Entertainment

One More Way Siri May be Smarter than Us

We have professed our love to Siri many times, especially when she’s able to find a place nearby to satisfy our burrito craving. And while she claims to be able to fulfill your needs and answer all your questions, things fall apart when you talk to her in Spanglish.

Ok Google is slightly better at understanding your mix of English and Spanish because it has Google. It can search your contacts and search nearby maps for different Spanish words. But it’s not better by much, especially with genuine Spanglish. Like, what would it answer if you asked, “Ok Google, how do I get rid of my barriga?”

The good news is that the more data collected from all your burning Spanglish inquiries, the better voice recognition will get.

READ: Sh*t You Get For Not Speaking Perfect Spanish

Ignacio Lopez Moreno, the developer of some of the software says “at the end of the day, we always work to improve voice recognition for the majority of the users taking into account the diversity of the backgrounds in the U.S. So, it’s not that far-fetched that one day we’ll be able to tackle more complex queries like ‘where can I get unos tacos riquísimos?’”

The day Siri or Ok Google can answer how to get rid of our barriga and later find us some tacos riquísimos (we have problems, we know), that day will be el mejor día!

Find out more about voice recognition from NPR here.

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A Latino Man Crashed Into A Freezing River In Iowa And Could Reach His Phone. That’s When He Called On Siri To Help

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A Latino Man Crashed Into A Freezing River In Iowa And Could Reach His Phone. That’s When He Called On Siri To Help

KIMT / YouTube

“Siri, call 911!” an Iowa teenager shouted as his Jeep started to sink in a freezing river. Gael Salcedo, 18, hit a patch of black ice while on his way to his college classes at North Iowa Area Community College. Given the option to collide with other drivers or to plummet into the freezing Winnebago river, Salcedo swerved toward the river. While Salcedo doesn’t remember what happened after that split-second decision, he does remember getting very, very clear once he was in the river. “I turned to the right and from there, everything just went blurry,” Salcedo told KIMT3 News. “I didn’t know where I was going and then I just didn’t know what to do,” he confessed to the outlet. We can’t even imagine what it would be like to go from a normal commute to being trapped in a sinking car in a freezing river. “I was just thinking in my head. I think I’m going to die,” Salcedo told the outlet. Then, adrenaline and action took over. Salcedo rolled down his windows, for fear that his Jeep would sink, and started searching for his phone to call 911. He couldn’t find it.

When Salcedo couldn’t find his phone, he resorted to the second-best option. “Hey Siri, call 911,” Salcedo asked. Siri aims to please and complied immediately. Shortly after he was on the line with local authorities, he found his phone.

Firefighters guided Salcedo on how to safely walk through the freezing river current to the river banks.

CREDIT: @LUIS_VAZQUEZ_C / TWITTER

Salcedo told KIMT3 News, “I lost my phone and since I couldn’t find it, I was like ‘Hey Siri, call 911.’  And once Siri called, that’s when I found my phone finally.” So while Siri may have allowed the Mason City firefighters to respond more quickly, the firefighters and Salcedo did all the heavy lifting from thereon. Mason City Fire Department Lieutenant Craig Warner waded toward the nearly submerged Jeep and assessed the situation. The current was so strong that Salcedo couldn’t open the driver’s side door, so they waded to the passenger side, and were able to free the door. “[I] basically explained to him that there’s no other way.  You’re going to have to walk out.  I’ll be right there with you holding on every step of the way,” Lt. Warner told Salcedo, according to KIMT3.

“My hands were freezing.  I couldn’t feel my legs anymore, so I was struggling a lot and the water was just so strong, so I kept tripping,” Salcedo told the outlet, crediting Lt. Warner for helping him up “a bunch of times.” This was no walk in the park. Freezing water can cause muscles to become stiff and weak at the minimum and cause hypothermia at worst. “I used all my strength to get out of the water,” he said.

Salcedo was brought to the hospital and treated for shock.

CREDIT: GAEL SALCEDO / FACEBOOK

Salcedo had been sitting in freezing water for enough time to warrant a hospital visit. Salcedo’s coordination and muscle stiffness was so bad, he had trouble walking even after he hit solid ground. With a first responder on each side, they were able to safely help Salcedo to the ambulance and help him get in. Salcedo was treated at MercyOne North Iowa hospital for shock. He was released just three hours later.

Salcedo originally hails from Weslaco, Texas, a place without any snow or ice. Today, he’s back to Twitter to shame President Trump for bullying 16-year-old Greta Thunberg. A few days before, he retweeted news that Brazil’s President Bolsonaro called Greta Thunberg a “brat” after she condemned rising violence against indigenous people living in the Amazon. You go, Gael Salcedo.

Share this story to anyone you love who loves to hate on technology.

CREDIT: @GAELSALCEDO2 / TWITTER

Back in 2011, Cult of Mac reported the first suggestion that Siri may save your life one day. At the time Siri was in her infancy and the concept still seemed fantastical to consumers. “Sure, Siri can act silly and it can find the perfect retailer, but it has some very practical and important uses as well,” the outlet pondered. Nearly a decade later, Gael Salcedo seems to be the first reported person to have relied on Siri to make an emergency call and was saved because of it.

