Google Assistant gets a male voice option

You can now make your Google Assistant a dude. Google just added an ambiguously named “Voice II” option under the Assistant Voice settings menu in the Google Assistant preferences (first spotted by Android Police). Selecting it gives you a huskier AI assistant across all your devices; be it the iOS app, a Pixel phone, or the Google Home speaker.

Here, have a listen to Voice I and Voice II side-by-side:

Often you’ll hear people use the pronouns “her” or “she” to refer to their digital assistants even though the formless slab of consumer electronics they’re referencing is so obviously genderless. Not surprising really, when Apple’s Siri defaults to a voice labeled “female,” Microsoft’s Cortana default voice was recorded by Jen Taylor, and…

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Google Assistant male voice (Voice II) is now live on phones and Google Home

Since its launch last year, the embodiment of Google Assistant has been a somewhat robotic female voice. Starting now, you have your choice of that voice or a similarly robotic male voice. Google’s creative name for this one is “Voice II.”

The new voice is available in Assistant on Google Home and on phones. To set the male voice, open the settings on your phone Assistant or in the Google Home app.

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Google Assistant male voice (Voice II) is now live on phones and Google Home was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Android Police – Android News, Apps, Games, Phones, Tablets

There’s a new rival to the mostly male networking organizations that make deals happen in Silicon Valley

Prominent voices are about to blast “self-perpetuating men’s clubs” as sexist social institutions.

Some investors and CEOs are choosing to fight a powerful target in their quest to make Silicon Valley more friendly to women: The Young Presidents’ Organization.

As the tech industry grapples with a spate of sexual harassment allegations, prominent voices are quietly organizing behind a new rival to YPO, a networking league of executives that is largely male, Recode has learned.

The YPO rival — called Leaders in Tech — has in recent weeks been pitching top venture capitalists on its effort, and the organization is a topic at a Thursday evening dinner of female general partners at VC firms.

The new organization shifts the broader battle over gender discrimination to untrodden turf: While firms have been evaluating their own culpability after women entrepreneurs emerged this year to name their accusers, the conversation has largely avoided the heavily male social networks that can route deals and connections to other men.

YPO admits members who are CEOs under the age of 45 that have met certain thresholds, such as having 50 full-time employees or lead companies valued at over $ 20 million. While YPO is more prominent on the East Coast than on the West Coast, these networking organizations can make it difficult for women to find deals.

The push at LIT, described by sources familiar with its behind-the-scenes moves, has not yet been publicly announced. The leader of the organization, Sue Khim, the co-founder of the startup Brilliant, declined to comment.

But the nonprofit has been gauging the temperature of Silicon Valley heavyweights, and its central ideas are spelled out on its once-public website, which was taken down after contact from Recode. (The website is a few months old, according to a person with knowledge of the effort.) Backers include Chamath Palihapitiya of Social Capital and David Hornik of August Capital.

“In tech and venture capital, the preponderance of gatekeepers and people in power are men, who preferentially socialize with, recruit, promote, fund, and make introductions for other men. Male voices are powerfully amplified in such an ecosystem,” the organization writes.

“The current environment offers only self-perpetuating men’s clubs, in which existing male members refer and vet prospective new members, or women’s clubs, through which the female members are unable to forge relationships with the large number of men in their industry. It is time for these networks to start to merge.”

“LIT draws many lessons from existing social and professional leagues such as Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), which are incredibly valuable for members, empowering them to connect with talent, funding, and customers. But such organizations typically have an overwhelmingly male membership, and are only open to the CEOs of large companies — a position that few women ever attain.”

YPO did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The goals of LIT include providing “a safe community to come forward with stories of harassment without fear of negative repercussions from a tightly networked male establishment.”

LIT will have similar membership requirements to YPO; it will admit people who are senior executives at startups and perhaps those leading a company with at least $ 2 million in annual revenue. Candidates must be signed off on by LIT’s “vetting committee.”

