Google Blocks Burger King Ad From Activating Google Home

Burger King released a TV ad in which an actor activates the Google Home digital assistant to describe the ingredients in the Whopper sandwich. Prompted by the actor, Google Home searches Wikipedia for the Whopper and lists the makings of the sandwich. Within hours of the ad’s release, however, both The Verge and BuzzFeed discovered that the commercial no longer activated the device. Burger King did not work with Google to create this marketing approach, and Google reacted by stymying it. Continue reading Google Blocks Burger King Ad From Activating Google Home

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

Sony Is the First to Debut 4K TVs with Built-in Google Assistant

According to Sony, its newest 4K TVs have built-in Google Assistant, which will be added later this year via a firmware update. The timing is perfect, as more people have become interested in upgrading to a 4K set, and the market offers variety in feature sets and price points. Samsung touts its quantum dot technology; Vizio offers great prices; LG sports OLED screens; and now Sony, which also has an OLED screen, is marketing itself as the first TV manufacturer to offer Google Assistant. Continue reading Sony Is the First to Debut 4K TVs with Built-in Google Assistant

Google Home Adds Feature to Purchase Home Goods by Voice

Consumers can now use the voice-controlled Google Assistant on Google Home to order products and supplies and get them delivered within a few hours. The products and delivery times vary based on where the user lives, and Google has partnered with brands such as Costco, Walgreens and Whole Foods to supply the goods. Customers using the new feature either pay a delivery fee for each purchase or subscribe to the Google Express delivery service. The Amazon Echo smart speaker already has a voice-powered purchasing capability. Continue reading Google Home Adds Feature to Purchase Home Goods by Voice

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

Alphabet: Search is Strong, Future Bets on YouTube, Pixel, IoT

Alphabet’s Q4 revenue increased almost three times faster than profit, leading the tech titan to look for new growth areas. The company says that a one-time tax adjustment accounted for the missed Wall Street expectation. Google’s largest global advertising business and the very popular YouTube account for most of the revenue, but Alphabet is looking to mobile search, YouTube and automated ad buying as newer forms of advertising; its new smartphone Pixel and digital assistant-powered Google Home also show promise. Continue reading Alphabet: Search is Strong, Future Bets on YouTube, Pixel, IoT

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

Digital Assistants Grab Spotlight at CES, Alexa Leads the Pack

Virtual assistants that serve as a new voice-activated hub to the connected smart home and our ecosystem of personal electronics have grabbed the spotlight at this year’s CES. Aided by advances in artificial intelligence software that enable improved speech interaction with devices, tech giants such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others are battling for dominance in the digital assistant space. These companies are looking beyond smartphones and PCs toward a world in which voice-based systems become a standard feature in TVs, cable boxes, home appliances and connected vehicles. If the headlines are any indication, it seems that Amazon’s Alexa has taken an early lead in this race. Continue reading Digital Assistants Grab Spotlight at CES, Alexa Leads the Pack

Sony, LG, Panasonic Unveil OLED TVs at Better Price Points

At CES 2017, OLED TVs were more numerous and considerably less expensive than past years. LG, for example, continuously lowered its OLED prices throughout 2016; its cheapest model, the B6, initially was priced at $4,000 and came down to $2,000 by October, with another $200 off for Black Friday (although the price is back up to $2,500). Lowered OLED prices are due, in part, to production increasing by 70 percent last year. OLED TVs are desirable for their thinness, improved contrast ratios and wider viewing angles. Continue reading Sony, LG, Panasonic Unveil OLED TVs at Better Price Points

CES 2017: The Need for a “Connective Architecture” for Data

Data about your heart. Data about your workout. Data about your sleep. Data about your posture, your focus, your shoes, your pictures, your wallet, your fridge, your front door, your light bulb, your bike, your neighbor, your chair, your car, your desk, your tea, your bikini (?!)… Walking the aisles of CES 2017 last week was a bit like peering into a dystopian feedback loop hell where every single physical object we touch is touching us back — with petabytes of fragmented data and exactly zero intelligence. Here lies the dilemma: While everyone is invested in building the sensor network, nobody is building the brain. Continue reading CES 2017: The Need for a “Connective Architecture” for Data

Nvidia’s New Shield TV Adds 4K HDR and Google Assistant

At CES, Nvidia introduced a new version of its Shield TV streaming box, featuring an updated design and support for 4K HDR. Available later this month, the $200 Shield TV now includes a remote and game controller. The box — which Nvidia claims offers three times the performance speed of any streaming competitor on today’s market — runs Android TV and provides support for thousands of games and access to 4K content from Google Play Movies, Netflix and Vudu. It also features Amazon Video in 4K HDR, which is unusual for Android TV boxes. With Google Assistant also built-in, Nvidia may be looking to take on Amazon Echo. Continue reading Nvidia’s New Shield TV Adds 4K HDR and Google Assistant

Sony CEO Reveals Plan to Make Products ‘Objects of Desire’

During his CES presentation, Sony president and CEO Kazuo Hirai revealed plans for the company’s future, including an emphasis on creating personal experiences for customers, generating sustainable growth for the Sony brand through continued innovation, and developing new products as “objects of desire.” “When you experience one of our products, interact with one of them, we want to generate an emotional response,” he explained. Hirai recognized Mike Fasulo, president/COO of Sony North America, for his “incredible efforts in this pursuit,” and announced the company’s new 4K OLED offerings, new 4K Bravias and Android TV OS. Continue reading Sony CEO Reveals Plan to Make Products ‘Objects of Desire’

First Impressions of CES 2017: Where is All the Data Going?

CES is always a data scientist’s nightmare, and this year is no different. Why? It’s simple. The hardware vision we’re being served (24/7 connection with everything) immediately triggers one critical question: Where will all this data go? How will this comically fragmented data be integrated in a way that creates value for your lives, our families, our organizations? The central conundrum of wearables and IoT, which we see nowhere here, is that the firehose of data created by these devices can only create value if merged together in a way that’s (a) central, (b) safe, and (c) relevant to our lives. Emphasis on (c), of course. Continue reading First Impressions of CES 2017: Where is All the Data Going?

CES: From Learning to Thinking Machines – the AI Explosion

Artificial Intelligence is finally here. After nearly 50 years in the doldrums of research, the science of designing “thinking machines” has jumped from academic literature to the lab, and even from the lab to the store. This is largely because its precursor, machine learning, has been enjoying a dramatic revival, thanks in part to the commoditization of sensors and large-scale compute architectures, the explosion of available data (necessary to train advanced machine learning architectures such as recurrent neural networks), and the always burning necessity for tech companies to find something new. We expect AI to have a significant presence at next month’s CES in Las Vegas. Continue reading CES: From Learning to Thinking Machines – the AI Explosion

Google Tools Encourage Developers to Create More Chatbots

Alphabet recently unveiled a system of tools called Conversation Actions, designed to help developers create chatbots that work with Google Assistant. The move is the latest by Google to compete in the emerging digital assistant space with companies such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook that are investing heavily in artificial intelligence. Google’s virtual assistant “is the strategic centerpiece of an effort to keep its lucrative Web search business relevant in an age of mobile devices and wearable gadgets,” reports Bloomberg. “Just like its search engine sent people to the right places on the Web, the company’s assistant should connect users to the most relevant and useful services.” Continue reading Google Tools Encourage Developers to Create More Chatbots

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