“Thanks to technology he will have a happy Christmas,” one person tweeted in Spanish. Meanwhile, some trolls continue to discredit the usefulness of the technology. One troll commented, “probably staged – making some incentives for advertising.” Others are sharing the story with a simple statement: “Siri saves lives.”

Watch the full news report below!

READ: A California Woman Is Considering Charges Against An Apple Employee After He Sent Photo From Her Phone To Himself

Language Learning App Duolingo Has Been Teaching Phrases Like ‘He has to be detained right now’ In Spanish

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Language Learning App Duolingo Has Been Teaching Phrases Like ‘He has to be detained right now’ In Spanish

Mitú / Unsplash

It seems like everyday we uncover stories of discrimination and racism towards communities of color. This week the story stems from the most unthinkable source. One of the world’s most popular language-learning apps, Duolingo, served up two very problematic sentences to a user. His girlfriend took to Twitter to let everyone know.

Needless to say that Twitter was not having it.

Two xenophobic statements popped up on a user’s language-learning app and this is why they’re hurtful.

The fact that sentences like: “Are they legal?” and “He has to be detained right now.” can appear on Duolingo has us floored. They may not be explicitly referring to immigration issues, but the choice of words used is loaded with anti-immigration rhetoric. The word “illegal” carries major stigma in a time of pervasive and systematic civil rights violations against immigrants in the United States. Not to mention the weight that a phrase like “He has to be detained right now” carries in a country where at least 2,654 migrant children – and perhaps thousands more – were taken from their parents and held in government custody while their parents were criminally prosecuted for crossing the border unlawfully.

Duolingo was quick to respond to the backlash on Twitter, arguing that the sentence “Are they legal?” did not refer to people but rather questioned the legality of objects namely “firearms.”

In Spanish, “ellos” refers to people, the sentence is clearly about humans.

However, as several Spanish-speaking users noted on the social platform, the structure of the sentence in Spanish, “¿Son ellos legales?”, leaves no room for doubt on whether or not it’s referring to things as opposed to people. If we go back to Spanish grammar 101, Duolingo should know that the use of the plural personal pronoun “ellos” (they) instead of the demonstratives: “eso/esas” or “aquello” (those or that), to point to things, like guns or drugs, make it clear that this sentence is questioning the legality of a human subject. In simpler words, in Spanish “ellos”: refers to people, “esos” to things.

As one twitter user pointed out, “the exercise is not only grammatically incorrect, it leaves it open to a dangerous interpretation.”

Duolingo crowdsources its content from volunteers, and no scarcely anybody moderates what makes it onto the app.

What’s more, it looks like Duolingo’s been slipping on their content for a while now. According to an article published last year on the apps crowdsourcing’s strategy; “The startup has built one of the world’s most popular language-learning apps while only hiring a handful of translators.” Each day the platform serves up millions of sentences, “almost all of them created by its 300 or so volunteers.”

According to Quartz, “more than half” of Duolingo’s employees work in engineering, while “just three people manage the volunteer community”. The app makes this system work by appointing “volunteer moderators”, who apply through the website to oversee content in each language. The company claims that volunteers “are vetted for language skills, and then trained on subjects from pedagogy to guidance dealing with gender, diversity, and cultural sensitivity issues.”

As recent stories of neglectful treatment of migrants, civil rights violations, discriminatory behavior and racial profiling, have become the norm in the media—result of an anti-immigration administration—it’s troubling that this intolerant rhetoric is now visible in apps that are meant for ‘educational’ purposes and that claim to have ‘guidance on diversity and cultural sensitivity issues’.

It’s no coincidence that ever since Donald Trump became President of the United States, there has been a spike in hate speech and crime—and the numbers only continue to climb. A survey of Mexicans recently deported from the United States found that the number of people who reported experiencing verbal abuse or physical assault during their time in the U.S. increased by 47% between 2016 and 2017.

Founder of Duolingo, Luis von Ahn, a Guatemalan immigrant himself, chimed in to the conversation on Twitter, commenting that the two statements “didn’t appear next to eachother” and “were taken out of context”. He assured users that the statements were removed from the app to “avoid confusion”.

If no one is policing the sentences that go up on Duolingo, are children safe to use the app?

But what context would ever make those two sentences necessary in an educational app? They are grammatically incorrect and hurtful. No human is ever illegal. The very object of hate speech is to deprive people of the assurance that society regards them as people of equal dignity. Why is this instance of ‘indirect’ hate speech so important? Precisely because the public conception of immigrants and communities of color, specifically Latinx communities, is constantly under fire, and further feeds into a climate of fear.

As one twitter user put it, it makes you think twice before letting your 8th grader use the app to learn a new language. If xenophobic statements like these can pop up at any time, with no real policing of incorrect, racist or straight-up inappropriate content, then what’s the point of Duolingo even having a ‘content policy’ at all? As a Guatemalan, von Ahn should do better.