Computers & Electronics

Google Assistant adds new male voice option

Google Assistant is adding a little dimensionality to its voice characterization: The virtual AI companion got an update that adds a voice option called “Voice II” which sounds decidedly male (via Engadget).

The second voice option is available in Assistant’s settings (not yet live for all, so your mileage may vary) and applies to the Home app as well as to your phone’s assistant.

It seems like the additional voice option is limited to US English only in terms of language compatibility, but I’d expect Google to roll that out to additional markets in time.

It’s not a huge update, and I’m sure we’ll hear plenty more about this and other changes to Assistant at Google’s hardware event later today (which kicks off at 9 AM PT / 12 PM ET) but it’s a nice addition given that gendering these assistants exclusively female is super problematic.

Mozilla adds new features in its ‘Firefox Quantum’ browser

Mozilla search browser unveiled a preview of a redesigned, re-engineered Firefox, dubbed “Quantum,” making good on its commitment to rejuvenate the browser.

“We’re releasing the Beta of a whole new Firefox, one that’s powered by a completely reinvented, modernized engine,” Nick Nguyen, who leads product development on the browser, said in a Tuesday post to a company blog. Officially designated version 57, the release has also been given the Quantum name, said Nguyen, to “convey the magnitude of the changes” in the browser.

Firefox Quantum relies on a revamped rendering engine, in particular a new CSS (cascading style sheets) layout engine, which was, along with other components, written with Rust, a language that originated at Mozilla’s research group. The result, claimed Nguyen, is a significant speed improvement, because the engine runs in parallel across multiple processor cores.

“Firefox Quantum is about 2X faster than Firefox was a year ago,” he said, citing the Speedometer 2.0 benchmark, and comparing Quantum to March’s Firefox 52.