Tech News

Scientists measured brain waves using cochlear implants for the first time

Scientists have successfully measured brain waves through an ear implant for the first time, a breakthrough that could improve smart hearing aids.

Researchers from KU Leuven, a university in Belgium, used an experimental cochlear implant to record neural signals that arise in response to sounds. These signals could be used to measure and monitor hearing quality.

“In the future, it should even be possible for the hearing implant to adjust itself autonomously based on the recorded brain waves,” said study co-author Tom Francart.

[Read: How to use AI to better serve your customers]

Instead of making sounds louder like a conventional hearing aid, cochlear implants use electrical signals to directly stimulate the auditory nerve.

The devices are typically adjusted by an audiologist based on user feedback, a time-consuming process that can be challenging for children and people with communication impairments.

In addition, the fittings only happen during irregular sessions at a clinic. This means the settings can’t account for variable factors that affect the user’s hearing, such as different listening environments and physiological changes.

One solution is adjusting the implant via brainwaves. However, this typically requires expensive and cumbersome equipment that’s placed around the head.

A cochlear implant that records neural signals on its own could provide a more useful alternative. Francart said the approach has several advantages:

Firstly, we get an objective measurement that does not depend on the user’s input. In addition, you could measure a person’s hearing in everyday life and monitor it better. So, in the long run, the user would no longer have to undergo testing at the hospital. An audiologist could consult the data remotely and adjust the implant where necessary.

The researchers now want manufacturers to use the study findings to further develop smart hearing devices.

You can read the study paper in the journal Scientific Reports.

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Published March 31, 2021 — 17:57 UTC

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Among Us developer plans to revamp the game’s art style

Hit imposter game Among Us received its big Airship update today as promised, but that’s only the start of what Innersloth has planned. Coming alongside the update is a new blog post from the developers who revealed plans to revamp the game’s animation style, including improving the line artwork.

Among Us now features a new map called Airship, which is available on all platforms supported by the game. This is the game’s fourth and biggest map thus far, one that adds new tasks and the ability to choose which room you’ll start the game in. The map brings new explorable regions, as well as better mobility and some free cosmetics.

Innersloth recently announced that it has hired two new programmers, which means that it should be able to speed up the rate at which it introduces changes. Barring any major bugs that may need to be addressed, the developer says, it has multiple projects in the pipeline.

One of those projects is a ‘full art style revamp,’ Innersloth says, which includes ‘an easier animation process’ and those aforementioned cleaner lines. Likewise, the game will get 15-player lobbies, which will be particularly great in the large Airship map.

Beyond this, Innersloth says that it aims to offer more transparent and frequent updates on its development process and the things it is working on behind closed doors. Beyond the game itself, meanwhile, the team has also launched Crewmate plushies in a dozen colors for fans who want something to cuddle.

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How to Allow Pop-Ups on a Mac

Some pop-ups can pose a potential threat to your PC, while others are completely harmless and even useful. Whenever you want to receive notifications from your favorite website or access important webpages, pop-up blockers can be an inconvenience. But how can you enable pop-ups on sites you trust, while at the same time disable them on other sites? 

We’ll show you how to enable pop-ups on a Mac, no matter what browser you’re using.

Enable pop-ups on Safari

The default browser on your Mac makes managing pop-ups very simple. Here’s what to do:

Step 1: With Safari active, click Safari located in the top-left corner, followed by Preferences in the resulting drop-down menu.

Step 2: In a pop-up window, click the Websites tab at the top, followed by the Pop-up Windows entry on the left.

Step 3: To enable pop-ups on a specific website, click the drop-down menu next to the website’s name and click Allow. If you want to allow pop-ups on all websites, select Allow on the drop-down menu next to When Visiting Other Websites located at the bottom.

Finally, when Safari actively blocks a pop-up, a little notification appears in the browser’s address bar to let you know it happened. If you need this pop-up to enable a feature, then you can quickly retrieve it. Just click on the notification, and Safari will give you an option to view the pop-up.

It’s not a great way to manage pop-ups in general, but it is useful if you occasionally view a pop-up but don’t want to change any of your settings permanently.

Enable pop-ups on Firefox

Firefox MacOS Pop-Up Setting

Firefox is also a very common browser choice for Mac users, even more so since its Quantum revamp. If you use Firefox, take a look at how you can enable pop-ups within Mozilla’s popular browser:

Step 1: While in a Firefox window, select Firefox in the top-left corner, followed by Preferences in the resulting drop-down menu.

