Microsofts speech recognition is now on par with human ears

Microsofts speech recognition team hit a major milestone that makes speech recognition as good as humans when hearing people speak. In a paper published Monday, researchers and engineers in Microsofts Artificial Intelligence and Research reported a speech recognition system that has a word error rate of 5.9 percent, which is on par with humans that professionally transcribe conversations. “We’ve reached human parity,” said Xuedong Huang, the company’s chief speech scientist. “This is an historic achievement,”in a Microsoft blog post.

“Our progress is a result of the careful engineering and optimization of convolutional and recurrent neural networks,” reads the paper. “These acoustic models have the ability to model a large amount of acoustic context.”

While the system can’t hear as well as humans in all situations or environments, it’s still a major improvement that may show up in future Microsoft products.

The Trace Gas Orbiter and the Schiaparelli lander are about to reach Mars

The ExoMars mission is a joint venture between the European Space Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency. The mission is to figure out if Mars had life or has life. The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) will take orbit around Mars, which will take about a year, and in 2018, by analyzing the gases in the Mars atmosphere, it will gather data to find any signs of life. It will look for compounds such as methane, which indicates biological activity.

The Schiaparelli will be landing on the Red Planet. Its mission is to demonstrate that the ESA and Roscosmos have the technology that is necessary to safely land hardware on Mars. The next step would be to send a rover in 2021 on a mission to explore the surface and look for signs of biological life.

At 9 am ET, the TGO will ignite its main engine to slow down and the orbiter will move into Mars’ gravity. The TGO’s engine will burn for two and a half hours and during that time, Sciaparelli will move towards Mars and start its descent around 10:42 am ET all the while sending back data to the TGO. A few days after landing the Orbiter may shut down, since it does not have a way to generate its own power.

Urban Crops aims to grow up with vertical farms

Urban Crops, founded by Maarten Vandecruys, has set out a goal to creating an efficient and sustainable farming environment that allows food to be grown in any climate and any location around the world.

Urban Crops developed their own demonstration factory to show their capabilities in growing food using a vertical system, a new trend used by many startups. The factory has 8 cultivation layers and is built as a climate chamber with a closed controllable environment. A robot has access to crates that hold the crops.

Each layer has 4 rows of crates with 10 crops per crate and the factory can hold 448 creates. In the near future a system can be built with up to 25 layers.

In the future we may see many of these systems that may be able to produce hundreds of thousands of crops per day to be able to feed our ever growing population.

The Founder of Atari launches new VR company called Modal VR

Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, is launching a new virtual reality company called Modal VR.

Modal VR was developed by Jason Crawford, who serves as the company’s chief executive. It uses standing senors that follow and record movement, and a full-body tracking suit that tracks body movement with 10 milliseconds of latency and accommodates areas as large as 900,000 square feet. Modal is completely wireless and can work with multiple users. The company aims to create a fully immersive virtual experience.

The downside is that the platform isn’t available for consumers. That means consumers may use the platform provided from other business, much like arcades. This makes sense because of Busnells past when he started Chuck E. Cheese, a place for kids to place games.

Businesses could also create custom VR apps that may be used to see life size models of objects. The technology is still in the prototype stage and will start shipping a beta developers kit in the near future.

As of now the VR isn’t priced, but may not be cheap enough for consumers to buy.

Facebook releases enterprise social networking platform Workplace

Facebook releases Workplace, an enterprise level social networking and messaging platform, after 20 months in a closed beta known as Facebook at Work.

Workplace has News Feed, Groups, Chat direct messaging, Reactions, Live video, Video and Audio calling, and translation features. Its launching as a desktop and mobile app and is available to anyone. From what it looks like, Workplace is meant to allow companies to increase collaboration and communication between employees. Facebook stated in an announcement that more than 1,000 organizations around the world use Workplace.

The platform will also have Multi-Company Groups, that allows collaboration with companies and employees from different organizations. Facebook is also releasing dashboard analytics, single sign-on, and better IT integration with current IT systems. Employees can also stay connected when they’re out of the office using the Work Chat app for iOS and Android.

Workplace does have a lot of competition with the likes of Microsoft’s Yammer, Slack, Salesforce’s Chatter, Hipchat, and many more.

Workplace has a particular pricing model based on the number of monthly active users. “Workplace will be priced competitively — companies only pay for people who are actively using the product,” according to Facebook’s announcement. Its tiered pricing structure starts at $3 per month per user for less than 1,000 monthly active users, $ 2 per month per user for 1,001 – 10,000 monthly active users, and $1 per month per user for 10,001+ monthly active users. There’s a 3 month trial in case organizations want to test the platform and for non-profits and educational institutions the platform is free.