Big Tech Companies Make Progress on AR Smart Glasses

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Magic Leap, Microsoft and Snap are among the Big Tech companies working on creating smart glasses that we can wear everywhere — and that may even replace our smartphones. Currently, glasses are too big (and expensive), but in time are expected to achieve a sleeker form factor and come down in price. Smart glasses promise to dramatically shift how we engage with the world, and some advocates believe we will eventually be able to replace every screen we use with a single pair of glasses. Continue reading Big Tech Companies Make Progress on AR Smart Glasses

Princeton Study Shows Smart TVs Are Collecting Your Data

While streaming your favorite show on Netflix via an Internet-connected smart TV, your data is being collected, according to a new study from Princeton University, which found that smart TVs are equipped with data-collecting trackers. Researchers built a bot that installed thousands of channels on both Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices and mimicked human behaviors like watching videos and browsing. When the bot ran into an ad, it tracked what data was collected. Researchers claim there’s little consumer awareness of this activity.

Continue reading Princeton Study Shows Smart TVs Are Collecting Your Data

Amazon Unveils New IoT Devices for On-the-Go Consumers

Amazon is strategically moving its Alexa digital voice assistant into a wide range of products, for use in many settings. Among the newly introduced smart products powered by Alexa are earbuds, a ring, eyeglass frames and even a lamp. The idea, said Amazon hardware head Dave Limp, is to allow Alexa to follow the consumer throughout her day, via such smart lifestyle devices. To enable this, Amazon also debuted its own low bandwidth 900MHz network, Amazon Sidewalk, to connect Internet of Things devices. Continue reading Amazon Unveils New IoT Devices for On-the-Go Consumers

Amazon Forms Coalition for Voice Assistant Interoperability

Amazon created the Voice Interoperability Initiative to achieve software compatibility among digital voice assistants, encouraging its widespread adoption. Although 36 companies have joined the initiative, Apple and Google have not. Their absence is a significant impediment to the initiative’s goals, since Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant software are installed by default in most of today’s smartphones. Amazon’s Alexa, meanwhile, has no presence on smartphones, although its Echo speakers are a hit with consumers. Continue reading Amazon Forms Coalition for Voice Assistant Interoperability

Food Network App to Offer Live Interactive Cooking Classes

In partnership with Amazon, Discovery Inc. is introducing a video-streaming app in late October called Food Network Kitchen. The new app will feature on-demand programming, recipe videos, interactive classes and Alexa support. For $6.99 per month (or $59.99 annually), subscribers will be provided the opportunity to attend up to 25 live, interactive cooking classes each week led by celebrity chefs such as Alton Brown, Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri, Ina Garten and Martha Stewart. “It’s our mission to delight, inspire and, of course, teach our millions of viewers everything we know about food and cooking,” explains Food Network. Continue reading Food Network App to Offer Live Interactive Cooking Classes

Facebook Announces Three New AI-Powered Portal Devices

Facebook is introducing three Portal models, starting at $129, a more competitive price than previous models. Two offer a smart display with screen, camera and microphone, and the third can turn a TV into a venue for video chat. The first Portal offered AI-enabled tracking that kept all the participants in the frame and could follow a single person. The AI has been upgraded to provide more accuracy. Although the company “paused” human review of audio, it will resume the practice for some Portal audio. Continue reading Facebook Announces Three New AI-Powered Portal Devices

Amazon, Apple Research How to Improve Digital Assistants

Apple researchers investigated what people really want in a digital assistant, finding that people deem an assistant “likeable” and “trustworthy” when it mirrored their own degree of chattiness. It also found that the features that make up mirroring can be extracted from the user’s speech patterns. Amazon researchers conducted a project that found Alexa can figure out what a user wants via so-called dialogue state tracking, in which it estimates and keeps tabs on a person’s goals throughout a conversation. Continue reading Amazon, Apple Research How to Improve Digital Assistants

GM to Feature Google Apps and Voice Assistant in Vehicles

General Motors, the largest U.S. automaker by sales, plans to build Google’s apps into its vehicles’ touchscreen displays. Beginning with model year 2022, GM brands Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC will feature Google Maps, Google Assistant and the Google Play app store, accessible on the vehicles’ dashboard displays. Today’s car buyers have expressed interest in an experience similar to what is available with their mobile devices, but not all automobile integration has proven satisfying. The automaker aims to create a more positive experience, with plans to eventually make infotainment systems powered by Android available on millions of its vehicles sold worldwide. Continue reading GM to Feature Google Apps and Voice Assistant in Vehicles

