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(L-R) Apple, Google, Amazon
(L-R) Apple, Google, Amazon

How AI Assistants Rank When It Comes to Understanding Accents

(L-R) Apple, Google, Amazon
(L-R) Apple, Google, Amazon

An AI assistant can be a useful tool for sending emails, controlling appliances, and looking up information from wherever you’re standing. But if it can’t understand what you’re saying to begin with, it’s just a waste of desk space.

For the video below, WIRED chose three popular AI platforms—Google Home, Amazon Echo (or Alexa), and Apple's Siri—to test with a variety of non-American accents. Given the difficulty the speakers had pronouncing some of the words (like Worcestershire and Ouagadougou), each service performed better than you might expect. But the clear winner was Google Home, followed by Siri in second, and Alexa at the bottom.

In addition to comprehending people from Germany, Japan, and Scotland, a Google Home has no problem understanding the sound of its own voice. Here’s what happened when two Google Home devices got caught in an endless conversation loop earlier this year.

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You Can Finally Mute Users on Instagram
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Since launching as a photo editing and sharing app in 2010, Instagram has grown into the third most popular social media platform behind YouTube and Facebook. That means the list of people you follow likely includes friends you like as well as exes, distant family members, and former high school classmates whose constant updates you could do without. Now BuzzFeed reports that Instagram just made it a lot easier to trim your feed of unwanted content without the user’s knowledge.

To mute someone without unfollowing them altogether, tap the ellipsis to the right of their username next time you see one their posts. Next, select “Mute” from the list of options that pops up. From there you can choose to just mute their regular posts or block their posts and Instagram Stories from showing up on your end. There’s no way for the user to know you muted them (at least not yet), and you can visit their profile to unmute them any time.

Instagram had already made it possible to mute someone’s Stories by tapping and holding their profile icon, but this is the first time users have the option to hide all posts from a person as well. Prior to the update, users either had to put up with obnoxious oversharing or hit the unfollow button and risk their friend (or acquaintance, family member, etc.) noticing their follower count dropped.

Interested in curating your other online feeds? If politics is your biggest social media peeve, here are some ways to see less of it.

[h/t BuzzFeed]

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Not Sure How to Plan a Multi-City Vacation? A New App Will Do It for You
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If you want to explore the world but planning a multi-city vacation seems overwhelming, Eightydays is the app for you. The service, which we spotted via Travel + Leisure, is designed to help you decide where to go on your vacation and how to get there by auto-generating potential travel itineraries. And it can help you do it cheaply.

Eightydays uses an algorithm to generate potential travel itineraries to get you between major cities in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, finding you flights and trains that will be both budget-friendly and convenient. And it does it more or less instantly, saving you the time and hassle of sorting through travel times or staring at maps.

The algorithm excludes remote airports that are far from cities and limits choices to direct flights and trains, making sure you spend the bulk of your time exploring, not sitting in transit. It also limits departure times so that you don't have to wake up at 3 a.m. to make your flight.

You can choose to stay in up to six cities in one trip, or limit your itinerary to just a few different destinations. It provides links to buy tickets from Kiwi.com and suggestions for accommodations from sites like Airbnb and Booking.com. If you don't like the initial destination suggestions, you can hit "shuffle," and it will suggest a different itinerary.

Screenshot of Eightydays.me showing a suggested itinerary starting in Barcelona
Screenshot, Eightydays

If you aren't the most creative trip-planner, Eightydays can help you find destinations beyond the basic cities on every world traveler's bucket list. To test it out, I asked the app to find me destinations around Europe between August 1 and 8, starting in Barcelona. It suggested I hit up Narbonne, Montpellier, Marseille, Toulon, and Nice, all for a total of $200 in train tickets. On a second try, it suggested my Barcelona vacation include stops in Stuttgart, Strasbourg, Metz, Luxembourg, and Cologne instead, for a total of $242 in air and train fare. These are definitely not cities I would immediately think to visit if I were planning on my own, but they're relatively cheap and easy to get to from my preferred starting point.

There are some limitations. You have to start and end in the same city, and it won't create an itinerary for more than 20 days or more than six cities. But if you're looking to see as many places as you can on a limited budget and a limited timetable, Eightydays is a simple way to do it.

Get it for iOS here, or browse online at eightydays.me.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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