creatives: Find a writer or designer you like based on searching for topics that you want covered in your content. Then reach out to that creative through email, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.Step 4: Vet the Creatives
Once you have a healthy amount of applicants, the next step is to vet their abilities.
We have our creatives take a practical and application based exam. This gives us the ability to see their skills not just in writing, but also in handling direction and hitting deadlines. The abilities to follow direction and hit deadlines are critical aspects to finding a creative that will fit into your process. I’d strongly urge you to provide a small test so you can see, even in a small sample size, the working dynamic between yourself and the individual creative.
If you are not able to do that, have them at least provide a list of examples and references. In addition to assessing their talent, try to monitor their production levels. A production level is the rate at which an individual creative typically works. If one creative takes twice the time to create the same piece of content as another, then you will need to either allocate that time or expense accordingly.
Do your due diligence upfront so that you won’t have to deal with quality, consistency, or professional issues down the road.Step 5: Narrow and Organize a Tracking System
After you’ve analyzed the creatives, you need to narrow them down to a core group required to fulfill your current or upcoming campaigns. Be upfront and honest with the creatives about workload, pay, and expectations.
With your creatives now selected, make sure you have some internal monitoring system set up to keep track of their work hours, quality of work, and any concerns/issues that could arise on both sides of the relationship.
An effective tracking system will give your QA or editing team the proper place to make notes of the creative’s work throughout the life of their working relationship with you.Step 6: Provide the Creatives with Project Style Guide and Conduct Onboarding Meeting
With the project style guide complete and the creatives selected, it’s time to get them acclimated with the specifics of the project. The style guide is the perfect way to outline the expectations, and an onboarding meeting should be set up to clarify any uncertainties about the project. The onboarding meeting is also the time to set clear deadlines and discuss possible pitfalls with the project.Step 7: Conduct a Small Test
Arguably the most important step in the entire process, conducting a test is necessary if you want to scale effectively. Depending on the size of the project, you may want to increase the test size.
For the sake of this article, let’s assume you need to produce 1,000 product descriptions. A good test would be 1 percent of that project, or 10 product descriptions. The test will allow you to make any necessary adjustments to the style guide and fix any discrepancies with the creative’s interpretation. The internal team should assess the test thoroughly because the test pieces will be used as baselines for the remainder of the pieces.Step 8: Iterate the Style Guide and Fix Pitfalls
Once you have finished reviewing, revising, and finally approving the small test run, all of the adjustments need to be recorded in the style guide. Additionally, add the now-approved examples to the guide as a baseline for the creatives to use when generating the remaining pieces.
Assume that all the issues you encountered in the test will be extrapolated across the other creatives. Take the steps needed to clearly identify and answer all the issues from the test pieces. Provide more examples, training, screenshots, or other materials that will make the process easier for the remaining pieces of content.
The test is not only about measuring quality and brand voice, but also assessing the workflow requirements. If the deadlines for production do not reflect the amount of time it takes to complete, then they need to be adjusted.
The time between the test and issuing the mass production of remaining pieces is the most important. Fix any issues during this stage and fix all potential pitfalls.Step 9: Produce the Remaining Pieces
Now that you are happy with the test pieces and have updated the style guide and processes, it’s time to complete the remaining pieces of content in the campaign. The creatives need to be kept in line with the deadline dates agreed upon originally, so make sure to update them as the project progresses. The campaign manager needs to maintain constant contact with the creatives and respond to any issues. Undoubtedly, no matter how well you structure the project up to this point, you will likely face some question you could not have anticipated. The campaign manager’s job is to answer any questions, and if there is an issue that affects the other creatives, then it needs to be addressed as soon as possible.Step 10: QA the Content Against the Approved Style Guide
You can either wait until all of the pieces of content are completed or do it periodically as the creatives deliver the content, but the next step will be the QA and editing. Using your internal QA team (or outsource editors if necessary), check the content against the approved style guide. If there are any distinct errors or differences between the delivered content and the style guide, then send it back to the creative to revise and make a note attached to that creative in your tracking system.
If the same creative is consistently underperforming against expectations, then you can either minimize their workload or avoid using them all together.
