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

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

Apple’s iOS 13 Reveals Path Forward for Augmented Reality

Apple signaled its steps toward augmented reality with a feature found in both iOS 13 and Xcode 11. Developers Steve Troughton-Smith and Guilherme Rambo discovered StarBoard, a stereo AR feature that appears to be similar to iOS’s CarPlay feature, which relies on an iPhone to generate graphics for a vehicle’s external touchscreen. But whereas CarPlay outputs a single image for a 2D display, StarBoard can apparently output two images for a 3D stereo headset, paired with a touch-based AR navigation controller. Continue reading Apple’s iOS 13 Reveals Path Forward for Augmented Reality

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

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

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

Apple Ends Practice of Humans Monitoring Siri Recordings

Apple will no longer allow human contractors to listen in on users’ Siri recordings to “grade” them, and will not resume the program until it has completed a “thorough review.” The company also stated that, as part of a future update, users will be able to opt out of the quality assurance program. Apple told users that Siri data might be used to improve their experience, but not that humans would be listening to it. Most of the compromised confidential information was recorded via an accidental trigger of Siri. Continue reading Apple Ends Practice of Humans Monitoring Siri Recordings

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

Alexa Conversations For Complex Tasks With Less Coding

At its re:MARS AI conference earlier this month, Amazon previewed Alexa Conversations, a module within the Alexa Skills Kit that melds Alexa voice apps to allow users to perform complicated tasks requiring multiple skills — all with fewer lines of code. That’s because a recurrent neural network will be able to “generate dialogue flow” automatically, thus limiting the number of steps a user needs to order food or reserve a ticket. Amazon vice president David Limp dubbed Conversations “the Holy Grail of voice science.” Continue reading Alexa Conversations For Complex Tasks With Less Coding

WWDC: Apple Unveils iOS 13, iPadOS and Project Catalyst

At this week’s WWDC, Apple unveiled its latest mobile operating system for iPhones and iPod touches, iOS 13, which includes faster performance, upgraded Siri, Dark Mode, advanced Photo and Camera tools, and new privacy features. The company also announced a separate iPadOS for its tablets, which features the same upgrades as iOS 13 in addition to multitasking improvements and a redesigned home screen. Apple is encouraging developers to create new apps that work across all its devices, including Macs. The company announced Project Catalyst (formerly code-name Marzipan), a set of tools that make it simple for developers to make their apps accessible on the Mac. Continue reading WWDC: Apple Unveils iOS 13, iPadOS and Project Catalyst

Spotify Brings Beef Against Apple to European Commission

Spotify filed a complaint with European regulators accusing Apple of violating antitrust laws by crushing companies that compete with its services, including Apple Music. Apple charges a fee of up to 30 percent on anything sold in its App Store. Spotify reported to the European Commission that Apple’s policies are a “tax” that violate competition laws, and chief executive Daniel Ek complained that Apple gives itself “an unfair advantage at every turn.” It is uncertain if the complaint will lead to a formal EC investigation. Continue reading Spotify Brings Beef Against Apple to European Commission

Voice Tech Adoption Reaches Beyond Smart Homes to Autos

Together, Amazon and Google claim about 85 percent of the smart speakers currently installed in U.S. households. In the wake of a successful holiday shopping season, the number of smart speakers in the U.S. has climbed to around 119 million. And while Amazon and Google battled for dominance at CES with voice assistant support featured in a growing array of devices and services, a new survey from Voicebot.ai suggests that voice assistants may be more habit-forming in vehicles than via smartphones. The voice tech publication found that 77 million adults use such assistants in their vehicles at least monthly, and companies are taking notice. Continue reading Voice Tech Adoption Reaches Beyond Smart Homes to Autos

CES: Voice Assistants Are No Longer Just for Smart Speakers

If CES is any indication, 2019 may be the year that voice assistants become more integrated into our daily lives. Amazon and Google went head-to-head in Las Vegas last week with a flood of partnerships touting smart home and CE devices that now support Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Among the products featuring voice support included LG’s much-hyped rollable OLED TV; Panasonic’s new 4K OLED TV; Samsung’s 2019 TV lineup; Vuzix Blade AR glasses; an array of speakers, soundbars and headphones; new smart displays from Lenovo, Archos and KitchenAid; and a collection of home security devices, kitchen and bathroom appliances — even toilets. Continue reading CES: Voice Assistants Are No Longer Just for Smart Speakers

LG OLED TV With Rollable Screen Impresses CES Attendees

While MicroLED, 8K QLED and some impressively large quality displays have been generating the most TV buzz this week in Las Vegas, LG has been showcasing a concept that’s taken different forms at CES in the past, but not with this level of sophistication. Rather than introducing a foldable or bendable screen that retracts, LG debuted a 65-inch OLED TV with rollable screen at this year’s confab. The LG Signature OLED TV R “rolls” into a base to the point that the flexible screen is no longer visible. The 3-millimeter OLED panel then rises from its base for easy viewing. Users can also play music through the base since it’s a 100W Dolby Atmos soundbar. Continue reading LG OLED TV With Rollable Screen Impresses CES Attendees

Amazon Music Debuts Voice Feature to Customize Playlists

Amazon Music debuted a voice feature that lets Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music customers on Echo devices and in the Amazon Music iOS and Android apps converse with Alexa to find playlists and music for specific moods. The listener can identify songs by lyrics, among other features, and reject or “like” individual songs. Amazon’s overall aim is to allow each listener to create a more customized listening experience. Amazon is also in trials with a feature that allows Alexa Answers to be shared worldwide. Continue reading Amazon Music Debuts Voice Feature to Customize Playlists

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