Audible, Chooseco Team on Interactive Tales via Alexa Skill

Amazon’s Audible and Chooseco have collaborated on two new “choose your own adventure” children’s audiobooks. Available on Amazon Alexa-enabled devices via Chooseco’s Choose skill, “The Abominable Snowman” and “Journey Under the Sea,” designed by the two teams, feature professional voice actors and can be navigated by voice commands. The two stories together offer 65 different endings and, on Alexa devices with screens, show illustrations for story beats. Decision-making points in the story are signaled by a sound. Continue reading Audible, Chooseco Team on Interactive Tales via Alexa Skill

Judging Current State of Amazon and Google Rivalry at CES

At CES 2019, in what some are saying has become an annual battle in recent years, Amazon and Google went mano a mano, with the former’s Alexa voice assistant in one corner, and the latter’s Google Assistant in the other. Since the debut of the voice assistants, this sector’s importance has soared, and both companies have been jockeying for dominance. Amazon stated that more than 100 million Alexa devices have been sold, while Google said its Assistant will be built into one billion devices by the end of the month. Continue reading Judging Current State of Amazon and Google Rivalry at CES

LG OLED TV With Rollable Screen Impresses CES Attendees

While MicroLED, 8K QLED and some impressively large quality displays have been generating the most TV buzz this week in Las Vegas, LG has been showcasing a concept that’s taken different forms at CES in the past, but not with this level of sophistication. Rather than introducing a foldable or bendable screen that retracts, LG debuted a 65-inch OLED TV with rollable screen at this year’s confab. The LG Signature OLED TV R “rolls” into a base to the point that the flexible screen is no longer visible. The 3-millimeter OLED panel then rises from its base for easy viewing. Users can also play music through the base since it’s a 100W Dolby Atmos soundbar. Continue reading LG OLED TV With Rollable Screen Impresses CES Attendees

Here’s What We Hope to See This Week at CES Related to AI

With the buzz way down, AI research more vibrant than ever, and more mainstream experimentation, there’s a lot to potentially look forward to at CES 2019 in the field of AI and machine learning. And already it all seems to converge on one very interesting trend: pragmatism. As AI exits the lab, and heads into the world, we’re expecting new and compelling applications. At CES this week, we’re hoping to see advances in areas such as autonomous vehicles, consumer robots, computer vision, smart assistants, and a more integrated Internet of Things. Continue reading Here’s What We Hope to See This Week at CES Related to AI

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

In Speedier Rollout, Amazon Adds Four New Alexa Slot Types

When Amazon’s Alexa asks for the name of an actor, athlete, author or another noun in response to a question, there’s a method to the madness: it’s trying to fill a “slot type,” which defines how data is recognized. A skill or third party app with a slot type for actors would likely query filmographies listing names of actors. These slots are intended to save time, says Amazon, as well as provide a more consistent experience. Amazon is adding four new slot types: Creative Work, Food, Sport and Video Game. Continue reading In Speedier Rollout, Amazon Adds Four New Alexa Slot Types

Thalmic Labs Changes Name to North, Unveils Smart Glasses

Canadian wearables startup Thalmic Labs, which has rebranded itself as North, unveiled its second product — holographic smart glasses dubbed Focals. The wearable features lenses with a built-in display that shows the user messages, weather forecasts, directions and more information from the smartphone, and allows the user to call on Alexa to order an Uber and get calendar notifications among other tasks. Two years ago, North raised $120 million from Amazon’s Alexa Fund, Intel Capital and Fidelity Investments Canada. Continue reading Thalmic Labs Changes Name to North, Unveils Smart Glasses

Amazon Unlocks Revenue Potential for Alexa Skill Developers

According to Amazon, Alexa can perform 50,000+ skills, from turning on lights to playing music. The tech giant is now focused on improving Alexa’s skills to compete with Google for voice assistant dominance. Last month, Amazon empowered Alexa developers, by allowing them to charge users for purchases within skills, with the ultimate goal of making Alexa a more comprehensive, powerful platform. Former Alexa head of product Ahmed Bouzid noted that the path is “exactly what we saw with the App Store for the iPhone.” Continue reading Amazon Unlocks Revenue Potential for Alexa Skill Developers