If Steps 1-9 are executed effectively, then step 10 should be a breeze. If you notice your internal team is coming across several errors and are sending back a lot of content for revisions, then you need to reassess your process to see whether the issue is with the expectations or the creative’s capabilities.Step 11: Provide Feedback and Assess Project Workflow
After executing the full workload, it is important to critically analyze what worked and what was ineffective in the production workflow as well as the individual creatives. The tracking sheet created in the earlier stage should be used to make notes and ratings of the different creatives used on this project. The ones that outperformed the others should be allocated more responsibilities moving forward, and any issues should be addressed.
Keeping a fluid source of information and iterations in all areas of production will ensure an increase in efficiency for every additional campaign.Bonus Tip: Keep Your Creatives Happy
The quickest way to ruin your ability to scale content is to lose your good creatives or to burn bridges with the freelance community. You need to make sure your creatives are paid according to their agreement and that they are given feedback (positive or negative). As you will see, the more content you create, the more likely you are to use the same creatives. Keep a strong relationship with them even if there are lulls between your content production schedules.Conclusion
There is always going to be some quality concern associated with high production levels, but if you are able to set up a process that effectively documents and outlines expectations to creatives while also holding them accountable by an internal QA process, then you will be on your way to producing an immense amount of high-quality content.
Ripple [XRP] decouples from the market, with an upward trend of over 26% from 9 May to 9 June.
Ripple’s social volume and dominance spiked as the crypto market grappled with the latest development from the SEC.
The prevailing cryptocurrency landscape witnessed a decline in crypto assets primarily due to fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD). However, amidst this tumultuous trend, Ripple [XRP] stood out as an exception, seemingly detached from the prevailing market fluctuations. Furthermore, according to recent data, XRP garnered increased attention and discussion within the crypto community.
– Realistic or not, here’s XRP market cap in BTC’s termsRipple trends upwards
If we delve into the daily timeframe chart and utilize the price range tool, an interesting Ripple trend emerges. Notably, XRP has exhibited substantial gains during this period.
Analyzing the chart further, Ripple had managed to maintain a steady trading range since 30 May, bucking the trend observed among other altcoins that experienced declines. Moreover, the Relative Strength Index (RSI) painted a bullish picture for XRP, with its line residing comfortably above the 60 mark, indicating a positive trend.
The Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) also supported this positive sentiment, as it depicted the trend line of Ripple above the zero thresholds.
Examining CoinMarketCap data provided additional insights into Ripple’s recent performance. Over the past seven days, XRP witnessed a commendable increase of over 2.4%. Additionally, the market cap of Ripple experienced a growth of more than 1.5%, reaching a figure of approximately $27 billion as of this writing.Ripple sees an increase in social volume
The recent developments surrounding Ripple have generated a notable surge in interaction within the crypto community. As indicated by the social metrics provided by Santiment, Ripple experienced a significant uptick in its social volume and dominance on 7 June.
The social volume witnessed a remarkable spike, reaching approximately 7,830, its highest point in nearly ten months. Concurrently, the social dominance of Ripple also experienced a surge, surpassing 4% during the same period.
This spike in social activity can be attributed to the ongoing legal case involving Ripple, which is similar to current cases filed against other altcoins. However, as of this writing, both the social volume and dominance of Ripple had receded from their peak levels, even as the price of Ripple continued its upward trajectory.A look at other altcoins
A comparison of the price trends between XRP and other crypto assets, such as Polkadot [DOT] and Solana [SOL], revealed significant disparities in their respective trajectories.
On the daily timeframe chart, DOT has been characterized by a downtrend during the same period XRP displayed an uptrend. From 9 May to 9 June, DOT experienced a decline of approximately 5% in value and was currently trading at a loss.
– How much are 1,10,100 XRPs worth today
Similarly, according to its daily timeframe chart, Solana had also exhibited a downtrend. Between 9 May and 9 June, SOL suffered a loss of around 13% in value. However, SOL had regained some ground, trading at a profit of almost 1% as of this writing.
From cities in the sky to robot butlers, futuristic visions fill the history of PopSci. In the Are we there yet? column we check in on progress towards our most ambitious promises. Read the series and explore all our 150th anniversary coverage here.