LIT invites startup CEOs to peer group meetings and dinners and gives them access to “luminary tech entrepreneurs and top venture capitalists,” according to the website. The “initiation fee” for the organization is $ 3,375, along with annual dues of the same amount. Fees are waived for the first year, and membership fees could still change, according to the person with knowledge.

Sponsors who give money to LIT will earn “early access to deals” and board observer seats, the website says.

Recode – All

Female founders invent male co-founder to skirt sexism

Two women who co-founded a startup used their male partner to skirt sexist attitudes among their vendors and contractors. One problem, though: The man doesn’t exist. The two women — Kate Dwyer and Penelope Gazin — started Witchsy, an online marketplace for offbeat artwork. If you visit Witchsy or its Instagram, you’ll see lots of crude, funny, and cool stuff, the likes of which you probably won’t find on Etsy. Both socks and this unwelcome Matt are up on A post shared by Witchsy (@shopwitchsy) on Aug 18, 2017 at 2:27pm PDT Despite starting what — to me, anyway…

This story continues at The Next Web
The Next Web

Scientists Have Officially Created Healthy Offspring from Genetically Infertile Male Mice

Extra Chromosomes

Creating a new tool to manage human infertility, scientists have developed healthy offspring from altered male mice that were once genetically infertile. The X and Y chromosomes determine sex, with chromosomes (XY) signifying male, and two X chromosomes (XX) signifying female. However, about 1 in 500 boys are born with one extra chromosome. Whether it’s an X or a Y, the presence of a third chromosome can cause infertility by disrupting the formation of mature sperm.
Scientists at the Francis Crick Institute have now discovered a technique for removing extra sex chromosomes in developed stem cells and producing fertile offspring. If they can transfer their findings and this technique for application in humans, those with either Double Y syndrome (XYY) or Klinefelter syndrome (XXY) that now experience male chromosomal infertility might one day be able to have children via assisted reproduction.
Image Credit: Zappys Technology Solutions/Flickr
Image Credit: Zappys Technology Solutions/Flickr

“Our approach allowed us to create offspring from sterile XXY and XYY mice,” lead author and Francis Crick Institute scientist Takayuki Hirota said in a press release. “It would be interesting to see whether the same approach could one day be used as a fertility treatment for men with three sex chromosomes.”

A Promising Technique

To accomplish this research, the team removed small sections of ear tissue from mice with both XXY and XYY chromosomal anomalies and cultured it. They next collected fibroblasts, which are connective tissue cells, and turned them into stem cells. During the transformation, the researchers noted that some of the cells had dropped the extra sex chromosome. Following this, they used a method developed in the past to guide the stem cells with specific chemical signals into becoming potential sperm cells. Once these cells were injected into mouse testes, they developed into mature sperm. These mature sperm were found to be viable, and so the researchers harvested and used them in assisted reproduction cycles to create fertile, healthy offspring.
The team has also conducted one preliminary experiment using men with Klinefelter syndrome. In that experiment, the researchers followed the first part of the same process and discovered that stem cells produced from the fibroblasts of these men also shed the extraneous sex chromosome. However, this was an early stage experiment, and extensive research remains before the technique will ever be viable for use in humans.
“There is currently no way to make mature sperm outside of the body. In our mouse experiments we have to inject cells that have the potential to become sperm back into the testes to help them finish developing. But we found that this caused tumors in some of the mouse recipients,” senior author and Group Leader at the Francis Crick Institute James Turner explained in the press release. “So reducing the risk of tumor formation or discovering a way to produce mature sperm in a test tube will have to be developed before we can even consider this in humans.”

The post Scientists Have Officially Created Healthy Offspring from Genetically Infertile Male Mice appeared first on Futurism.


Facebook is slowly becoming less white and less male

Facebook's latest diversity stats are in, and it seems that while the process is glacially-slow, the company is becoming less white and less male. In the last year, the number of women in tech has risen from 17% to 19%, with women accounting for 27%…
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After Meg Whitman’s exit, Uber’s CEO search is down to only male candidates — as its board struggles and Travis Kalanick meddles

As the car-hailing company searches for cohesion, the former CEO has told some he is “Steve Jobs-ing it.”