Amazon Maintains its Lead in Growing Smart Speaker Market

The Amazon Echo lineup continues to dominate the smart speaker market with a 63 percent share in the U.S., according to an online consumer survey conducted during July and August by Strategy Analytics. While Amazon models represent the majority of smart speakers currently in use, Google follows at 17 percent and Apple trails at 4 percent. The survey found that 88 percent of U.S. homes with smart speakers currently have at least one Amazon speaker, and 31 percent indicate they have at least one Google speaker. Additionally, 58 percent of households with smart speakers are already using two or more devices. Continue reading Amazon Maintains its Lead in Growing Smart Speaker Market

Gartner Labels AI a Megatrend, MIT Plans AI-Centric College

According to Gartner Research vice president Brian Burke, the democratization of AI is one of the five megatrends impacting emerging technologies. Although AI is currently in the “hype” stage of its evolution, to be followed by disillusionment, by 2020 it is expected to shape 80 percent of new technologies. Pursuant to that prediction, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) released plans for a college of artificial intelligence to be built with $1 billion in investment, of which two-thirds has already been raised. Continue reading Gartner Labels AI a Megatrend, MIT Plans AI-Centric College

Facebook Unveils Video-Calling Devices Portal, Portal Plus

Facebook debuted Portal and Portal Plus, two video-calling devices, which sport a 12-megapixel camera with HD video and AI-empowered software — all in the service of video chatting. The AI is used to allow the camera to follow users. Portal and Portal Plus also include Amazon Alexa to play music or check the weather. Portal, with a 10-inch screen, is priced at $199, and Portal Plus, with a 15-inch screen that can be rotated, goes for $349. The devices will debut during the holiday season on a standalone website. Continue reading Facebook Unveils Video-Calling Devices Portal, Portal Plus

Pew Research Reveals Plateau in Broadband, Social Media

A recent Pew Research Center study revealed that the number of Americans who go online, use social media or own a smartphone/tablet has been stable since 2016. This plateau comes after many years of rapid growth. Pew Research also found significant numbers of non-users of these technologies, who are stymied by financial hardship, living in a rural area without services or disabilities that prevent full use of devices. An increasing number of users, however, are embracing smart TVs and wearable devices. Continue reading Pew Research Reveals Plateau in Broadband, Social Media

Alexa Support Comes to Devices From Toshiba, Sony, Others

Toshiba revealed that many of its OLED, 4K and Full HD Smart Range TV sets will respond to Alexa voice control starting next year. Via Alexa, consumers will be able to change the channel or volume, offer movie recommendations, read the news or launch more than 45,000 Alexa skills. Toshiba also introduced its first Android TV, a 55-inch model, with Google Assistant voice, which became available last fall, to control smart home devices and the TV volume, search for movies, and launch apps. Bose, Marshall and Sony are among those also introducing Alexa-enabled products. Continue reading Alexa Support Comes to Devices From Toshiba, Sony, Others

New Phones, 8K TVs, Alexa Garner the Most Attention at IFA

While the IFA conference in Berlin has traditionally targeted consumers in Europe, the show has recently become a global launching pad for products being readied for the holiday shopping season, one reason IFA has become more significant. According to TechCrunch, this year’s more notable announcements included Alexa routers from Netgear and Huawei; 8K TV sets from LG, Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba and others; smartphones such as the Sony Xperia XZ2, LG G7 One and HTC U12 Life; Polaroid’s new instant camera the OneStep+; and Lenovo’s Yoga Book C930 convertible, which features an E Ink display instead of a keyboard. Continue reading New Phones, 8K TVs, Alexa Garner the Most Attention at IFA

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