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AI reproduces singer’s voice – 30 years after her passing

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Yamaha Corporation announces that it has succeeded in reproducing the singing of the late Hibari Misora, a legendary Japanese vocalist, using its own Vocaloid:AI singing synthesis technology in technical cooperation with an NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) television program broadcast in Japan on September 29, serving as both the public debut and first real-world implementation of Vocaloid:AI.

The NHK-led project, which Yamaha assisted with, set out to use modern AI (artificial intelligence) technology to present a live performance of a new song by Hibari Misora—an illustrious entertainer who long stood at the forefront of popular music in Japan—to commemorate the 30th anniversary of her passing. Using cutting-edge 4K 3D video to reproduce her likeness, Hibari Misora took the stage and dazzled viewers with her rendition of the new song.

Yamaha’s role in the project was to use its Vocaloid:AI technology to faithfully reproduce Hibari Misora’s characteristic singing voice and speech for the live performance. Actual recordings of the artist’s songs and speech made while she was still alive were used as machine learning data to reproduce her singing. The singing source data used for machine learning included background musical accompaniment, but Yamaha’s accompaniment suppression technology allowed for the generation of high-quality machine learning data to further improve the quality of the singing voice.

These Yamaha technologies incorporated a relatively new and rapidly developing type of AI known as deep learning to tackle the challenge of bringing back one of Japan’s foremost late singers using modern technology.

Koichi Morita, Senior General Manager of Research and Development Division, Technology Unit, Yamaha Corporation, says “We believe it was the Yamaha technologies and sensibilities cultivated over 130 years of developing and producing musical instruments and audio equipment which enabled us to successfully capture the essence of her singing. Our cooperation in this project with this new evolution of singing synthesis technology has illuminated new possibilities in music by transcending the barriers of time to dazzle listeners with incredible singing.”

Vocaloid:AI is a singing synthesis technology developed by Yamaha which incorporates AI. By using deep learning to analyze singing characteristics such as tone and expression within recordings of singing by a predetermined vocalist in any language, it can synthesize singing which includes the unique mannerisms and nuances of that vocalist with any melodies and lyrics.

Vocaloid is a singing synthesis technology developed and released by Yamaha in 2003 which has since gained wide recognition as a technology that can produce singing using virtual singers. Vocaloid:AI uses AI to vastly improve the vocal expression of tone changes, in particular.

With the public debut of Vocaloid:AI, the Vocaloid label now encompasses all of Yamaha’s singing synthesis technologies, while Vocaloid:AI specifically refers to those which incorporate AI.

Hibari Misora
Until her passing in 1989, Hibari Misora recorded over 1500 songs, leaving behind a series of hits in her more than 40 year long career as Japan’s top singer. She posthumously became the first female recipient of the People’s Honor Award, one of the highest honors in Japan.

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Liquid, IS, partner for 5G roll-out to corporate SA

Liquid Telecom has teamed up with Internet Solutions to develop an ultra-fast wholesale connectivity service for enterprises – including telcos

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Liquid Telecom South Africa has partnered with Internet Solutions (IS) to provide wholesale 5G connectivity targeted at delivering enterprise services to their existing and potential new customer bases.  

The 5G service will provide operators and internet service providers with faster speeds, lower latency and greater capacity, ultimately enabling businesses to deliver richer experiences to their customers.

“Providing IS with 5G wholesale services as an alternative to fibre connectivity, Liquid Telecom South Africa is highlighting how we are delivering on our commitment to the market to continue being the best business network in South Africa,” says Reshaad Sha, CEO of Liquid Telecom South Africa. “Local businesses are adopting technologies like SD-WAN, IoT, and cloud computing, However, these technologies need network connectivity that provides high quality, increased capacity, and greater reliability to ensure optimum performance.” 

IS managing executive Dr Setumo Mohapisays the company has evolved its networking model to provide a high-performance hybrid network that aggregates multiple WAN transport services. 

“This enables clients to fully utilise all available bandwidth for high availability and total application performance,” he says. “The innovation, flexibility and range of 5G use cases that this offers for different industries such as agriculture, retail, manufacturing, and logistics is boundless. 5G is a core component of our hybrid network and we are extremely excited about the extended capability this partnership with Liquid enables us to offer our clients.

Liquid Telecom is the first to launch a 5G wholesale network service, which it says will “accelerate the building of Africa’s digital future and the  digital revolution in South Africa”.

