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

Google Redesigns its Wear OS, Streamlines the Smart Watch

Google is readying the release of its new, third version of Wear OS, which has been updated to be a speedy, inconspicuous platform rather than “Android on a smart watch.” It doesn’t feature any obvious improvements to battery life, but that’s an overall problem in the industry, not a Google shortcoming. According to Wear OS director of product Dennis Troper, users who are connected all the time will be able to be more present in the real world, similar to the goals of the company’s Digital Wellbeing initiative. Continue reading Google Redesigns its Wear OS, Streamlines the Smart Watch

Amazon and Lenovo Discuss the Integration of Alexa into PCs

Lenovo, the world’s biggest PC manufacturer, is in discussions with Amazon about integrating Alexa into its computers and other devices. Also recently, LG decided to integrate Alexa support into its SmartThinQ Hub. These moves underscore Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos’ goal to incorporate Alexa into a wide range of electronics, to spread the company’s influence to more consumers. Other tech companies attempting to do the same are Microsoft with Cortana, Apple with Siri and Google with Assistant. Continue reading Amazon and Lenovo Discuss the Integration of Alexa into PCs

New Google App “Inbox” Serves as Personal Gmail Assistant

Google’s Gmail team launched a new app called Inbox to help users manage their email. Inbox sorts your mail as an assistant might by categorizing incoming messages into Bundles. While this may not be a new concept, the Highlights feature is compelling. Highlights will pull the important information from a message and push it to the top (for example, flight times in a confirmation email from an airline). It even has the ability to update that information (think gate changes or delays). Continue reading New Google App “Inbox” Serves as Personal Gmail Assistant

Cortana: Microsoft’s New Siri-Like Personal Digital Assistant

Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8.1 update will include its new personal digital assistant “Cortana,” named after the AI character in the “Halo” game series. Designed to rival Apple’s Siri and Google Now, Cortana’s circular animated icon will replace the built-in Bing search functionality on Windows Phone, and will animate while speaking or thinking, creating a personality similar to the Siri approach. Cortana will save data in a Notebook system that will enable it to track data and generate notifications much like Google Now. Continue reading Cortana: Microsoft’s New Siri-Like Personal Digital Assistant

Cortana: Microsoft Developing Next-Gen Personal Assistant

Microsoft is developing a personal assistant app called Cortana that will compete directly with Apple’s Siri and Google Now. Cortana derives its name from an artificially intelligent character in Microsoft’s “Halo” series. Essentially, the app will be able to learn and adapt while utilizing machine-learning technology and the Satori knowledge repository powering Bing. The app will likely be released somewhere between 2014 and 2016. Continue reading Cortana: Microsoft Developing Next-Gen Personal Assistant

Trap.it Offers a New Approach to Search, From the Makers of Siri

  • “A new take on the search engine called Trap.it uses the same AI technology that Siri does courtesy of the CALO project (which was funded by DARPA), and has launched its public beta,” reports Digital Trends.
  • Described as something similar to a hybrid of Pandora and Qwiki in its approach to an “information experience,” Trap.it uses Facebook and Twitter accounts to help curate the Web for individual users.
  • “Via the ‘discover’ bar, you ‘trap’ information that comes up in visual-heavy icons with short text summaries. Hovering over these images lets you vote up or down if this is what you were looking for, share the information, or bookmark it for later,” explains the post. “Your feedback on these ‘traps’ is how the search engine learns and gets smarter, so eventually you’re receiving more and more spot-on results.”
  • “It’s yet another signal we’re moving from search to discovery,” suggests Digital Trends.

Human-Centric: Will Post-PC Computing be the Next Disruptive Wave?

  • In his compelling O’Reilly Radar post, digital media entrepreneur Mark Sigal offers his take on the post-PC wave and its major players.
  • Post-PC is the fourth computing wave that follows mainframes, PCs, and the Web.
  • Sigal suggests that Post-PC devices, which Morgan Stanley expects to number 10 billion by 2020, are becoming the most personal, mobile, social and human-centric tools that marry hardware, software and services.
  • For example, Sigal cites John Gruber of Daring Fireball, regarding Apple’s Siri voice-based system: “Siri is indicative of an AI-focused ambition that Apple hasn’t shown since before Steve Jobs returned to the company. Prior to Siri, iOS struck me being designed to make it easy for us to do things. Siri is designed to do things for us.”
  • Apple, Amazon and Google are the companies that best represent emerging trends in this space.

Should Google and Microsoft Fear the Potential of Siri?

  • Tech analyst Tim Bajarin says both Google and Microsoft have been downplaying the significance of Apple’s Siri because they know it could seriously impact their core search businesses, especially as it gains access to even more online databases.
  • “You shouldn’t be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone,” Google mobile chief Andy Rubin told Walt Mossberg at the recent AsiaD conference.
  • Microsoft’s Andy Lees suggested that Siri “isn’t super useful” and added that the voice interactivity of Windows Phone 7 when connected to Bing harnesses “the full power of the Internet, rather than a certain subset.”
  • Bajarin counters that, “Apple has just introduced voice as a major user interface and that its use of voice coupled with AI on a consumer product like the iPhone is going to change the way consumers think about man-machine interfaces in the future.”
  • Siri is not just a voice UI, but a gatekeeper to natural language searching of online databases that may eventually make Apple the third major search company worldwide.

Next Generation Web: Will Siri Spark Machines Talking to Machines?

