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Apple adds two brand new Siri voices and will no longer default to a female or male voice in iOS – TechCrunch

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Apple is adding two new voices to Siri’s English offerings, and eliminating the default ‘female voice’ selection in the latest beta version of iOS. This means that every person setting up Siri will choose a voice for themselves and it will no longer default to the voice assistant being female, a topic that has come up quite a bit with regards to bias in voice interfaces over the past few years.

The beta version should be live now and available to program participants.

I believe that this is the first of these assistants to make the choice completely agnostic with no default selection made. This is a positive step forward as it allows people to choose the voice that they prefer without the defaults bias coming into play. The two new voices also bring some much needed variety to the voices of Siri, offering more diversity in speech sound and pattern to a user picking a voice that speaks to them.

In some countries and languages Siri already defaults to a male voice. But this change makes the choice the users’ for the first time.

“We’re excited to introduce two new Siri voices for English speakers and the option for Siri users to select the voice they want when they set up their device,” a statement from Apple reads. “This is a continuation of Apple’s long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion, and products and services that are designed to better reflect the diversity of the world we live in.”

The two new voices use source talent recordings that are then run through Apple’s Neural text to speech engine, making the voices flow more organically through phrases that are actually being generated on the fly.

I’ve heard the new voices and they sound pretty fantastic, with natural inflection and smooth transitions. They’ll be a welcome addition of choice to iOS users. I’ll embed some samples here after the beta drops.

This latest beta also upgrades the Siri voices in Ireland, Russia and Italy to Neural TTS, bringing the total voices using the new tech to 38. Siri now handles 25 billion requests per month on over 500M devices and supports 21 languages in 36 countries.

The new voices are available to English speaking users around the world and Siri users can select a personal preference of voice in 16 languages.

It seems very likely that these two new voices are just the first expansion in Siri’s voice selections. More diversity in voice, tone and regional dialect can only be a positive development for how inclusive smart devices feel. Over the past few years we have finally begun to see some movement from Amazon, Google and Apple to aggressively correct situations where the assistants have revealed bias in their responses to queries that use negative or abusive language. Improvements there, as well as in queries on social justice topics and overall accessibility improvements are incredibly key as we continue to see an explosion of voice-first or voice-native interfaces. These kinds of choices matter, especially at a scale of hundreds of millions of people.

Article updated to note that in some countries and languages Siri currently defaults to a male voice. 

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The Xiaomi 12S Ultra Smartphone Will Use a Full Sony 1-Inch Sensor – PetaPixel

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Xiaomi has announced that it’s upcoming 12S Ultra will use the full size of Sony’s IMX989 1-inch sensor. The phone, which is also co-developed with Leica, will be announced on July 4.

Xiaomi made the announcement on its Weibo account, which was spotted by Android Authority. The company says that its new 12S Ultra will use Sony’s largest mobile phone sensor that it currently offers resulting in better low light performance, faster focusing, and better dynamic range than is expected of the small form factor of smartphones.

Sony sensors

This isn’t the first smartphone to use a 1-inch sensor. Last year, Sony announced the Xperia Pro-I, which was the first smartphone to feature a 1-inch phase-detection-equipped sensor. But in that case, the phone doesn’t actually use the full size of the sensor and is instead a center crop of it.

While this does result in better quality since the sensor is larger, it felt like a stretch to say it was using a 1-inch sensor when it really couldn’t take advantage of it due to the physical restrictions Sony was dealing with when it comes to the thinness of a smartphone, the size of the sensor, and optics.

But Xiaomi’s Lei Jun says that the 1-inch sensor that is coming to the 12S Ultra, crucially, won’t be cropped. How the company plans to deal with physical issues Sony came up against in its phone isn’t clear.

Jun also says that Xiaomi didn’t just buy the sensor, but that it was co-developed between the two companies with a total investment cost of $15 million split evenly between them. The fruits of this development will first come to the 12S Ultra before being made available to other smartphone manufacturers, so it’s not exclusive to Xiaomi forever.

Xiaomi one inch sensor

Of note, only the 12S Ultra will feature a 1-inch sensor while the 12S and 12S Pro will feature the Sony IMX707 instead.

That means that the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is co-developed with both Leica and Sony in some capacity. The German camera manufacturer struck a deal with the Chinese smartphone company is May and promised a long-term strategic partnership.

Other than the promise of a one-inch sensor, the only other details of the Xiaomi 12S series are that it will use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor.

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Apple's new MacBook has a potentially fatal flaw – Creative Bloq

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Looking to buy a 13-inch MacBook Pro? Well, with Apple, we’ve all got used to the idea that the latest model is the best. And so the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M2 (2022), which launched on 17 June, is surely a slam-dunk? 

After all, it’s got the latest M2 processor, which Apple says a 40% performance increase over the M1 chip in its predecessor, the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020). As well as the promised speed boost, it means better battery life, at up to 20 hours. And best of all, the new version has launched at the same price as the earlier model, so you’re not even paying extra (if that’s still too much for you, keep an eye on our Prime Day Apple deals hubs for any bargains).

