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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U.S., China Grapple Over Dominance in Critical Technologies

The U.S. and China are locked in a battle over technology, which went public over Singapore-based Broadcom’s hostile bid to buy the U.S.-based Qualcomm. Should Broadcom succeed, it will make that company a major influence in computer chip development. But a U.S. Treasury official, in calling for a review of the deal, wrote that, “China would likely compete robustly to fill any void left by Qualcomm.” Under president Xi Jinping, China has made no secret of its plan to dominate tech industries including artificial intelligence and supercomputers. Continue reading U.S., China Grapple Over Dominance in Critical Technologies

Review Praises Camera Functionality of Samsung Galaxy S9+

With a few weeks to go until the release of Samsung’s latest high-end smartphone, the Galaxy S9+, its camera just earned the top spot on DxOMark (a site that tracks and rates camera sensors, lenses and smartphone cameras). The S9+ received a score of 99 — the highest for any handset to date — with a review indicating the camera has no “obvious weaknesses.” The score is one better than the Pixel 2’s camera and two better than the iPhone X camera. The biggest addition to the S9+ camera is a dual-aperture for low light shots and a zoom lens.

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HPA 2018: Efforts to Ensure That TVs Display Creative Intent

With the Academy Color Encoding System (ACES), filmmakers have been assured that the color decisions on set are carried through production and post, all the way to archives. But there’s a missing piece: the TV sets, mobile phones and other devices that display what consumers use to watch it. During a panel at the HPA Tech Retreat, led by the International Cinematographers Guild advanced production technology specialist Michael Chambliss, several industry figures discussed how to make sure that consumers see the images as intended. Continue reading HPA 2018: Efforts to Ensure That TVs Display Creative Intent

Gartner: Global Smartphone Shipments Decline for First Time

According to Gartner’s Q4 sales report, the global smartphone market saw a dip in shipments for the first time. The world’s top vendors (besides Huawei and Xiaomi) experienced declines. Overall, there was a 5.6 percent slide compared to the previous year, representing 24.29 million fewer phones. Gartner research director Anshul Gupta cites “a lack of quality ‘ultra-low-cost’ smartphones and users preferring to buy quality feature phones.” Additionally, “replacement smartphone users are choosing quality models and keeping them longer, lengthening the replacement cycle of smartphones.” Continue reading Gartner: Global Smartphone Shipments Decline for First Time

HPA 2018: Panel Discusses Hurdles to Mass Adoption of HDR

In the ongoing journey to integrate high dynamic range (HDR) into U.S. movie theaters and homes, a panel at this week’s HPA Tech Retreat in Palm Desert, California explored the topic from several angles. Everyone knows that HDR is much more than a single format: HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, HLG (hybrid log gamma) all compete in the marketplace. But Pat Griffis, Dolby Laboratories vice president technology in the office of the CTO and a SMPTE fellow, wanted to clarify the basic definition of HDR as more accurately seen as color volume. Continue reading HPA 2018: Panel Discusses Hurdles to Mass Adoption of HDR

HPA 2018: Direct View Cinema Displays to Displace Projectors

Film, and later, digital projectors have been the standard form of displaying movies since the art form’s beginning. But now, says veteran engineering executive in advanced imaging and sound Pete Ludé, so-called direct view cinema displays are poised to displace them. In an afternoon of HPA Tech Retreat sessions looking at new display technologies, Ludé drilled down into the use of emissive displays using millions of RGB LEDs. These giant displays, he said, offer tremendous dynamic range and beautiful pictures in moderate ambient light. Continue reading HPA 2018: Direct View Cinema Displays to Displace Projectors

Google Offers Its AI Chips to All Comers via Cloud Computing

Google, which created tensor processing units (TPUs) for its artificial intelligence systems some years ago, will now make those computer chips available to other companies via its cloud computing service. Google is currently focusing on computer vision technology, which allows computers to recognize objects; Lyft used these chips for its driverless car project. Amazon is also building its own AI chips for use with the Alexa-powered Echo devices to shave seconds off its response time and potentially increase sales. Continue reading Google Offers Its AI Chips to All Comers via Cloud Computing

