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US study examines if Alexa and Siri make kids bossy

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A new study examined if kids hanging out with Alexa or Siri changed their behaviour towards their fellow human beings.

The research has been published in the ‘Interaction Design and Children Conference Journal’. The team had a conversational agent teach 22 children between the ages of 5 and 10 to use the word “bungo” to ask them to speak more quickly. The children readily used the word when a robot slowed down its speech. While most children did use bungo in conversations with their parents, it became a source of play or an inside joke about acting like a robot. But when a researcher spoke slowly to the children, the kids rarely used bungo, and often patiently waited for the researcher to finish talking before responding.

“We were curious to know whether kids were picking up conversational habits from their everyday interactions with Alexa and other agents,” said senior author Alexis Hiniker, a UW assistant professor in the Information School.

“A lot of the existing research looks at agents designed to teach a particular skill, like math. That’s somewhat different from the habits a child might incidentally acquire by chatting with one of these things,” she added.

The researchers recruited 22 families from the Seattle area to participate in a five-part study. This project took place before the covid-19 pandemic, so each child visited a lab with one parent and one researcher. For the first part of the study, children spoke to a simple animated robot or cactus on a tablet screen that also displayed the text of the conversation.

On the back end, another researcher who was not in the room asked each child questions, which the app translated into a synthetic voice and played for the child. The researcher listened to the child’s responses and reactions over speakerphone.

At first, as children spoke to one of the two conversational agents (the robot or the cactus), it told them, “When I’m talking, sometimes I begin to speak very slowly. You can say ‘bungo’ to remind me to speak quickly again.”

After a few minutes of chatting with a child, the app switched to a mode where it would periodically slow down the agent’s speech until the child said “bungo.” Then the researcher pressed a button to immediately return the agent’s speech to normal speed. During this session, the agent reminded the child to use bungo if needed. The conversation continued until the child had practiced using bungo at least three times.

The majority of the children, 64 per cent, remembered to use bungo the first time the agent slowed its speech, and all of them learned the routine by the end of this session.

Then the children were introduced to the other agent. This agent also started to periodically speak slowly after a brief conversation at normal speed. While the agent’s speech also returned to normal speed once the child said “bungo,” this agent did not remind them to use that word. Once the child said “bungo” five times or let the agent continue speaking slowly for five minutes, the researcher in the room ended the conversation.

By the end of this session, 77 per cent of the children had successfully used bungo with this agent.

At this point, the researcher in the room left. Once alone, the parent chatted with the child and then, as with the robot and the cactus, randomly started speaking slowly. The parent didn’t give any reminders about using the word bungo.

Only 19 parents conducted this part of the study. Of the children who completed this part, 68 per cent used bungo in conversation with their parents. Many of them used it with affection. Some children did so enthusiastically, often cutting their parents off in mid-sentence. Others expressed hesitation or frustration, asking their parents why they were acting like robots.

When the researcher returned, they had a similar conversation with the child: normal at first, followed by slower speech. In this situation, only 18 per cent of the 22 children used bungo with the researcher. None of them commented on the researcher’s slow speech, though some of them made knowing eye contact with their parents.

“The kids showed really sophisticated social awareness in their transfer behaviours,” Hiniker said.

“They saw the conversation with the second agent as a place where it was appropriate to use the word bungo. With parents, they saw it as a chance to bond and play. And then with the researcher, who was a stranger, they instead took the socially safe route of using the more traditional conversational norm of not interrupting someone who’s talking to you,” she added.

After this session in the lab, the researchers wanted to know how bungo would fare “in the wild,” so they asked parents to try slowing down their speech at home over the next 24 hours.

Of the 20 parents who tried this at home, 11 reported that the children continued to use bungo. These parents described the experiences as playful, enjoyable, and “like an inside joke.” For the children who expressed scepticism in the lab, many continued that behaviour at home, asking their parents to stop acting like robots or refusing to respond.

“There is a very deep sense for kids that robots are not people, and they did not want that line blurred,” Hiniker said.

“So for the children who didn’t mind bringing this interaction to their parents, it became something new for them. It wasn’t like they were starting to treat their parent like a robot. They were playing with them and connecting with someone they love,” she added.

Although these findings suggested that children will treat Siri differently from the way they treat people, it’s still possible that conversations with an agent might subtly influence children’s habits such as using a particular type of language or conversational tone when they speak to other people, Hiniker said.

But the fact that many kids wanted to try out something new with their parents suggests that designers could create shared experiences like this to help kids learn new things.

“I think there’s a great opportunity here to develop educational experiences for conversational agents that kids can try out with their parents. There are so many conversational strategies that can help kids learn and grow and develop strong interpersonal relationships, such as labelling your feelings, using ‘I’ statements, or standing up for others,” Hiniker said.

“We saw that kids were excited to playfully practice a conversational interaction with their parent after they learned it from a device. My other takeaway for parents is not to worry. Parents know their kids best and have a good sense of whether these sorts of things shape their own child’s behaviour. But I have more confidence after running this study that kids will do a good job of differentiating between devices and people,” she added.