Admittedly, nobody has really got too excited by this new MacBook Pro, because ultimately, not that much has changed: it still has the same overall design, the same Touch Bar, the same 720p webcam. But at the same time, the consensus was that this was a marked improvement over the old model. Until, that is, a couple of YouTubers spotted something Apple had been keeping to themselves.

Slower SSD

Not so speedy, after all (Image credit: Apple)

The problem is that, while the M2 processor is indeed faster than the older M1 chip, there’s something else inside the laptop that’s slowing things down: the SSD (solid state drive), which stores persistent data on solid-state flash memory.

Well, it turns out that in the base (256GB) model of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M2, the SSD only has a single NAND flash storage chip, while the older model had two. This wasn’t publicised by Apple, and nobody noticed until recently because reviewers are not in the habit of taking the backs off laptops (the PR companies that loan them tend to want them back in one piece!)

The SSD issue came to light, though, after YouTuber Max Yuryev tested the base version (256GB) using Blackmagic’s Disk Speed Test app (opens in new tab). He found that the SSD’s read speeds are around 50% slower, and the write speeds are around 30% slower, when compared with the previous model. (Watch the video below).

Yuryev’s results were as follows:

  • 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1/256GB) Read Speed: 2,900
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro (M2/256GB) Read Speed: 1,446
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1/256GB) Write Speed: 2,215
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro (M2/256GB) Write Speed: 1,463

Another YouTube channel, Created Tech, came to similar conclusions:

A slower SSD is obviously an issue for anyone regularly transferring large files, such as graphic designers, motion designers, animators, VFX artists and other creative professionals. With 4K now the norm, and increasingly giving way to 8K and even higher resolutions, the amount of time it takes to move a file is really going to make an impact on your productivity.

But that’s not all. SSDs aren’t just used for file storage, but also double up as virtual RAM when your existing RAM is maxed out. And that tends to happen when you’re running resource-intensive software, which is something many creative professionals do on a regular basis.

Should you buy it?

So what does this all mean for consumers? Well, to put it simply, if you buy the base model of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M2 (2022), and use it to run Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere Pro, 3DS Max, Maya or similar tools, you may well find the performance is actually slower than the 2020 M1 model.

The same problem doesn’t appear to occur on the 512GB model, but that’s a lot more expensive. So overall, if you deal with a lot of large files and use resource-intensive creative software, we’d recommend giving the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M2 a swerve, and stick with one of the existing models. (Our guides to the best MacBooks in general, and the best MacBooks for video editing can make you help that choice.) 

Either that, or wait for the new MacBook Air 2022, which sounds like it’ll be a lot more interesting.

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Xiaomi 12S Ultra will have 1-inch Sony IMX989 camera sensor – GSMArena.com news – GSMArena.com

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Xiaomi will introduce the 12S series on July 4, and today it confirmed the trio of phones that will appear. We expect a small vanilla Xiaomi 12S, Xiaomi 12S Pro flagship and a Xiaomi 12S Ultra camera beast.

The company revealed the latter will have a completely new 1” camera sensor by Sony, called IMX989. However, rumors are the global market is not going to see them as Xiaomi intends to make the 12S lineup exclusive to China.


Xiaomi 12S Ultra will have 1-inch Sony IMX989 sensor
Xiaomi 12S Ultra will have 1-inch Sony IMX989 sensor
Xiaomi 12S Ultra will have 1-inch Sony IMX989 sensor

Xiaomi 12S Ultra will have 1-inch Sony IMX989 sensor

Xiaomi advertised the new IMX989 to be 1” from one corner to another but this is misleading information – it is a 1-inch type, similar to the Xperia Pro-I camera sensor.

The type designation refers to the diameter of the video camera tube needed to project an image that would cover the size of the sensor. The correlation isn’t strict but the optical format or sensor type is roughly 1.5 times the actual diagonal of the sensor. ‘Type’ is often dropped for brevity and it’s assumed from context, but in this particular case, we felt it needed to be put into words.

Then, we still don’t know if Xiaomi will be using the entire sensor surface area. The Xperia PRO-I, for instance, had an optical system that only ever used the center of its 1-inch type sensor. This requires a much smaller lens while still providing the benefits of the large pixels but technically, the sensor is not fully utilized.

We are not sure if Xiaomi would decide to go that way but it’s certainly something to keep an eye of.

Xiaomi 12S trio
Xiaomi 12S trio

In the meantime, specs of the vanilla Xiaomi 12S suggest a small 6.28” AMOLED screen with a 120 Hz refresh rate. It will have two RAM and two storage options – 8/12 GB and 128/256 GB, respectively. The rear camera ensemble will be 50 MP main + 13 MP ultra-wide-angle + 5 MP macro, while the front-facing shooter is said to be 32 MP.

All these specs seem the same as the Xiaomi 12 – the difference will be the new Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset while the cameras will receive the Leica treatment.

Xiaomi 12S Pro leaked image
Xiaomi 12S Pro leaked image

Xiaomi set up a landing page on JD.com, a popular Chinese retailer, for the trio of smartphones. At the time of writing this article, each 12S smartphone has over 200,000 reservations, which are a testament for the massive interest from potential customers.

Source 1Source 2 (both in Chinese) | Via 1Via 2

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