Step 2: In the new Preferences tab, click Privacy & Security listed on the left, and scroll down to the Permissions section.

Step 3: Un-check the box next to Block Pop-Up Windows to enable pop-ups for all websites.

Firefox Manually Allow Website Pop-Up

Step 4: If you don’t want to enable all pop-ups, use the Exceptions button instead. This opens a new window where you can manually enter the website’s address — use the copy/paste method —  and click the Allow and Save Changes buttons. You can add as many websites as you want to your exceptions, and remove them as needed when you are done.

Enable pop-ups on Chrome

Chrome is a popular browser for Android and Mac owners alike. The steps illustrated below explains first, how Chrome manages pop-ups and second, how you can deal with them manually, not to mention that here are some great blocking methods, too:

Chrome Pop-Ups Redirects MacOS

Step 1: With a Chrome browser window open, click Chrome listed in the top-left corner, followed by Preferences on the resulting drop-down menu.

Step 2: A new Settings tab opens. To the right, you should see a list of options, with Privacy and Security being among them. Click on it.

Step 3: Scroll down, and click Pop-Ups and Redirects. You’ll see a new page with an option to toggle between Blocked (Recommended) and Allowed. Switch to Allowed to enable all pop-ups.

Chrome MacOS Pop-Up Settings

Step 4: Under Allow, you can manually add individual sites to the pop-up allow list. This works well if you have another list of allowed sites that you can copy and paste into Chrome and save.

Step 5: You also have an option to automatically allow pop-ups from any site you visit in Chrome. When a page in Chrome blocks pop-ups, you will see a small icon in the address bar called Pop Up Blocked, which looks like a window with an X on it. You can click this icon to allow the pop-up or choose to allow pop-ups from that particular site.

Note: You can also access the pop-up settings by entering chrome://settings/content/popups in the address bar.

What about third-party apps?

Adblock Plus Chrome

Third-party ad-blocking apps like Adblock Plus get rid of ads and pop-ups. As you can see in the image, external apps provide a visual indicator of the present number of ads they have blocked. 

However, you may need to enable pop-up windows in these apps as well, as they may incorrectly identify and block innocent pop-ups. When you visit a site where you need pop-ups, click on the AdBlock icon and find a way to add the site to your whitelist, or disable the block for that specific site. You should keep this in mind when using these third-party apps as the majority of them possess this capability.

Editors’ Choice

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Tech News

IATA’s COVID-19 Travel Pass app will arrive on iPhone next month

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced that its COVID-19 vaccine and test results ‘travel pass’ app will arrive for iPhone next month. The app, assuming the travel industry adopts it in any significant way, will provide an alternative to carrying around paper vaccination cards and test results when traveling or visiting venues that require documentation.

A number of countries, travel companies, and venues like stadiums are requiring proof that visitors and travelers have either been fully vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus or have tested negative for the virus. At this point in time, that proof largely comes in the form of carrying around paper copies of your test results or vaccination records card.

This is, of course, quite archaic and inconvenient — and all signs point toward a switch to digital platforms in the near future. IATA is one of the entities working on a digital COVID-19 ‘passport’ app that will enable travelers to show proof of vaccination or test results using the phone they already carry around daily.

The IATA details its travel pass app on its website, explaining that its offering will help users find COVID-19 details about their upcoming travel, including testing and vaccine requirements. As well, the app will help users find testing centers in the locations where they’re traveling and will allow those authorized centers to share the results with the passengers using the app.

Travelers will then be able to use the app to prove that they’re been tested/vaccinated, when necessary, streamlining a process that is still quite cumbersome and time-consuming. According to Reuters, IATA plans to launch the app for iPhone users on or around April 15 with an Android version coming later on.

A number of airlines plan to trial the IATA Travel Pass app, including Qantas, Malaysia Airlines, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines, and Hong Kong Airlines.

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Cresta, which uses AI to mentor customer service agents in real time, raises $50M

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Cresta, an AI-powered platform that offers real-time support to help customer service agents respond to inquiries on calls or in chats, has raised $50 million in a series B round of funding.

The company’s latest investment, which was led by Sequoia Capital, with participation from Greylock Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Allen & Company, and Porsche Ventures, comes after a year of growth that saw its revenues quadruple. It’s difficult to read too much into any first-year revenue growth metrics, but it’s clear that companies are hankering for technology that helps them optimize their customer-facing operations.

