Adobe Creates Software That’s Like Photoshop for Audio Recordings

In the future, editing audio might be as easy as opening up Photoshop and cropping a picture. Adobe’s Project VoCo, two years in the making, is designed to make audio editing “really easy for the average person” according to Zeyu Jin, an audio researcher and intern at Adobe's Creative Technologies Lab. With Project VoCo, you can easily crop out certain words by searching through a transcript—and even generate new words in the speaker’s voice.

The program debuted as one of 11 experimental projects at Adobe Sneaks, an event where the company shows off new technology “that doesn’t have a place in a product yet—or may never,” as Adobe Senior Research Scientist Stephen DiVerdi explains it.

Project VoCo just needs an audio sample and a transcript of the recording, then you can edit the transcript and let the program handle the audio, instead of cropping and stitching together the recording yourself. If you need to edit out curses or misspoken words, it's just a matter of searching the text of the transcript. More impressively, the program can analyze a person’s voice and create new speech that sounds just like them, by cobbling together syllables and sounds the person used in the initial recording. (Because of this process, you can’t insert words that require sounds that person never used in the audio sample provided.)

For instance, you can change this first sentence below into one with a whole different meaning:

See a live demonstration at the recent Adobe Max conference in the video below. The meat of the demonstration starts just before the one-minute mark.

It doesn’t take much data for the program to be able to synthesize someone’s voice—it can do it with 10 minutes of audio, though for a really good mimic, 30 minutes is better.

In the ideal use case, you could fire up this program to fix speeches or podcasts or voice-overs where there was a mistake in the initial recording, and you need to re-record. Since audio is so sensitive, changes in the sound of the room or in the person's voice (say, if they've developed a cold) make it next to impossible to re-record just a segment of the audio clip in question—to make it sound really good, you need to re-record the whole thing. Here, you can make corrections that sound seamless. That said, the ability to create audio featuring someone’s voice saying words that never came out of their mouth is ripe for serious misuse. But the Adobe researchers say that it’s not unlike the ability to Photoshop misleading images, like the fake viral images that circulate on the web.

Still, Jin says they “are looking for a technological solution to prevent misuse. We are investigating deep learning detectors to find the edited part [of the audio]” and create some sort of watermark for it.

All images courtesy of Adobe

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Finally! Windows Notepad Is Getting an Update for the First Time in Years
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While some of Window's core programs have evolved dramatically over the years, or disappeared all together, Notepad has remained pretty basic. But as The Verge reports, the text-editing app is about to get a little fancier: Microsoft is updating it for the first time in years.

Since it debuted in 1985, Notepad has become a popular platform for writing out code. One common complaint from programmers working in non-Windows coding language is that Notepad doesn't format line breaks properly, resulting in jumbled, messy text. Now, both Unix/Linux line endings (LF) and Macintosh line endings (CR) are supported in Notepad, making it even more accessible to developers.

For the first time, users can zoom text by holding ctrl and scrolling the mouse wheel. They can also delete the last word in their document by pressing ctrl+backspace. On top of all that, the new update comes with a wrap-around find-and-replace feature, a default status bar with line and column numbers, and improved performance when handling large files.

The arrow keys will be easier to navigate as well. You can now use the arrow keys to deselect text before moving the cursor. And if you ever want to look up a word online, Microsoft will allow you to connect directly to Bing through the app.

The new Notepad update will be made available first to Windows Insiders through Windows 10 Insider Preview, then to everyone on the forthcoming update, codenamed Redstone 5, likely later this year.

[h/t The Verge]

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New Website Lets You Sift Through More Than 700,000 Items Found in Amsterdam's Canals
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Amsterdam's canals are famous for hiding more than eight centuries of history in their mud. From 2003 to 2012, archaeologists had the rare opportunity to dig through an urban river that had been pumped dry, and now 99% Invisible reports that their discoveries are available to browse online.

The new website, dubbed Below the Surface, was released with a book and a documentary of the same name. The project traces the efforts of an archaeological dig that worked parallel to the construction of Amsterdam's new North/South metro line. To bore the train tunnels, crews had to drain part of the River Amstel that runs through the city and dig up the area. Though the excavation wasn't originally intended as an archaeological project, the city used it as an opportunity to collect and preserve some of its history.

About 800 years ago, a trading port popped up at the mouth of the River Amstel and the waterway become a bustling urban hub. Many of the artifacts that have been uncovered are from that era, while some are more contemporary, and one piece dates back to 4300 BCE. All 700,000 objects, which include, toys, coins, and weapons, are cataloged online.

Visitors to the website can look through the collection by category. If you want to view items from the 1500s, for example, you can browse by time period. You also have the option to search by material, like stoneware, for example, and artifact type, like clothing.

After exploring the database, you can learn more about its history in the Below the Surface documentary on Vimeo (English subtitles are coming soon).

[h/t 99% Invisible]

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