WeeklyUpdates/EmergingTechnology

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December 4th, 2017

  • Free Speech -- This week we released DeepSpeech, Mozilla’s open source speech recognition engine along with a pre-trained American English model. Our initial release is designed so developers can use it right away to experiment with speech recognition, and so includes pre-built packages for Python, NodeJS, and a command-line binary. DeepSpeech represents over a year of effort by our team and a community of like-minded developers, and provides an open source speech-to-text engine of exceptional quality -- our word error rate is 6.5%, on par with how we do as humans. Check out the blog post for more info.
  • Free Speech Data -- As a companion story to release of our DeepSpeech engine, we also announced release of Mozilla’s Common Voice dataset. Common Voice accumulated 400,000 recordings from 20,000 different people, totalling over 500 hours of speech That makes it the second largest publicly-available voice dataset we know of, and it’s still growing through the continued contributions of volunteers. You can download the data via the Common Voice website and we’ve included links to other open data sets that may also be of interest.
  • Documenting the Web - We had our first ever meeting of the new MDN Web Docs “Product Advisory Board” last week with representatives from Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and W3C (plus Mozilla, of course). First meetings are always focused on getting things going, but part of the session was a retrospective on 2017 for MDN and it has been an outstanding year. Developer usage of MDN Web Docs, which now stands at 7.8 million visitors per month, has grown by 51% year over year which means we’ve more than doubled the growth rate compared to 2016. We estimate we’re reaching about 45% of web developers on a monthly basis, and along with the other members of the Advisory Board look forward to exciting opportunities in 2018.


November 27th, 2017

  • Let’s Get Medieval -- Mozilla and Sketchfab announced the winners of the Real-time Design Challenge we co-sponsored, focused on developing creative commons assets that can be shared and used for building games and experiences in VR. The theme of the competition was “Medieval Fantasy”, and over the four weeks of the challenge we had 105 submissions and were able to crowdsource hundreds of assets. You can see who won and read more on the announcement post. And there’s a follow-on community challenge to come, based on A-frame.
  • Understanding Our VR Popularity -- We’ve started to get preliminary results from new telemetry in WebVR to help us understand how it is being used. While the data is still coming in and being analyzed, we do see about a million users a day hitting WebVR content of some kind, which is *amazing*. Stay tuned for more insights here, and a cool new dashboard (soon).
  • Business Modeling -- ET hosted a non-traditional business model workshop in partnership with Models of Impact, using their open source toolkit designed for organizations looking to effectively blend revenue and social impact. A group of participants from across the company explored techniques for combining a wide range of business model components for sustainably reaching conscious choosers and developers. You can try it yourself or in your teams -- it’s all open source -- so contact us if you’d like to know more.
  • More Quantum, Creatively - Quantum interest is still very high on our Mozilla Hacks blog and Dan Callahan published a post on new features in Firefox 58. Firefox Quantum made Firefox fast again, but speed is only part of the story. A ton of work has gone into making Firefox an exceptional tool for creating on the Web. You can see some of what’s coming for Firefox 58 by taking a look at Firefox Developer Edition.


November 20th, 2017

  • Quantum Propulsion -- Firefox Quantum’s release last week was a really big deal, and those of us in ET were especially proud to usher in the release with Lin Clark’s excellent article “How Firefox Got Fast Again” on the Mozilla Hacks blog. Lin’s article was such a hit that it’s currently the 23rd most up-voted post on Hacker News ever, beating out both the death of Google Reader and the debut of Ubuntu on Windows. Lin’s article and the Firefox Quantum release notes were the most popular two posts in the past month. We’ve also had a lot of positive pick-up on our related articles, including Salva de la Puente’s overview of Quantum’s impact on WebVR.
  • Are you talking to me? -- Project DeepSpeech continues to train a speech-to-text model that we plan to release by the end of the month. The team is preparing press materials and packaging the code so it’s easy to use from C++, Python, Node.js, etc. Stay tuned, as we may put out a call for volunteers to help test the engine in the near future.
  • See y'all in Austin -- We’re eagerly anticipating the Y’all Hands in Austin next month. For those of you who will be there, Emerging Technologies will host a few special sessions that we’d love to see you attend:

November 13th, 2017

  • Describe all the things -- Members of our Project Things team represented Mozilla at the W3C Web of Things working group last week. There are a number of aspects of our experimental efforts we’re keen to bring into the W3C working group discussion, and began that process last week by submitting a co-authored proposal for a generalized, extensible way to describe any device connected to the World Wide Web.
  • Faster in stereo -- We implemented in Servo a new WebGL architecture that takes a different (but still standards-based) approach to rendering stereo images, resulting in performance improvements of up to 40% in displaying WebVR content. Technical details and some additional related updates are on our Mozilla VR blog.
  • Countdown to Launch -- As we all know, Firefox Quantum launches tomorrow and we couldn’t be more excited. Watch for some updates and blog posts from Emerging Technologies as part of the grand festivities.

November 6th, 2017

  • Increasing interest in the future of speech technology - An interview with Mozilla Research’s Kelly Davis by British Airways appeared as part of a story on the future of voice recognition as the cover article of their “Business Life” magazine. (And in the “Future” section!) Kelly’s comments highlighted the article’s recognition of speech interfaces for accessibility and in creating a richer, safer world for humans. (You can read the article by flying on British Airways, or by downloading the magazine app on iOS or Android.)
  • Fun with Rust (Lots of fun!) -- Popular independent game developer Chucklefish announced they’re building one of their next two projects in Rust, and had some great comments on why they feel strongly about doing so in a post on Hacker News. (Chucklefish is responsible for major game titles like ‘Stardew Valley’ and ‘Starbound’ and publishes on multiple gaming platforms so it’s great to have them actively involved with Rust.)
  • Stanford Encourages You to Rewrite it in Rust -- Speaking of Rust, Stanford has added coverage of Rust to its Programming Languages course, and specifically structured the exposure through exercises in which students rewrite three small existing applications in Rust to understand how knowledge can transfer from one language to another and get used to the basic Rust workflow. You can try it out too through the course assignment repo on github.

October 30th, 2017

  • SPECIAL EDITION: Emerging Technologies in London - This week ET’s Headlines come to you from along the banks of the Thames
  • Gateway Up Close and Personal - Our Project Gateway team had a busy week in London, capped by two days demoing at MozFest and also hosting a hands-on Saturday afternoon workshop for a room full of eager developers and curious community members. The week also included further work on our contribution to the W3C “Web of Things” standards working group, which we’re finalizing in advance of a its meeting in early November.
  • View Source Recap - View Source, our front-end developer and designer event in London the day before MozFest, was completely sold out and a hive of activity. Twelve presentations covered topics like the “Indie Web”, Web performance and security, WebVR and fonts, new and exciting ways to build for and on the web, hacking your coffee machine, and a powerful call for enlightened technological activism. We streamed everything live and also recorded it for later viewing so stay tuned for details on how you can see everything you missed.

October 23rd, 2017

  • Making Web Development A Little Easier - Last week Mozilla announced formation of the MDN Product Advisory Board to bring other industry leaders together and collaboratively grow cross-browser documentation on MDN. Microsoft, Google, Samsung, and the W3C are our initial Advisory Board members, and we’d welcome others to join as well. Six million developers and designers visit MDN each month and readership is growing at 40% annually, and there was lots of positive reaction to our announcement, so we know there’s tremendous interest in learning and sharing information about building for the open web. Microsoft announced they've already started redirecting over 7,700 MSDN pages to corresponding topics on MDN.
  • Much Anticipated Incremental Acceleration - The Rust team landed new and incremental compilation updates, and though there’s still lots of optimizing and tuning yet to be done early results show as much as a 30% improvement in compilation times. This is something that has been in the works for a long time, so congratulations to everyone involved. (And hey, it makes is all even *more* productive, so thanks!
  • Speed Through the History of Virtual Reality -- How about a quick, five minute journey through the evolution of Virtual Reality from the stereoscope through the ViewMaster, Sensorama, Sword of Damocles, Data Glove, VR pods in malls, VRML, WebVR, and more? Josh Marinacci from our DevRel team is your tour guide, and you’ll find the video here.

