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

Amazon, Google, Microsoft Democratize AI Tools in the Cloud

Recently, Microsoft software that integrates machine learning spotted a temperature problem in a massive beer vat at Deschutes Brewery, and automatically fixed it, saving the company from a big loss. Deschutes Brewery accesses the software via Microsoft’s cloud computing service, a growing trend among all kinds of businesses relying on such tools from Amazon and Google as well as Microsoft. Use of AI is becoming more widespread as it becomes available as software in the cloud, rather than a huge hardware expenditure. Continue reading Amazon, Google, Microsoft Democratize AI Tools in the Cloud

Samsung’s Digital Assistant Bixby to Roll Out With Galaxy S8

Samsung has become the latest tech giant to unveil a digital assistant, introducing Bixby, which will first appear with the upcoming Galaxy S8 smartphone. Unlike Siri and Cortana, Bixby is not a database capable of answering questions, but rather is intended to help users accomplish tasks. The Galaxy S8 will feature a dedicated button to launch Bixby, which will initially offer a few preinstalled apps in English and Korean only. Chinese and Spanish versions will unveil shortly after the phone’s debut. Continue reading Samsung’s Digital Assistant Bixby to Roll Out With Galaxy S8

Facebook Introduces Voice Recognition Tech to VR Headsets

Facebook announced the beta release of a new voice search feature for the company’s Oculus Rift and Samsung’s Gear VR. “This feature lets you perform voice searches from Oculus Home to intuitively navigate games, apps, and experiences,” explains the Oculus team, noting future plans to “add even more functionality like seeing if a friend is online or contextual commands to invite people to a play a game with you.” While VentureBeat points out the feature “won’t let you look at your friends, your notifications, your profile, your avatar, app updates that you haven’t installed, or individual settings,” the review is largely positive and envisions future applications: “The speech technology might well end up becoming a part of Facebook’s more popular services, like WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, and even good old Facebook itself.” Continue reading Facebook Introduces Voice Recognition Tech to VR Headsets

Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

Both Amazon and Google are thinking about turning their respective home speakers — Echo and Google Home — into home telephones. Knowledgeable sources say the tech giants could introduce the feature this year, with the goal of gaining yet more control over consumers’ home lives. But the companies are also finding that it’s not so simple, facing issues related to privacy, telecom regulations and emergency services — as well as the potential that consumers will be wary that their conversations are being recorded. Continue reading Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

Digital Assistants Grab Spotlight at CES, Alexa Leads the Pack

Virtual assistants that serve as a new voice-activated hub to the connected smart home and our ecosystem of personal electronics have grabbed the spotlight at this year’s CES. Aided by advances in artificial intelligence software that enable improved speech interaction with devices, tech giants such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others are battling for dominance in the digital assistant space. These companies are looking beyond smartphones and PCs toward a world in which voice-based systems become a standard feature in TVs, cable boxes, home appliances and connected vehicles. If the headlines are any indication, it seems that Amazon’s Alexa has taken an early lead in this race. Continue reading Digital Assistants Grab Spotlight at CES, Alexa Leads the Pack

Emotech Demos Olly: Your Lifestyle Assistant with Personality

At CES last week, Emotech, a UK-based startup, introduced a desktop robotic assistant named Olly that develops a unique personality depending on individual users and their interactions with it. The doughnut-shaped, voice-controlled personal assistant is similar in function to the other smart lifestyle assistants. It will play you music or tell you the weather like Amazon’s Alexa, but the company hopes Olly’s personality will set it apart. The device has two cameras and a microphone array, allowing it to face the user, and will use a combination of AI techniques to decipher a user’s state of mind and respond accordingly. Continue reading Emotech Demos Olly: Your Lifestyle Assistant with Personality

CTA Chief Economist Identifies Tech Trends to Watch in 2017

CES always opens with CTA chief economist Dr. Shawn DuBravac’s revelation of the consumer electronics market numbers for the past year, and predictions for the coming year. This year — CES’s 50th anniversary — was no exception. DuBravac identified five trends to watch in the coming year: the new voice of computing; artificial intelligence’s infusion in our lives and businesses; connections and computations; transportation transformation; and digitizing the consumer experience. Continue reading CTA Chief Economist Identifies Tech Trends to Watch in 2017

CTA Predicts Black Friday Will Be a ‘Record Breaker for Tech’

Shawn DuBravac, chief economist of the Consumer Technology Association outlined the CTA’s projections for retail holiday sales. Anticipating a 3.1 percent increase over 2015 in consumer holiday spending on tech, top product categories include televisions, laptops and smartphones. Emerging categories such as wearables, drones and VR headsets are also projected to have a strong showing this season. DuBravac noted the top five tech trends to watch for at January’s CES: vocal computing, intelligent systems connecting diverse objects, self-driving cars and driver-assist technologies, artificial intelligence, and VR and AR entertainment. Continue reading CTA Predicts Black Friday Will Be a ‘Record Breaker for Tech’

Thington Concierge Helps Users Navigate Their Smart Homes

The smart assistant app Thington just launched, with the aim of making the smart home and its devices less intimidating. Thington’s Concierge is a conversational bot that helps the user set up smart devices in the home and get the maximum benefit from them. The idea, say its founders, is that Thington is a “super smart remote” that will talk users through the confusing process of setting up an Internet of Things-enabled home. Thington is currently compatible with devices from six manufacturers. Continue reading Thington Concierge Helps Users Navigate Their Smart Homes

Samsung’s Viv Digital Assistant to Bring AI to Phones, Beyond

Samsung just acquired Viv, an AI-powered digital assistant created by the founders of Siri. Dag Kittlaus, Adam Cheyer and Chris Brigham created Siri and sold it to Apple in 2010, leaving shortly thereafter to found Viv in 2012. Viv will operate as an independent company, but provide services to Samsung, which ships 500 million devices annually. Viv’s highlights are that it allows interconnectedness of information across apps and services, and its AI can write its own code to accomplish new tasks. Continue reading Samsung’s Viv Digital Assistant to Bring AI to Phones, Beyond

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