Warring factions within factions, conflicting back-channeling, intense media scrutiny, questionable foreign influences and a capricious leader whose jarring moves leave everyone in a state of perpetual uncertainly.

The Trump administration, right?

Well, yes, but also Uber, as it nears its much anticipated decision on who will be its next CEO.

And, according to sources, that top leader is not going to be a woman, as the board of the car-hailing company struggles to move forward.

To add to the drama: Some directors worry that its former CEO Travis Kalanick — who was ousted — is trying to game the outcome in his favor, after he told several people that he was “Steve Jobs-ing it.” It is reference to the late leader of Apple, who was fired from the company, only to later return in triumph.

That’s why, while I am always loathe to dump a kitchen sink’s worth of reporting in one story, it’s hard not to since this particular pile of dirty dishes is so stuck together that it’s almost impossible to pry them apart at Uber.

“If there was no hair on this dog, this would be a no brainer for anyone to take this job,” said one person close to the search of Uber’s next leader. “But this is the hairiest company anyone has ever seen.”

Ew. But pretty much true.

So, in what is probably a vain attempt to clarify the situation, here’s the state of what is a very confused play:

Boys club

With the exit of Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman from consideration, several sources with knowledge of the situation said the group of four final candidates being considered are all men and all CEOs. (Also: Only one of those is a person of color.)

Among those choices is outgoing GE CEO Jeff Immelt. But Immelt is not, said several sources, the top choice of several members of the search committee and also within Uber’s top ranks. Some are worried that — while he is obviously a very experienced manager — he lacks the entrepreneurial drive to take the company to the next level.

In other words, he’s too much a corporate suit and not enough a geek pirate. (Anywhere else but in tech, this is not seen as a bad thing, but here we are.)

Immelt aside, sources said that the inclusion of more women in key decision-making roles at Uber will come via the addition of more independent board members and top execs rather than as its main leader.

That, of course, will be a major disappointment to some, especially given major problems at Uber involve sexism and sexual harassment. While gender of a leader should not matter to dispatching such appalling behaviors, the symbolism over the appointment of a female CEO at Silicon Valley’s most toxic-bro startup is unquestionable.

But there are also not that many top women CEOs to pick from. Execs like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and General Motors’ Mary Barra were not interested, said sources, and others pursued, like EasyJet CEO Carolyn McCall, did not pan out.

It had been hoped that the decision on who will be the next leader of Uber would be completed within the next week, but trouble getting the board to coalesce and trust each other has and continues to complicate the effort.

In addition, sources said the not all board members had met all the top candidates as of this weekend, so that no vote on any one of them had been planned or is planned immediately. (Uber’s board now meets regularly every two weeks, so that could change.)

That lack of cohesion impacted the courting of Whitman, which never resulted in any vote (and which had never been scheduled at all, despite one report that it was). This was largely because she had not met with all directors before she suddenly pulled her name out of consideration late last week.

Sudden indeed. Whitman was expected this past weekend to meet in person with more directors, including Wan Ling Martello of Nestlé and Arianna Huffington, which never happened.

Whitman out!

Whitman’s departure from the Uber fray was considerably more complicated than has been previously reported. The well-known exec, who is also one of the most prominent women leaders in tech, was indeed interested in the job. That included having several substantive discussions with directors, where she made a series of suggestions on how to fix Uber.

Still, sources close to Whitman said she was never formally offered the job by Uber’s board, even though she certainly was intrigued by the possibility.

And why not? Such a role would have been the capstone of a long and largely successful career, most especially in growing eBay to its heights from a small startup. Turning around Uber and taking it public would have been the ultimate addition to her legacy.

But board disagreements, worries about whether all the myriad of problems at Uber had surfaced and concerns about the continued involvement of Kalanick, as well as the public disclosure of Whitman as a possible candidate, ended that possibility.

