Apple new gadget to detect whispering

CALIFORNIA (Monitoring desk): Apple has identified that sometimes you can't talk to your phone in a loud, clear voice and that certain situations may require a little more delicacy.

A patent has revealed Apple's plans to develop a voice assistant that can detect when you're whispering and know when to whisper back.

It is unclear when, or if, Apple plans to launch the technology. The patent, titled 'Digital Assistant Providing Whispered Speech' was first filed in 2016 and was published last week.

Apple states in the patent that there is a gap in the market for 'a digital assistant that is capable of detecting a whispered speech input and providing a whispered speech response.'

It describes scenarios where whispering to your smartphone companion is necessary and how it will adapt to understand and whisper back.

For example, working at a cubicle near co-workers or studying in the library are listed as examples of when the whisper detecting function would come in handy.

The document says: 'Some existing speech recognition devices may be incapable of detecting user's whispered speech, or suffer from misrecognition of the whispered speech.

'Nor are they capable of responding to the user using a whispered speech.'

Alex Rudnicky, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Language Technologies Institute, told Gizmodo: 'I can't really say why nobody's come up with this solution.

'But once you hear it, it sounds really reasonable. Why not?'

The basic principle of the outlined technology is the ability to analyse the amplitude and frequency of the users voice.

It will then compare the voice data to other known tones of voice and reply accordingly.

The patent would expand the use of the feature into trickier environments and widen the scope and use of voice recognition.

Although the patent filing does signal some level of interest from Apple in the technology, it's not a certain that it will be incorporated into their devices.

Apple, along with several other large companies, file patents for new technology all the time in an attempt to protect it for the future.

World’s steepest funicular railway opens in Switzerland

Zurich (Monitoring desk): European technology hit new heights today when the world's steepest funicular line opened in Switzerland.

The futuristic-looking Stoos Bahn tram, which is considered a modern-day design triumph, was officially launched by Swiss President Doris Leuthard. The 52 million-Swiss franc ($52.6 million) project is running  rom Schywz to the mountain village of Stoos, which lies 1,300 metres above sea level in central Switzerland. Resembling a white-knuckle ride at Alton Towers, the barrel-shaped carriages adjust their floors so passengers can stand upright even as they climb towards the Alpine plateau at inclines of 110 per cent.

Impressively, the train will climb 743 metres over a span of 1,738 metres - and at speeds of 10 metres per second.

The train's arrival has smashed the previous world record for the steepest funicular train, which was formerly held by The Gelmerbahn at Bern, also in Switzerland.

That boasted a gradient of 106 per cent.

Meanwhile, England's nearest rival to the title is the East Cliff Lift in Hastings, with a slop gradient of 78 per cent.

The line's arrival comes more than four years after the project began construction in 2013.

'After 14 years of planning and building, everyone is very proud of this train,' said Ivan Steiner, spokesman for the railway.

It replaces an older, dilapidated rail system which first began ferrying holiday-makers in 1933, but has now been surpassed by the abilities of modern technology.

Only accessible via the tram facility, Stoos is a family-friendly holiday destination located high above Lake Lucerne.

'This small, car-free resort is an attractive place for all kinds of sporting activities or just relaxing away from the noise of traffic and hustle and bustle,' the official tourism website for Switzerland states.

France dubs '120 Days of Sodom' a national treasure to stop sale

FPARIS (AFP): The French government stepped in Monday to declare the manuscript of the Marquis de Sade's "120 Days of Sodom" a national treasure as it was about to be sold at auction in Paris.

Officials ordered that the 18th-century erotic masterpiece be withdrawn from the sale, along with Andre Breton's "Surrealist Manifestos", banning their export from France, the Aguttes auction house told AFP.

They were part of a vast sale of historic documents owned by the French investment firm Aristophil, which was shut down in scandal two years ago, taking ($1 billion) of its investors' money with it. "120 Days of Sodom" was expected to go for up to six million euros, while Breton's highly influential manifestos on modern art were estimated at around four million euros.

Sade wrote the controversial work about four rich libertines in search of the ultimate form of sexual gratification on a roll made from bits of parchment he had smuggled into his cell in the Bastille.

When the Paris prison was stormed at the beginning of the French revolution on July 14, 1789, the famously dissolute aristocrat was freed, but he was swept out by the mob without his manuscript.

Sade believed it had been lost to the looters and wept "tears of blood" over it, but the unfinished manuscript turned up decades later.

Even so, the book languished unpublished for more than a century and was banned in Britain until the 1950s.

Auctioneer Claude Aguttes, who is organising the 300 sales in which Aristophil's huge collection of manuscripts is being dispersed, said the French ministry of culture had promised to buy the Sade and Breton works "at international market rates".

French courts seized 130,000 historic documents which Aristophil had bought for its investors in 2015 after police denounced the company as huge "pyramid scheme", claiming that its founder Gerard Lheritier ran a Ponzi operation similar to that of Wall Street fraudster Bernard Madoff.

Britain's Princess Charlotte

to start nursery

LONDON (AFP): Prince William and Kate's two-year-old daughter Charlotte will begin attending a London nursery from January, the couple announced on Monday.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's second child will start at the Willcocks Nursery School in the upmarket area of Kensington, close to the family's home at Kensington Palace.

"We are delighted that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have chosen the Willcocks Nursery School for Princess Charlotte. We look forward to welcoming Charlotte to our nursery in January," the school said in a statement.

The royal couple also released a new family photograph that will feature on their official Christmas card.

The formal portrait, taken earlier this year by royal photographer Chris Jackson, shows William and Kate and their children in coordinated outfits, standing against a blank background.

The Willcocks Nursery School, which advertises its fees per term as £3,050 (EUR3,458, $4,078) for mornings or £1,800 (EUR2,041, $2,406) for afternoons, was rated "outstanding" by educational inspectors after their last visit in 2012.

While the older generation of British royals did not typically attend nursery, Charlotte will be following in the footsteps of her father William and four-year-old brother George.

William - the second in line to the throne - was sent to the exclusive Mrs Mynors nursery school in Notting Hill by his mother, the late princess Diana, who had herself worked at a nursery before her marriage to Prince Charles.

Meanwhile, George attended Westacre Montessori School Nursery in Norfolk, eastern England, where the family were living at the time. He now attends a private day school in London.

Montessori schools are known for their liberal approach to education, which can include mixed age classrooms and encouraging children to act independently.

Kate is currently pregnant with the couple's third child, which is expected in April.