Amazon to Upgrade Alexa with AI, May Add Subscription Fee

Amazon is planning to add generative artificial intelligence to its decade-old voice assistant, Alexa, which will require a monthly fee to offset the cost of the technology, according to reports. Although the new Alexa price plan has not been disclosed, it is not expected to be included in the $139 yearly Amazon Prime plan. The possible move comes as Apple is also undergoing an AI overhaul of its voice assistant, Siri. Once considered precocious by many consumers, Siri and Alexa are now playing catch-up to AI assistants from leaders in the space including Google, Microsoft and OpenAI. Continue reading Amazon to Upgrade Alexa with AI, May Add Subscription Fee

Google Teases Astra AI Assistant and Debuts Gemini 1.5 Pro

Google is showing off a developmental chatbot it says represents the future of AI assistants. Called Project Astra, it has the ability to “see” and “hear,” remembering the information ingested, which it can then answer questions about — from simple queries such as “Where did I leave my glasses?” to unpacking and explaining computer code. Demonstrated at the Google I/O conference this week, Astra understands the world “just like people do” and is able to converse naturally, in real time. The company says some Project Astra features may come to Gemini late this year. Continue reading Google Teases Astra AI Assistant and Debuts Gemini 1.5 Pro

Apple Unveils OpenELM Tech Optimized for Local Applications

The trend toward small language models that can efficiently run on a single device instead of requiring cloud connectivity has emerged as a focus for Big Tech companies involved in artificial intelligence. Apple has released the OpenELM family of open-source models as its entry in that field. OpenELM uses “a layer-wise scaling strategy” to efficiently allocate parameters within each layer of the transformer model, resulting in what Apple claims is “enhanced accuracy.” The “ELM” stands for “Efficient Language Models,” and one media outlet couches it as “the future of AI on the iPhone.” Continue reading Apple Unveils OpenELM Tech Optimized for Local Applications

Apple’s ReALM AI Advances the Science of Digital Assistants

Apple has developed a large language model it says has advanced screen-reading and comprehension capabilities. ReALM (Reference Resolution as Language Modeling) is artificial intelligence that can see and read computer screens in context, according to Apple, which says it advances technology essential for a true AI assistant “that aims to allow a user to naturally communicate their requirements to an agent, or to have a conversation with it.” Apple claims that in a benchmark against GPT-3.5 and GPT-4, the smallest ReALM model performed “comparable” to GPT-4, with its “larger models substantially outperforming it.” Continue reading Apple’s ReALM AI Advances the Science of Digital Assistants

Apple Rolls Out New iPhones, Watches, iCloud Plans and More

During yesterday’s Wonderlust new product showcase, Apple unveiled its new family of iPhone 15 models — the 15, 15 Plus, 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max (no SE or Ultra yet) — which all feature USB-C in place of the Lightning port. The company also revealed the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in addition to AirPods that include a USB-C port in the charging case. Apple announced that iOS 17, watchOS 10, iPadOS 17 and tvOS 17 will arrive on September 18, while the new macOS Sonoma will be available the following week on September 26. Higher storage options of 6 TB and 12 TB for iCloud plans were also introduced. Continue reading Apple Rolls Out New iPhones, Watches, iCloud Plans and More

Apple Chatbot ‘Ajax’ Could Be Next Major Player in AI Space

Apple is reportedly developing tools it could use to enter the artificial intelligence space, joining rivals such as Microsoft and Google, which have already released popular products. In Cupertino, the company is said to have built a framework for large language models, which power AI-based chatbot offerings similar to Google’s Bard and OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Called Ajax, the platform is the basis for what is referred to inside the company as Apple GPT. Though Apple has built automation into its products for some time, it could now be preparing to make a direct play for the generative AI market. Continue reading Apple Chatbot ‘Ajax’ Could Be Next Major Player in AI Space

Apple Developing User-Friendly AR Creation App for Headset

Apple is preparing for the release of its upcoming mixed reality headset by engineering software that, while aimed largely at developers, would also allow users to create their own augmented reality apps in the same way as Final Cut Pro, which is used to edit video by both professionals and laymen. Apple’s highly anticipated headgear is expected to come to market this year, and a general use AR development tool would be a major coup for the company, given that AR apps are complicated to create and new technologies typically rely on fresh content to drive sales. Continue reading Apple Developing User-Friendly AR Creation App for Headset