Other co-authors on this paper are Amelia Wang and Jonathan Tran, both of whom completed this research as UW undergraduate students majoring in human-centered design and engineering; Mingrui Zhang, a UW doctoral student in the iSchool; Jenny Radesky, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Medical School; and Kiley Sobel, a senior user experience researcher at Duolingo.

A new study examined if kids hanging out with Alexa or Siri changed their behaviour towards their fellow human beings

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OVER 5 CRORE TIRANGA SELFIES CLOCKED AS PART OF HAR GHAR TIRANGA CAMPAIGN

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More than five crore Tiranga selfies have been uploaded on the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign website so far, the Ministry of Culture informed on Monday and termed it a “stupendous achievement”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given a call on 22 July 2022, to join the Har Ghar Tiranga’ movement by hoisting or displaying the national flag at homes.

“In a stupendous achievement, more than five crore ‘Tiranga’ selfies have been uploaded on the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ website,” the ministry of Culture said in a statement.

As India embarks on its 76th year of Independence, wrapping up the 75-week countdown to 15 August 2022, was the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ initiative of the government driven by the nodal ministry for ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ the Ministry of Culture.

The commemoration of 75 years of independence started on March 12, 2021, as a 75-week countdown to 15 August 2022, and will continue till 15 August 2023.

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Indian Missions under MEA screen short film on Sri Aurobindo

Murtaza Ali Khan

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Indian Missions abroad under the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), including the Embassy of India, Paris, India in UK, CGI Birmingham, Switzerland, Colombia and Ecuador, Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO and Bahrain, screened the short film titled ‘Sri Aurobindo: The Beginning of Spiritual Journey’ on 15th August 2022, which also marked the 150th birth anniversary of Sri Aurobindo. Directed by award-winning Indian filmmaker Suraj Kumar, the short film is based on a screenplay by Manish Kumar Pran. The film stars Vikrant Chauhan in the titular role.

Based on Sri Aurobindo Ghose’s prison life (1908-1909), the short film was shot in Alipore Jail, Kolkata, from where Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual journey had started. Sri Aurobindo was arrested for conspiracy on 5th May 1908 and spent a full year in Alipore jail while the British government, in a protracted court trial, tried to implicate him in various revolutionary activities. It came to be known as the Alipore Bomb Case. He was finally acquitted and released on 6th May 1909. 

 ‘Sri Aurobindo: The Beginning of Spiritual Journey puts the spotlight on an important chapter of Sri Aurobindo Ghose’s journey that often gets overlooked when one talks about his exemplary life and work. Sri Aurobindo was also a renowned freedom fighter and was accused of bombing a series of British nationals as a leader of Anushilan Samity. However, in Alipore central jail, while being accused of the Alipore conspiracy, he had a change of mind and became a philosopher and spiritual guru till his death in 1950 in Puducherry.

“While Sri Aurbindo Ghose was lodged in jail, his spiritual transformation started just after 2-3 days of prison life. My short film ‘Sri Aurobindo: The Beginning of Spiritual Journey’ documents his beginning of spiritual journey in Alipore jail,” reveals Suraj Kumar. Speaking about the film’s conception, he adds, “The idea of making the short cropped up when one of my IIMC friends and prison reformer Dr. Vartika Nanda discussed it with me, back in early 2021. Subsequently, I visited the National Library of India in Kolkata to document and record the news articles published related to Sri Aurobindo’s imprisonment. “

Sri Aurobindo Ghosh was one of the first few leaders who demanded complete independence from the British Raj. He is said to have proposed the concept of ‘Purna Swaraj’, 20 years before the Indian National Congress. He advocated the use of Swadeshi products, non-cooperation, and passive resistance to achieve the goal. After being a part of the Independence movement from 1902 to 1910, he shifted to the French colony of Puducherry, where he set up an ashram and worked for the development of ‘internal Yoga.’ He authored several works, including The Synthesis of Yoga, The Life Divine, The Ideal of Human Unity, and The Human Cycle, among others.

‘Sri Aurobindo: The Beginning of Spiritual Journey’ will be screened in various schools and colleges all across the country over the next one year.

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WHAT MAKES NAVROZ A SPECIAL OCCASION FOR PARSIS

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Navroz, which is the Parsi New Year, was celebrated on 16th August this year . The day is dedicated to the beginning of spring and to promoting peace, solidarity, and friendship among people and different communities.

The Navroz celebration is believed to date back to the time when Prophet Zarathustra founded Zoroastrianism, one of the earliest known monotheistic religions in the world, in Persia (now Iran). It was one of the most important religions in the ancient world until the emergence of Islam in the seventh century.

During the Islamic invasion of Persia, several Persians fled to India and Pakistan. Since then, their festivals have become a part of Indian festivities and are celebrated by people from diverse cultures.

Navroz marks the first day of Farvardin, the first month in the Zoroastrian calendar, also known as the Shahenshahi calendar.