“Uber’s CEO will not be Meg Whitman,” she tweeted on Thursday, days after media reports on Tuesday by Recode and Bloomberg that disclosed Uber’s interest in her. That then put pressure on Whitman, a situation made worse by another report in Axios that indicated that she was not a unanimous choice of the board.

Such mishegas irked Whitman, who expected a more — ahem — professional process. “What a mess,” said one person. “Why should she get dirtied by their playground antics? It’s like a sandbox over there.”

Well, to be fair, more like a really nerdy version of “Game of Thrones,” with 100 percent less dismemberment but 53 percent more intrigue.

Still, as Recode previously reported, Whitman was an early investor in Uber and has helped out with coaching from time to time, especially with Kalanick, so she did have some familiarity with the unusually juvenile management style there.

But sources said she did not like the process, and gave the board a 48-hour deadline to decide if they seriously wanted her to be CEO. While some on the board wanted to move forward immediately, others — Huffington, for example — did not since she had not met them all in person.

“It was artificial urgency, even if Whitman might be the right choice,” said one source.

No matter! Whitman out!

We have to talk about Travis

That might not have mattered, as Whitman was also worried more specifically about further disclosures to come from the company related to its lawsuit with Alphabet’s Waymo, especially how involved Kalanick was in the allegations leveled against Uber.

“Who knows what could fall out that the closet over there?,” said one person, reflecting the concerns of many candidates who have spoken to Uber, including Whitman. “There could be even more skeletons.”

Kalanick’s continued role figures large in the every person I spoke to who has been contacted about the CEO job.

What’s the biggest problem at Uber?, I asked.

“Travis,” said one

“Oh, Travis,” said another.

“Man, he’s brilliant and so important, but who wants to deal with Travis?,” said yet another.

If that sounds like a real sad country song, titled “The Travis Blues,” you are not far off the mark.

This was certainly not the plan when Kalanick was dispatched to Tahiti to sail around a glamourous yacht — owned by media mogul Barry Diller, with fellow guests like CNN’s Anderson Cooper — to cool after he was forced out at Uber.

He initially had agreed to take just a temporary leave, a move that became permanent after a group of key investors — including Benchmark — demanded his full departure a week later.

But once he returned from the South Seas, his ardor for meddling in the company did not end. According to numerous insiders, the pugnacious entrepreneur has continued to try to involve himself in daily operating decisions, so much so that top execs have been mulling how to get help from the board to rein him in.

“It’s not stopped,” said one top exec about Kalanick up in the grill of the operating group that is running Uber. “None of us know what to do since it is Travis.”

In addition, to cut off Kalanick’s access, the Uber board has reinforced a policy that all directors get the same limited access to information about Uber’s ongoing operations. “We have had to put guide rails on him,” said one person involved. “Even if he keeps trying to break through them.”

Indeed, Kalanick was considered by many directors and investors to be obstructive to the process of finding a COO before his departure as CEO.

And there have been more signals that he has been unhappy about this status. Since he left, Kalanick has told numerous people, including at least one job candidate, that he was “Steve Jobs-ing it,” an apparent reference to the purge and later return of the legendary Apple founder at the company.

(As I have said before, I knew Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs was a person I wrote about and — you got it — Travis Kalanick is no Steve Jobs. But I digress!)

But the key tenet in this comparison is that the tarnished tech hero leaves the scene to wander in the desert for years before the triumphant return. Instead, what has been described to me by many is an entrepreneur who cannot let go and, in fact, has been trying to plot ways to increase his grip.

Why? “If you think about it, Uber has been his life and it’s only more so with his terrible personal situation,” said one person, who is fond of Kalanick, referring to the recent tragic death of his mother and the serious injuries sustained by his father in a boating accident. “Giving up Uber is not easy.”

As the board turns

And being with each other in a cohesive manner is not something Uber’s current board seems capable of either, given all the odd back-channeling and frequent miscommunications that seem to crop up.

While there was a recent dinner that included Huffington, Ling and two other Uber board members, TPG’s David Trujillo and Benchmark’s Matt Cohler, to try to create some level of comfort, there is a lot to repair.