Contact centers have proven fertile ground for AI, with a slew of companies emerging to offer their own take on how automation can improve companies’ interactions with their customers. Just today, Uniphore announced a fresh $140 million investment to analyze emotion and engagement in both voice and video-based calls, while Talkdesk launched a new “human-in-the-loop” AI trainer for contact centers.

Cresta shares common ground with many of these companies, though it’s placing a specific focus on learning from what the best-performing agents do and passing this knowledge to colleagues while nudging them with suggested responses.

Above: Cresta: Behavior coaching

The San Francisco-based company officially launched last year with $21 million in funding, and it has amassed an impressive roster of clients so far, including Intuit, Adobe, and Dropbox. Cresta recently introduced Cresta for Voice to target phone-based sales and contact center teams, and it launched an integration with Amazon Web Services’ Amazon Connect cloud contact service platform last year.


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No Man’s Sky Expeditions update introduces a new way to play, cuts the grind

No Man’s Sky received a new update today that changes the game in several big ways. The first hint at what’s new comes in the title of the update: Expeditions. Expeditions in No Man’s Sky will serve as a new game mode that players can embark on together, starting from a fixed point and completing milestones on the way to finishing the expedition as a whole. There are also some big changes to resource collecting and usage that intend to cut down on the grind in the game, which is exciting news for No Man’s Sky newcomers and veterans alike.

Hello Games says that expeditions will be split up into phases, which are themselves split up into milestones. Each milestone in a phase centers around some component of No Man’s Sky – for instance, in the example image Hello Games shared today, some of the milestones listed include lifting off from the starting planet and discovering 20 different creatures. Each milestone you complete will give you a reward, while each phase you complete will grant a unique reward. Of course, you also get something for completing an entire expedition, but those rewards are being kept secret for now.

Aside from introducing expeditions, this update also changes how we’ll complete missions. While mission objectives used to be identified by waypoints on your visor, now you’ll need to sweep the environment to home in on the objective. The idea, it seems, is to make the process of finding mission objectives more exploratory in nature, rather than just directing players from waypoint to waypoint.

We’re also getting visual enhancements to Explorer-class starships, rendezvous points that will appear along expedition routes, and sentinel combat enhancements. Hello Games has also changed the way we collect resources, reducing and rebalancing recipe costs and increasing resource deposit yields to cut back on the grind. Anyone who has made it more than few hours into No Man’s Sky can attest that the game gets pretty grindy at points, so this change is definitely a big one. We’re also getting cross-play discoveries and bases, so any discovery you make or base you upload will be seen by players on all platforms.

We’ve detailed many of the high points of today’s update, but to learn about everything included in the Expeditions update, check out Hello Games’ full patch notes. The update is live today on all platforms – PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC, Oculus, and PlayStation VR – so be sure to download it and take it for a spin.

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Tech News

Fallout 76’s wasteland West Virginia is for lovers

Date night, for my fiancée and I, is all about closeness and intimacy. Sometimes that looks like cooking our favorite meal together, having a few cocktails after dinner, and talking the night away. Other times, however, it looks like us playing a video game set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where she’s a laser-gun-wielding punk rock goddess and I’m a machete-toting psychopath who collects teddy bears.

Variety, they say, is the spice of life.

It’s ironic then, that when I wrote the first edition of this series my plan was to publish a new piece each week. Unfortunately, the first article was about Stellaris and my fiancée and I haven’t played anything else in the 11 weeks since it was published. To say we really enjoy it would be putting it mildly.

But, tonight that all ends because we’ve got a date to play Fallout 76 and I can’t wait to get off work so we can dive back in.

For those unfamiliar, Fallout 76 is Bethesda’s MMO set in the Fallout world. It plays very similar to the critically-acclaimed single player RPGs – especially Fallout 4. But, as it’s an MMO, the experience is tailored toward multiplayer.

As I wrote in a previous article, I’ve never been a big fan of the idea of a Fallout MMO. My favorite things about the franchise have always been the immersion and play-at-your-own-pace feel. And the MMO component kind of kills both of those for me.

Don’t get me wrong, the ’76 community is fine and the game’s actually a lot of fun to solo if you’re not into playing with a group. But, my perfect Fallout is one where the only human player characters in the game are me and the people I explicitly allow in my world.

Enter Fallout 1st

You buy the game (it usually retails for $39.99 on Steam, or you can download and play it as part of the Xbox Game Pass for PC or console) and it’s free to play after that. However, if you so choose, for about $13 a month you can get a subscription to Fallout 1st.

