Streaming Audio Gets Better with Free Lossless Audio Codec

The quality of digital audio has waxed and waned since storage migrated from physical media to files stored on devices or in the cloud. Up until now, large technology companies such as Apple have been the ones making audio developments, such as taking MP3 mainstream with the iTunes Music Store in 2003. Increases in bandwidth have helped improve the quality of streaming audio. Consumers have pushed for better audio, and now some music services have adopted FLAC, a Free Lossless Audio Codec that is changing the game. Continue reading Streaming Audio Gets Better with Free Lossless Audio Codec

Facebook Introduces Open-Source Image Processing Library

Facebook unveiled Spectrum, an open-source image processing library to help improve the quality and reliability of images uploaded through its own apps. Spectrum, which Facebook first showed publicly and launched in beta in November, is now on GitHub, available to the developer community. As higher quality cameras on smartphones have become a key selling point, consumers are dealing with larger image files, which can be a stumbling block since they eat up more device memory and more network bandwidth. Continue reading Facebook Introduces Open-Source Image Processing Library

Magic Leap, Wacom Debut Prototype of Shared Design Tools

Wacom and Magic Leap, whose partnership was announced last October at the first L.E.A.P. developers’ conference, have debuted a prototype of their collaborative design tools. Two years in the making, the tools consist of a Magic Leap One headset connected to a Wacom Intuos Pro pen tablet. Designers use a separate Pro Pen 3D stylus to control content on a Spacebridge platform that streams 3D data into a spatial computing environment. The system, which was on display at CES 2019, allows multiple people to interact with 3D models. Continue reading Magic Leap, Wacom Debut Prototype of Shared Design Tools

Voice Tech Adoption Reaches Beyond Smart Homes to Autos

Together, Amazon and Google claim about 85 percent of the smart speakers currently installed in U.S. households. In the wake of a successful holiday shopping season, the number of smart speakers in the U.S. has climbed to around 119 million. And while Amazon and Google battled for dominance at CES with voice assistant support featured in a growing array of devices and services, a new survey from Voicebot.ai suggests that voice assistants may be more habit-forming in vehicles than via smartphones. The voice tech publication found that 77 million adults use such assistants in their vehicles at least monthly, and companies are taking notice. Continue reading Voice Tech Adoption Reaches Beyond Smart Homes to Autos

Apple Grows Its Services by Partnering with Samsung, Others

Although Apple doesn’t have an official presence at CES, it still made news there, with companies announcing partnerships for iTunes, AirPlay 2 and HomeKit. The Silicon Valley firm is rumored to be rolling out a streaming video service in early 2019, with content from Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, M. Night Shyamalan and Steven Spielberg. At CES 2019, Apple’s integration with third party platforms included TVs from Samsung, LG, Vizio and Sony. The move into content and services comes as Apple contends with lower iPhone sales. Continue reading Apple Grows Its Services by Partnering with Samsung, Others

Pandora Introduces Its Own Voice Assistant for Mobile Apps

Streaming music service Pandora is the latest to announce an in-app voice assistant. Users of the iOS or Android app can simply say “Hey Pandora” and make a request to play specific podcasts or music based on artists, albums, radio stations or playlists. According to Pandora, the creation of its own “Voice Mode” feature was inspired by the millions of users who have been activating the service via smart speakers such as Amazon Echo devices. “Voice is just an expected new way that you engage with any app,” said Pandora chief product officer Chris Phillips. Continue reading Pandora Introduces Its Own Voice Assistant for Mobile Apps

Verizon and Amazon Planning New Services to Stream Games

Streaming games are in the news, with Verizon in alpha tests of its Verizon Gaming, reportedly currently running on the Nvidia Shield set-top box and, eventually, Android smartphones. Verizon Gaming can be played using a paired Xbox One controller. Verizon has been recruiting players for its alpha test of the service, which offers 135 games. On the heels of Razer announcing it would integrate Amazon Alexa into its gaming platform, The Information revealed that Amazon is now developing its own streaming game service. Continue reading Verizon and Amazon Planning New Services to Stream Games

