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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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Weather Watch
Heated Mats Keep Steps Ice-Free in the Winter
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Amazon

The first snow of the season is always exciting, but the magic can quickly run out when you remember all the hazards that come with icy conditions. Along with heating bills, frosted cars, and other pains, the ground develops a coat of ice that can be dangerous for pedestrians and drivers alike. Outdoor steps become particularly treacherous and many people find themselves clutching their railings for fear of making it to the bottom headfirst. Instead of putting salt down the next time it snows, consider a less messy approach: heated mats that quickly melt the ice away.

The handy devices are made with a thermoplastic material and can melt two inches of snow per hour. They're designed to be left outside, so you can keep them ready to go for the whole winter. The 10-by-30-inch mats fit on most standard steps and come with grips to help prevent slipping. A waterproof connector cable connects to additional mats so up to 15 steps can be covered.

Unfortunately, this convenience comes at a price: You need to buy a 120-volt power unit for them to work, and each mat is sold separately. Running at $60 a mat, the price can add up pretty quickly. Still, if you live in a colder place where it's pretty much always snowing, it might be worth it.

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Afternoon Map
Monthly Internet Costs in Every Country

Thanks to the internet, people around the world can conduct global research, trade tips, and find faraway friends without ever leaving their couch. Not everyone pays the same price for these digital privileges, though, according to new data visualizations spotted by Thrillist.

To compare internet user prices in each country, cost information site HowMuch.net created a series of maps. The data comes courtesy of English market research consultancy BDRC and Cable.co.uk, which teamed up to analyze 3351 broadband packages in 196 nations between August 18, 2017 and October 12, 2017.

In the U.S., for example, the average cost for internet service is $66 per month. That’s substantially more than what browsers pay in neighboring Mexico ($27) and Canada ($55). Still, we don’t have it bad compared to either Namibia or Burkina Faso, where users shell out a staggering $464 and $924, respectively, for monthly broadband access. In fact, internet in the U.S. is far cheaper than what residents in 113 countries pay, including those in Saudi Arabia ($84), Indonesia ($72), and Greenland ($84).

On average, internet costs in Asia and Russia tend to be among the lowest, while access is prohibitively expensive in sub-Saharan Africa and in certain parts of Oceania. As for the world’s cheapest internet, you’ll find it in Ukraine and Iran.

Check out the maps below for more broadband insights, or view HowMuch.net’s full findings here.

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

[h/t Thrillist]

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