Friday, May 25, 2018

Long Weekend

Here in the US of A we are about to begin the LONG Memorial Day weekend. We've given the whole staff off until next Tuesday so don't expect any post until then!

Happy Memorial Day to all!!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Alexa Scheduling

Amazon’s Alexa has been able to schedule meetings for
some time now, but starting today Alexa can schedule
one-on-one meetings based on the availability of both
meeting participants. The Alexa Smart Scheduling Assistant
also lets you move events around on your calendar with
voice commands and is the first such service to be made
available to Alexa and Alexa for Business users in the United

Alexa is unable to schedule one-on-one meetings if the
person in your contact list lacks an email address, since
suggested meeting times and calendar invites are sent
via email.

However, if there’s more than one person in your contact
list with the same name, Alexa will ask: “There are multiple
people named John in your contacts, which would you like

to invite?”

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Hydrogen One Handset

RED’s Hydrogen One handset is one of those devices
we’ll believe when we actually see it. The company’s
been promising up the $1,200 smartphone for a while
now, only to be hit with delays and outright admitting,
“We have no idea whatsoever what we are doing.”

Consider this some small vote of confidence, however.
AT&T announced today that it will be carrying the 5.7-inch
“holographic display device.” That, of course, shouldn’t be
taken as a tacit approval of the device, so much as a
confirmation of the fact that it does, in fact, exist.

Though in a press release tied to the announcement, a
market SVP says, “This revolutionary smartphone will
provide you with significant advancements in the way
you create and view content on the leading network for
entertainment.” So, take that as you will. Personally, I’m
holding off any sort of judgement until I can hold the thing
in my hands.

The carrier mentions “later this summer” in the press
release, which lines up with RED’s most recent mention of
an August launch date. As for price, your guess is as good
as ours. We reached out to AT&T to see whether the
company will be subsidizing the product on contract, or
simply offering up the $1,200 phone as is through its retail
channel. The carrier won’t comment on that, yet, though its
Next subsidy plan might make sense, cushioning the cost
by stretching it out over a longer period.

The Hydrogen One is, by all accounts, about as far as you
can get from a mainstream piece of mobile hardware. At
the moment, it feels more like a fun consumer electronics
thought experiment, but at least it’s one that’s real — and
coming to the second largest mobile carrier in the U.S. at

some point this summer.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Apple WWDC and Siri

For years, Apple has used the stage of its Worldwide
Developers Conference to announce upgrades to the
Siri personal assistant that would make it more useful.

This year's plan, according to a Siri trick Apple has put
out there: Siri will be smarter, get a new look and a new

Ask Siri to tell you about the WWDC conference, which
starts June 4th in San Jose, and you get one of three
answers both in audio and written form.

—"I'm gonna have a shiny new home. Well, not really
shiny, more meshy and matte."
—"La, la, la, Siri is getting a brand new voice."
—"I don't want to brag, but I'm getting a lot smarter. It
might be all that late night studying I've been doing."

The WWDC is when Apple welcomes app developers to
hear about what's new with the iPhone maker, delivers
previews of the IOS mobile operating system update and
hypes them on creating great apps to take advantage of
the new features.

What Apple promised about Siri at past WWDC's:
— 2013. Siri would get a new interface and a smoother
—2014 Apple brought hands-free Siri operation to iPhones
and iPads (say "Hey, Siri," to wake it up)
—2015. A move to make Siri more "proactive" to answer
questions without excessive prompting.
—2016, Apple announced a new initiative that it promised
would really make Siri a more helpful tool — the ability to
marry Siri with third-party apps like Uber and Circle. At the
time, Apple said opening Siri outside of just Apple apps
would make usage more widespread. But few app developers
signed on.
—2017. The HomePod, Apple's answer to Amazon Echo a
nd Google Home connected speakers, was introduced at
WWDC, with Apple touting on-command music selection
via Siri and the Apple Music subscription service.

