Amazon is expanding its Samuel L. Jackson voice skill for its Alexa digital assistant to include tens of thousands more phrases, including much more of the actor’s iconic expletive-filled delivery. The company is also giving Jackson his own dedicated wake phrase: “Hey, Samuel.” The news follows Amazon’s announcement on Monday that it plans to add its next celebrity voice, Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan, for the Indian market some time next year.
The Jackson partnership launched last December, allowing Alexa users to pay $0.99 to access the actor’s voice on Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices. Since then, Amazon says consumers complained that the integration was “overly burdensome,” because you effectively had to ask Alexa to ask for Jackson to reply to something.
In addition to that, the range of questions and exchanges you could have using the Jackson skill was limited, mostly because Amazon recorded only a small number of words using the actor’s real voice and relied on artificial intelligence to expand the library. When gathering feedback, Amazon says most owners of the skill — nearly 75 percent of which had expletives turned on — requested a more candid, off-the-cuff Jackson than was currently available via Alexa.
Now, in today’s update, Jackson’s Alexa integration will feature around 30,000 more phrases, including five times the swear words, reports Variety. And you can activate the voice by just saying “Hey Samuel,” a feature that proved to be a “incredibly hard engineering challenge” Amazon says it needed to upgrade the on-device wake word detector to enable.
Some examples include Jackson saying, “Look at that hot ball of gas and fire! No, don’t actually look,” when asking about the weather, and “Why do Jedis always burn their pancakes? They never turn to the dark side” if you ask for a joke.
Variety also reports that Jackson now offers a touching response when asked what he’s up to, in which he’ll respond he’s thinking about the late Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman. There are also other topical responses regarding Jackson’s future work, like one mentioning his upcoming Quibi animated show with Ryan Reynolds called Futha Mucka.
TikTok removed more than 104 million videos in the first half of 2020
The transparency report also broke down the geographical origins of these removals. India came out on top, which partly explains why the government banned the app earlier this year. The US ranked second, followed by Pakistan, Brazil and the UK. In its report, TikTok said that 96.4 percent of takedowns occurred before a user had reported the video, and 90.3 percent happened before anyone had watched it. The document stops short of explaining how many were spotted and judged by a human or algorithmic moderator. TikTok did say, however, that it had been relying “more heavily on technology to detect and automatically remove violating content in markets such as India, Brazil, and Pakistan.”
As TechCrunch reports, legal requests also rose during the first six months of 2020. TikTok received 1,768 requests for user information from 42 regions, which included 290 from US law enforcement agencies.
Alongside the transparency report, TikTok has proposed a social media coalition to tackle harmful content. Vanessa Pappas, the company’s interim head, has written to nine other platform holders — we don’t know which ones, but it isn’t hard to guess — suggested a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The agreement would encourage companies to give their competitors a heads-up whenever they spot violent or graphic content. A ‘hashbank’ would ensure that everyone benefits from the detection and fewer users see harmful content, regardless of which apps they use. For now, it’s not clear if any companies have taken up TikTok’s offer. We will update this story if and when any confirm their involvement.
TikTok’s transparency report and coalition proposal follow a wave of unusual political pressure. The service was set to disappear from US app stores on Sunday — or not be available to download, at least — after a deal with Microsoft failed to materialize. President Trump informally approved a partnership between TikTok, Oracle and Walmart last Saturday, though. The details are still fuzzy but it seems as though Bytedance, the Chinese developer behind TikTok, is prepared to create a US subsidiary called TikTok Global. Oracle and Walmart will own at least some of the company, but it’s not clear if ByteDance will own any of it — Oracle has said it won’t — and if the Chinese government will be happy with such a compromise.
Kickstarter will let creators include bonus ‘add-on’ rewards for their campaigns
Kickstarter is making it easier for creators to give their backers more perks when supporting a campaign. The company is launching “add-ons” today, or a la carte additional rewards that creators can offer on top of their standard backer rewards. For now, the feature is only available to select creators, although people can apply for early access by clicking the “offer add-ons” button when making their campaign. Kickstarter says it’ll expand the feature in the future and will take these applications into account.
Before this feature, creators had to ask backers to do the math on their end and manually increase their pledge amount to account for the extra rewards. An add-on, like is the case with the TalkSocket campaign, can be for extra accessories that don’t necessarily warrant their own reward tier but might be of interest to backers.
Add-ons do come with a few restrictions: if an add-on requires shipping, backers already have to be receiving a reward that requires shipping. Also, the add-ons can only be sent to countries where the regular campaign rewards are available, too. Creators can edit or delete the add-ons as the campaign progresses, although they can’t delete them if backers have already paid for them.
The company suggests that creators only include add-ons that they already have produced to avoid overpromising and not being able to ship all of their rewards. This is an obvious concern for Kickstarter, as many tech-related campaigns have failed to ship on time or at all. Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission settled a lawsuit with the founder of iBackpack, a Kickstarter and Indiegogo product that raised nearly a million dollars, only to not ship.
Replacing an Apple Watch Solo Loop could be a headache
@ijustine thanks to you i learned that the apple watch size guide is not accurate at all! hahaha. went to the store to try it on and turns out i ordered mine two sizes too big. so now i just have the correct band and have to wait another month for my watch to come🙃lol pic.twitter.com/BN6R8goKMe
— mike (@mike_aktas) September 21, 2020
Some users say they were able to get a different size band at an Apple retail store, but it’s not clear if all stores are offering Solo Loop trades. Even if they are, given the pandemic, it’s hard to walk into a story to try on or exchange a Solo band. This probably wasn’t the best time for Apple to introduce a Watch band that really needs to be tried on.
When we tested the Apple Watch SE, which also comes with the Solo Loop and Braided Solo Loop, we found that the silicon Loop is thinner and less comfortable than the classic Sport Band. The $99 Braided Solo Loop does have a good amount of stretch, so it may be easier to fit, but we do wonder how the material will hold up over time.
We’ve reached out to Apple for comment and will update the post when we hear back.
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