WikiLeaks Claims of CIA Hacking Could Impact Tech Industry

WikiLeaks released thousands of documents yesterday that it claims detail methods used by the CIA “to break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions,” reports The New York Times. According to WikiLeaks, the CIA and allied intelligence services bypassed encryption on messaging services including Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp. WikiLeaks also suggests that agencies can collect audio and messaging data from Android phones “before encryption is applied.” The Wall Street Journal notes that such activities, if actually taking place with consumer electronics, could fuel tensions between intelligence agencies and the tech industry, which has been concerned about customer privacy. Mobile devices are a major concern; NYT published an article detailing potential smartphone vulnerabilities. Continue reading WikiLeaks Claims of CIA Hacking Could Impact Tech Industry

Google’s Daydream, Cardboard Continue to Gain Momentum

Google has now shipped 10 million Cardboard VR sets. That’s double the number Google had shipped from the device’s launch in 2014 to July of last year. Meanwhile, the company is also pushing its next generation of VR devices like the Daydream View headset. The variety of phones and content for the platform are continuing to expand, and current users are already watching an average of 40 minutes per week. Google is working with content partners such as Hulu, Netflix and HBO. Continue reading Google’s Daydream, Cardboard Continue to Gain Momentum

At 1 Billion Video Hours Daily, YouTube May Topple TV Views

Worldwide, people are watching more than 1 billion hours a day of YouTube videos, a number that threatens to topple the primacy of U.S. television viewing. That represents a 10-fold increase in YouTube viewership since 2012, said to be pegged, in part, to Google’s use of artificial intelligence to recommend videos. These personalized video line-ups keep people watching, and YouTube’s exponential growth of content — 400 hours of video uploaded each minute — means there’s always something new to watch. Continue reading At 1 Billion Video Hours Daily, YouTube May Topple TV Views

LG Abandons Flashy Gimmicks with New Signature G6 Phone

LG Electronics has a new strategy to reverse disappointing smartphone sales: ditch the gimmicks and focus on strong basic features. The company launched its new flagship phone this week; the G6 boasts more battery life, a longer 5.7-inch screen, and a sleek design. It also supports Dolby Vision HDR. Previous LG smartphones emphasized features such as a fingerprint scanner on the back or a modular approach for swapping accessories. Even with a simpler design, LG may still struggle to draw consumers in the slowing smartphone market. Continue reading LG Abandons Flashy Gimmicks with New Signature G6 Phone

Google Takes On Siri, Opens its Assistant to Android Partners

Google is making Assistant available to all its Android partners, in an effort to entice more Apple iPhone customers. Introduced five months ago, Google Assistant, which answers questions, plays music and completes tasks, is showcased in a closer partnership with LG Electronics, announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Up until now, Google’s Pixel smartphone, which was introduced in October, has been the only handset with Assistant. Apple’s iPhone will have its tenth anniversary this year. Continue reading Google Takes On Siri, Opens its Assistant to Android Partners

HTML5 Instant Games Threaten to Disrupt the App Store Model

The Android and iOS app stores have been dominant in gaming, but the advent of HTML5 may change that up. Developers will be able to create instant games, which they hope will grab the attention of more consumers. Games based on HTML5, which run in a browser and don’t require a download, are already being built into social media platforms and messaging systems. Instant game advocates argue that apps can be hard to find, require heavy advertising, and have to be downloaded and installed in order to play. Continue reading HTML5 Instant Games Threaten to Disrupt the App Store Model

Caavo Connects All Your Apps, Devices and Content Platforms

Caavo is a $399 savvy middleware box that connects content to virtually any device. Featuring eight HDMI ports and software that automatically configures to any device, Caavo offers a universal remote control with touchscreen and buttons, and works with Alexa (Google Assistant and Siri are soon to come). Caavo is designed to make watching a range of content on many different devices a seamless affair. The company was founded by Andrew Einaudi, Ashish Aggarwal and the late Blake Krikorian (who also co-founded Sling Media).  Continue reading Caavo Connects All Your Apps, Devices and Content Platforms

Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

Both Amazon and Google are thinking about turning their respective home speakers — Echo and Google Home — into home telephones. Knowledgeable sources say the tech giants could introduce the feature this year, with the goal of gaining yet more control over consumers’ home lives. But the companies are also finding that it’s not so simple, facing issues related to privacy, telecom regulations and emergency services — as well as the potential that consumers will be wary that their conversations are being recorded. Continue reading Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