IBM Quantum Computers Engage Researchers, Corporations

Quantum computing is beginning to gain traction since, two years ago, IBM made its IBM Q 5-quantum bit (qubit) computer available to researchers. Now, 70,000 users around the world have registered to use the IBM Q, and Big Blue has quadrupled the qubit count. Also recently, IBM and Intel announced quantum computers with 50 and 49 qubits respectively, and Google is reportedly nearing launch of its own qubit computer. Experts are now waiting for the quantum computer to rise above the best supercomputer at accomplishing tasks. Continue reading IBM Quantum Computers Engage Researchers, Corporations

AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Further Plans to Roll Out 5G Networks

Sprint plans to launch a 5G network by early 2019, joining its competitors in rolling out the new technology and spending $5 billion to $6 billion annually on its network. Verizon and AT&T plan to roll out their 5G networks later this year. Although today’s smartphones can already stream HD video with the current 4G networks, 5G networks will enable other devices and technologies, including autonomous vehicles. Sprint’s parent company, SoftBank Group, also has a significant investment in Uber Technologies. Continue reading AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Further Plans to Roll Out 5G Networks

Broadcom Raises Stakes in Takeover Bid for Rival Qualcomm

In what it calls its “best and final” offer, Broadcom raised its takeover bid yesterday for chipmaker Qualcomm from about $70 a share to $82 a share, or about $121 billion. The new offer comes a month before Qualcomm’s next shareholder meeting. A takeover would result in a company whose products would be used in most smartphones worldwide. However, “Qualcomm’s leadership fiercely opposes” the acquisition, reports The New York Times, “while analysts have said that even if shareholders approved the deal, it could be rejected on antitrust grounds.” Continue reading Broadcom Raises Stakes in Takeover Bid for Rival Qualcomm

Startup Simplifies Voice App Development With New Interface

Storyline, a startup founded in September, has launched version 2 of its easy-to-use visual interface designed to help businesses, brands and publishers develop Amazon Alexa skills without the need for extensive coding knowledge. Since 39 million U.S. consumers now own a smart speaker, voice apps are needed, and Storyline hopes that its simple drag-and-drop solution will help foster that growth. The company refers to its approach as the “Weebly for voice apps,” drawing a comparison to the popular, easy-to-use, website-building platform. Continue reading Startup Simplifies Voice App Development With New Interface

Huawei VR2 Headset Lauded for Comfort, Res, Sound Quality

At CES 2018, Huawei made the U.S. debut of its Huawei VR2 headset, which had been announced in October in China. The standalone unit resembles the Oculus or Vive rather than the Gear VR; the user attaches a phone, tablet or PC via USB-C and then enjoys the VR experience at a resolution of 1,600 x 1,440 per eye. The unit also features a 90Hz refresh rate, which reduces eyestrain and motion sickness. The controller, made of the same bright white polymer as the headset, offers a clickable touchpad. Continue reading Huawei VR2 Headset Lauded for Comfort, Res, Sound Quality

Amazon Joins Major Tech Companies Working on AR Solution

Virtual reality made a strong showing at CES 2018 in Las Vegas last week. Among those highlighting products were Facebook, which promoted new features in its $200 upcoming Oculus Go, a Google/Lenovo designed headset that will sell for half the price of an iPhone, and HTC, which will debut a new-gen Vive headset with more robust graphics. All of this, however, is a prelude to what many companies are planning: an entrance into augmented reality. One of those companies is Amazon, which sources say is exploring AR headset technologies. Continue reading Amazon Joins Major Tech Companies Working on AR Solution

Samsung Says All of Its Products Will Be Connected by 2020

Samsung wants to be everywhere. The company’s CES 2018 media briefing led by Tim Baxter, president and CEO of Samsung North America, demonstrated Samsung’s strategic focus on connecting almost every aspect of its customer’s life. When they lifted the black curtains that protected Samsung’s entire Central Hall exhibit before the floor opened, visitors could see the evolution of the tech giant’s product line from the living rooms to living spaces. An R&D investment of $14 billion has accelerated an IoT strategy and the promise that all Samsung products will also be “Smart” by 2020. Continue reading Samsung Says All of Its Products Will Be Connected by 2020

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