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

Facebook, Google Pledge to Expand AI Investments in France

After top Google and Facebook executives met with French president Emmanuel Macron, the tech companies vowed to invest artificial intelligence resources in that country’s capital. Google will create a Paris-based AI lab focused on research into automatic learning, language and computer vision. Facebook, which already has created an AI lab in Paris, plans to double its 50-person team there by 2022 and spend 10 million euros ($12.2 million). Both companies also pledge to train that country’s citizens on digital tools. Continue reading Facebook, Google Pledge to Expand AI Investments in France

Report: About 16 Percent of Americans Own Smart Speakers

NPR and Edison Research released a report this week indicating that about one in six Americans (39 million people) now own a smart speaker, up 128 percent from last January. “Amazon’s Echo speakers are still in the lead, the report says, as 11 percent now own an Amazon Alexa device compared with 4 percent who own a Google Home product,” reports TechCrunch. Amazon and Google promoted their devices heavily and cut prices during the holiday shopping season. “The Echo Dot became a top seller across its site and by manufacturers through the Black Friday weekend.” Continue reading Report: About 16 Percent of Americans Own Smart Speakers

New Optoma 4K Projector Comes With Alexa Voice Assistant

One of the big stories coming out of CES this year is the growing list of products adding Amazon Alexa … from computers, wearables, vehicles, smart refrigerators, appliances — even shower systems and connected bathroom mirrors — to TiVo, Panasonic Blu-ray players and TVs from Hisense, LG and Sony (the only bigger surprise may have been the number of products that will soon feature Google Assistant integration). On the projector front, Alexa is coming to new 4K projectors from Acer and Optoma. Engadget declared the Optoma UHD51A its Best of CES winner in the Home Theater category. Continue reading New Optoma 4K Projector Comes With Alexa Voice Assistant

Forecast: Smart Speakers Will Outsell Wearables This Season

Strategy Analytics predicts the smart speaker market will nearly quadruple in unit volume this year, bringing the total to 24 million. According to eMarketer, smart speakers will likely outsell wearables in the U.S. this holiday season. “We expect smart speakers to be the gift of choice for many tech enthusiasts, because of their lower price points,” said eMarketer analyst Cindy Liu. The research firm anticipates continued growth for devices such as smartwatches and fitness trackers in the U.S., but slowed growth in terms of usage. Continue reading Forecast: Smart Speakers Will Outsell Wearables This Season

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

Money20/20: Companies Partner on AR Shopping Prototype

Mastercard, Osterhout Design Group (ODG), and Qualcomm are betting that augmented reality will be a powerhouse for future shopping. To test the waters, they put together an exhibit of a prototype retail experience that is on display, with clothes from Saks Fifth Avenue, at the Money20/20 event in Las Vegas. The prototype combines AR glasses, iris authentication, and integrated mobile payment, and uses photorealistic AR that lets the consumer look at the clothing and view digital details (such as the price) on the AR glasses. Continue reading Money20/20: Companies Partner on AR Shopping Prototype

Tech Demand for AI Talent Generates Major League Salaries

As tech companies continue to bet on artificial intelligence powering next generation smartphones, autonomous vehicles, virtual assistants, smart home gadgets and much more, the demand for top AI talent is also on the rise. “Typical AI specialists, including both PhDs fresh out of school and people with less education and just a few years of experience, can be paid from $300,000 to $500,000 a year or more in salary and company stock,” reports The New York Times. Leading names in AI are often earning in the millions from tech titans and negotiating for new contracts in a time frame that rivals professional athletes. In fact, some in Silicon Valley have joked of creating an NFL-like salary cap. Continue reading Tech Demand for AI Talent Generates Major League Salaries

