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

Microsoft Chatbot Xiaoice Excels at AI-to-Human Engagement

Unlike Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft’s own Cortana, the latter’s social chatbot Xiaoice (pronounced “Shao-ice”) isn’t constructed simply to answer questions or resolve problems but can also tell jokes, write poetry, and exhibit “empathic computing” abilities. In China, Xiaoice resided on Huawei smartphones and was a weather reader on Dragon TV, a Shanghai TV station. Debuted in China in May 2014, Xiaoice has had more than 30 billion mainly text conversations with 660 million people around the world. Continue reading Microsoft Chatbot Xiaoice Excels at AI-to-Human Engagement

LG to Debut Google Assistant Smart Display on Black Friday

LG is introducing its first Google Assistant-powered smart display this week. The XBOOM AI ThinQ WK9, which runs the Android Things operating system for IoT devices, will be offered for a $200 promotional price during Black Friday (it is expected to run $100 more beyond the sale). The smart device was first teased at CES in January. The XBOOM AI features an 8-inch HD touch-screen display, Bluetooth streaming, a built-in 5MP camera for video calls, Google Assistant-powered AI features, and easy access to apps such as Google Maps, Google Photos and YouTube via the Android Things platform. Continue reading LG to Debut Google Assistant Smart Display on Black Friday

Apple Could Push Wearables, EU Okays Shazam Acquisition

Apple, which has evolved from a PC company to an iPhone company, is searching for its “next big thing.” One WSJ journalist believes a clue to what it might be came from chief executive Tim Cook’s revelation that the Apple Watch and AirPods generated $10 billion in revenue over the last four quarters. The company’s wearables sales are growing, even as smartphone and PC sales level off, and IDC said Apple is the wearables market leader, with 17 percent of the global market. Meanwhile, the European Union has approved Apple’s purchase of Shazam, which should fortify the company’s music ambitions. Continue reading Apple Could Push Wearables, EU Okays Shazam Acquisition

Survey Finds That Smart Speakers Are Gaining in Popularity

A new Adobe Analytics survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers has found that voice assistants and smart speakers are becoming increasingly popular. Adobe predicts that following the next holiday season, almost half of U.S. consumers will own a smart speaker. The market has grown about 15 percent in less than one year; more than 32 percent of consumers now own a smart speaker. People are most commonly using such tech to play music, check weather forecasts, set alarms/reminders as well as obtain directions, check sports scores and traffic, and ask fun questions. Continue reading Survey Finds That Smart Speakers Are Gaining in Popularity

Apple Targets Creatives With MacBook Pro Speed, Features

Apple’s latest 15-inch and 13-inch MacBook Pros feature improvements in processor speeds, RAM and internal storage, and allow the user to access Siri with voice commands. The new MacBook Pros also feature a much quieter keyboard. The 15-inch version, with a six-core processor, is estimated to be 70 percent faster than the previous model, and the amount of memory and storage is double the amount of the previous model. It also gave a seal of approval to Blackmagic’s eGPU peripheral, ideal for intensive graphics use. Continue reading Apple Targets Creatives With MacBook Pro Speed, Features

Apple to Roll Out Higher-End AirPods, Other Audio Products

Apple is planning to introduce higher-end AirPods, a next-gen HomePod and studio-quality over-ear headphones as early as 2019, say sources. With regard to the new AirPod, which will likely be priced more than the current earbuds’ $159, Apple is trying to increase the range that it can work away from an iPhone or iPad, and is adding noise-cancellation and water resistance against rain and sweat. A wireless charging case compatible with the upcoming AirPower charger is also in the works. Continue reading Apple to Roll Out Higher-End AirPods, Other Audio Products

WWDC 2018: Apple Announces Improvements and Upgrades

Apple kicked off its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California yesterday and, as expected, the major announcements focused on upgrades and improvements rather than new hardware reveals. With the company’s iOS 12, available this fall, Apple is “doubling down on performance,” according to SVP Craig Federighi. Following user complaints that a previous update slowed older iPhones, the new iOS will make devices faster, with improved integration across devices. The company emphasized macOS Mojave, its digital assistant Siri, and a push into augmented reality, as well as a new version of its suite of machine learning apps for iOS devices and tvOS 12’s support for Dolby Atmos. Continue reading WWDC 2018: Apple Announces Improvements and Upgrades

Google Assistant Is Connected to 5,000 Smart Home Devices

Google revealed that its AI-powered Google Assistant is now connected to more than 5,000 smart devices in the home, up from 1,500 such devices in January. Among the devices now controlled by Google Assistant are air conditioners, cameras, security systems, thermostats, vacuum cleaners and washing machines. Google faces stiff competition in the smart home arena, most notably from Amazon Alexa, Apple’s HomeKit and Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Samsung’s SmartThings and Bixby. Now the rivals must convince consumers to buy the devices. Continue reading Google Assistant Is Connected to 5,000 Smart Home Devices

Changes to Facebook News Feed Plan to Curb Misinformation

Under pressure from lawmakers, regulators, and some of its two billion monthly active users to fight misinformation, Facebook is tweaking how information is presented on its News Feed. Users in the U.S. will now be able to easily see a news publisher’s Wikipedia page along with a given story and can see how frequently it’s been shared on the social network. Facebook is under renewed criticism following reports that Cambridge Analytica “improperly accessed data on millions of Facebook users,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

Continue reading Changes to Facebook News Feed Plan to Curb Misinformation

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.

Continue reading Google’s Machine-Generated Speech Will Sound More Human

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.

Continue reading IBM’s New Watson Assistant Helps Develop Virtual Assistants

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.

Continue reading Amazon Envisions Alexa as a Universal Language Translator

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

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