In a June 1939 roundup of new sports inventions, Popular Science included an “electrical umpire,” a device which used light beams to detect a ball passing through the strike zone and take “the guesswork out of calling ‘balls’ and ‘strikes.’” The 1939 version of a robotic home-plate umpire may have been among the first to use “electric eyes,” but it wasn’t the first machine to be used in a baseball diamond. A July 1916 Popular Science story also described a low-tech automated home-plate umpire designed to eliminate the guesswork in baseball training camps, little leagues, and carnivals. The 1916 device had a strike zone-sized opening cut into a sheet of canvas and was backstopped by a bowling-alley style ball-return register.
“The whole premise of officiating is the balance of art and science,” says Brenda Hilton, a senior director of officiating for the Big Ten Conference and founder of Officially Human, an organization dedicated to improving the treatment of sports officials, especially at the high school and lower level. “Do people really want to play or watch when there are robots [officiating]?” We’re not likely to see C-3PO dressed up in stripes anytime soon, if ever, but Hilton’s question applies equally to the less eye-grabbing automation that’s already here as well as what’s on the horizon.
Using technology to improve the performance of sports officials is not new. Instant replay has been around since 1963 when CBS TV director Tony Verna introduced it during the annual Army-Navy college football showdown that year. The NFL began experimenting with instant replay as early as 1976, but took another decade to fully implement it; the NHL followed in 1991; then the NBA in 2002. In 2008, Major League Baseball was the last of the four major American sports leagues to warm up to instant replay. But soon, it may become the first to flip the relationship between official and machine, allowing the technology to make the initial call.
In 2023, Major League Baseball debuted “robo-umps,” an automated ball-strike system (ABS), in their Triple A minor league, the last stop before the majors. In the new officiating arrangement, which is designed to be collaborative, the home-plate umpire still posts up behind the catcher, but is joined by a black box equipped with pitch-tracking radar. In addition to the standard protective gear, the human ump’s accessories include a smartphone and an earpiece to receive transmissions from the ABS. Instead of making the call, the ump merely announces what the system “sees,” giving voice to the ABS and intervening only when there’s an obvious error, like a pitch that hops across the plate. The goal of the ABS is to call pitches more accurately and provide a consistent strike zone, one that pitchers and hitters can rely on from one game to the next and one season to the next. Beyond its use in minor league trials and training camps, MLB has not announced any future rollouts.
[Related: Major League Baseball is nearing the era of the robot umpire]
But even if the decades-old vision of automated home-plate umpires may finally be here, it wouldn’t change the emotional investment of the players, coaches, and fans. After all, the umpire is more than just an arbiter of rules in a baseball game. “Who would the fans yell at?” Hilton asks. She’s only partly joking.
In all sports, umpires and referees hold a special place in the hearts and minds of players, coaches, and fans. Feelings toward these key people on the field and court are mostly negative, a trend that has been on the rise. According to a 2023 survey conducted by Officially Human, 59 percent of officials who officiate games at the high school level and below don’t feel respected and 60 percent ranked verbal abuse as the top reason they quit. A similar survey conducted by the National Association of Sports Officials in 2023, which included professional sports officials, reached similar conclusions: 48 percent of male officials have at times feared for their safety. The problem has become so acute at the high school level that the National Federation of High Schools estimates that “50,000 individuals have discontinued their service as high school officials,” according to their website, citing the unsportsmanlike behavior of players, coaches, parents, and fans as one of the primary reasons.
By adding technology, would it be possible to cool down heated emotions, reduce acrimony, or elevate respect for officials? Hilton thinks that with too much technology, “games may become unwatchable.” She admits her bias for human officials, but adds, “I think that fans would become more disengaged at the pro level if they went all electronic.” In a recent Wall Street Journal editorial, sports journalist James Hirsch seemed to agree, writing that instant replay “robs games of their drama.”
Every sport is, after all, part performing art—a production of humans on a stage, with all their emotions, inconsistencies, delights, disappointments, thrills, and surprises. Officials play integral parts in every performance, sometimes by assuming attention-grabbing roles—making critical calls that change outcomes—but mostly by playing mundane parts to keep the show on track: throwing the ball up, dropping the puck, calling out of bounds, and offering a steady presence when tempers flare on the field.