BBC Is Creating Voice Assistant That Understands Accents

The BBC is developing a voice assistant named Beeb that it promises will understand British accents. Other virtual assistants have struggled with regional accents, but the BBC team will be recording staff voices from multiple U.K. locations to address that issue. While there are no plans to introduce a standalone CE device similar to Google Home or Amazon Echo, the BBC plans to debut Beeb next year to help people interact with online services offered via the company’s website and its smart TV iPlayer app. The assistant’s software will also be available to manufacturers interested in including it in their own consumer devices. Continue reading BBC Is Creating Voice Assistant That Understands Accents

Amazon Ramps Up Efforts to Bring Alexa to More Vehicles

Amazon first indicated its ambition to put Alexa into cars several years ago, and in 2018 introduced Echo Auto, designed to be integrated into vehicle entertainment systems. Since then, Audi and BMW began selling some models that incorporate the company’s digital assistant. But Amazon faces stiff competition from Apple and Google, which have already made inroads, and some vehicle manufacturers are loath to adopt third-party technology. Although Amazon won’t generate much revenue initially in the auto market, the company believes that opportunities will grow much larger in the future. Continue reading Amazon Ramps Up Efforts to Bring Alexa to More Vehicles

Google Assistant Wins Top Spot in Loup Ventures IQ Test

In Loup Ventures’ 2019 Digital Assistant IQ Test, comprised of 800 questions, Google Assistant came in first, understanding 100 percent of the questions and answering 92.9 percent of them accurately. Last year, Google Assistant, also top-ranked, answered 85.5 percent correctly. Apple’s Siri also improved, understanding 99.8 percent of the questions (versus 2018’s 99 percent) and correctly answering 83.1 percent of the time (versus 2018’s 78.5 percent). Amazon’s Alexa came in third. Continue reading Google Assistant Wins Top Spot in Loup Ventures IQ Test

Cable Provider Altice Plans Fall Launch For Smart Speaker

New York-based cable provider Altice USA, parent company to Optimum and Suddenlink, plans to launch a high-fidelity smart speaker this fall that features audio tech from French company Devialet. The $400 Altice Amplify will come with Alexa built-in for hands-free control of TV functions. The speaker, to be available through Altice’s cable stores and Amazon.com, will feature access to streaming apps on the Altice One cable system such as Netflix, Pandora and YouTube. Altice Amplify will work with additional TV systems and streaming devices and support apps including Amazon Music, Apple Music, Audible, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Tidal and TuneIn. Continue reading Cable Provider Altice Plans Fall Launch For Smart Speaker

Google Stops Human Review of Assistant Voice Clips in EU

Google is pausing Google Assistant voice transcriptions in the European Union for at least three months. In mid-July, it admitted that about 1,000 private communications were made available to human contractors evaluating Assistant’s speech recognition accuracy, revealing personal and private information. A Google spokesperson reported that the company ceased voice transcription involving human moderators after learning of additional leaks in the Netherlands. Amazon will allow Alexa users to opt out of the human review of recordings and Apple has halted its program allowing human contractors to listen in on Siri recordings. Continue reading Google Stops Human Review of Assistant Voice Clips in EU

Amazon Revenue Strong, Record Profitability Streak Ends

After posting its best profits over the previous four quarters, Amazon broke its streak; its Q2 profit rose 3.6 percent from a year ago, to $2.63 billion, missing analysts’ predictions. Profitability got a hit from the increased costs of shipping, as Amazon struggled to make one-day shipping the standard for all its Prime members. Chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky said that “when the dust settles, we will regain our cost efficiency over time.” Revenue was a bright spot, however, with performance above analysts’ expectations. Continue reading Amazon Revenue Strong, Record Profitability Streak Ends

Pandora Rolls Out Voice Mode Assistant For All Platforms

SiriusXM’s Pandora unveiled Voice Mode, its voice assistant, to Pandora app users on all platforms. This broad rollout took place after a January debut of Voice Mode on about one million iOS and Android devices. The shortcut to Voice Mode can be found in the upper right of the Pandora app screen. Pandora chief product officer Chris Phillips noted that Voice Mode introduces “an even more natural and conversational way for listeners to discover new music … like getting recommendations from a friend who really knows you.” Continue reading Pandora Rolls Out Voice Mode Assistant For All Platforms

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