Facebook Rolls Out Menus to Simplify Use of Messenger Bots

Facebook is updating its Messenger platform to make it easier for users to interact with bots. The interface now has a nested menu that categorizes all of the bot’s capabilities. Facebook also created a new option to allow developers to hide the chatting screen so that customers don’t even have to conduct conversations with bots anymore. This update seems to limit the capabilities of bots and future voice-computing software. It arrives as one launch partner of the bot platform is returning to email rather than using Messenger for customer notifications. Continue reading Facebook Rolls Out Menus to Simplify Use of Messenger Bots

Apple’s 10th Anniversary iPhone to Tout Curved OLED Screen

One model of Apple’s upcoming new iPhones will feature a flexible OLED screen, similar to those used by Samsung Electronics, say sources. The Wall Street Journal reported in November that the Silicon Valley company had asked manufacturers to produce prototype screens. Now, say those sources, Apple has ordered enough components for mass production. With an OLED screen, Apple would have the ability to bend the screen in a variety of ways, including adding a curve at the edge of the phone. Continue reading Apple’s 10th Anniversary iPhone to Tout Curved OLED Screen

Facebook Drops Price of its Rift VR Headset to Spur Adoption

In an effort to jumpstart sales, Facebook-owned Oculus VR is slashing $100 off the price of its Rift virtual reality headset and its Touch motion controllers. The Rift headset will be lowered to $499, while the Touch drops to $99. Consumers will still need a computer with enough power to support the Rift. When the headset launched last spring, consumers were surprised by the $599 price tag. According to Jason Rubin, Oculus VR head of content, recent surveys indicate that cost has been the primary obstacle to sales. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes VR will take at least 10 years to become our next computing platform. Continue reading Facebook Drops Price of its Rift VR Headset to Spur Adoption

Thalmic Labs Aims to Change How We Interact with Computers

Since Thalmic Labs debuted the Myo muscle-sensing armband, which lets users control a computer with a wave, the Y-Combinator startup received a $120 million investment from Intel Capital, the Amazon Alexa Fund, and Fidelity Investments Canada; and hired Samsung veteran Tara Kriese as its CMO and former Under Armour wearable devices head Abhi Bhatt as VP of Product Experience. The 100-employee company also opened a 50,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Waterloo, where it’s working on its next, still-unannounced product. Continue reading Thalmic Labs Aims to Change How We Interact with Computers

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

Motorola Introduces Early Concepts of Moto Z Phone Gadgets

Motorola is doing something that few electronics companies dare to do — show the world concepts of gadgets that they may or may not make. Consumers can finally get a glimpse of innovation, instead of the another product release of devices that often look the same. Motorola, for example, imagines that people could attach gadgets like a VR headset, a photo printer, an interactive LED panel, or Lego-like building blocks to their modular Moto Z smartphone. The company calls the accessories Moto Mods. Motorola’s phone primarily competes with Samsung Galaxy S and LG G series phones.  Continue reading Motorola Introduces Early Concepts of Moto Z Phone Gadgets

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

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

Apple’s iPhone 8 to Feature Wireless Charging, OLED Screen

Apple may dub its next smartphone either iPhone 8 or iPhone X, but whatever the name, it will be a special 10th-anniversary version and, says a knowledgeable source, is likely to cost more than $1,000. That’s not really a stretch when you note that the 256GB version of the iPhone 7 Plus already sells for $969. The iPhone 8 will feature a range of new features, including an OLED display and a memory upgrade, both of which are expensive. The 5.8-inch phone is expected to look like a smooth black monolith. Continue reading Apple’s iPhone 8 to Feature Wireless Charging, OLED Screen

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

HBO Now Service Has More Than 2 Million Subscribers in U.S.

During a conference call yesterday with analysts detailing HBO’s strong 2016 earnings, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes announced that the cable network’s standalone streaming service HBO Now, which launched in April 2015, has officially surpassed the 2 million domestic subscriber mark. “Wall Street has been keenly attuned to the pace of subscriber growth for HBO Now as a bellwether of how major media giants will evolve their businesses in the digital era,” reports Variety. The service is vital to Time Warner since “HBO is in the midst of carriage renewal deals with major MVPDs, including the two largest cable operators, Comcast and Charter Communications.” Time Warner is also looking to merge with AT&T, parent of DirecTV. Continue reading HBO Now Service Has More Than 2 Million Subscribers in U.S.

Apple Notes iPhone Sales Increase, Looks to Expand Services

After three consecutive quarters of falling revenue, Apple is now experiencing strong demand for its iPhone 7, with a record number of iPhone shipments for the quarter ending December 2016. Despite that good news, the iPhone 7 failed to deliver the double-digit increase in sales that previous new iPhone models typically did in the first quarter after their debut. The iPhones, accounting for two-thirds of the company’s sales, pushed revenue up 3 percent to a record $78.4 billion. Apple’s service business is also booming. Continue reading Apple Notes iPhone Sales Increase, Looks to Expand Services

SoundHound Raises $75M to Advance AI Speech Recognition

Twelve-year old audio recognition company SoundHound just raised $75 million to build its speech recognition AI-based platform, Houndify, betting that voice will become the dominant form of interaction with Internet-connected devices. Although large companies like Apple, Baidu and Microsoft dominate the space, SoundHound has built its own AI technology to identify audio. In contrast to these other companies, SoundHound also plans to offer its voice AI tools to other device manufacturers. Continue reading SoundHound Raises $75M to Advance AI Speech Recognition

China’s Phone Makers Dominate Fast-Growing Market in India

In the last few months, Chinese smartphone brands have begun to dominate sales in India, the world’s fastest growing phone market. Led by Vivo, Chinese phones represented four of the top five phones there in Q4 2016, according to a report by Counterpoint Research, which noted that the move demoted former top-of-the-list Indian phones Micromax and Intex. Samsung is the smartphone manufacturer with the most to lose. Although its phones are still No. 1 in India, its share of sales nationwide lost 5 percent in the last year, now at 24 percent. Continue reading China’s Phone Makers Dominate Fast-Growing Market in India

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