For followers of Zoroastrian philosophy, this day represents the time when everything in the universe is completely renewed. Jamshed, a monarch of the ancient Sasanian Empire, is credited with introducing the Parsi calendar. Hence, this holiday is also called Jamshed-i-Nouroz.

Across the world, Navroz is celebrated at the time of the vernal equinox, around 21 March. However, Parsis in India follow the Shahenshahi calendar, which does not recognise leap years. This is why the Parsi New Year in India is celebrated almost 200 days after it is celebrated across the world.

On this occasion, Parsi families across India, especially in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat as they have a sizeable Parsi population, visit the holy temples to offer prayers.

They also prepare traditional Parsi dishes like Farcha, Berry Pulao, and Jardaloo Chicken, among several other things. Parsis also believe it to be a day of remittance of sins and a time for repentance.   

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The filched Indian Gems

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Koh-i-Noor

 

Over time, theft of Indian antiquities and diamonds has robbed India of its demarcation as the “Golden Bird,” or Sone Ki Chidiya. Many ancient artefacts vanished when India was still a colony. Here are some of the listed items:

Kohi-i-noor

The renowned Mughal Peacock Throne of Allaudin Khalji was the owner of the Koh-i-Noor. Diamond experts from all around the world refer to it as the “Mountain of Light.” Following the establishment of the East India Company by the British in India in 1849, it was given to Queen Victoria. It is currently kept in the Tower of London’s Jewel House.

 The Ring of Tipu Sultan

Tipu Sultan was defeated by the British in a fight in 1799, and after his death, the colonisers took his sword and ring. The ring, which Vijay Mallya had spent a lot of money on, was sold at auction by the British in 2014 for £145,000, while the sword was given back to India.

 The wine cup of Shah Jahan

Colonel Charles Seton Guthrie stole the wine cup that belonged to the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the early 19th century and sent it to Britain. The wine cup was donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 1962, where it is currently displayed.

The Peacock Throne

A well-known peacock throne has also been taken.  According to legend, it served as the sear of the Mughal emperors who conquered North India. This throne was previously located in Delhi’s Red Fort. Shah Jahan, an emperor in the 17th century, constructed this throne specifically for him. This throne was removed by the Persian King Nader Shah in the year 1739.

 The marble idol of Sarswati

The goddess’s marble statue was inscribed in the year 1034 AD. This was the most priceless statue in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhojshala Temple. The statue was eventually misplaced, and in 1886 it was mysteriously discovered in the British Museum.

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The battle without the gun

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5th generation warfare

The 5th Generation Warfare is a covert attempt to paralyse a nation and a battle not on the ground but of strategies to discredit and stymie its growth.The well-described Sun Tzu Strategy is unquestionably proving to be a great approach to debilitate the growth of any country, which lists down five agendas, i.e.,win all without fighting; avoid strength, attack weakness; deception and foreknowledge; speed and preparation; shape your opponent; and character-based leadership.

Daniel Abbot defines the 5th Generation Warfare as the war of “information and perception”  which calls for tactics like social engineering, misinformation and cyber attacks, artificial intelligence and autonomous robots.

The tactic of psychological manipulation in order to decay the intellect, breach privacy, or fleece the people of a country is what can be called social engineering. In recent times, there have been instances where foreign powers have adopted certain methodologies, including baiting, scareware, pretexting, phishing, and spear phishing, to rob the nation.

Deliberately spreading deceptive and misleading information in order to  influence actions and the entire persona in long run is  a commendable tactic to vanquish the enemy nation. Be it fuelling political agenda or be it triggering extremism, misinformation has a vital role to play.

We need to outsmart the strives of the foreign nations to uproot the culture of our country with subtle poisoning of technology along with Cyber attacks and look beyond petty affairs to see the wider picture.

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Indian Embassy in Madagascar decks up with tricolour lights

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As India is celebrating Independence Day on Monday, the Indian Embassy building in Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo was seen in the Indian tricolour lights. Meanwhile, Town Hall in Antananarivo also lit up in tricolour on the eve of the 76th anniversary of Independence Day of India.

To commemorate the spirit of Independence, the Embassy of India will organise a flag hoisting ceremony on Monday at the Embassy residence Villa Tanana Finaritra, Analamahintsy, Ivandry. “All members of the Indian community and friends of India are invited to join the celebrations,” the Indian Embassy tweeted.

India and Madagascar share a strong relationship. India is a key trade partner of Madagascar with bilateral trade reaching about 400 million USD in 2020-21.

The ties between the two Indian Ocean neighbours are growing in all spheres. The two countries share healthy and strong ties which are on an upswing and several MoUs in key areas such as health, education, culture, information, and travel have been signed between the two countries.

Meanwhile, in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the Indian national flag does not contain only three colours in it but is a reflection of the pride of our past, our commitment to the present, and our dreams of the future.

Addressing a tiranga rally in Surat via video conferencing, PM Modi recalled that in a few days’ time, India is completing 75 years of its independence and said that all of us are preparing for this historic Independence Day as the Tricolour is hoisted on every corner of the country.

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