Amazon Imagines Alexa Will Soon Replace Your Smartphone

Amazon is aiming for a future in which its digital assistant Alexa replaces the smartphone. The future Alexa will evolve from speakers to touchscreens and a new, simpler kind of computing based on voice commands rather than apps. The rationale is that the smartphone has become ever-more complicated, with dozens of apps that distract the user. Developers also have an interest in moving off the smartphone, which has also been shown to have negative health effects. Rather than a distraction, Alexa offers specific interactions. Continue reading Amazon Imagines Alexa Will Soon Replace Your Smartphone

SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son Reveals His Plan for Vision Fund

SoftBank chief executive Masayoshi Son invested $164 million in startup Mapbox, which is used by Lyft drivers, Snap and Mastercard, and in the process revealed his plans for his nearly $100 billion Vision Fund. The Fund, which includes money from Saudi Arabia and others, is aimed at preparing for new paradigms in work, medicine and so on that will occur due to artificial intelligence. Son believes in Singularity, the idea that robots will change the work force and machines will become smarter than people. Continue reading SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son Reveals His Plan for Vision Fund

IBM and MIT Team Up for Artificial Intelligence Research Lab

Last week, IBM and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced a 10-year, $240 million partnership to establish the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The long-term initiative is expected to bring together industry experts, professors and students to research areas such as cybersecurity, healthcare, machine learning and quantum computing. Researchers will work at MIT and the nearby Watson Health and Security facilities. The lab will be co-chaired by IBM Research VP Dario Gil and MIT School of Engineering dean Anantha Chandrakasan. Continue reading IBM and MIT Team Up for Artificial Intelligence Research Lab

Facebook Testing Business Messaging Tools via WhatsApp

Facebook, which bought WhatsApp for $22 billion in 2014, is now testing two free business tools on the messaging service. WhatsApp Business lets small businesses answer customer questions and send updates; larger businesses can avail themselves of another free tool that plugs in to the WhatsApp platform. Facebook is also debuting verified profiles for businesses on WhatsApp, to distinguish them from individuals. Businesses in Brazil, Europe, India and Indonesia, including KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, are testing the new tools. Continue reading Facebook Testing Business Messaging Tools via WhatsApp

Thousands of Applicants Line Up for First Amazon Jobs Day

Amazon is in the process of filling 50,000 positions — 40,000 of them full-time — for its fulfillment network, hiring people who will pack orders in warehouses and drive delivery trucks. Although the jobs are tough and relatively low-paying, thousands of people lined up to apply at a dozen locations for the company’s first Jobs Day on Wednesday. Many of the applicants hope that a foot in the door at the tech giant could lead to better compensated work in the future. Amazon’s non-union warehouse jobs pay $12 to $15 an hour. Continue reading Thousands of Applicants Line Up for First Amazon Jobs Day

Tech Firm Is First to Offer Employees Implantable RFID Chips

A Wisconsin-based technology company, Three Square Market, is offering its employees the chance to have a microchip injected between their thumb and index finger. The grain-of-rice sized chip, once injected, will allow an employee to swipe her hand to pay for food in the cafeteria, enter the office building or accomplish any other task involving RFID technology. Though the implant might sound like overreach, more than 50 of the company’s 80 employees have signed up for the implant when it is first offered on August 1. Continue reading Tech Firm Is First to Offer Employees Implantable RFID Chips

Research Teams Make Advances in Wearable Sensor Tech

Researchers at two different universities have created wearable sensors that are ultra-thin, lightweight and breathable. Although they are based on different technologies, both of the new sensors can monitor vital signs, including electrical muscle activity and body temperature and can be worn over a long period without creating skin irritations or inflammation. That is in contrast to many existing wearable sensors, which because they are made of polyester or rubber, are not breathable and may irritate the skin. Continue reading Research Teams Make Advances in Wearable Sensor Tech

Alphabet Resurrects Google Glass for the Enterprise Market

Alphabet is launching Glass Enterprise Edition, a new version of Glass, its head-mounted computer. The first version, aimed at consumers, drew widespread concern about privacy, since it could record in public places. This second Glass, targeting corporate customers and training, has been tested at 50 corporations, including Boeing, General Electric and Volkswagen. Designed as a device that snaps on to eyeglasses, Glass allows workers to view instructional content, including video and images, and even broadcast what is viewed to others for real-time instruction. Continue reading Alphabet Resurrects Google Glass for the Enterprise Market