October 16th, 2017

  • Mozilla Wins Developer Satisfaction Awards - At their 2017 Future Developer Summit this past week SlashData (previously VisionMobile) recognized nine organisations from the software industry as leaders for developer satisfaction based on feedback from over 40,000 developers surveyed annually from around the globe. Mozilla was overall winner for documentation in developer programs (yay, MDN!), and 2nd runner up for engagement through developer programs (yay, DevRel!) We received actual trophies for our awards so will find a way to share them when they arrive. More info from SlashData
  • New Project Things Gateway Release - We’ve landed version 0.2 of Project Gateway and there are a whole bunch of great features for you to check out. A built-in speech interface enables voice interaction with the gateway and connected devices, you can upload a floor plan of your physical space and manage devices using it, a powerful rules-engine facilitates command and control, and we’ve made the whole system a lot more robust and transparent. This is the version we’ll be showcasing at MozFest in a couple of weeks, including a hands-on workshop for interested community members. Grab a copy from github, install it on your Raspberry Pi 3, and let us know what you do with it, or just come by and see us at MozFest.
  • It’s All About The Jank - Lin Clark’s latest “Code Cartoons” post appeared on our Hacks Blog and gave us a comprehensive walk through of WebRender, another big piece of Servo that’s making its way into Firefox through Project Quantum. To help us all understand why WebRender offers such tremendous advantages in graphics performance and smoothness Lin took us through an up-close tour of the browser rendering engine, patiently explaining and cleverly illustrating all sorts of magic we all benefit from but few understand. The post got a ton of visibility on the web (#1 on Hacker News, for example) and social media. You should definitely check it if you haven’t already.

October 9th, 2017

  • It’s Implementation Time! - The Rust community has been hard at work throughout the year on the overall roadmap and enters Q4 at the start of a focused “Implementation Period” dedicated to completing work on committed features. Not all of them involve writing code! There are already 35 teams up and running to plan and implement the features, so if you’ve ever wanted to contribute to Rust but weren’t sure how now is the perfect opportunity for you! We’ve published all the details in an introductory blog post, set up interactive channels for each group, and will be publishing a weekly newsletter to keep everyone involved. Love to have you join us!
  • WebVR on MacOS - If you’ve been watching for WebVR support in MacOS you’ll be happy to know that it has just been enabled by default in Firefox Nightly. We currently support OpenVR for the HTC Vive on MacOS High Sierra, with announcements of compatibility on other headsets and confirmed release dates in Firefox still in progress -- so stay tuned for future updates.
  • RustFest Zurich - RustFest is an ongoing series of conferences dedicated to Rust and the Rust community in Europe. The second 2017 RustFest event took place last week in Zurich and was the largest one so far with over 220 rustaceans attending two days of talks and workshops. For more information on RustFest and materials from past events, head over to the RustFest website
  • WebRender News - An important part of Project Quantum is getting WebRender, Servo’s graphics engine, integrated into Firefox. WebRender is already in Firefox Nightly and early adopters are starting to comment publicly on how much they like it . If you’d like to know more about the novel architecture of WebRender and why it is important for Firefox you should check out a great post on the Mozilla Gfx Team Blog