  • In a post that describes what should follow after Siri, GigaOM suggests, “Apple’s artificial intelligence is only the tip of the iceberg as we combine ubiquitous connectivity, sensor networks, big data and new methods of AI and programming into a truly connected network.”
  • The next generation of the Web will “connect machines to machines and connect those machines back to people” with advancements in low-power, cheap sensors and “better ways of programming computers so that they can understand data from several million end points.”
  • The necessary connectivity exists currently and improvements of sensors for tracking everything — weather, inventory, traffic conditions, etc. — will provide the necessary information.
  • From there, programming and better AI like Siri, “will allow machines to parse the data from billions of sensors and notify people to take action only when needed.”

Will a Sense of Humor Draw Users to Siri Virtual Personal Assistant?

  • According to The Wall Street Journal: “It turns out that Siri, the new voice activated personal assistant for Apple iPhone 4S has a dry sense of humor.”
  • For example, when asked “Who’s your daddy?” the phone answered: “You are” in an authoritative tone — and in response to “Beam me up,” the phone reportedly responded: “Sorry, Captain, your tricorder is in Airplane Mode.”
  • The article adds that in response to “Open the pod bay doors” (a reference to Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which also features a “talking” machine), users say the iPhone responds in a frighteningly slow voice, “I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
  • Consumers are reacting to the artificial intelligence by asking the iPhone outlandish questions as websites dedicated to the concept are already emerging. The “personality” of Siri’s software could very well be the first step in driving consumer adoption.

Standing in Line, Woz Discusses How the iPhone 4S will Change His Life

  • Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak likes the excitement of a new product release and tries to be first in line, despite the fact that Apple will ship him products.
  • He was #1 on line at the Apple store in Los Gatos, California and stayed up all night tweeting about it.
  • TechCrunch interviewed “Woz” (on iPhone video) as he discussed his enthusiasm for Siri: “This is the way I want all mobile devices to be in the future.”
  • “I’m so tired of pushing buttons, tapping things to get the right things done on a phone,” he added. “I just want to talk my thoughts to it.”
  • He also notes that he no longer wants to be sent somewhere that might have answers: “Google is known for search engines. I say search engines should be replaced by answer engines.”

Siri: Imagining the Untapped Potential of Artificial Intelligence

  • Geek.com writer Will Shanklin believes Siri’s capabilities would be enormously expanded with access to third party apps. Currently, “Yelp and Wolfram Alpha appear to be the only ones in that elite group.”
  • Third party apps could enable users to play music among different streaming services, quickly use music ID, combine data from multiple services (“How about a combination of Netflix and IMDb data?”), get real-time navigation and a range of other convenient possibilities.
  • Siri access to Facebook could expedite posts, messages and notifications and quickly get information from friends’ profiles.
  • “As much as you might be blown away by Siri’s capabilities now, we will likely look back at this as ‘Siri 1.0’ five years from now,” writes Shanklin. “In much the same way that the first iPhone’s single-paged homescreen – with no third-party apps – looks primitive now, this introductory version of Siri will pale in comparison to where ‘she’ will be then.”

Will Siri Serve as the Foundation for our Next-Gen Remote Controls?

  • If consumers take to the new virtual personal assistant technology Siri, featured in Apple’s iPhone 4S, we may see significant change to other devices such as the TV remote control.
  • Norman Winarsky, VP of ventures at SRI (involved in the development of Siri), told MIT’s Technology Review that, “within a decade, virtual personal assistants would be ubiquitous, integrated into the fabric of many devices,” and that their value could hike into the 100 billion dollar level.
  • “Wouldn’t it be nice to finally do away with the remote control, a device that begins to look so clunky and antiquated in our era of iEverythings?” asks Technology Review. “Apple has not announced any plans to bring Siri to devices other than the iPhone 4S, but the idea doesn’t seem so farfetched. It’s quite possible that the next refresh of the Apple TV could use a speedier A5 dual-core chip, speculates Cult of Mac — which would give the device the processing power necessary to run Siri.”
  • According to the article, Siri offers much more than just voice recognition: “Siri is good at parsing the words you say, but more importantly, its impressive artificial intelligence is able to discern their meaning, and take appropriate actions… As smart TVs become a next battleground for Internet-connected devices, let’s hope our remote controls get smarter, too.”

Apple Announces its iPhone 4S: Available October 14 Starting at $199

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook officially unveiled the company’s new iPhone 4S yesterday from Cupertino. The smartphone is expected to ship by October 14.
  • The new version features a dual core processor with up to 7x faster graphics performance, an 8 megapixel digital camera that can capture 1080P video, a GSM/CDMA radio with enhancements to speed data downloading and more.
  • The biggest news is possibly Siri, Apple’s voice-command assistant that can handle surprisingly complex commands and dictation (the name comes from a “virtual personal assistant” company that Apple purchased last year).
  • While some have expressed disappointment that Apple didn’t release the iPhone 5 this week, early reaction to the iPhone 4S features seem positive. The device’s new A5 processor, for example, is the chip used in the iPad 2, and packs an Apple-designed digital signal processor that helps with things like face detection. The phone also now supports the faster HSPA+ network.
  • The 8MP camera features backside illumination, allowing it to gather 73 percent more light and have 1/3 faster photo-snapping speed. It can also record higher-resolution 1080p high-definition video.
  • The iPhone 4S supports mirroring to a TV over AirPlay, Apple TV or a wired connection, while also packing iOS 5.
  • “The 4S will come in both black and white, starting at $199 for 16GB and $299 for the 32GB, but the big news is a new 64GB model coming in at a whopping $399,” reports Engadget.
  • Additionally, Sprint will now be offering the 8GB iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. Sprint customers can place pre-orders for the device starting this Friday, October 7th.