CES: Voice Assistants Are No Longer Just for Smart Speakers

If CES is any indication, 2019 may be the year that voice assistants become more integrated into our daily lives. Amazon and Google went head-to-head in Las Vegas last week with a flood of partnerships touting smart home and CE devices that now support Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Among the products featuring voice support included LG’s much-hyped rollable OLED TV; Panasonic’s new 4K OLED TV; Samsung’s 2019 TV lineup; Vuzix Blade AR glasses; an array of speakers, soundbars and headphones; new smart displays from Lenovo, Archos and KitchenAid; and a collection of home security devices, kitchen and bathroom appliances — even toilets. Continue reading CES: Voice Assistants Are No Longer Just for Smart Speakers

Judging Current State of Amazon and Google Rivalry at CES

At CES 2019, in what some are saying has become an annual battle in recent years, Amazon and Google went mano a mano, with the former’s Alexa voice assistant in one corner, and the latter’s Google Assistant in the other. Since the debut of the voice assistants, this sector’s importance has soared, and both companies have been jockeying for dominance. Amazon stated that more than 100 million Alexa devices have been sold, while Google said its Assistant will be built into one billion devices by the end of the month. Continue reading Judging Current State of Amazon and Google Rivalry at CES

Blockchain at CES 2019 – What a Difference a Year Can Make

Blockchain sessions and projects still abound at CES this year, but the bloom is definitely off the rose. At last year’s sessions it was standing room only, but this year it was no problem finding a seat. Given that cryptocurrencies are down 82 percent since last year at this time, I guess it’s no surprise. The good news, however, is that with a lot of the hype and “quick buck” mentality deflated, there’s a lot of good work and investing still being done. Unlike last year, which was one ICO announcement after another, this year was much more subdued and focused on products that address real business needs. Continue reading Blockchain at CES 2019 – What a Difference a Year Can Make

Roku Adds Premium Subs to Roku Channel, Updates its App

Following in the footsteps of its rival Amazon, Roku announced that users will be able to buy pay-TV subscriptions through its streaming service, The Roku Channel, beginning in late January. That mimics Amazon’s sale of access to HBO and other premium channels through its Prime Video platform. Roku’s offering will include Showtime, Starz and EPIX among others. The new feature, which replaces one in which Roku acted as a portal to outside services, will also be financially favorable for the company. Continue reading Roku Adds Premium Subs to Roku Channel, Updates its App

Various Groups Complain to FTC About Google’s Apps for Kids

Twenty-two children’s and consumer groups asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google’s marketing of children’s apps in its Play store. Google has stated that its “Family” section of the Play store is where parents can find age-appropriate apps, but the groups state that some apps may violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which prevents children’s apps/sites from collecting phone numbers, locations, photographs, and other data from children under 13 without verifiable parental consent. Continue reading Various Groups Complain to FTC About Google’s Apps for Kids

Google CEO Sundar Pichai Faces House Judiciary Committee

At a hearing at the House Judiciary Committee, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai faced tough questions about how his company handles data privacy and disinformation by foreign actors. Republicans on the Committee also grilled him about a perceived anti-conservative bias, which Pichai staunchly denied, saying Google uses a “robust methodology” on all topics “without regards to political ideology.” Unconvinced, these lawmakers pointed to videos and emails from Google executives expressing dislike of right-leaning ideas. Continue reading Google CEO Sundar Pichai Faces House Judiciary Committee

The Industry Built Upon Analyzing, Selling Your Location Data

Location data has become big business. According to recent research from The New York Times, at least 75 companies receive reams of precise, anonymous location data from apps with enabled location services. Some of these companies state they track up to 200 million mobile devices, to collect such data, which they sell, use or analyze for customers such as advertisers, retail companies and financial outlets including hedge funds. The location-targeted advertising industry is valued at $21 billion this year. Continue reading The Industry Built Upon Analyzing, Selling Your Location Data

Amazon Music Debuts Voice Feature to Customize Playlists

Amazon Music debuted a voice feature that lets Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music customers on Echo devices and in the Amazon Music iOS and Android apps converse with Alexa to find playlists and music for specific moods. The listener can identify songs by lyrics, among other features, and reject or “like” individual songs. Amazon’s overall aim is to allow each listener to create a more customized listening experience. Amazon is also in trials with a feature that allows Alexa Answers to be shared worldwide. Continue reading Amazon Music Debuts Voice Feature to Customize Playlists

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