October 2nd, 2017

  • Congratulations André !! -- For the fifth year in a row CNET’s Spanish-language sister site CNET en Español has assembled its annual list of 20 Most Influential Latinos working in technology and we are INCREDIBLY proud that Mozilla’s and ET’s very own André Natal was included, recognizing his many years of continuing contribution to voice and speech software.
  • Donate your noise to science - Our research team has been exploring application of deep learning concepts to the classic problem of removing noise from voice, and doing so in a compact and efficient way that could be used everywhere to improve phone conversations, conference calls, live meetings and more. They’ve created a demo that shows and explains how their implementation, RNNoise, works including letting you try it out live from your web browser. Because the deep learning approach requires training you can help us make the algorithm much better by donating a minute of your noise from anywhere you might communicate. Visit the demo site to learn more, or you can go right to the ‘Donate your Noise to Science’ page and contribute.
  • Winners in the sixth annual Js13kGames contest were just announced - In case you’re not familiar with the Js13kGames competition it’s run by Mozillian Andrzej Mazur and awards over $20,000USD in prizes for HTML5 and JavaScript games that must be no larger than 13 kilobytes. In addition to the traditional Desktop, Mobile, Server, and Community categories new this year was a special category for A-Frame VR games, with judges from our Mozilla VR and DevRel teams. See all the entrants (and by "see" we mean "play"), and the winners, at http://2017.js13kgames.com/#winners.


September 25th, 2017

  • Project Gateway at MozFest - Look for our Project Gateway team at MozFest this year (October 28-29th) as we’ll be staffing a demo table throughout both days of the event plus hosting a hands-on workshop to help people get involved. Reminder: Project Gateway’s goal is to let you build your own Web of things gateway based on the Raspberry Pi. More information and all the code is available on github.
  • Growing support for WebVR - At their Edge Web Summit last week Microsoft demonstrated support for WebVR 1.1 in Edge on their Mixed Reality Headsets. They showcased A-Frame as part of their demo, which was enabled through contributions from both Microsoft and our team here at Mozilla just in time for the 0.7.0 release of A-Frame. WebVR support is currently available in Edge for developers and is scheduled for broad consumer availability in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update next month alongside the release of the Windows Mixed Reality headsets.

September 18th, 2017

  • Big Welcome - This past Monday we had six new folks join our Mixed Reality team, coming to us after working together at Altspace VR. In pursuing ET’s mission of growing new areas for Mozilla we’d identified a key opportunity for virtual and augmented reality in building new services and products around identity, presence, avatar, and multi-user services. We aim to build open services that work across both the tens of millions of VR devices and hundreds of millions of handheld AR devices to be enabled in the coming weeks through Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore. Definitely watch this space...
  • Update on our Voice Fill experiment via Test Pilot -- We’ve fielded 29,955 spoken queries and are working on an update that would add voice integration to even more frequently visited Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Duck-Duck-Go websites. We’re also starting to receive contributions to the underlying code from community members, which is great!
  • We’re kicking off our Developer Roadshow in Asia this week and next, with stops in Singapore, Ho Chi MInh City, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Hong Kong. Check out the website for links and more details, especially if we’ll be somewhere near you.

September 11th, 2017

  • Project Things mentioned in a publication - The MagPi publication (official Raspberry Pi magazine) has an article about our Things project (issue 61) in the September issue which talks about Mozilla’s efforts in the area of IoT and Web of Things in particular.
  • More companies announce they are using Rust in production - Atlassian & Tumblr have indicated they are doing so and will add their names to the “Friends of Rust” page. In case you’re curious, adding those two brings the official total to ninety five -- so stay tuned for word that we’ve reached one hundred organizations with Rust in production.
  • We’re number one! - Initial integration of language model into a TensorFlow connectionist temporal classification beam search yielded a 6.48% word error rate on the Librivox clean test data set for DeepSpeech. What the heck does that mean? It means we have the best open source speech recognition engine (as our closest alternative, Kaldi, has a 8.01% word error rate on that same test data set). Booyah!
  • More languages for Deep Speech - Oh, and we’ve landed the code that provides multi-language support for Deep Speech so the Community is now actively working on adding French, German, Spanish, Macedonian, Urdu, Persian, and Kurdish.