Liquid Telecom is a leading communications solutions provider across 13 countries, primarily in Eastern, Southern and South Africa. It serves mobile operators, carriers, enterprise, media and content companies and retail customers with high-speed, reliable connectivity, hosting and co-location and digital services. This means that it can provide the basis for its clients to offer 5G services to end-users.

Liquid has built Africa’s largest independent fibre network, approaching 70,000km, and operates state-of-the-art data centres in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Nairobi.

IS, which pioneered Internet connectivity in South Africa, is a subsidiary of the Dimension Data Group and part of Japanese telecoms giant NTT. It now leverages its infrastructure and global footprint to support organisations with the rapid deployment of emerging technologies. Still headquartered in South Africa, it has operating offices in Mozambique, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria. It has 82 Points of Presence (PoPs) in 19 African countries and four international PoPs in London, Germany, Hong Kong and Singapore. The company has over 10 000 square metres of data centre space across Africa.

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So you think you need a Blockchain?

By CAYLE SHARROCK, Head of Engineering at Tari Labs

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It’s 2020, and we’re still in hype overdrive about blockchain. If conventional wisdom is to be believed, blockchain is going revolutionise and disrupt every industry known to humankind.

But does every industry actually need a blockchain? Let’s take an objective look at two of the most aggressively touted use cases for Blockchain to see if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

Before we do this, let’s remind ourselves about the four pillars of Blockchain technology and what they give you: tamper-evident logs (the blockchain); cryptographic proof of ownership (digital signatures); public accountability (the distributed public ledger); and corruption resistance (proof of work).

If we use these four features as a checklist, we can evaluate any proposed use case of blockchain technology and decide whether the potential is genuine, or whether it’s just buzzword bingo.

Banking

There have been hundreds of headlines over the past four years proclaiming how Bank Y will use Blockchain to disrupt the industry. Usually, what they claim is that they can perform interbank settlements at a fraction of the cost of what the incumbent monopoly, SWIFT, provides.

So does Blockchain work for the banking sector? Clearly, tamper detection of the transaction history is a must-have here. What about digital signatures and proof of ownership? Without a doubt. Multiple signatures? The more the merrier.

Bitcoin was conceived as trustless money – and with banks, we have a fairly small community that is heavily regulated, and that do actually trust each other to some degree. Essentially, banks use governments’ big stick instead of proof-of-work to keep everyone honest. This works most of the time. Except when it doesn’t. The 2008 crisis and the 2012 Cypriot haircuts are just two examples.

How about Public Accountability from distributed public records? No, public accountability has never been the banking sector’s strong suit. That means the banks’ ideal “blockchain” is just tamper detection, plus digital signatures. This sounds like a bunch of databases that have tightly controlled access along with strong cryptographic signatures.

The banks actually gave this non-Blockchain blockchain a name: Distributed Ledger Technology. And it’s pretty much what SWIFT already does.

Verdict: Do banks need Blockchain? Nah. They want a cheaper alternative to SWIFT.

Supply-chain management

Blockchain technology is going to revolutionise the supply-chain management (SCM) industry, we’re told. BHP Billiton was one of the first large companies to announce in 2016 that they were implementing Blockchain for their core sample supply chain. We’ve heard similar stories about the diamond industry.

Whether you think a proof-of-work Blockchain makes sense for SCM is really secondary to the challenge of The Oracle problem: blockchains are brilliant at letting you know when data in the system has been compromised. But they have zero sense whether that data is true or not.

The Oracle problem arises whenever you need to bring the concept of truth, or providence from the real world into a trustless system like Blockchain. How does the core sample data get onto the blockchain ledger? Does a guy type it in? Does he never make mistakes? Can he be bribed to type in something else? If it’s a totally automated system, can it fail? Be hacked?

Maybe we solve this by having two systems running and we compare the results. Or three. Or four. Now we have the problem of having to ship our samples to different labs around the world and be sure they weren’t tampered with in transit. If only we had a blockchain-based SCM system to secure our blockchain-based SCM system …

Verdict: The Oracle problem is really hard, and torpedos a lot of tangible good-based blockchain proposals.

So, back to our original question: do you need a blockchain? Ultimately, the future of blockchain applications (beyond money) lies in whether the benefits of having a decentralised, public record secured by proof-of-work outweighs its costs. There are plenty of really encouraging use cases emerging – think ticketing, for example, or trading in any digital assets. But for most industries, the jury’s still out.

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