Google Stops Human Review of Assistant Voice Clips in EU

Google is pausing Google Assistant voice transcriptions in the European Union for at least three months. In mid-July, it admitted that about 1,000 private communications were made available to human contractors evaluating Assistant’s speech recognition accuracy, revealing personal and private information. A Google spokesperson reported that the company ceased voice transcription involving human moderators after learning of additional leaks in the Netherlands. Amazon will allow Alexa users to opt out of the human review of recordings and Apple has halted its program allowing human contractors to listen in on Siri recordings. Continue reading Google Stops Human Review of Assistant Voice Clips in EU

Once Again, Prime Day Shatters Sales Records for Amazon

According to Amazon, this week’s Prime Day 2019 topped last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. Despite competing discounts offered by eBay, Best Buy and Walmart, Prime members purchased more than 175 million products during the annual sales event. The tally is challenging to compare to previous Prime Day events since the e-commerce giant keeps expanding the duration of the sale (this year it was 48 hours, compared to 36 hours in 2018 and 30 hours in 2017). However, the event set a number of sales records, including new milestones for Amazon devices. Continue reading Once Again, Prime Day Shatters Sales Records for Amazon

Developers Are Struggling to Create Alexa-Centric Killer App

Four years after launching its program to allow outside developers to write apps for Alexa, Amazon’s voice system has some 80,000 “skills” — but no huge hit. In fact, most people with Alexa-enabled smart speakers still use them only to listen to music or make simple requests. That compares to Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store, each of which are home to over 550,000 apps, many of which have been huge successes for developers. But voice-centric apps are challenging to build and don’t appear to attract consumers. Continue reading Developers Are Struggling to Create Alexa-Centric Killer App

Amazon Unveils Graviton, Its Own ARM Chips for Data Centers

In a surprise announcement, Amazon revealed that it is making its own chips, dubbed Graviton, for its cloud computing division. Similarly, Google also recently stated its plans to create chips for artificial intelligence algorithms in its data center. Amazon’s chips are likewise targeting its data centers, where the company hopes to better integrate software and hardware, resulting in less expensive services for customers. Typically, companies like Amazon and Google would use AMD or Intel’s off-the-shelf chips. Continue reading Amazon Unveils Graviton, Its Own ARM Chips for Data Centers

In Speedier Rollout, Amazon Adds Four New Alexa Slot Types

When Amazon’s Alexa asks for the name of an actor, athlete, author or another noun in response to a question, there’s a method to the madness: it’s trying to fill a “slot type,” which defines how data is recognized. A skill or third party app with a slot type for actors would likely query filmographies listing names of actors. These slots are intended to save time, says Amazon, as well as provide a more consistent experience. Amazon is adding four new slot types: Creative Work, Food, Sport and Video Game. Continue reading In Speedier Rollout, Amazon Adds Four New Alexa Slot Types

Amazon, Microsoft Introduce Integration of Alexa and Cortana

Amazon and Microsoft gave a public demonstration of the integration of Alexa and Cortana into all Echo speakers and to all Windows 10 users. That means that a user can ask Windows 10’s Cortana to open Alexa, and ask Alexa on Echo speakers to open Cortana. This integration is now available to most users but will completely roll out around the country over the next week, said a Microsoft spokesperson. Some features, such as streaming music, audiobooks and news flashes will not be available at launch. Continue reading Amazon, Microsoft Introduce Integration of Alexa and Cortana

New App for Manufacturing Workers Adds AI to Google Glass

At this week’s Google Cloud Next conference, Israeli company Plataine demonstrated a new app for Google Glass, pointing to artificial intelligence as the technology that will drive the success of the spectacles. The easy-to-use app, which is aimed at factory workers, understands and replies in spoken language. Plataine’s clients already include Airbus, Boeing and GE, and the company is now working on adding image recognition capabilities to the app, which was built using Google Cloud AI services and support from the tech giant. Continue reading New App for Manufacturing Workers Adds AI to Google Glass

Autodesk, Amazon Tweak Digital Assistants to Be More Natural

Autodesk is rolling out a new version of its Autodesk Virtual Agent (AVA) to replace its text-only chatbot in mid-May. AVA features an animated face and a New Zealand accent, with emotional responses that the company hopes will help customers engage. For example, if a customer says he’s having trouble, AVA will frown, say she’s sorry and ask how she can help, explains Autodesk manager of digital support channels Rachael Rekart. In doing so, Autodesk is following a trend of companies installing virtual assistants that are more helpful and personable. Amazon, for example, is updating Alexa to be smarter and more conversational. Continue reading Autodesk, Amazon Tweak Digital Assistants to Be More Natural

Startup Simplifies Voice App Development With New Interface

Storyline, a startup founded in September, has launched version 2 of its easy-to-use visual interface designed to help businesses, brands and publishers develop Amazon Alexa skills without the need for extensive coding knowledge. Since 39 million U.S. consumers now own a smart speaker, voice apps are needed, and Storyline hopes that its simple drag-and-drop solution will help foster that growth. The company refers to its approach as the “Weebly for voice apps,” drawing a comparison to the popular, easy-to-use, website-building platform. Continue reading Startup Simplifies Voice App Development With New Interface

Facebook, Google Pledge to Expand AI Investments in France

After top Google and Facebook executives met with French president Emmanuel Macron, the tech companies vowed to invest artificial intelligence resources in that country’s capital. Google will create a Paris-based AI lab focused on research into automatic learning, language and computer vision. Facebook, which already has created an AI lab in Paris, plans to double its 50-person team there by 2022 and spend 10 million euros ($12.2 million). Both companies also pledge to train that country’s citizens on digital tools. Continue reading Facebook, Google Pledge to Expand AI Investments in France

Report: About 16 Percent of Americans Own Smart Speakers

NPR and Edison Research released a report this week indicating that about one in six Americans (39 million people) now own a smart speaker, up 128 percent from last January. “Amazon’s Echo speakers are still in the lead, the report says, as 11 percent now own an Amazon Alexa device compared with 4 percent who own a Google Home product,” reports TechCrunch. Amazon and Google promoted their devices heavily and cut prices during the holiday shopping season. “The Echo Dot became a top seller across its site and by manufacturers through the Black Friday weekend.” Continue reading Report: About 16 Percent of Americans Own Smart Speakers

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

Forecast: Smart Speakers Will Outsell Wearables This Season

Strategy Analytics predicts the smart speaker market will nearly quadruple in unit volume this year, bringing the total to 24 million. According to eMarketer, smart speakers will likely outsell wearables in the U.S. this holiday season. “We expect smart speakers to be the gift of choice for many tech enthusiasts, because of their lower price points,” said eMarketer analyst Cindy Liu. The research firm anticipates continued growth for devices such as smartwatches and fitness trackers in the U.S., but slowed growth in terms of usage. Continue reading Forecast: Smart Speakers Will Outsell Wearables This Season

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

Money20/20: Companies Partner on AR Shopping Prototype

Mastercard, Osterhout Design Group (ODG), and Qualcomm are betting that augmented reality will be a powerhouse for future shopping. To test the waters, they put together an exhibit of a prototype retail experience that is on display, with clothes from Saks Fifth Avenue, at the Money20/20 event in Las Vegas. The prototype combines AR glasses, iris authentication, and integrated mobile payment, and uses photorealistic AR that lets the consumer look at the clothing and view digital details (such as the price) on the AR glasses. Continue reading Money20/20: Companies Partner on AR Shopping Prototype

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