Two Facebook Groups Are Developing New Voice Assistant

Social giant Facebook confirmed a report that it is working on developing its own voice assistant. Originally, two former Facebook employees described the plans to CNBC, which broke the news. The company has been developing its own voice assistant since early 2018 in its augmented reality/virtual reality group based in Redmond, Washington. Facebook Assistant and AR/VR director Ira Snyder leads a team that has been “contacting vendors in the smart speaker supply chain,” according to sources. Continue reading Two Facebook Groups Are Developing New Voice Assistant

Industry Panel on Latest AI Trends in Media & Entertainment

Overcoming the uncanny valley of emotion is the major challenge of AI when creating a virtual human, according to Armando Kirwin, co-founder of Artie. He spoke at the NAB panel titled “AI in Media and Entertainment: Driving the Future, New Content Formats – Immersive.” HP’s Joanna Popper moderated the panel that also included Digital Domain’s John Canning, Lillian Diaz-Przybyl from Butcher Bird Studios, and Baobab Studios’ Kane Lee. The panel discussion ranged from synthetic characters and evolving views on acceptable versus realistic behavior, to what happens when your smart speaker becomes a virtual character. Continue reading Industry Panel on Latest AI Trends in Media & Entertainment

Amazon Taking Alexa Digital Assistant Mobile With Earbuds

Amazon is reportedly planning to release wireless earbuds with built-in Alexa support as early as this year, according to those with knowledge of the project. The new wearable will be similar to Apple’s popular AirPods, and fit inside the user’s ear without clips, but Amazon team members at the company’s Lab126 hardware division are working on improving the audio quality. Users will be able to interact with the earbuds via voice and summon the digital assistant by saying “Alexa.” Pricing has not been revealed, but AirPods run $159 to $199, and Amazon has consistently charged less than competitors for its hardware. Continue reading Amazon Taking Alexa Digital Assistant Mobile With Earbuds

Pandora Believes Listeners Will Interact With its Voice Ads

Pandora plans to test new interactive advertising technology that would allow listeners to engage directly with its “voice ads” by speaking aloud. Pandora listeners could request additional information about a product or service being promoted, for example, or request skipping the ad altogether. The beta test, powered by ad-tech firm Instreamatic, is expected to launch later this year. Instreamatic provides an interactive ad platform built on its Voice AI Core to help brands and marketers “manage, measure and monetize voice-enabled audio advertising.” Continue reading Pandora Believes Listeners Will Interact With its Voice Ads

Consumers Frustrated by the Number of Streaming Options

The massive growth of streaming entertainment options may present a downside. According to Deloitte’s latest annual Digital Media Trends survey, 47 percent of U.S. consumers indicate they are becoming frustrated with the increasing number of subscriptions and services required to access the media content they want. In addition, 57 percent say they are also frustrated when their favorite movies and TV shows are no longer available due to the expiration of licensing agreements. There are more than 300 over-the-top options for video in the U.S. today, a number continuing to rise. Continue reading Consumers Frustrated by the Number of Streaming Options

Developers Are Struggling to Create Alexa-Centric Killer App

Four years after launching its program to allow outside developers to write apps for Alexa, Amazon’s voice system has some 80,000 “skills” — but no huge hit. In fact, most people with Alexa-enabled smart speakers still use them only to listen to music or make simple requests. That compares to Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store, each of which are home to over 550,000 apps, many of which have been huge successes for developers. But voice-centric apps are challenging to build and don’t appear to attract consumers. Continue reading Developers Are Struggling to Create Alexa-Centric Killer App

Amazon Says It Will Support But Stop Selling Dash Buttons

Amazon announced that it would stop selling its Dash buttons, small devices for the connected home that were designed to help consumers easily update orders of needed household items. Usefulness and interest in the Dash buttons has slowed, so the company has decided to halt global sales. However, Amazon explained that it plans to continue support for new orders through existing Dash buttons as long as consumers use them. The company claims that more options in the connected home helped to cause the device’s demise. Continue reading Amazon Says It Will Support But Stop Selling Dash Buttons

Voice Tech Adoption Reaches Beyond Smart Homes to Autos

Together, Amazon and Google claim about 85 percent of the smart speakers currently installed in U.S. households. In the wake of a successful holiday shopping season, the number of smart speakers in the U.S. has climbed to around 119 million. And while Amazon and Google battled for dominance at CES with voice assistant support featured in a growing array of devices and services, a new survey from Voicebot.ai suggests that voice assistants may be more habit-forming in vehicles than via smartphones. The voice tech publication found that 77 million adults use such assistants in their vehicles at least monthly, and companies are taking notice. Continue reading Voice Tech Adoption Reaches Beyond Smart Homes to Autos

