Cloud Services and Advertising Push Amazon to Major Profits

Amazon posted $2.53 billion in profit for the first time, with the highest profit margin ever, the result of the company’s more recent service businesses, including cloud computing, advertising and other services for sellers. The Q2 profit compares to $197 million a year earlier, and represents three straight quarters of profits over $1 billion, forever changing Amazon’s former profile as a company that posts either red ink or bare bones income. Alphabet and Microsoft, however, still deliver much bigger profits. Continue reading Cloud Services and Advertising Push Amazon to Major Profits

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

Samsung’s Next Frame TV Improves Smart Controls, HDR

Samsung announced that its next-gen Frame TV — which doubles as a rotating art display — features an updated artwork UI, expanded art library and additional customization features. The 4K UHD screen has been upgraded from HDR Pro to HDR10+ — and now comes with Bixby so that users can control the TV and compatible home devices by voice. The unit also touts new smart capabilities that make it easier to transfer Wi-Fi and Samsung account info from smartphones to the TV set via Bluetooth Low Energy. The new 55-inch Frame TV is available for $1,999, while the 65-inch version runs for $2,799. Continue reading Samsung’s Next Frame TV Improves Smart Controls, HDR

Amazon Show Mode Converts Fire Tablets into Echo Shows

Amazon is introducing the Show Mode Charging Dock to provide an easy charge for the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 while keeping them propped up. To debut in a software update on July 2, new Show Mode features will also essentially turn these tablets into a portable Echo Show with weather, time, and news displays in addition to hands-free voice control via Alexa. Putting the tablet on the dock, which aligns via magnets, launches Show Mode; the tablet reverts back to its standard tablet interface when the user removes it from the dock. Continue reading Amazon Show Mode Converts Fire Tablets into Echo Shows

New Version of Alexa Coming to Hotels With Echo Speakers

Amazon introduced Alexa for Hospitality this week, a new version of its virtual assistant designed specifically for the hotel industry. Alexa for Hospitality will initially be offered on an invitation basis to locations such as hotels and vacation rentals. The voice assistant will be customized per hospitality location so that customers can interact with an Echo smart speaker to easily adjust room controls, order room service, request housekeeping, ask location-specific questions, contact the front desk, check out, and more. Continue reading New Version of Alexa Coming to Hotels With Echo Speakers

Amazon Debuts 4K Fire TV Cube With Alexa-Centric Strategy

Amazon, which started shipping its Fire TV video streaming devices four years ago, is now planning the release of its 4K Fire TV Cube, which combines Fire TV capabilities with Amazon Echo and acts as a TV control center for other devices. Fire TV Cube offers built-in Alexa and was designed with a “voice first” strategy to, as Amazon Fire TV vice president of product development Sandeep Gupta said, “highlight the use of voice.” Priced at $119, Fire TV Cube is the most expensive device in the segment and the sleekest. Continue reading Amazon Debuts 4K Fire TV Cube With Alexa-Centric Strategy

TiVo DVRs Add Support for Amazon’s Virtual Assistant Alexa

TiVo is introducing voice control to its DVRs with support for Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa. Consumers who have TiVo devices including the Premiere, Roamio and Bolt boxes will be able to interact with Alexa for basic remote control commands such as skipping commercials with SkipMode, changing channels, and launching video apps like Netflix. TiVo joins companies including DirecTV, Dish and Verizon in adding hands-free, voice control features. At CES in January, TiVo announced its plans to add support for Alexa and Google Assistant. Continue reading TiVo DVRs Add Support for Amazon’s Virtual Assistant Alexa

Google’s Third-Gen Tensor Processor Unit Key to AI Ambitions

At Google’s I/O conference, chief executive Sundar Pichai reflected on the backlash against Silicon Valley companies while, at the same time, promoting the company’s advances and ambitions in artificial intelligence. Among those were specific positive solutions, such as an AI-powered software that helps diagnose eye disease, and a demonstration of what Google Assistant — in a variety of voices and accents — can do for ordinary consumers, and how Smart Compose in Gmail will suggest complete sentences to make the process speedier. Continue reading Google’s Third-Gen Tensor Processor Unit Key to AI Ambitions

Amazon Debuts New Smart Speaker Edition Designed for Kids

Amazon is introducing the $80 Echo Dot Kids Edition with FreeTime services. Intended for children ages 5 to 12, the modified Echo Dot features a brightly colored, protective rubber case; kid-friendly content from the likes of Audible, Disney and iHeartRadio; and parental controls such as time limits, activity review and content filtering. Users can wake up to alarms based on characters from Disney, Nickelodeon and others. The speaker, which is available for pre-order and starts shipping May 9, includes the same two-year replacement guarantee that Amazon rolled out for its Fire tablets for kids. Continue reading Amazon Debuts New Smart Speaker Edition Designed for Kids

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

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

New Optoma 4K Projector Comes With Alexa Voice Assistant

One of the big stories coming out of CES this year is the growing list of products adding Amazon Alexa … from computers, wearables, vehicles, smart refrigerators, appliances — even shower systems and connected bathroom mirrors — to TiVo, Panasonic Blu-ray players and TVs from Hisense, LG and Sony (the only bigger surprise may have been the number of products that will soon feature Google Assistant integration). On the projector front, Alexa is coming to new 4K projectors from Acer and Optoma. Engadget declared the Optoma UHD51A its Best of CES winner in the Home Theater category. Continue reading New Optoma 4K Projector Comes With Alexa Voice Assistant

Amazon Imagines Alexa Will Soon Replace Your Smartphone

Amazon is aiming for a future in which its digital assistant Alexa replaces the smartphone. The future Alexa will evolve from speakers to touchscreens and a new, simpler kind of computing based on voice commands rather than apps. The rationale is that the smartphone has become ever-more complicated, with dozens of apps that distract the user. Developers also have an interest in moving off the smartphone, which has also been shown to have negative health effects. Rather than a distraction, Alexa offers specific interactions. Continue reading Amazon Imagines Alexa Will Soon Replace Your Smartphone

Samsung Integrates Viv Labs Tech into AI Assistant Bixby 2.0

Today, Samsung’s AI assistant Bixby can respond to a few commands and interact with a few apps and services. However, the new Bixby 2.0 will integrate technology from Viv Labs, which Samsung acquired a year ago for $215 million. Viv co-creators Adam Cheyer and Dag Kittlaus previously created Siri prior to being acquired by Apple. Bixby 2.0, which will be available on devices including Samsung Smart TVs and Family Hub refrigerators, will be able to interact with more services and in a more sophisticated manner. Continue reading Samsung Integrates Viv Labs Tech into AI Assistant Bixby 2.0

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