Apple had no comment on this year's plans.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Another MSFT Acquisition

Microsoft has agreed to acquire Semantic Machines,
a Berkeley, California-based startup that develops
conversational AI – systems that help bots speak to
humans naturally – in a bid to improve its Cortana
voice assistant.

That’s a big win for Microsoft, because Semantic
Machines’ team includes some serious talent in this
space: its members have worked on the core systems
that powered Google Now; its CTO is the former Chief
Speech Scientist for Siri at Apple, while others came on
board from speech recognition heavyweight Nuance

The move comes at a time when conversational AI’s
relevance is steadily growing: chatbots, smart speakers,
and intelligent mobile assistants all stand to benefit from
smarts that could enable them to do more than just execute
one-off commands from users.

could get better at asking and answering follow-up questions,
remembering information you’ve shared earlier, building
context by rifling through your profile, and carrying out several
functions in sequence after receiving detailed instructions from
a human.

Perhaps the best (and eeriest) example of what conversational
AI could make possible in recent times is Google Duplex, which
lets the company’s Assistant make a phone call on your behalf
to do things like a book a restaurant table or schedule a salon
appointment, by speaking with a human and practically deceiving

them into believing they’re talking to a person on the other end.

Friday, May 18, 2018

TiVo Announcements

TiVo announced today that its newest lineup of set-top
DVRs, including Series 4 (TiVo Premiere), Series 5 (TiVo
Roamio), and Series 6 (TiVo Bolt) devices as well as the
TiVo Bolt Vox, will gain support for Amazon’s Alexa virtual
assistant by June 1. Once the new firmware arrives, TiVo
subscribers with the Alexa app or an Amazon Echo smart
speaker will be able to change channels, adjust television
and A/V receiver volume, and more, with their voice.

The new TiVo Alexa skill will recognize playback
commands such as “pause,” “play,” “fast-forward,” and
“rewind,” in addition to channel-switching shortcuts like
“Alexa, go to ABC” and “Alexa, watch NBC.” It will also
support app launching — users will be able to open Netflix
by saying “Alexa, open Netflix,” for example — and platform-
specific TiVo features such as commercial skipping and eight-
second rewind.

The new voice controls seem to at least partially
cannibalize TiVo’s voice-enabled Vox remote, which
launched alongside the TiVo Bolt Vox and Mini Vox last
fall but is sold separately for $39. Vox adds voice functionality
to the TiVo Bolt, Roamio, and Mini, including playback
controls; the ability to search for movies and television
shows across live TV, DVR, video-on-demand, and streaming
services; and quick access to recorded content. The Alexa skill
may not have as many features, but existing Amazon Echo

device owners will now be less likely to purchase the remote.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

MSFT Xbox Controller

Microsoft stumbled into the accessibility market about
three years ago, with the launch of the Xbox One Elite
controller. The Elite wasn't designed to help people with
disabilities play video games -- in fact, it was built for
hardcore players who wanted more mapping options by
adding rear paddle buttons, more sensitive triggers and
interchangeable analog sticks to the classic dual-grip
Xbox gamepad.

It just so happened these features were also in high
demand at organizations like AbleGamers, whose goal
is to make gaming accessible to anyone with disabilities
via education, community support and the creation of
custom controllers.

Around this time, Xbox's inclusive lead for product
research and accessibility, Bryce Johnson, reached
out to AbleGamers with a proposal. Johnson and a
small team of developers had just submitted a prototype
of an accessibility-focused controller to the annual
Xbox hackathon, and they wanted feedback on the

"We started jumping onto multiple calls with Microsoft
employees and Xbox hardware developers and talking
about this controller," AbleGamers COO Steven Spohn
said. "Bryce had been working with us on the Elite and
wanted to bring in our input for this new controller. It was
to be a device much like our own Adroit -- a standard
Xbox controller that could use switches, only this new
project could be everything we ever wanted to do better
and more."

That was two and a half years ago. Today, Microsoft
revealed the Xbox Adaptive Controller, the latest and

most disparate evolution of its gamepad line.