August 28th, 2017

  • RustConf 2017 happened this past week in Portland, Oregon and was a big success. The event was completely sold out, which translates into 275 attendees all involved in and excited about Rust -- and we had lots of positive reactions from them during the conference. We also had conversations with a number of important tech companies including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Intel, and Baidu, all of whom are looking at Rust and some already using it . (We even heard that Amazon is hiring for Rust so they’re active too.). RustBridge, an all-day diversity-focused initiative, had their fifth meeting at RustConf, with 20 attendees from underrepresented groups learning to program in Rust. Here's a picture: https://twitter.com/ag_dubs/status/898687617427881985
  • Lin Clark published another in her series of “Code Cartoons” blog posts, this time on Quantum CSS (which we also know as “Stylo”). In order to properly explain Stylo Lin demystified and illustrated quite a lot of what goes on inside a web engine, and, like her other “Code Cartoons” the post has been very well received -- reaching over 650 points on Hacker News and being picked up by a variety of tech press and social media. Check it out: https://hacks.mozilla.org/2017/08/inside-a-super-fast-css-engine-quantum-css-aka-stylo/
  • A big change is in the works for MDN Web Docs, in the form of an interactive code editor that will be added directly in relevant pages so developers can easily see and experiment with JavaScript and Web APIs. Starting this week we’ll be carefully A/B testing the interactive editor with a few users on a few pages, but if you’re curious you can get a look starting tomorrow (Tuesday) when the test goes live using one of these two magical URLs: https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/CSS/box-shadow?v=b and https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/JavaScript/Reference/Global_Objects/Array/push?v=b
  • The second Alliance for Open Media (AOM) face-to-face meeting since the start of AV1 development happened last week. There were twenty-five tools presented over two days. Eleven were adopted or conditionally adopted, and three of those were ours. Google presented seventeen of the twenty-five tools, and had five adopted or conditionally adopted.

August 21st, 2017

  • Over 300,000 recorded voice samples have been contributed so far to Common Voice, adding up to over 400 total hours of data. We’ve also had over half a million samples validationsl. (In case you didn’t know, you can contribute not only by leaving us samples of your own voice but by listening to other people’s samples and confirming they match the target phrase. Check it out at https://voice.mozilla.org!).
  • To understand a bit more about voice assistants, to inform a project we’re calling Foxy, we gathered about a hundred Alexa logs from Reddit and social media by paying $5 each for them. We found that around 40% of all commands were about music - playing artists or genres, stopping or starting playback, that kind of thing. Another 15% were general search queries: who did the voices for Animanics, or what’s the weather in Seattle? And another 15% were Internet of Things related queries, particularly turning lights on and off, so that’s informing some of the work we’re doing in Web of Things.
  • VoiceFill has been running within Test Pilot. We’ve had 11,722 users enable Voice Fill overall. Over 800 users have been active in just in the past seven days, engaging in almost 2000 sessions, and we’re continuing to explore and experiment.


August 14th, 2017

  • Facebook is open-sourcing a large Rust codebase! (It’s a modern take on the ancient theme of mediating between humans and trees.) Facebook is releasing a high performance mercurial server written in Rust. It’s open source, GPLv2. The project is called Mononoke and you can take a look on GitHub at https://github.com/facebookexperimental/mononoke.
  • Firefox 55 made history as the first desktop browser to ship with WebVR enabled by default! (It’s just as much fun but a whole lot easier to maintain than those flying cars we’ve all been waiting for.) If you have a Rift or Vive, head on over to vr.mozilla.org for immersive demos. And if you’d like to develop VR content, the entire WebVR API is documented on MDN.
  • The View Source conference is coming to London in October! View Source is a fantastic single-track conference, bringing visionary speakers to designers and front-end developers, and registration is now open. View Source is on October 27th, right before MozFest on the 28th and 29th. Sign up if you can make it, and spread the word!


