Google’s Machine-Generated Speech Will Sound More Human

According to members of Google’s Brain and Machine Perception teams, researchers at the tech giant have developed “ways to make machine-generated speech sound more natural to humans,” even providing examples of the more expressive speech in a company blog post, reports VentureBeat. Google also announced the release of its Cloud Text-to-Speech services, which could “be used to bring more natural speech to devices, apps or digital services that utilize voice control or voice computing,” the article explains.

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Google’s New Shopping Actions Aid Competition with Amazon

Google recently launched Shopping Actions, a new program to help retailers compete with Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer. The program allows companies to list “products across Google Search, in its Google Express shopping service, and in the Google Assistant app for smartphones and on smart speakers, like the Google Home,” reports TechCrunch. It offers a universal cart no matter what device shoppers are using and Google earns money via a pay-per-sale model. The program is now open to any retailer in the U.S.

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IBM’s New Watson Assistant Helps Develop Virtual Assistants

With the launch of Watson Assistant, IBM is offering a new service that helps companies build their own voice-activated virtual assistants (like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri). The new service aims to help companies that want to build these for their own products, using their own datasets. IBM’s pitch includes a belief that companies should want Watson Assistant rather than a competitor because it allows for heightened personalization and privacy. According to IBM, Watson Assistant keeps the data to itself, differentiating it from other virtual assistants.

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Amazon Envisions Alexa as a Universal Language Translator

You may soon be able to command “Alexa, Translate” and get sophisticated results. According to sources familiar with the matter, Amazon’s latest aim for Alexa, its popular voice-enabled assistant, is to become a real-time universal language translator. They say the tech giant is “seriously exploring” ways to make Alexa more useful cross-culturally. In order to do so, Amazon must significantly expand Alexa’s current ability to translate basic words and phrases in languages including Spanish, German, French and Italian.

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Amazon, Google Ramp Up Competition in Smart Home Market

Although Amazon currently sells a certain number of Google smart home Nest devices, the company has decided to stop doing so, thus ramping up the competition in this space between the two tech behemoths. Nest employees apparently had been expecting the move, which came in a conference call last year when Amazon said it would not list any of the newer Nest products such as the Nest thermostat and Nest Secure home security system. The decision reportedly came directly from Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos. Continue reading Amazon, Google Ramp Up Competition in Smart Home Market

Google Offers Its AI Chips to All Comers via Cloud Computing

Google, which created tensor processing units (TPUs) for its artificial intelligence systems some years ago, will now make those computer chips available to other companies via its cloud computing service. Google is currently focusing on computer vision technology, which allows computers to recognize objects; Lyft used these chips for its driverless car project. Amazon is also building its own AI chips for use with the Alexa-powered Echo devices to shave seconds off its response time and potentially increase sales. Continue reading Google Offers Its AI Chips to All Comers via Cloud Computing

Reviews: Apple HomePod Offers Great Sound But Not Smarts

Apple’s HomePod smart speaker has debuted to mixed reviews. HomePod can stream music directly from Apple Music but no other popular music streaming service such as Spotify or Pandora. It’s equally partisan in that, despite its Bluetooth, users must use Apple’s own AirPlay to stream the music, and Android phones aren’t able to pair with it. The Home app lets users set up and control a variety of HomeKit-compatible smart home devices. The system currently lacks the ability to link HomePods together for a multi-room setup. Continue reading Reviews: Apple HomePod Offers Great Sound But Not Smarts

Apple Announces Launch Date of Delayed HomePod Speaker

Apple’s wireless smart speaker HomePod will hit shelves February 9, with pre-orders starting this Friday in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. The device was delayed from its intended December launch, costing Apple sales during the recent holiday shopping season. The voice-activated speaker will compete with market leaders Amazon Echo and Google Home devices. At $349, the HomePod is priced more than $200 higher than the current market leaders, but on par with the $400 Google Home Max. Apple is emphasizing the device’s “stunning sound quality” for playing music. Continue reading Apple Announces Launch Date of Delayed HomePod Speaker

Sony Products Focus on Artist Intent and Customer Experience

Sony Corporation president and CEO Kaz Hirai began his solo CES media briefing with the Alpha 9, a mirrorless and completely silent camera ideally suited to shoot at the top of a golf swing or on a quiet soundstage, and continued to celebrate accomplishments across every division, including Sony Pictures, Sony Music, and PlayStation. “If you see the name Sony on any product, content, or service, it symbolizes our promise to move you emotionally,” he said. “Our products are designed to have a personal and individualized place in all of your lives.” Continue reading Sony Products Focus on Artist Intent and Customer Experience

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

New TV Tech at CES to Include LG’s 88-Inch 8K OLED Display

At CES 2018, LG Display will show off its new 88-inch 8K OLED display, which now tops the previously largest and highest resolution OLED display, which was 77-inches and 4K. Much of the compelling technology at CES will be TV-related; such technologies as 4K, curved and bendable TVs, OLED, HDR and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players have previously debuted at the consumer electronics confab. At CES 2018, 8K TVs will arrive in earnest, as well as evidence of trends such as voice control and premium HDR for LED TVs. Continue reading New TV Tech at CES to Include LG’s 88-Inch 8K OLED Display

CES 2018: Overview of the Show Floor, Key Themes and Areas

Broad but logical thematic lines distribute exhibits across three main event areas at CES 2018 in Las Vegas: the entire Las Vegas Convention Center (Tech East), the Sands Convention Center (Tech West), and the Aria (Tech South). Tech East will focus on sectors such as e-commerce, security, manufacturing, gaming, VR, AR, AI, automotive, cameras, computing, displays and CE devices. For those interested in health, fitness, wearables, sports tech and the smart home, you’ll want to visit Tech West. And Tech South will feature C Space, which will address disruptive trends and how they are going to change the future of brand marketing and entertainment. Continue reading CES 2018: Overview of the Show Floor, Key Themes and Areas

Caavo to Ship Universal Remote Control With Machine Vision

Caavo is a universal TV control system that uses machine vision (which the company dubs Caavo Vision) to navigate behind the scenes of every streaming, cable and satellite box. The company, which first promised to ship units in June, now states that 5,000 units will be on sale for $399 on February 14. The company also raised another $17.5 million in venture capital, bringing the total to $32.5 million. Caavo differs from other universal remotes in that it can create a single search index and watchlist across devices and services. Continue reading Caavo to Ship Universal Remote Control With Machine Vision

Voice Shopping: Target Expands its Partnership With Google

Target announced that it is expanding its partnership with Google to cover a number of initiatives: consumers will be able to shop Target via Google Express home delivery (including by voice), Target’s REDcard payment card will be integrated into Google’s shopping platform, and new support for store pick-ups of purchases made through voice will be introduced. Amazon’s biggest rival Walmart announced in August that it would also team with Google for voice-based shopping efforts. The moves could help Google Home compete with Amazon’s Alexa-powered smart speakers. Continue reading Voice Shopping: Target Expands its Partnership With Google

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