Most of what the sub gets you is cosmetics. Fallout 76, much like Fallout 4, leans heavily on the construction and customization aspects of the game. If you enjoy building and decorating your own spaces in a sand box environment, you’ll probably enjoy the wasteland. But, if you don’t care about how your pad, gear, and clothing looks and you just want to shoot baddies and gain EXP, you might not care so much about the bells and whistles that come with the subscription.

What really matters here is the private worlds option.

Fallout 76 on private servers is the quarantine gaming experience I deserve

Simply put, if you’re a Fallout 1st subscriber, once you create your character and play through the opening sequence, you can then back out to the main menu and log back into your own private server for you and up to seven more people you invite. The game is essentially the same as the public version, only you have complete control over who’s allowed to play with you.

The date night experience

Last night we created characters, synced up in our private world, and began our journey into West Virginia for the first time. We’d both come from the same vault and had the same goals in mind: find some better clothes, get some decent weapons, and carve out our own little slice of Appalachia to live happily ever after in.

Within ten minutes she shoots a guy in the face for threatening me and, before his body can hit the floor, I’m hacking at him with a cheap machete.

About two hours later she’s drowning in a shallow pond under the weight of a stolen monster egg as the giant, mutant creature who laid it dives in after her. I’m standing on the bank about 30 meters away trying to remember which one of my guns still has ammo in it shouting “swim swim!” while she frantically struggles to lower her encumbrance without giving up the precious egg.

During the time between we met a NPC couple outside enjoying a barbecue on their anniversary, built our own campsites right next to each other’s, and started an adorable teddy bear collection.

Fallout 76 doesn’t make these experiences happen, it lets them happen. And that’s why it’s incredibly suited for playing with your romantic partners: you’re telling your story with every step you take together.

Final thoughts

Most MMOs make good playgrounds for romantic partners, as long as you like the game, but Fallout 76 sets itself apart with the ability to play in your own private universe. Sure, it costs more than a basic Netflix subscription, but you can always cancel it after a month and turn it back on later if you’re Mercurial about gaming subs.

It’s one thing to blaze a trail among the masses with your friends and loved ones as you work together to climb leader boards or obtain infamy, but we’re not inclined to hang out with randos when we’re trying to get our date night on.

Having the option to go private makes all the difference in the world.

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USB-C vs. Thunderbolt 3 | Digital Trends

Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C are frequently mentioned in the same breath, making understanding the difference between the two quite challenging for the average person.

Both are hardware connection technologies, but they do function in different ways. Here’s everything you need to know about USB-C, Thunderbolt 3, how they overlap, and what their specialties are.

What’s the real difference?

USB-C is one of the latest USB hardware designs, a very significant upgrade for the USB port that added some important features, including the ability to (at last) connect no matter which side was up and the ability to deliver up to 100 watts of power to charge devices. It can also provide data transfer speeds up to 10Gbps and support video for a 4K display — although the connection does need converters to output audio data properly.

Then we have Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt was a connectivity technology developed via a partnership between Intel and Apple, a combination of PCI Express, DisplayPort, and DC power technologies. This makes Thunderbolt a versatile connection option for the devices that support it, and Thunderbolt 3 is currently the fastest, most powerful version available. As you might expect, Thunderbolt connections are frequently found on Apple products, although other brands worldwide have made use of them as well.

Now comes the complicated part: The two connection technologies were separate for several years, supporting different devices for different people. However, as time passed, this became less feasible, and the two technologies started to resemble each other more.

By the time the USB-C port type showed up, both technologies were similar enough that Thunderbolt was designed to connect using only USB-C ports. So, we saw companies begin to add extra Thunderbolt 3 hardware to USB-C connections so that the USB-C ports could be used as Thunderbolt 3, essentially adding Thunderbolt capabilities to the new USB-C ports.

What capabilities does Thunderbolt 3 add?

Thunderbolt 3 is a step up from what USB-C alone can offer. It does a lot, but the key features of the connection include:

  • 40Gbps speeds, far faster than what USB-C can offer by itself.
  • Support for up to two 4K displays or a 5K display for routing video and audio out.
  • Native audio support.
  • Special cables are required for longer connections, which do lead to a decrease in data speeds.
  • Serial connection of multiple devices linked together and accessed by one computer.
  • And, of course, compatibility with all devices that require a Thunderbolt 3 connection, as well as all USB devices.

Can a port be USB-C but not Thunderbolt 3?