Pandora Introduces Its Own Voice Assistant for Mobile Apps

Streaming music service Pandora is the latest to announce an in-app voice assistant. Users of the iOS or Android app can simply say “Hey Pandora” and make a request to play specific podcasts or music based on artists, albums, radio stations or playlists. According to Pandora, the creation of its own “Voice Mode” feature was inspired by the millions of users who have been activating the service via smart speakers such as Amazon Echo devices. “Voice is just an expected new way that you engage with any app,” said Pandora chief product officer Chris Phillips. Continue reading Pandora Introduces Its Own Voice Assistant for Mobile Apps

CES 2019: Big Technology Changes Await the Arrival of 5G

At CES 2019’s opening event at Mandalay Bay, CTA vice president of market research Steve Koenig aimed to whip up enthusiasm in the packed room for the technologies attendees would be seeing both at CES Unveiled, which followed this session, and on the many exhibit floors opening on Tuesday. He pinpointed the importance of 5G in bringing to full fruition many of the technologies that have been percolating at the annual CES confab over the past five years, including the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles and 8K TV. Continue reading CES 2019: Big Technology Changes Await the Arrival of 5G

Amazon and Alexa Devices Have a Lucrative Holiday Season

This holiday season has shown that U.S. consumer confidence is high despite the volatile stock market. Amazon reported record-breaking revenue and noted that “tens of millions of people worldwide” registered for the company’s Prime service, many enticed by free two-day shipping. During the holiday, Amazon stated, more than one billion items were shipped via Prime. According to Amazon, year over year, that included millions more Alexa-enabled devices like the Echo, Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick 4K, and Alexa Voice Remote. Continue reading Amazon and Alexa Devices Have a Lucrative Holiday Season

Samsung Likely to Enable Third-Party Assistants in 2019 TVs

At CES 2019, when Samsung introduces its latest line-up of TVs, it might also unveil plans to integrate Google Assistant into its 2019 TV sets, according to sources. The company is expected to place a bigger emphasis on audio quality, and might also offer features in its TVs that are similar to Apple’s HomePod, which “tunes” music to its environment. Samsung wouldn’t comment on these plans, but did highlight the 2019 models of its Frame and Serif TVs. In 2018, Samsung added Bixby, its own voice assistant, to that year’s TV lineup. Continue reading Samsung Likely to Enable Third-Party Assistants in 2019 TVs

New Alexa Speaking Style Created by Neural Text-to-Speech

Amazon is training Alexa to speak like a newscaster, a feature that will roll out in a few weeks. The new speaking style is based on Amazon’s neural text-to-speech (NTTS) developments. The new voice style doesn’t sound human, but does stress words as a TV or radio announcer would. Before creating this voice, Amazon did a survey that showed that users prefer this newscaster style when listening to articles. The new voice is also an example of “the next generation of speech synthesis,” based on machine learning. Continue reading New Alexa Speaking Style Created by Neural Text-to-Speech

LG to Debut Google Assistant Smart Display on Black Friday

LG is introducing its first Google Assistant-powered smart display this week. The XBOOM AI ThinQ WK9, which runs the Android Things operating system for IoT devices, will be offered for a $200 promotional price during Black Friday (it is expected to run $100 more beyond the sale). The smart device was first teased at CES in January. The XBOOM AI features an 8-inch HD touch-screen display, Bluetooth streaming, a built-in 5MP camera for video calls, Google Assistant-powered AI features, and easy access to apps such as Google Maps, Google Photos and YouTube via the Android Things platform. Continue reading LG to Debut Google Assistant Smart Display on Black Friday

Amazon, Apple Ink Deal to Directly Sell More Apple Products

Amazon inked a deal with Apple to sell more of the tech giant’s products, including the new iPad Pro, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, Apple Watch Series 4, and its Beats headphone line. Amazon will begin listing those products — from Apple-authorized resellers only — in the next few weeks in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan and India. Before this deal, Amazon already directly sold MacBook laptops, Beats headphones and a few other Apple devices. Other products were only available through its third-party resellers. Continue reading Amazon, Apple Ink Deal to Directly Sell More Apple Products

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