Amazon’s Alexa Now Recognizes Up to Ten Different Voices

Amazon stated that an Alexa-enabled device can create a Voice Profile by the user reciting ten phrases to the Alexa app, which allows it to then recognize that individual’s voice. The AI-powered assistant will then deliver results based on the user’s profile or previously enacted preferences. This capability will first be available for shopping on Amazon, Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers, news briefings, calls and messages (not including SMS messages). More features will be unveiled in the future. Continue reading Amazon’s Alexa Now Recognizes Up to Ten Different Voices

Amazon Promotes Alexa With SDK, Revenue for Developers

Amazon is going full bore promoting its virtual assistant Alexa. In an effort to make it available on more devices, the company has debuted the Alexa Voice Service Device SDK toolset, which lets developers integrate a fully functional version to their devices, offering speech recognition and all the other Alexa capabilities such as notifications, weather reports, streaming media and thousands of voice apps. Amazon is providing additional incentive to developers by paying those whose voice apps demonstrate customer engagement. Continue reading Amazon Promotes Alexa With SDK, Revenue for Developers

Internet Firms Adjust to the Needs of the Next Wave of Users

The Internet is undergoing an evolution, with an onrush of people forming the ranks of what the tech industry dubs “the next billion” users. These newcomers have a decidedly different profile than those who came before: often barely literate, these people avoid text in favor of voice activation and images as a way to communicate. These first-time Internet users are finally gaining entry with the advent of low-cost smartphones with user-friendly interfaces and inexpensive data. Now, tech companies must adapt. Continue reading Internet Firms Adjust to the Needs of the Next Wave of Users

Apple to Release Standalone, Upgraded Watch in September

Apple’s current Watch requires wireless connection to an iPhone to function, but the tech giant is on track to release a new version that connects directly to mobile networks, according to sources. This new smartwatch, at least a few of which will be released by the end of 2017, is made possible by LTE modems supplied by Intel, which has waged a persistent effort to get its technology into more Apple mobile devices. Up until now, Qualcomm has been Apple’s primary modem supplier for its mobile devices. Continue reading Apple to Release Standalone, Upgraded Watch in September

CTA Report: CE Industry Growth Is ‘Exceeding Expectations’

The Consumer Technology Association forecasts 3.2 percent growth for the U.S. CE industry this year, for a total estimated $321 billion in retail revenue. For the first time, drones, OLED TV and virtual reality tech are predicted to surpass the $1 billion revenue milestone, according to CTA’s latest “U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts” report. Smart home devices, wearables, 4K TVs and voice-controlled digital assistants are among the categories projected to experience significant increases. “Revenue growth in the consumer technology industry is exceeding expectations,” said Gary Shapiro, CTA president and CEO. Continue reading CTA Report: CE Industry Growth Is ‘Exceeding Expectations’

Samsung Wants Bixby Assistant to Control Multiple Devices

Samsung’s digital voice assistant Bixby just arrived on millions of the company’s Galaxy S8 phones. According to Samsung head of mobile software R&D Injong Rhee, the inspiration for Bixby was super-hero Tony Stark (“Iron Man”), who only needs to voice orders to activate all kinds of systems. Similar to Stark, Samsung wants to use Bixby to activate all kinds of devices, from dishwashers to TVs. While Bixby cannot control all apps yet and, like other digital assistants has some limitations, early reviews suggest it excels at function-based commands. Continue reading Samsung Wants Bixby Assistant to Control Multiple Devices

Text-to-Speech System Quickly Mimics Hundreds of Accents

As another example of the significant advances we have been following in artificial intelligence and deep learning, Chinese search giant Baidu has introduced Deep Voice 2, the second iteration of its compelling text-to-speech system. The company introduced Deep Voice just three months ago, with the ability to produce speech “in near real time” that was “nearly indistinguishable from an actual human voice,” according to The Verge. While the first system was limited to learning one voice at a time, “and required many hours of audio or more from which to build a sample,” the updated version “can learn the nuances of a person’s voice with just half an hour of audio, and a single system can learn to imitate hundreds of different speakers.” Continue reading Text-to-Speech System Quickly Mimics Hundreds of Accents

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