Yes, it can. Many USB-C ports don’t have Thunderbolt 3 capabilities and only offer connections through the USB 3.1 (Gen 1/Gen 2) protocol. This is why, for the time being, ports have an awkward naming system that must explicitly state “USB-C Thunderbolt 3” so people know it supports both options. Devices are being made that have the ability to use either USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 connections on these ports based on what they need or support.

However, note that the reverse is not true: A Thunderbolt 3 port, by design, can also function as a USB-C port. There is no separate, special Thunderbolt 3 port, as there was for past versions of the Thunderbolt connection. However, special Thunderbolt 3 cables are used to access the full capabilities of the connection, so keep that in mind when buying. If you’re looking for USB-C cables, we have a list you may want to check out.

You can tell if your USB-C supports the Thunderbolt 3 standard by looking for the small Thunderbolt logo. Whether it’s a laptop port or on a cable itself, a Thunderbolt port is usually accompanied by the logo. There are some exceptions, though, so always check the specifications of the particular product in question.

So, Thunderbolt 3 is better than just USB-C?

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

USB-C is far from a bad port: It’s much faster than past generations and very versatile, with the welcome ability to charge up accessory devices. So don’t feel like you have to get a Thunderbolt 3 port if you don’t actually need one. But yes, in a head-to-head comparison, Thunderbolt 3 is better than USB-C in basically every way.

With USB4 on the way, it’s catching up rapidly. But as it stands, yes, Thunderbolt 3 is a faster and more capable standard. So, why don’t companies turn all USB-C ports into Thunderbolt 3?

Remember, USB and Thunderbolt spent many years as siloed, competitive technologies. Ultimately, the two technologies are trying to join forces, but there are many obstacles, namely universal pairing capabilities and a unique name for the final combined port.

Devices that contain the specific parts to support Thunderbolt 3 connections will undoubtedly be more expensive. Some companies might not want to include this extra expense quite yet, especially not more budget-oriented devices. Other companies may prefer to save money by making only one port on their devices, Thunderbolt 3 while keeping the other ports USB-C. This also makes the device easier to design and power.

If your apparatus isn’t an Intel-powered device, then you won’t be able to use Thunderbolt 3 technology. Considering there are plenty of devices out there that don’t fit the bill, this is an issue that manufacturers will have to prioritize.

Editors’ Choice

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Tech News

Belkin made a MagSafe iPhone 12 stand with face tracking – but there’s a problem

Belkin is launching a new magnetic iPhone 12 stand that adds face-tracking, letting Apple’s smartphone swivel to follow you much like Amazon’s Echo Show 10. It’s part of the slowly growing ecosystem of accessories that use Apple’s MagSafe system for iPhone, though unfortunately it sounds like it’s not quite as flexible as you might hope.

The good news is that the Belkin Magnetic Phone Mount with Face Tracking should be easy to use. It’s powered with three AA batteries, and the iPhone – which will have to be from the iPhone 12 series, since earlier models don’t offer MagSafe support – simply snaps onto the circular mounting plate.

It supports portrait and landscape orientation, and if you have a MagSafe-compliant case then that should stick to the stand too, Belkin promises. Turn it on, and it will rotate around a full 360-degrees, while angle of the 8.3-inch tall stand is adjustable manually between -15 and 30 degrees. Problem is, after that point the problems start.

First off, this isn’t designed to actually charge your phone. Though MagSafe has been – for the moment at least – associated most with recharging without having to plug in a cable, Belkin’s stand doesn’t support that. More frustrating, though, is how much you can actually use the face tracking feature itself.

Belkin supplies an app for that – though it’s not yet available for download – and the Face Tracking Mount app can link to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and other media-sharing social networks. With it, you can start recording and have the Magnetic Phone Mount swivel around to keep you in view. “The app identifies and focuses on a single face shape and directs the mount motor to follow it,” Belkin explains. “It functions optimally during solo video recording using your iPhone camera, and is not recommended for video content featuring multiple faces (including video calls or virtual conferences).” Unfortunately, even with that mention of calls and other uses, that doesn’t seemingly mean that face tracking can actually be used for other purposes.

Since the iPhone has no native way to communicate with the stand, other than through Belkin’s software, it doesn’t look like you can start, say, a FaceTime call and have the phone rotate to keep you in frame. Nor will it track you as you watch video, or as you use other video calling platforms like Zoom or Skype, and of course you can also seemingly only use the front camera on the iPhone, not the higher-quality rear cameras.

That’s a shame, as the ability to have the camera track you was one of the most useful features on Amazon’s Echo Show 10 smart display.