Facebook Readies TV App for Streaming Video Through STBs

Facebook will soon launch a TV app that will let users stream videos in their News Feed through set-top boxes including Apple TV and Amazon’s Fire TV, and smart TVs from Samsung. The move to a television app is evidence of Facebook’s new directive from chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to become a “video first” company, and positions the social network to compete for TV advertising dollars. Users can employ the TV app to watch Facebook videos on their living room TV sets, and Facebook is in discussions to provide access to other video content. Continue reading Facebook Readies TV App for Streaming Video Through STBs

Android Wear 2.0 Comes to Smartwatches, Apple On the Rise

With Google’s streamlined Android Wear 2.0 on two new LG watches, starting at $250, and Samsung’s $300 Gear S3 smartwatch, fans of the Android operating system finally have some good smartwatch choices that even offer Google Assistant. Meanwhile, Apple is still the giant in the smartwatch market, cornering an estimated 80 percent of smartwatch sales last quarter. Although Apple didn’t release specific figures, it says its smartwatch “hit record numbers” in units and revenue during the recent holiday season. Continue reading Android Wear 2.0 Comes to Smartwatches, Apple On the Rise

Plex Integrates Alexa Voice Control with Popular Media Player

Media player Plex, joining many device manufacturers, has added Alexa voice control for its first foray into home automation. Now, via the company’s Plex Skill for Alexa, the user can ask for favorite content, even music, from her Plex media library without a remote control. But Alexa for Plex isn’t as simple as it is for Spotify or Pandora, which rely on the Alexa mobile app. Instead, users have to enable Remote Access for their media server in the software’s setting, to turn requests into API calls in Plex’s cloud services. Continue reading Plex Integrates Alexa Voice Control with Popular Media Player

FaceApp Uses Neural Networks to Alter Age, Gender in Photos

FaceApp relies on neural networks to paste a smile on a person’s photo or change his gender or age. The iOS app doesn’t always work reliably; if the person’s face is large, has a beard or isn’t looking straight at the camera, for example, the results can be unconvincing. Switching genders can produce convincing results, but can only be accessed in “collage” mode, for a very small image. But FaceApp, similar to the Prisma app that uses artificial intelligence to make selfies look like famous paintings, proves that AI is making it easier to manipulate photographs. Continue reading FaceApp Uses Neural Networks to Alter Age, Gender in Photos

Nvidia Updates Shield TV to Offer 4K HDR Streaming and More

Nvidia’s new Shield TV features 4K HDR streaming and improved gaming capabilities — and now, many of the new hardware benefits are also available for free on the original Shield TV via an over-the-air software update. Users can access 4K HDR streaming from Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, and 4K support from Google Play offerings and additional sources. The update also features “support for upgraded GeForce Now game streaming, and the new Nvidia Games app which centralizes all the various gaming endpoints,” reports TechCrunch. To add Google Assistant interaction, users will need to purchase the new $60 Shield Controller with built-in microphone. Continue reading Nvidia Updates Shield TV to Offer 4K HDR Streaming and More

Alexa, Google Assistant Beset by Zombie Apps, Low Retention

VoiceLabs just released a report that shows Amazon Echo and Google Home, holiday season hits, have problems to overcome in order to achieve mainstream acceptance. Its data reveals only 3 percent of users who enable an Alexa or Google Assistant voice app become active users by the second week, and, of the 7,000+ Alexa Skills voice apps, 69 percent have zero or one customer review, a sign of low to no usage. In comparison, Android and iOS apps have 13 percent and 11 percent retention rates respectively after one week. Continue reading Alexa, Google Assistant Beset by Zombie Apps, Low Retention

Android Users Can Download Netflix Content onto SD Storage

Netflix is accommodating Android users who are interested in offline downloads but face storage limitations with their mobile devices. The streaming video service now allows users to store TV shows and movies on microSD cards. “The latest version of the Netflix app gives you a choice of saving things to internal storage or, if your phone supports SD, picking the external option instead,” reports The Verge. Previously, customers could only save to internal memory, which frustrated those “with 32GB of built-in space and a ton of expandable storage.” The offline Netflix content has time limits, however, and eventually expires. Continue reading Android Users Can Download Netflix Content onto SD Storage

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