New Apple HomePod Signals Big Push in Smart Home Space

Apple is gearing up to make a big play for the smart home market, according to reports that put it on a trajectory to challenge Google and Amazon. This week, the company released a new HomePod smart speaker with superior audio, enhanced Siri capabilities, and better security. But a report surfaced of Apple preparing a dedicated smart home control device to rival the displays for Amazon’s Echo Show and Google’s Nest Hub. Although the iPad currently offers some smart home features, standalone devices are growing in popularity, kickstanding on countertops or mounted on walls. Continue reading New Apple HomePod Signals Big Push in Smart Home Space

CES: Matter Smart Home Protocol Marks Major Trend in 2023

While smart home technologies have often made a strong showing at CES, adoption has been hampered by issues of interoperability. This year at CES saw the widespread reveal of Matter (originally known as Project CHIP), a new smart home standard designed to support interoperability. Matter was originally announced in 2019 as a partnership between Apple, Google and Amazon to create an open-source smart home standard. Today, if CES 2023 is any indication, the standard is becoming more prevalent across a wide variety of connected devices and different product sectors. Continue reading CES: Matter Smart Home Protocol Marks Major Trend in 2023

ChatGPT: OpenAI’s New Chatbot Draws Praise and Criticism

OpenAI’s new AI chatbot, ChatGPT, is taking the world by storm. “Quite simply, the best artificial intelligence chatbot ever released to the general public,” is how The New York Times describes ChatGPT, which more than a million people signed up for when it opened for testing last week. Screenshots of ChatGPT conversations blew up Twitter. “Something big is happening,” tweeted one fan. “I just had a 20-minute conversation with ChatGPT about the history of physics … OMG,” offered another. The acronym stands for “generative pre-trained transformer,” a language model that leverages deep learning to respond to text-based input with human-like responses. Continue reading ChatGPT: OpenAI’s New Chatbot Draws Praise and Criticism

Apple Said to Be Developing 3D Content for realityOS Headset

Information continues to trickle out regarding Apple’s new reality altering headset, expected to hit the market next year, possibly as soon as April. Bloomberg reports it will be powered by a Mac-level M2 chip, with more than 10 cameras facing both outward and inward and “the highest-resolution displays ever featured in a mass-market headset,” although the price tag, forecast as between $2,000 and $3,000, doesn’t sound mainstream. The first version of realityOS the company has developed is codenamed Oak. Apple is also reportedly developing 3D content for the new platform. Continue reading Apple Said to Be Developing 3D Content for realityOS Headset

New Apple TV 4K Touts Upgrades Including A15 Bionic Chip

The new Apple TV 4K went on sale online and in stores last week, offering improvements over what some say is the best streaming hardware available. The 2022 model has an A15 Bionic processor, a significant update over the A12 inside the previous model, which shipped in May. A 16-core neural engine and added RAM are among the upgrades. Starting at $129 for Wi-Fi only with 64GB of RAM, there is also a higher-end $149 version with 128GB that is Wi-Fi and Ethernet compatible and has a Thread IoT modem that supports Matter. Continue reading New Apple TV 4K Touts Upgrades Including A15 Bionic Chip

CSA Releases Global Connectivity Spec for Internet of Things

The Connectivity Standards Alliance has announced the release of the Matter 1.0 specification, a global connectivity standard for the Internet of Things, simultaneously opening the product certification program, administered through authorized test labs. Member companies “now have a complete program for bringing the next generation of interoperable products that work across brands and platforms to market with greater privacy, security, and simplicity for consumers,” said CSA. The Matter standard was developed so the devices from companies including Google, Apple and Amazon can communicate with each other via a local controller device. Continue reading CSA Releases Global Connectivity Spec for Internet of Things

Meta Releases Trio of New Spatial Audio Tools to Developers

Researchers from Meta Platforms’ Reality Labs and the University of Texas at Austin have developed audio tools that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg says will deliver a more realistic metaverse experience. Among the new tools is a visual acoustic matching model called AViTAR that adapts any audio clip to a chosen environment using a photograph, not advanced geometry, to create a simulation. Also in the pipeline is the Visually-Informed Dereverberation mode (VIDA), which will “remove reverberation,” isolating source sounds for a fully immersive effect. Continue reading Meta Releases Trio of New Spatial Audio Tools to Developers

Study Finds Consumers Embraced Voice Shopping Last Year

Voice shopping over smart devices rose to 45.2 million in 2021, a 120 percent increase in three years, reflecting a 30 percent compound annual growth rate according to Voicebot Research, which tracks use of voice-assisted devices. The analytics firm found that 20.5 million U.S. adults had used voice to shop for a product at least once in 2018. That figure rose to 45.2 million in 2021. However, the firm found that general-use smartphone voice assistants — such as those from Apple (Siri), Amazon (Alexa) and Google — declined 2.8 percent among U.S. adults in 2021. Continue reading Study Finds Consumers Embraced Voice Shopping Last Year