Reviews: Apple HomePod Offers Great Sound But Not Smarts

Apple’s HomePod smart speaker has debuted to mixed reviews. HomePod can stream music directly from Apple Music but no other popular music streaming service such as Spotify or Pandora. It’s equally partisan in that, despite its Bluetooth, users must use Apple’s own AirPlay to stream the music, and Android phones aren’t able to pair with it. The Home app lets users set up and control a variety of HomeKit-compatible smart home devices. The system currently lacks the ability to link HomePods together for a multi-room setup. Continue reading Reviews: Apple HomePod Offers Great Sound But Not Smarts

Alphabet, Amazon and Apple Post Record-Breaking Quarters

Alphabet, Amazon and Apple recorded glowing quarterly financial results for Q4 2017, for a combined market value of over $2 trillion. Apple’s revenue rose 13 percent to $88.29 billion, in part due to the iPhone X. Alphabet marked its 32nd consecutive quarter of revenue growth of 20 percent or more, and a 38 percent increase in revenue to $60.5 billion, with $1 billion per quarter profit in cloud computing. Amazon built beyond its core market, with the largest cloud-computing business, a Hollywood studio and the purchase of Whole Foods. Continue reading Alphabet, Amazon and Apple Post Record-Breaking Quarters

Apple Announces Launch Date of Delayed HomePod Speaker

Apple’s wireless smart speaker HomePod will hit shelves February 9, with pre-orders starting this Friday in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. The device was delayed from its intended December launch, costing Apple sales during the recent holiday shopping season. The voice-activated speaker will compete with market leaders Amazon Echo and Google Home devices. At $349, the HomePod is priced more than $200 higher than the current market leaders, but on par with the $400 Google Home Max. Apple is emphasizing the device’s “stunning sound quality” for playing music. Continue reading Apple Announces Launch Date of Delayed HomePod Speaker

Report: About 16 Percent of Americans Own Smart Speakers

NPR and Edison Research released a report this week indicating that about one in six Americans (39 million people) now own a smart speaker, up 128 percent from last January. “Amazon’s Echo speakers are still in the lead, the report says, as 11 percent now own an Amazon Alexa device compared with 4 percent who own a Google Home product,” reports TechCrunch. Amazon and Google promoted their devices heavily and cut prices during the holiday shopping season. “The Echo Dot became a top seller across its site and by manufacturers through the Black Friday weekend.” Continue reading Report: About 16 Percent of Americans Own Smart Speakers

Amazon Enters the Workplace with Bow of Alexa for Business

Amazon, which currently dominates the virtual assistant market with its Echo speaker, is now launching Alexa for Business. With Alexa for Business, offices could potentially use the voice-enabled assistant to take care of numerous tasks. It’s a leap of faith since it is still unproven how many businesses would want to install an Echo in every conference room, design relevant programs or even want their employees talking to devices. Companies might also have concerns about sensitive internal information being in the cloud. Continue reading Amazon Enters the Workplace with Bow of Alexa for Business

AISense Teams Up with Zoom for Voice Transcription Product

AISense, a company that offers a voice transcription service, is partnering with videoconferencing service Zoom to bring a product to market in 2018 that will provide automatic transcriptions for Zoom’s customers. AISense’s technology uses machine learning to provide a full text record of what is said, and Zoom’s videoconferencing is its first practical use. AISense also just raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Horizons Ventures, with Draper Associates, Draper Dragon, David Cheriton, and Bridgewater Associates. Continue reading AISense Teams Up with Zoom for Voice Transcription Product

Amazon Go Closer to Public Launch, Amazon Opens Pop-Ups

Amazon Go, an experimental convenience store in Seattle that relies on a mobile app instead of human cashiers, is moving into its next stage prior to a public opening. Amazon Go was originally slated to open early this year, but technical glitches led Amazon to postpone the launch. The technology is improving, and Amazon has shifted hiring from engineers and research scientists to construction managers and marketers. Shoppers will scan their smartphones upon entering; cameras and sensors will track the items removed. Continue reading Amazon Go Closer to Public Launch, Amazon Opens Pop-Ups

Microsoft, Harman Kardon Debut New Speaker With Cortana

Microsoft and Samsung Electronics’ Harman Kardon division have married digital assistant Cortana with the Invoke speaker to create a new voice-enabled device priced at $199. The smart speaker, the first for Microsoft, comes three years after Amazon launched Echo, the first product to pioneer a now-burgeoning space. The Invoke has a similar form factor to Amazon’s original Echo, and can play music, answer questions about sports scores and perform other tasks typical of digital assistant-powered speakers. Continue reading Microsoft, Harman Kardon Debut New Speaker With Cortana

