Apple Moves to Block IP Addresses from Advertising Trackers

At its WWDC21 developers’ conference this week, Apple revealed tweaks to consumer privacy rules that will limit advertisers’ ability to track users’ activity and gain information from data brokers. These changes will impact many Apple devices, not just iOS 15. Apple earlier curbed in-app tracking, another move that concerned advertisers. Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi said the changes would block IP addresses from being transmitted to websites visited in Apple’s Safari browser. Continue reading Apple Moves to Block IP Addresses from Advertising Trackers

Apple Unveils New OS, Privacy Updates and More at WWDC

Apple’s WWDC annual week-long developer conference kicked off with a first peak at iOS 15 enhancements. That includes the next version of FaceTime, which will more closely resemble Zoom, including a grid view for group calls and spatial audio and voice isolation features. The company teased new software updates for AirPods Pro and AirPods, and a multitasking menu for iPadOS 15, coming this fall. The upcoming watchOS 8 will boost fitness, sleep and meditation features. Among numerous other announcements, the company showed data privacy improvements and revealed that HomeKit will now support Siri. Continue reading Apple Unveils New OS, Privacy Updates and More at WWDC

Microsoft to Buy AI and Speech Recognition Provider Nuance

Microsoft is on track to acquire Nuance Communications, an AI and speech recognition software company, for about $16 billion. The company intends to expand its offerings in medical computing; Nuance already has speech and text data related to healthcare, an established customer base and the transcription tool Dragon. According to Microsoft, the purchase will “double the size of the healthcare market where it competed to almost $500 billion.” With the purchase, Microsoft could also develop advanced AI solutions for the workplace across numerous industries. Microsoft’s last big purchase was LinkedIn, for $26.2 billion in 2015.  Continue reading Microsoft to Buy AI and Speech Recognition Provider Nuance

Apple Releases iOS 14, Bundles, Watch Series 6, New iPads

Apple’s fall event was all about bundling, with discounts for customers who sign up for multiple plans with recurring payments. The new Fitness+ package, for example, offers workouts that tie in to “all of your Apple equipment” and an Apple One subscription bundles Arcade, Music, TV+ and iCloud. There was no new iPhone or mention of AR, but the Silicon Valley company did unveil iOS 14, a new Watch, a new iPad, and an upgraded entry-level iPad. Apple is also experimenting with an Express store for product pick-ups. Continue reading Apple Releases iOS 14, Bundles, Watch Series 6, New iPads

Apple Is in a Patent Infringement Dispute Over Siri in China

Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology Company was recently granted a Chinese patent for a voice assistant similar to Apple’s Siri. It has also filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Apple, with about 10 billion yuan ($1.43 billion) in potential damages. The suit stated that Apple products violate a virtual assistant patent with technical architecture similar to Siri’s that is owned by a Chinese artificial intelligence company. Apple responded that Siri’s features are different from those described in the Chinese patent. Continue reading Apple Is in a Patent Infringement Dispute Over Siri in China

EU’s Antitrust Probe Expands to Include the Internet of Things

The European Union’s antitrust unit has broadened its focus of Big Tech companies to include voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa and the growing number of connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The EU’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager noted the threat of a big company pushing the market until “competition turns into monopoly.” With regard to IoT, she pinpointed voice assistants as the “center of it all,” but included any digital device that records consumer data from Apple Watch to an Internet-connected refrigerator. Continue reading EU’s Antitrust Probe Expands to Include the Internet of Things

WWDC: Apple Unveils New Silicon Chips, macOS, iOS, More

At WWDC this week, Apple officially announced its plan to move from Intel chips to ARM-based “Apple Silicon” chips. With its own chips, Apple will no longer have to rely on Intel’s update cycles. It also means that Apple will be able to bring its customized neural engines to Macs for tasks that use machine learning. Apple stated that developers will be able to create apps that run on ARM-based Macs in Xcode’s new version, which will also continue to support Intel x86 Macs. Additionally, the company announced iOS 14 (with home screen widgets), iPadOS 14 (with Scribble handwriting-to-text conversion), macOS and Safari upgrades, spatial audio for AirPods Pro, Apple TV updates, and more.  Continue reading WWDC: Apple Unveils New Silicon Chips, macOS, iOS, More

Apple Preps for Release of New iPhones, HomePod Speaker

Apple is readying the fall release of its new iPhone line-up, including the redesign and the addition of 5G to two high-end phones and two less expensive models to replace the iPhone 11. Sources report that among the redesign of the top-tier phones are flat stainless-steel edges and flat screens. Yesterday, the company delivered a virtual unveiling of its new iPhone SE, featuring a design similar to its older iPhone 8. Apple also plans to release a new version of its HomePod speaker that is smaller and cheaper than the original, in addition to Apple Tags for tracking keys, wallets and other objects. Continue reading Apple Preps for Release of New iPhones, HomePod Speaker

Google Assistant Adds Read Aloud, Sensor Support Features

Read It is a new Google Assistant feature that reads web pages out loud in 42 languages. Accessible through browsers and Android smartphones, it is launched by saying “Hey Google, read it” or “Hey Google, read this page.” Users can adjust the reading speed, and the feature highlights words as they are read out loud. Buttons can be used to skip forward or backward in the text or pause the reading. Google also added native support for sensors in Google Assistant, and a special device type for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Continue reading Google Assistant Adds Read Aloud, Sensor Support Features

Apple Researchers Improving Accuracy of Virtual Assistant

Over 50 million people worldwide use Apple’s virtual assistant Siri. Apple, focused on improving Siri’s capabilities, published research on how to improve voice trigger detection, speaker verification and language identification for multiple speakers. Apple researchers suggest that an AI model be trained for automatic speech recognition and speaker recognition. Rather than approach it as two independent tasks, the researchers proved that those tasks might actually help one another to “estimate both properties.” Continue reading Apple Researchers Improving Accuracy of Virtual Assistant

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

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