Top Stories for the Week of January 3, 2018

  • Episode 537
  • January 3, 2018
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Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday January 3, 2018

The loss of an expensive Russian satellite was due to an error in the coordinates that were programmed into it at launch.

The loss of an expensive Russian satellite was due to an error in the coordinates that were programmed into it at launch.

The Russian deputy prime minister has said that the loss of a multi-million dollar weather satellite in November was due to programming errors.

Dmitry Rogozin said Meteor-M had been programmed for lift-off from a different launch site.

And speaking to Russian state TV, he blamed "human error."

He told the TV channel that the rocket was programmed as if it were taking off from a launch pad nearly 2,600 km away from the actual takeoff point.

The rocket contained eighteen smaller satellites belonging to research and commercial companies from Russia, Norway, Sweden, the US, Canada, Germany, and Japan.

Russian space agency Roscosmos said last month that it had lost contact with the weather satellite, which was worth 2.6 billion rubles: the equivalent of about $58m or £43m.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Apple has apologised after facing criticism for admitting it deliberately slows down ageing iPhone models.

Apple has apologised after facing criticism for admitting that it deliberately slows down some of its ageing iPhone models. The company now says it will replace batteries for less; and will issue software in 2018 that will enable customers to monitor their phone's battery health.

Some customers had long suspected that the company slowed down older iPhones to encourage customers to upgrade.

Apple admitted to slowing down some phones with ageing batteries, but said it was to "prolong the life" of the devices.

In a statement posted on its website, the firm said it would reduce the price of an out-of-warranty battery replacement from $79 to $29 in the US for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later. And in the UK the prices will drop from £79 to £25.

It said it was pushing ahead with measures to "address customers' concerns, to recognise their loyalty and to regain the trust of anyone who may have doubted Apple's intentions."

The firm has had eight separate lawsuits in the US filed against it over the matter, and had also been facing additional legal action in Israel and France.

Apple acknowledged earlier this month that it does deliberately slow down some models of the iPhone, as they age. And said they made changes to the iOS operating system in order to manage ageing lithium-ion batteries in some devices—because the batteries' performance diminishes over time.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Google has developed a human-like, text-to-speech AI.

In a major step towards its "AI first" dream, Google has developed a text-to-speech artificial intelligence (AI) system that will confuse you with its human-like articulation.

According to reports, the tech giant's text-to-speech system called, "Tacotron 2," delivers an AI-generated computer speech that almost matches with the voice of humans.

The internet giant has announced it is shifting its focus from mobile-first to "AI first," and we've seen them launch several products and features in line with that goal: including Google Lens, Smart Reply for Gmail, and Google Assistant for iPhone.

The new text-to-speech system first creates a spectrogram of the text; a visual representation of how the speech should sound.

That image is put through Google's existing WaveNet algorithm, which uses the image and brings AI closer than ever to indiscernibly mimicking human speech. The algorithm can easily learn different voices, and even generates artificial breaths.

On the basis of its audio samples, Google claimed that "Tacotron 2" can detect from context the difference between the noun "desert" and the verb "desert," as well as the noun "present" and the verb "present," and alter its pronunciation accordingly.

It can place emphasis on capitalised words and apply the proper inflection when asking a question rather than making a statement.

Google's engineers did not reveal much information but left a big clue for developers to figure out how far they’ve come in developing this system. They did this by dropping a handful of wav samples and leaving it to the developers to guess which were real human speech and which were created by the AI.


Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson

As it turns out, the Nigerian prince is actually a 67 year old man from Louisiana.

An American fraudster has been caught in relation to the Nigerian Prince scam.

That's right: According to police, they've nabbed a 67-year-old Louisiana man who swindled people out of thousands of dollars as a middleman in a "Nigerian prince" internet scam.

Michael Neu, of Slidell, Louisiana—about 30 miles north of New Orleans—is facing 269 counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.

The scam involves the victim receiving an email from a "Nigerian official" who claims the recipient has been named a beneficiary in a will and will inherit at least $1 million. They are asked to send personal information which is then used to con them out of their money.

Neu has allegedly participated in hundreds of scams and has wired money to co-conspirators who do live in Nigeria.

The 18-month investigation remains ongoing.

Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal warned people to never give out personal information over the phone or via email, or to wire money to anyone they don't know.

The chief warned, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."


Sent to us by: Jeff Weston


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