Amazon’s Alexa Now Recognizes Up to Ten Different Voices

Amazon stated that an Alexa-enabled device can create a Voice Profile by the user reciting ten phrases to the Alexa app, which allows it to then recognize that individual’s voice. The AI-powered assistant will then deliver results based on the user’s profile or previously enacted preferences. This capability will first be available for shopping on Amazon, Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers, news briefings, calls and messages (not including SMS messages). More features will be unveiled in the future. Continue reading Amazon’s Alexa Now Recognizes Up to Ten Different Voices

LINE’s New Clova Wave Smart Speaker Is Available in Japan

LINE, known for its popular WhatsApp-style mobile messaging platform, has released a $125 smart speaker in Japan named Clova Wave, beating Amazon and Google to market. LINE has more than 220 million messaging users in the region. The company first announced the speaker device at a conference in June, after unveiling its new digital assistant, Clova. LINE also earlier announced a smart speaker called Champ, based on the LINE Friends characters, but no release date was revealed. LINE is a subsidiary of Naver Corp., South Korea’s largest web operator and search portal. Continue reading LINE’s New Clova Wave Smart Speaker Is Available in Japan

Google to Take On Tech Giants With Second-Gen Hardware

Google just debuted its second-generation Pixel smartphones and Google Home speaker, among other hardware devices, as it competes with Apple, Samsung and Amazon to break into the top ranks of consumer electronics. The company’s first year in the space was mixed: although the devices got positive reviews, the Pixel smartphone suffered from supply shortages, capturing only a minute market share in the U.S. and elsewhere. Likewise, Google Home only made minor inroads into the arena dominated by Amazon’s Echo. Continue reading Google to Take On Tech Giants With Second-Gen Hardware

Amazon Intends to Rule the Smart Home With Alexa Devices

Amazon is making a big push to be everywhere in the smart home, which is why its devices are relatively inexpensive: the new Amazon Echo is $99.99, Echo Plus is $149.99, Echo Spot is $129.99 and the new Fire TV stick is $69.99. The company is betting on being ubiquitous enough in homes to become the de facto standard for smart home devices — in essence, a new operating system. Proof that Amazon is playing a long game is the Echo Plus, which with a single command could turn off the lights, lock the door and turn off the TV. Continue reading Amazon Intends to Rule the Smart Home With Alexa Devices

Amazon to Debut Two New Fire TVs, One With Built-In Alexa

Amazon will soon introduce two new Fire TV models, both of which will playback 4K HDR video at 60 fps. The first is a dongle that hangs off a permanently attached HDMI cable, similar to Google Chromecast, and the second is a new Fire TV shaped like a set-top box that will be the new flagship model. The dongle is positioned between the existing Fire TV Stick and a new high-end model. The new Fire TV cube has far-field microphones, a built-in speaker and LED light bar, with functionality similar to an Amazon Echo. Continue reading Amazon to Debut Two New Fire TVs, One With Built-In Alexa

Facebook Builds Video Chat Device, Refutes ‘Scary’ Bot Tale

Facebook is developing a video chat device for the home that features a touchscreen the size of a laptop’s screen and smart camera technology. The device, in prototype form and being tested in homes, is the first to emerge from the company’s Building 8 lab, and, says chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, is aimed at bringing Facebook users closer. Elsewhere, Facebook squelched a widely reported, hyped-up story that it shut down “creepy” chatbots that were communicating with one another. Continue reading Facebook Builds Video Chat Device, Refutes ‘Scary’ Bot Tale

CTA Report: CE Industry Growth Is ‘Exceeding Expectations’

The Consumer Technology Association forecasts 3.2 percent growth for the U.S. CE industry this year, for a total estimated $321 billion in retail revenue. For the first time, drones, OLED TV and virtual reality tech are predicted to surpass the $1 billion revenue milestone, according to CTA’s latest “U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts” report. Smart home devices, wearables, 4K TVs and voice-controlled digital assistants are among the categories projected to experience significant increases. “Revenue growth in the consumer technology industry is exceeding expectations,” said Gary Shapiro, CTA president and CEO. Continue reading CTA Report: CE Industry Growth Is ‘Exceeding Expectations’

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