Harvard Scientists Store Motion Picture Clip on DNA Strand

Storing information, including film, on DNA sounds like science fiction, but Harvard Medical School researchers just encoded Eadweard Muybridge’s 1878 film of a galloping horse onto a strand of DNA in a living cell, from which it can be retrieved and multiplied indefinitely. This is a first, but other researchers previously recorded all of Shakespeare’s sonnets on DNA, and Harvard geneticist George Church, one of the new study’s researchers, did the same with his book “Regenesis” and made 90 billion copies of it. Continue reading Harvard Scientists Store Motion Picture Clip on DNA Strand

SenseTime Facial Recognition Firm Is Valued at $1.5 Billion

SenseTime Co., a Beijing-based startup founded in 2014 that sells its facial recognition systems to the Chinese police, just scored $410 million in new venture capital funding that values the company at more than $1.5 billion. The valuation, which makes the company a unicorn, underscores how such surveillance technologies are increasing in importance. Facial recognition breaks down a face into measurements that create a template, and SenseTime uses artificial intelligence to match faces against those in an image database. Continue reading SenseTime Facial Recognition Firm Is Valued at $1.5 Billion

Hanson Robotics Is Seeking Experienced Product Managers

Hanson Robotics — which develops robot products and artificial intelligence technology to serve consumer, medical and entertainment markets — is currently looking to fill two positions: robotics product manager and software product manager. The company is seeking a robotics product manager to lead product development and manage hardware, arts and software teams. The company’s software product manager will lead software development in collaboration with the hardware, arts and executive teams. Details and contact information for each position are available on ETCentric. Continue reading Hanson Robotics Is Seeking Experienced Product Managers

Beyond the Headlines: This Year’s Outliers of Interest at CES

If you look hard enough, CES is often the place to discover smaller, less publicized technologies and products that could become the seeds for something practical and useful to the ETC member companies. This year I came across several that fit this description, including a technology called SynTouch that could prove beneficial to haptic feedback R&D and physical product quality control, a simple and elegant method from ManoMotion to use hand gestures as a user interface, an OLED necklace that could lead to the launch of a social e-collectible marketplace, and a tiny chip from Chirp Microsystems that could provide a compelling motion capture solution. Continue reading Beyond the Headlines: This Year’s Outliers of Interest at CES

AARP, Experts Discuss Development of Wearables for Seniors

At CES in Las Vegas, AARP vice president of innovation and product development Andy Miller brought together experts who look at the design of wearables for seniors. “Experience wins with regard to product design,” he said. “Are you looking through the lens of experience when you build products — or the features?” Gerontologist Dr. Alexis Abramson stresses that design for mature and older adults requires “thoughtfulness.” “This market has so many people and so much money,” she explained. “Why aren’t we stepping back and addressing them?”

Continue reading AARP, Experts Discuss Development of Wearables for Seniors

CES: Wearables Sporting New Capabilities in Maturing Market

Eighty-four million wearables were sold in 2015, and experts are predicting the market will grow to 245 million by 2019. That means that, once again, CES 2017 will be the venue to check out the latest commercially available products and the newest technologies that will power wearables of the future. MEMS and sensors are key to wearables’ capabilities and, Karen Lightman, executive director of the MEMS Industry Group, says CES 2017 will showcase some “exciting” new wearables features. Continue reading CES: Wearables Sporting New Capabilities in Maturing Market

IBM Looks to Commercialize Artificial Intelligence with Watson

IBM is launching commercialization of its artificial intelligence technology Watson with the hope of growing it into a multibillion-dollar enterprise. Big Blue has already invested billions of dollars and, currently, a staff of 10,000 employees to evolve Watson, which was launched as a business unit in 2014. The effort is beginning to pay off, as Watson is now assisting in diagnosing cancer. IBM is also marketing its AI in TV ads featuring Watson bantering with Nobel laureate Bob Dylan and tennis celebrity Serena Williams. Continue reading IBM Looks to Commercialize Artificial Intelligence with Watson

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