Developers to Build Widgets and Skill Cards for Alexa Devices

Amazon stated that it would allow third-party developers to create widgets for its Alexa devices, or what it said will be “rich, customizable, glanceable, self-updating views of skill content.” It won’t be an advertising service, according to Amazon Alexa Skills vice president Aaron Rubenson, but users will see personalized results based on the signals they send Alexa. Comedy Central will be one of the first featured skill cards. Amazon also announced that most Echo smart speakers will support the Matter open standard for smart home devices. Continue reading Developers to Build Widgets and Skill Cards for Alexa Devices

The Linux Foundation Leads Charge for Voice Tech Standards

The Linux Foundation — along with Microsoft, Target, Veritone and other companies — has launched the Open Voice Network (OVN) in order to “prioritize trust and standards” in voice-focused technology. Open Voice Network executive director Jon Stine said the impetus is the tremendous growth of voice assistance for AI-enabled devices and its future potential as an interface and data source. Linux Foundation senior vice president Mike Dolan said the effort is a “proactive response to combating deepfakes in AI-based voice technology.” Continue reading The Linux Foundation Leads Charge for Voice Tech Standards

Amazon Sidewalk Will Launch Mesh Networks for IoT Devices

On June 8, Amazon will introduce its new Amazon Sidewalk program that allows some small smart devices — Ring Floodlight and Spotlight cameras, for example, and Echo Dot smart speakers and Echo Show smart displays — to share low-bandwidth home Wi-Fi networks among neighboring Amazon customers. On June 14, the network will expand to include third-party product Tile, connected to keys. All devices will become part of Amazon Sidewalk by default. The idea is that if one network drops out, the device can move to another nearby signal.

Continue reading Amazon Sidewalk Will Launch Mesh Networks for IoT Devices

Amazon Quietly Changes Terms of Service to Allow Lawsuits

After being deluged by 75,000+ individual arbitration demands filed by plaintiff’s attorneys on behalf of Echo users, Amazon changed its terms of service to allow customers to file lawsuits. It now faces at least three potential class action suits, one of them brought May 18 that alleges that its Alexa-enabled Echo devices record people without their permission. Arbitration requirements are often inserted in many consumer contracts and the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld and underlined the right to mandate arbitration. Continue reading Amazon Quietly Changes Terms of Service to Allow Lawsuits

Wi-Fi 6 Will Eventually Benefit Homes with Connected Devices

Wi-Fi 6 has arrived, promising faster speeds, broader coverage and the ability to share connections across a single household’s wireless devices. The latter means that if one device is consuming huge amounts of data, it will not slow down the household’s other devices. The new generation Wi-Fi actually debuted in 2018 but is only now affordable enough and more widely available on Internet routers to become mainstream. While consumers can now purchase smartphones and computers including chips that enable use of Wi-Fi 6, the tech’s real benefits will likely have a stronger impact once households have more connected devices. Continue reading Wi-Fi 6 Will Eventually Benefit Homes with Connected Devices

Amazon Debuts Program for Users to Vote on New Products

Amazon is launching Build It, a new Kickstarter-like program that will allow consumers to vote on potential new Amazon products. The program is intended to gauge customer interest in new products. Those that get enough support within 30 days will be built and interested customers will only be charged if the product actually ships. Among the current Build It concepts are a “smart cuckoo clock” with Alexa, a smart scale that provides nutritional information on food that’s being weighed and a thermal sticky note printer. Continue reading Amazon Debuts Program for Users to Vote on New Products

Amazon Music Offers Free Podcasts, Develops New Programs

Amazon Music now offers 70,000+ free podcasts and is also developing new podcast programming, making it the latest streaming music service to dive into the genre. Although the field is dominated by Apple Podcasts and Spotify, Amazon executives believe its offering will be competitive because it will be able to bring in new podcast listeners, especially via its Echo home speakers. Amazon’s free podcasts are available for all of its Music tiers and debuted first in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. Continue reading Amazon Music Offers Free Podcasts, Develops New Programs

Spotify’s Ad Business and User Activity Are Trending Upward

With the COVID-19 pandemic, music streaming and media services provider Spotify Technology experienced deep losses in the quarter ending June 30 including declines in daily active users and listening time as well as payroll taxes that were higher than expected. Now the Stockholm-based company reported that its advertising business is improving just as its listeners’ time spent on the app reached pre-pandemic levels. In fact, by the end of the same quarter, all regions served by Spotify — with the exception of Latin America — returned to those levels. Continue reading Spotify’s Ad Business and User Activity Are Trending Upward

Facebook Reveals New AI-Powered Text-to-Speech System

Facebook introduced an AI text-to-speech system (TTS) that produces a second of audio in 500 milliseconds. According to Facebook, the system, which is used with a new approach to data collection, powered the creation of a British accent-inflected voice in six months, versus over a year required for other voices. The TTS is now used for Facebook’s Portal smart display brand. The system can be hosted in real time via ordinary processors and is also available as a service for other apps, including Facebook’s VR. Continue reading Facebook Reveals New AI-Powered Text-to-Speech System

Sonos Rolls Out Radio Channels for Smart Speaker Owners

Sonos just debuted ad-supported Sonos Radio, which splits offerings into three categories: Sonos Presents, which is curated music and original programming; Sonos Stations, a collection of 30 genre-based music listening stations; and Local Radio, which lists thousands of streaming radio options. Napster streams the music for the first two options. Sonos director of business development Ryan Taylor noted that Sonos is experiencing a “New Year’s Eve-level of engagement” during the coronavirus pandemic. Continue reading Sonos Rolls Out Radio Channels for Smart Speaker Owners

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

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

CES 2020: Early Days of AI Assistants Challenge Adoption

Moderated by Digital Trends editor-in-chief Jeremy Kaplan, a CES panel of three experts discussed the evolution of digital assistants, embedded both in devices and humanoid robots. Front Porch president Kari Olson, who is also chief innovation & technology officer, noted that, “at this point in time, we’re all toddlers” when it comes to our understanding of how to interact with digital assistants. Her company has created “possibility rooms” that enable consumers to test out devices embedded with AI assistants. Continue reading CES 2020: Early Days of AI Assistants Challenge Adoption

CES: Expectations for the Immersive Experience Landscape

When CES 2020 opens on January 7th in Las Vegas, I expect experiences — of which ‘entertainment’ is one option — will be center stage. We will be watching for repositioning of products and services as experiences, as well as for new ideas for experiences themselves. To state the obvious, for mixed reality and immersive experiences to work well, the user experience (UX) should be intuitive and match user expectations. Companies are working to achieve this by dealing in their own individual ways with the convergence of multisensory, multiplatform, immersive media technology and language (VR, AR, MR, XR); AI; 5G; IoT; robotics and autonomous things; and blockchain. Gartner describes this as a shift from technology-literate people to people-literate technology. Continue reading CES: Expectations for the Immersive Experience Landscape

Amazon Licenses Original Interactive Audio Series for Alexa

Amazon has inked an exclusive license for “Tala’s World,” a seven-episode young adult adventure series produced by audio startup Xandra, which has produced Alexa skills for HBO, Sesame Workshop and Ubisoft. In the new adventure series, listeners help elf-like character Blobby find his missing best friend Tala by making decisions, collecting clues, and interrogating suspects. Available exclusively on Alexa, Amazon recently released the first episode and plans to release the second episode on December 13. Continue reading Amazon Licenses Original Interactive Audio Series for Alexa

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