Hello from the office side… The kettle’s boiled a thousand times… As everyone slowly starts to get back in the swing of things (socially distanced of course) there’s still plenty to smile about, especially in the realm of technology, innovation and creativity. Discover some of our favourite recent news stories below.
5G Create project
A consortium (that word would get you a lot of scrabble points), that includes Bristol-based start-up Condense Reality and the University of Bristol, has been awarded almost £1.5m from the government to revolutionise the way we consume live entertainment and sports.
The project, 5G Edge-XR, will showcase how a number of technologies can be combined to create the next generation of media consumption for mixed reality.
Led by BT and using EE’s 5G network, the project will stream the project will stream volumetric video (otherwise known as holographic video) of live events alongside the normal TV broadcast. Confused? You’re not the only one. Imagine for example, a boxing match using the 5G Edge-XR technology; the action could be viewed from any angle, as if the match itself had been placed on the viewers coffee table on the centre of the room, accompanied with live TV commentary. In its use of volumetric video combined with spatial sound, with a novel 5G network architecture, it aims to create far higher fidelity and more immersive experiences for live entertainment and sports than is currently possible.
It could also mean big things for the future of 5G, as Nick Fellingham, CEO of Condense Reality says “Although 5G offers a massive step up over existing mobile network technology, many of the advances made will be invisible to most users. Volumetric video is a technology that can really showcase the benefits of 5G to everyone. This is because holograms and holographic video is something that excites many people, not just techies!”
Bristol Libraries are working with Upfest (Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival) and local sculptor Tom Habben to create a new sculpture in Bristol, that aims to celebrate the power of books and the solace many of us have found within their pages in 2020.
If you’re a Bristol local you might already have spotted some of Tom Habben’s previous work featured across the city, including at Zero Green and Toyville in Bedminster. His latest piece will take the form of a 12-foot-tall owl inscribed with passages from books, submitted by members of the public. The art installation hopes to promote reading to people of all ages and highlight the importance of libraries.
Bristol Libraries are asking people to share passages from their favourite lockdown reads to help create the new art piece, which will be installed at Fishponds Library. Submissions can also be sent via firstname.lastname@example.org or by posting a photo, including the cover of their favourite book, with the passage in the caption on Twitter or Instagram, using the hashtag #BristolReads and tagging @upfest and the author.
Ey Up Alexa
If you’ve ever found yourself yelling frustratedly at Alexa when it has no idea what a ‘cuppa,’ ‘brew’ or ‘rosy lee’ is then we have excellent news! The language experts who develop the AI technology for Amazon’s now famous voice assistant have added hundreds of regional words to its vocabulary.
Hopefully, the move from Amazon will enable users to avoid confusion over bread rolls, as Alexa will be able to provide information on where to buy ‘baps’ in Scotland, ‘barms’ in the north west and ‘cobs’ in the midlands.
It’s particularly welcome news after a 2018 report from the Life Science Centre in Newcastle warned that voice assistant technology could threaten regional accents, claiming that four out of five speakers with regional accents deliberately adjust the way they speak when using voice recognition systems.
Amazon say persevere with your accent, as the machine-learning incorporated in Alexa, means the more people talk to the device, the more it will know their specific voice, although preloading it with the phrases should help with some of the trickier words.
To improve Alexa’s recognition of the diverse range of dialects in the UK language experts at Amazon’s Cambridge Development Centre will also train Alexa on the variations of British speech, including phonological variation, from the distinctive Scottish rolling ‘r’ to the use of long vowels in the south of England.
The latest additions are part of a collaboration with Countdown’s very own, lexicographer Susie Dent, who has been working with Alexa to add the “glorious quirks of British language” to its vocabulary.
Find more good news and maybe even a past project or two on our blog.