Microsoft Shares Vision For Present and Future Productivity

Microsoft recently invited journalists into its Envisioning Center for a peek into its vision of the future — in particular, its vision of the future of productivity. Inside the center, Microsoft houses some of its prototype work. Journalists witnessed teams working together on giant collaborative screens, meeting in rooms equipped with devices to automatically recognize participants, and doing work at touch-powered desks. The bulk of all provided demonstrations revolved around the use of touch, voice, and augmented reality. This marks a new way forward for Microsoft.

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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

Microsoft Chatbot Xiaoice Excels at AI-to-Human Engagement

Unlike Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft’s own Cortana, the latter’s social chatbot Xiaoice (pronounced “Shao-ice”) isn’t constructed simply to answer questions or resolve problems but can also tell jokes, write poetry, and exhibit “empathic computing” abilities. In China, Xiaoice resided on Huawei smartphones and was a weather reader on Dragon TV, a Shanghai TV station. Debuted in China in May 2014, Xiaoice has had more than 30 billion mainly text conversations with 660 million people around the world. Continue reading Microsoft Chatbot Xiaoice Excels at AI-to-Human Engagement

LG to Debut Google Assistant Smart Display on Black Friday

LG is introducing its first Google Assistant-powered smart display this week. The XBOOM AI ThinQ WK9, which runs the Android Things operating system for IoT devices, will be offered for a $200 promotional price during Black Friday (it is expected to run $100 more beyond the sale). The smart device was first teased at CES in January. The XBOOM AI features an 8-inch HD touch-screen display, Bluetooth streaming, a built-in 5MP camera for video calls, Google Assistant-powered AI features, and easy access to apps such as Google Maps, Google Photos and YouTube via the Android Things platform. Continue reading LG to Debut Google Assistant Smart Display on Black Friday

Microsoft Introduces Updated Surface PCs, New Headphones

At a New York City event, Microsoft unveiled updated Surface Pro, Surface Laptop and Surface Studio computers, and debuted Surface-branded wireless headphones with Cortana capabilities. Microsoft is one of several big tech companies holding hardware-related events this fall; Apple held its smartphone reveal in September and Google will hold its event on October 9. The Microsoft event mainly showed off updated existing products and made it clear the company is committed to manufacturing its own computers. Continue reading Microsoft Introduces Updated Surface PCs, New Headphones

Survey Finds That Smart Speakers Are Gaining in Popularity

A new Adobe Analytics survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers has found that voice assistants and smart speakers are becoming increasingly popular. Adobe predicts that following the next holiday season, almost half of U.S. consumers will own a smart speaker. The market has grown about 15 percent in less than one year; more than 32 percent of consumers now own a smart speaker. People are most commonly using such tech to play music, check weather forecasts, set alarms/reminders as well as obtain directions, check sports scores and traffic, and ask fun questions. Continue reading Survey Finds That Smart Speakers Are Gaining in Popularity

Amazon, Microsoft Introduce Integration of Alexa and Cortana

Amazon and Microsoft gave a public demonstration of the integration of Alexa and Cortana into all Echo speakers and to all Windows 10 users. That means that a user can ask Windows 10’s Cortana to open Alexa, and ask Alexa on Echo speakers to open Cortana. This integration is now available to most users but will completely roll out around the country over the next week, said a Microsoft spokesperson. Some features, such as streaming music, audiobooks and news flashes will not be available at launch. Continue reading Amazon, Microsoft Introduce Integration of Alexa and Cortana

Microsoft Builds on Existing Tech, Voices Moral Conscience

At its Build developer conference this week, Microsoft is showing products that highlight its changed direction under the aegis of chief executive Satya Nadella. Among them is a DJI drone loaded with Microsoft software to identify oil pipeline faults without an Internet connection. Although Microsoft is helping customers enhance their existing gear, the company promised “big things ahead” to those entirely in the Microsoft ecosystem. Uninvolved in recent data scandals, some deem Microsoft to be the tech industry’s moral conscience. Continue reading Microsoft Builds on Existing Tech, Voices Moral Conscience

Google Assistant Is Connected to 5,000 Smart Home Devices

Google revealed that its AI-powered Google Assistant is now connected to more than 5,000 smart devices in the home, up from 1,500 such devices in January. Among the devices now controlled by Google Assistant are air conditioners, cameras, security systems, thermostats, vacuum cleaners and washing machines. Google faces stiff competition in the smart home arena, most notably from Amazon Alexa, Apple’s HomeKit and Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Samsung’s SmartThings and Bixby. Now the rivals must convince consumers to buy the devices. Continue reading Google Assistant Is Connected to 5,000 Smart Home Devices

Nearly 20 Percent of Adults Have Access to a Smart Speaker

Nearly one in five U.S. adults — 47.3 million, or 20 percent of the country’s adult population — has access to a smart speaker, according to Voicebot.ai research. In this case, “access to a smart speaker” means having a smart speaker in the home, even if the adult is not the primary user. Unlike smartphones and other personal technologies, not every person in the home is likely to have one. Thus, it’s likely most apt to compare smart speakers to TVs, which took 13 years to reach the 50 million mark versus just two years for smart speakers.

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Amazon Envisions Alexa as a Universal Language Translator

You may soon be able to command “Alexa, Translate” and get sophisticated results. According to sources familiar with the matter, Amazon’s latest aim for Alexa, its popular voice-enabled assistant, is to become a real-time universal language translator. They say the tech giant is “seriously exploring” ways to make Alexa more useful cross-culturally. In order to do so, Amazon must significantly expand Alexa’s current ability to translate basic words and phrases in languages including Spanish, German, French and Italian.

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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

Qualcomm CES Keynote: 5G Transition to Launch Massive IoT

During his keynote presentation at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon discussed the future of 5G, predicting that flagship 5G smartphones will hit shelves in 2019 and overtake the market quickly. The rollout “will occur ‘very fast’ because of 5G’s 30x improvement in latency, which lets phone makers keep the price of phones down by offloading phone memory to the cloud,” reports TWICE. The presentation suggested that “the 5G transition is going to be faster than the 4G transition, and it will create a ‘massive’ Internet of Things, enabling new business models and making autonomous vehicles a reality.” Continue reading Qualcomm CES Keynote: 5G Transition to Launch Massive IoT

Alexa, Cortana, Watson Execs Discuss Today’s AI Limitations

In what might have been the most popular panel at CES 2018, the executives responsible for three major AI-enabled applications — IBM Watson, Microsoft Cortana and Amazon Alexa — met to dig deep into artificial intelligence today and tomorrow. In a conversation led by Tom’s Guide editorial director Avram Piltch, the three executives stressed that machine learning and AI is nothing new, but, in fact, has been the technology behind long-established activities from recommendations to warehouse robots. Continue reading Alexa, Cortana, Watson Execs Discuss Today’s AI Limitations

Alexa, Cortana and IBM Executives Envision the Future of AI

Amazon vice president of Alexa Engine software Al Lindsay, IBM general manager of Watson’s Content and IoT platform Cameron Clayton, formerly chief exec of The Weather Channel, and Microsoft AI and Research Group corporate vice president Andrew Shuman were prompted by moderator Avram Piltch, Tom’s Guide editorial director, during a CES panel to depict what artificial intelligence will look like in 2023. Clayton summed it up best. “It’s going to be ubiquitous,” he said. “All connected systems will have AI integrated into them somehow someway.” Continue reading Alexa, Cortana and IBM Executives Envision the Future of AI

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