Belkin’s clear focus here, admittedly, is video, and creating content which keeps you centered even as you move around the room. Still, that makes this a fairly niche product over all, given it won’t even recharge your iPhone while it’s magnetically clinging in place. We’ll presumably find out more when the Belkin Magnetic Phone Mount with Face Tracking goes on sale, which the company says is “coming soon,” priced at $64.99.

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Cisco is bringing individual and team insights to Webex video calls

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Starting this summer, Cisco’s Webex will begin to serve up insights for video calls to a select group of users for individuals, teams, and organizations. Examples include engagement insights, like how often you had your video on or showed up on time and the people or teams within an organization that you speak with most often.

The goal, Cisco VP Jeetu Patel told VentureBeat in a phone interview, is to make video calls better for people living in the hybrid world between in-person meetings in the office and virtual meetings at home. The tricky part, he said, is considering what information is good for an individual to know while not giving people the impression that Webex is, for example, flagging employees who are routinely late to meetings to managers.

“Let’s say you did 12 meetings today, and in six of those meetings with four people or less, you actually spoke for 90% of the time. That would be a really bad thing to give your boss, but a really good thing for you to have so you can say, ‘Oh, I should probably do a better job listening,’” he said. “The privacy on that front is not at the organizational level. It’s at the individual level. So when we provide insights like that to an individual, the individual owns the data, not the organization, because we don’t believe that without your explicit permission, you’d want to have your boss see that.”

Webex has introduced a series of new features in recent months, some powered by artificial intelligence, to change how people share information in video calls. Toward this end, Patel said, “We’ve probably invested about a billion dollars or so in the past two years in AI.”

Above: Individual insights


Gesture recognition means that people in video calls can now raise their hand or give a thumbs up or thumbs down to ask to speak or register feedback. Another AI-powered feature on the way will crop the faces of people who attend in-person meetings for the person who’s working from home or remotely.

“Even though there are three people sitting in a conference room, we’ll actually break the stream into three separate boxes and show it to you, and our hardware will actually do that,” he said.

Patel has overseen the acquisition of three companies since joining Cisco last summer, after serving as chief product officer at Box. Last month, Cisco closed its acquisition of IMImobile for $730 million in part to beef up its AI capabilities. Last summer, Cisco announced plans to acquire BabbleLabs, an AI startup focused on filtering audio so that the sound of someone doing dishes nearby, a lawnmower, or loud background noise can be reduced or eliminated. And earlier this year, Cisco acquired Slido, a startup that makes engagement features for video calls like word clouds or upvoting questions. Such features can allow a meeting to take the structure of a town hall, with transparency around the top questions for employees within an organization since everyone can see the questions that are being posted.

“Engagement should not be measured based on having a judgment on someone saying, ‘I’m judging that you look sad, and therefore I’m going to do certain things … at that point in time in my mind, you could cross a boundary where there’s more bad that can come out of that than good,” he said.

In 2019, Cisco acquired Voicea to power speech-to-text transcription of meetings. Closed captioning and live translation are also available in Webex calls.

Deciding where to draw the line on which AI-powered features or insights to introduce in video calls can be a challenge with nuance. Earlier this year, Microsoft Research did a study with AffectiveSpotlight on AI for recognizing confusion, engagement, or head nods in meetings. If taken in the aggregate, picking up cues from the audience could be really helpful, particularly for large organizations. But if affective AI for video calls led to critique of how often a person smiles or shows certain forms of expression, it could be considered invasive, or counterproductive, or biased to certain groups of people.

Video analysis of expression today can have major shortcomings. A group of journalists in Germany recently demonstrated that placing a bookshelf in the background or putting on glasses can change affective AI evaluations of a person in a video.

It shouldn’t matter whether a person is an extrovert or prefers not to talk in group settings as long as they fulfill their job duties. And some people talk a lot but have nothing much say, while others talk less often but deliver sharp insights or sage advice. It just depends on the team, role, and scenario.

“I’d rather you give explicit permission than something you pick up because one, it’s bad if you misread [certain stats]. And two, there’s a fine line between ‘This is super productive’ and ‘We can’t do this because it violates my privacy or it’s just outright creepy,’” Patel said.

Cisco plans to roll out Webex People Insights globally over the span of the next year starting with select users in the U.S. this summer, announcing the news today as part of Cisco Live. In other Cisco Live news, on Tuesday Cisco announced plans to combine networking, security, and IT infrastructure offerings and work with the Duo authentication platform it acquired in 2018.


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