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

BBC Partners with Microsoft to Release Beeb Voice Assistant

The BBC partnered with Microsoft to release an early version of Beeb, its digital voice assistant. Its U.K. debut will be part of Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program to encourage users to help improve Beeb prior to a wider rollout. The BBC first announced Beeb last year, noting that the aim was to integrate voice services into all its products. The public broadcaster will collect data by requiring users to log in to Beeb with their BBC accounts but such data will not be used for targeted ads. Continue reading BBC Partners with Microsoft to Release Beeb Voice Assistant

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 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

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

Congress Calls For End to Tech Firms’ Audio Transcriptions

A bipartisan group of Congress members castigated Facebook for hiring contractors to transcribe audio clips and urged regulation to prevent it in the future. The transcriptions were made to help Facebook improve its artificial intelligence-enabled speech recognition, and are part of a move to improve the capabilities of voice assistants (Amazon, Apple and Google are among companies that have taken similar approaches). Last year, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) circulated a draft law that would impose steep fines and even prison for executives who failed to protect users’ personal data. Continue reading Congress Calls For End to Tech Firms’ Audio Transcriptions

Cable Provider Altice Plans Fall Launch For Smart Speaker

New York-based cable provider Altice USA, parent company to Optimum and Suddenlink, plans to launch a high-fidelity smart speaker this fall that features audio tech from French company Devialet. The $400 Altice Amplify will come with Alexa built-in for hands-free control of TV functions. The speaker, to be available through Altice’s cable stores and Amazon.com, will feature access to streaming apps on the Altice One cable system such as Netflix, Pandora and YouTube. Altice Amplify will work with additional TV systems and streaming devices and support apps including Amazon Music, Apple Music, Audible, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Tidal and TuneIn. Continue reading Cable Provider Altice Plans Fall Launch For Smart Speaker

Pandora Rolls Out Voice Mode Assistant For All Platforms

SiriusXM’s Pandora unveiled Voice Mode, its voice assistant, to Pandora app users on all platforms. This broad rollout took place after a January debut of Voice Mode on about one million iOS and Android devices. The shortcut to Voice Mode can be found in the upper right of the Pandora app screen. Pandora chief product officer Chris Phillips noted that Voice Mode introduces “an even more natural and conversational way for listeners to discover new music … like getting recommendations from a friend who really knows you.” Continue reading Pandora Rolls Out Voice Mode Assistant For All Platforms

Spotify Tests Voice-Enabled Ads on Mobile Devices in U.S.

If you — like millions of others — log into Spotify via a free mobile account (and if you’re in the U.S. and have enabled voice controls), you might start noticing something new: voice-enabled ads. As part of increased investment in voice technology, the streaming service started a test period of these new ads, which encourage listeners to say verbal commands to take action based on the ad’s content. For now, Spotify is focused on promoted in-app content like branded playlists and podcasts, instead of directing listeners outside the app.

Continue reading Spotify Tests Voice-Enabled Ads on Mobile Devices in U.S.

New Reports Reveal Unsettling Facts About Voice Assistants

Microsoft reports that 41 percent of those using voice assistants are concerned about “trust, privacy and passive listening.” Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft, the major voice assistant providers, rely on humans to review collected voice data — although most people are unaware of this. Bloomberg also delved into Amazon’s Alexa team following a report that the company reviews audio clips from commands. Five employees familiar with the program revealed they can “in some cases easily find a customer’s home address.” Continue reading New Reports Reveal Unsettling Facts About Voice Assistants

Voice Tech Adoption Reaches Beyond Smart Homes to Autos

Together, Amazon and Google claim about 85 percent of the smart speakers currently installed in U.S. households. In the wake of a successful holiday shopping season, the number of smart speakers in the U.S. has climbed to around 119 million. And while Amazon and Google battled for dominance at CES with voice assistant support featured in a growing array of devices and services, a new survey from Voicebot.ai suggests that voice assistants may be more habit-forming in vehicles than via smartphones. The voice tech publication found that 77 million adults use such assistants in their vehicles at least monthly, and companies are taking notice. Continue reading Voice Tech Adoption Reaches Beyond Smart Homes to Autos

Pandora Introduces Its Own Voice Assistant for Mobile Apps

Streaming music service Pandora is the latest to announce an in-app voice assistant. Users of the iOS or Android app can simply say “Hey Pandora” and make a request to play specific podcasts or music based on artists, albums, radio stations or playlists. According to Pandora, the creation of its own “Voice Mode” feature was inspired by the millions of users who have been activating the service via smart speakers such as Amazon Echo devices. “Voice is just an expected new way that you engage with any app,” said Pandora chief product officer Chris Phillips. Continue reading Pandora Introduces Its Own Voice Assistant for Mobile Apps

CES: Voice Assistants Are No Longer Just for Smart Speakers

If CES is any indication, 2019 may be the year that voice assistants become more integrated into our daily lives. Amazon and Google went head-to-head in Las Vegas last week with a flood of partnerships touting smart home and CE devices that now support Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Among the products featuring voice support included LG’s much-hyped rollable OLED TV; Panasonic’s new 4K OLED TV; Samsung’s 2019 TV lineup; Vuzix Blade AR glasses; an array of speakers, soundbars and headphones; new smart displays from Lenovo, Archos and KitchenAid; and a collection of home security devices, kitchen and bathroom appliances — even toilets. Continue reading CES: Voice Assistants Are No Longer Just for Smart Speakers

CES 2019: Big Technology Changes Await the Arrival of 5G

At CES 2019’s opening event at Mandalay Bay, CTA vice president of market research Steve Koenig aimed to whip up enthusiasm in the packed room for the technologies attendees would be seeing both at CES Unveiled, which followed this session, and on the many exhibit floors opening on Tuesday. He pinpointed the importance of 5G in bringing to full fruition many of the technologies that have been percolating at the annual CES confab over the past five years, including the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles and 8K TV. Continue reading CES 2019: Big Technology Changes Await the Arrival of 5G

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