[Related: Radium was once cast as an elixir of youth. Are today’s ideas any better?]
Still, technology seems to have carved out a relatively permanent role in those performances. In a 2023 Morning Consult survey, 60 percent of sports fans believe that instant replay should be used “as much as possible to ensure the accuracy of calls” while another 30 percent believe it should be used on a limited basis “to maintain the flow of a game.” The remaining fans didn’t know or had no opinion. None said no to instant replay.
Sports fans are already seeing their wish for more technology come true. For instance, the April 2023 debut of the US Football League was dominated by drones to offer more camera angles for viewers and replays. In 2023, the NFL added Hawk-Eye’s Synchronized Multi-Angle Replay Technology, or SMART, to its arsenal of instant replay cameras. Hawk-Eye is best known for its role in tennis, but is also used as goal-line technology in international soccer.
Yet, with all that extra technology, what’s become clear is that human officials are pretty darn good at their jobs, especially at the professional level. According to CBS Sports, in the 2023 NFL season, there were 40,032 plays of which only 364 were reviewed, or less than 1 percent. Of the reviewed plays, about half were reversed, which was a little higher than previous seasons. Viewed from the officials’ lens, human referees were right 99.5 percent of the time.
Amazon has thousands of employees listen to Echo audio clips as part of improving Alexa’s machine learning so that the personal assistant could better respond to voice commands.
These people are listening to what some Alexa owners tell the assistant, reviewing, transcribing and annotating audio recordings to help train Alexa’s machine learning model.
Bloomberg has the story:
The work is mostly mundane. One worker in Boston said he mined accumulated voice data for specific utterances such as ‘Taylor Swift’ and annotated them to indicate the searcher meant the musical artist.
So far so good, but…
Occasionally the listeners pick up things Echo owners likely would rather stay private: a woman singing badly off key in the shower, say, or a child screaming for help. The teams use internal chat rooms to share files when they need help parsing a muddled word—or come across an amusing recording.
I get sharing a customer’s audio recording with a fellow worker for the purposes of getting the job done. But sharing an audio clip with a colleague just because the user might have happened to say something funny or stupid feels totally wrong and unprofessional to me.
Sometimes they hear recordings they find upsetting, or possibly criminal. Two of the workers said they picked up what they believe was a sexual assault. When something like that happens, they may share the experience in the internal chat room as a way of relieving stress.
While Amazon has a process in place for its workers to follow whenever they hear something distressing, some employees were rebuffed in no uncertain terms with the explanation that it wasn’t Amazon’s job to interfere.
For those concerned about privacy, the report claims that people on this team are listening to only some of the voice recordings that were captured in Echo owners’ homes and offices.
We take the security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously. We only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order to improve the customer experience.
For example, this information helps us train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems, so Alexa can better understand your requests, and ensure the service works well for everyone.
Sudio files are stripped of identifiable information like a user’s full name and address. That being said, Amazon could’ve been more transparent with its data collection:
The Alexa voice review process, described by seven people who have worked on the program, highlights the often-overlooked human role in training software algorithms. In marketing materials Amazon says Alexa ‘lives in the cloud and is always getting smarter.’ But like many software tools built to learn from experience, humans are doing some of the teaching.
Users can adjust settings to stop Amazon from using their voice recordings to improve Alexa.
The online retail giant acknowledges that Alexa requests are being used “to train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems,” but this is buried in a list of frequently asked questions on their website. No matter how you look at it, contextual voice recognition is a tough nut to crack but machine learning promises to be the right solution. The problem is, machine learning models must be trained.
Amazon has teams of people labeling and categorizing Alexa voice queries
For instance, Apple has trained Face ID with more than a billion photographs of people’s faces. As for speech recognition, achieving high accuracy does require large amounts of labeled data.
That’s why launching Siri in a new language isn’t possible without having enough data to train the acoustic models, and that data has to come from real people performing real voice queries. The only difference between Amazon and Apple is that the former has humans listening to some of those recordings while the latter, presumable, does not.
Now that you know that Amazon has a global team listening to Alexa audio clips, are your more or less likely to continue using Echo products?
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