August 7th, 2017

  • Publish your own 360 degree videos with a new WebVR template! It’s easy to build Virtual Reality scenes with A-Frame, but we’re making that even easier by adding a tool that can get your project started using pre-built templates. A great first example of that is a template for publishing your 360 degree videos in VR. If you’d like to give it a try or just see how it works check out Salva’s blog post (Beware, this new tool is still in pre-release. Here be dragons.)
  • Search the web with your voice using Firefox today! The Voice Fill test pilot went live last week and has been receiving a lot of attention: CNBC and TechCrunch both covered the launch with CNBC calling it a “challenge to Google’s AI dominance”. We’re closely monitoring how that experiment goes and working on a follow up release to make it even better and more responsive.
  • Automate the web of things in your home! We landed an initial proof of concept prototype of a rules engine for the Things Gateway which lets you set “if this then that” style rules for the web of things in your home. Look out for an upcoming article about Mozilla’s Project Things in the official Raspberry Pi magazine, MagPi. A big shout out to community contributor Ian Gilham for contributing a new device adapter for the Things Gateway! Find out how you can contribute on our web site.


July 31st, 2017

  • We need your voice! Literally! We recently unveiled Common Voice, a new project we’ve jointly created with the folks in Open Innovation. Common Voice seeks to create an open collection of labelled voice data anyone can use to build highly-accurate voice recognition software. We’ve asked people to help us out by capturing their voice and are receiving 15-20 thousand recordings a day. And we’re getting lots of good press coverage too. If you’ve participated already, “Thank you!”, and if not but would like to please head on over to the web site. We’re currently only set up to record English language samples but other languages are coming soon.
  • WebVR in Firefox keeps getting better! Thanks to some requests from our friends at Sketchfab, we’ve made some substantial performance improvements. Sketchfab released the world’s first WebVR animated short film, including with full sound support. It’s an excellent example of the ongoing feedback loop between folks with the urge to create and our efforts to make the web better at supporting that creativity! Read more and watch (hear!) the video
  • Big thanks to Dietrich Ayala for the blog post chronicling the amazing performance improvements in Firefox’s tab handling. We loved the social media and press pick-up around your 1691 open tabs, thanks to Quantum Flow. (I now have a new life goal...so thanks also for that). Check out headlines like “Firefox’s blazing speed with huge numbers of tabs leaves Chrome in the dust” to get the feeling of winning.
  • The “Voice Fill” experiment we highlighted last week is slated to go live tomorrow, August 1. It was delayed along with all the pending Test Pilot projects, but we’re very happy it’s going forward now.


July 24th, 2017

  • AV1 codec now enabled in Firefox Nightly. Check it out by watching a bit of the short film ‘Tears of Steel’ at http://demo.bitmovin.com/public/firefox/av1/. Keep in mind when you do that the whole idea here is to provide (and improve!) high quality audio and video on the web and make it all completely open and royalty free.
  • Stylo has landed in Firefox Nightly on all platforms, so there’s more of Servo (and Project Quantum) for you to explore. It’s off by default but you can turn it on via a pref. Details on how to do that and general Stylo status info is available in a public Etherpad here.
  • Keep an eye on Test Pilot this week for news as we’re launching an experiment called “Voice Fill” which will let you interact with the Web by talking to Firefox. Up first will be voice input to search engines so you can initiate web searches through speech.
  • We’ve unveiled “Project Things” our Web of Things initiative, and our first project, an open WoT gateway, is available on github for download and use on a Raspberry Pi' Give it a try! Turn your lights on and off at home with it. (We do.)
  • We trust you’re keeping an eye on what we’re up to with Developers by following our Hacks blog, but in case you aren’t Lin Clark published another great “Code Cartoon”, this time explaining how you can add WebAssembly to JavaScript on your web page and what’s going on under the covers when you do that. And we have posts from Andre Vrignaud and Jukka Jylänki about the latest and greatest for gaming on the Web.