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’

Apple Installs Interactive HomeKit Experiences in 46 Stores

In an effort to help consumers better understand the benefits of Apple HomeKit products, Apple has installed interactive smart-home displays in 46 of its retail locations worldwide. Apple customers can use the Home mobile app via an Apple Watch, iPhone or iPad to perform functions such as turning on Philips Hue light bulbs and controlling Hunter ceiling fan speeds. Apple’s Home app allows users to control HomeKit-enabled smart devices from a single location (or even collectively with a single command) by tapping the screen or interacting with virtual assistant Siri. Continue reading Apple Installs Interactive HomeKit Experiences in 46 Stores

Samsung and Alibaba Join the Digital Assistant Speaker Race

According to sources, Samsung Electronics is integrating its digital assistant Bixby into a voice-activated speaker, in a project dubbed “Vega” that has been ongoing for more than a year. Competition is stiff in the voice-powered speaker market, with popular options from a variety of tech leaders. Digital assistants — including Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and now Samsung’s Bixby — use artificial intelligence to “learn” over time. New speakers are joining the race later this year, and China’s Alibaba Group is currently debuting an inexpensive version, Tmall Genie. Continue reading Samsung and Alibaba Join the Digital Assistant Speaker Race

Google Home Is More Likely to Answer Correctly Than Alexa

A study conducted by New York digital ad agency 360i revealed that Google Home is six times likelier than Amazon Alexa to answer user requests correctly. However, consumers are much more likely to purchase the Amazon product than Google’s. Amazon currently dominates with 70 percent of the voice-controlled speaker market, says eMarketer. Amazon released its new Echo Show with interactive touchscreen this week, and according to one reviewer, it’s not much different from Android or Apple voice assistants. Continue reading Google Home Is More Likely to Answer Correctly Than Alexa

New Amazon Video API Turns Alexa Into a Remote Control

Amazon unveiled its Video Skill API, a new tool set to help content creators turn virtual assistant Alexa into a sophisticated TV remote. With the API, Alexa can search for titles, actors or genres; play or pause media and adjust the volume. Developers can also create their own Alexa commands. It keeps track of enabled services, which means the user won’t need to specify a provider or device or add any extra commands. Alexa already controls Fire TV, but the Video Skill API now opens up those controls to any cable or satellite TV company. Continue reading New Amazon Video API Turns Alexa Into a Remote Control

WWDC: Apple Unveils Product Updates and New HomePod

Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference kicked off yesterday in San Jose, California. During his keynote, CEO Tim Cook noted that 5,300 developers from 75 countries were attending this year’s conference. Among the more noteworthy announcements, Apple shared information regarding its High Sierra macOS update; iOS 11 with improved Siri (including language translation), iMessage features, and Core ML to make machine learning easier; a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro (starting at $649, available next week); a beefed-up iMac Pro; a completely redesigned App Store; and an Echo-like smart speaker called HomePod (shipping in December for $349). Continue reading WWDC: Apple Unveils Product Updates and New HomePod

Apple Siri-Run Speaker to Rival Amazon Echo, Google Home

Apple has begun manufacturing of a Siri-controlled smart speaker, say sources, which could debut as early as its June developer conference. The same sources say the new device, which will ship later in the year, will offer virtual surround sound and integration with Apple’s other products, distinguishing it from Amazon, with its Echo, and Alphabet, with its Google Home. Such a device would not only help Apple compete with those rivals, but would create a hub to automate lights and appliances with Apple’s HomeKit. Continue reading Apple Siri-Run Speaker to Rival Amazon Echo, Google Home

Andy Rubin’s Company Unveils New Phone, Digital Assistant

Android operating system co-creator Andy Rubin has introduced his Essential Phone that he says can be dropped onto concrete without breaking. The new smartphone, which will run on Android software, has magnetic connectors for a 360-degree camera or charger. Priced at $699 and available only in the U.S., Essential Phone will come without preinstalled apps or a need for yearly updates. Rubin also unveiled Essential Home, a voice-activated device that controls appliances. Both products are part of Rubin’s Playground Global incubator. Continue reading Andy Rubin’s Company Unveils New Phone, Digital Assistant

Mossberg Retires Weekly Column, Talks Ambient Computing

Veteran tech journalist Walt Mossberg has been writing a weekly personal technology column since 1991, first at The Wall Street Journal, and then at The Verge (for which he serves as executive editor) and Recode (where he is co-founder and editor-at-large). As he retires his weekly column, Mossberg takes one more look at how consumer tech has evolved over the last three decades, “and what we can expect next.” Specifically, he addresses “The Disappearing Computer” as we enter a new world of ambient computing, in which personal computers start to fade into the background. Continue reading Mossberg Retires Weekly Column, Talks Ambient Computing

Google Makes Bid to Expand Revenue Sources Beyond Search

The focus for Google at its annual I/O developer conference was artificial intelligence. Google Assistant will now be available for the Apple iPhone, a way to introduce millions more people to Google’s AI capabilities. Google also revealed more about its software development kit for Google Assistant, saying it will be better integrated into TVs, let the user type requests and questions, and add skills such as payments and receipts. Third party developers plan to integrate Assistant into numerous products. Continue reading Google Makes Bid to Expand Revenue Sources Beyond Search

Amazon Debuts Touchscreen Echo Show, Adds Video Calls

Amazon will ship a touchscreen version of its Echo speaker, the Echo Show, on June 28. Now available for pre-order at $229.99 or two for $360, Echo Show has the same capabilities as the first Echo, with the Alexa voice assistant, but adds a built-in display that shows information generated by Alexa queries. Users who have the Alexa app can make or receive a video call through Show; a new “Drop In” feature lets friends and family make a call at any time, and the call receiver has 10 seconds to reject it or switch it to audio-only. Continue reading Amazon Debuts Touchscreen Echo Show, Adds Video Calls

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

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