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

Apple Has a Record $123.9 Billion Quarter Despite Chip Crisis

Apple, the world’s most highly valued public company, hit an all-time quarterly revenue record of $123.9 billion for Q4, an 11 percent increase year-over-year. The company also saw profits up 20 percent to $34.6 billion for the quarter despite the supply chain issues that plagued the industry. “We are gratified to see the response from customers around the world at a time when staying connected has never been more important,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in the company’s earnings release, attributing the robust performance to “our most innovative lineup of products and services ever.” Continue reading Apple Has a Record $123.9 Billion Quarter Despite Chip Crisis

CES: New Ultra Portable Projectors Stand Out at Trade Show

Several ultra portable projectors were on display at CES 2022. Among the more interesting short throw models were products from Anker, Hisense, Samsung and XGIMI, although the show also featured a range of projector types from the likes of BenQ, JVC, Panasonic, Vankyo and ViewSonic. Generating the most buzz in the short throw category was Samsung’s $899 projector, The Freestyle, that can project from 30 to 100 inches and comes equipped with a 1080p HDR-capable view and 360-degree audio. Also drawing media attention was Anker’s upcoming Nebula Cosmos Laser, which comes in 4K ($2,199) and 1080p ($1,599) versions, and is expected to ship by late March. Continue reading CES: New Ultra Portable Projectors Stand Out at Trade Show

New Amazon Devices Include Home Robot, Smart Thermostat

During its streamed media event this week, Amazon introduced new devices including a wheeled robot named Astro and a sale-by-invitation-only Ring autonomous security drone for the home. While the unusual products added sizzle, the focus was largely on basics like its first smart thermostat, updates to the Echo speaker line and Ring security products. Several of the new products appear to target market share of products already on offer, including through Amazon, and many emphasize synergy among Amazon’s hardware brands. The company’s fee-based premium services were also emphasized. Continue reading New Amazon Devices Include Home Robot, Smart Thermostat

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