Here’s a clue to how much: The continued media leakage from the CEO process. While this is not completely uncommon — the Microsoft CEO search got a lot of ink — what is unusual is how varying the accounts of the same meetings or circumstances are at Uber. In fact, they are often diametrically opposed to each other.

This is something that many who have been in touch with Uber have experienced. “Consensus is not something you are feeling is happening there,” said one person, which makes every possible move seem suspect.

(Have to seen the really complexly plotted spy thriller “Atomic Blonde,” where everyone seems to be lying and then lying about lying? Uber is more confusing.)

That’s why a recent attempt to discuss a funding offer involving both secondary sales and a new investment from Japanese investor SoftBank has been so riven. While I will not get into the particulars in this hairball of a story here — unless you really want to hear about transfer restrictions, tender offers and more right now — suffice it to say that it has turned into a drama about whose side SoftBank leader Masa Son will land on.

Let me be clear, this is before any investment, which really should not take place without the cooperation of the new CEO, even if there is some urgency in making sure SoftBank’s $ 100 billion fund does not favor only Uber’s rivals. Since it just made a big investment in Southeast Asia’s Grab, many at Uber remain fretful.

Also, a related cause of tension was a Bloomberg report that Benchmark was mulling selling all of its 10 percent stake in Uber to SoftBank, which sources said was not true. While the venture firm might sell some of its stake if any transaction takes place, sources said Benchmark was wary that such a story was meant to weaken it.

That might not be so far-fetched given the deep tension between Benchmark’s Bill Gurley — who left the Uber board in favor of his partner Cohler — and Kalanick and the level of mistrust that has developed over time.

“Every single act feels like it might have another meaning,” said one person familiar with the situation. “Even if it does not.”

What is all boils down to is the deep concerns around control of Uber’s fate: Who has it and who is angling for it.

That distrust has left the board at times in a kind of odd face-off that appears to be more perception than reality, once you really plum the depth of the concerns.

Consider the possible return of Kalanick as CEO, which most will finally admit is overblown unless he decides to go full throttle and end up in a legal fight with the company he founded. In reality, without the support of board members Ryan Graves and Garrett Camp, Kalanick has none of the kind of leverage than has been reported.

“Travis would have to blow it up completely to get his job back,” said one major investor, familiar with the cap table of Uber. “And maybe he is crazy enough to do that, but he’d better bring a lot more ammo.”

What I can say for sure is that the entire company is leaking like sieve and that the Trump White House has a tighter press ship. Which brings us back to the beginning — if Uber wants to move forward, it had better lose that meme and get back to building the kind of company its employees so desperately want to.

Said one of those top execs to me tonight: “When is this going to stop, so we can do our jobs?”

It’s a very good question for the Uber board. Whether they can do their only real job and make that happen is unclear.

One silver lining: Anthony Scaramucci already has a job.

Recode – All

Google is still mostly white and male

That’s according to the latest diversity report.

Latinos are better represented at Google compared with a year ago, according to the company’s latest diversity report. And more women hold technical roles.

But not by a lot. Google remains mostly white, Asian, and male, and that hasn’t budged much in the last year.

Here’s the breakdown of how things changed in 2016.

  • Latinos saw an increase to 4 percent in 2016 from 3 percent of employees in 2015.
  • Black Googlers and women remain flat at 2 percent and 31 percent of company employees respectively.
  • All three groups are even less represented in technical roles, however the percentage of women in technical roles increased to 20 percent from 19 percent.
  • Women also made a small gain in leadership, increasing their presence to 25 percent of leadership roles from 24 percent.
  • The percentage of Asian employees increased more than any other group, to 35 percent from 32 percent of employees.
  • The percentage of Googlers who are white decreased to 56 percent from 59 percent.

However, Asians are underrepresented in leadership at Google. In 2016, only 27 percent of Asians held leadership roles, but that’s two percent more than in 2015. Whites were disproportionately represented at 68 percent.

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that women hold 20 percent of technical roles at Google, not 30 percent.

Recode – All