Alexa for Business; Automation vs Jobs; iPhone Batteries Getting Apple Power Management; Smart Wearables Starting to Take Off

Amazon is apparently gearing up to release a version of Alexa for business. More could be out later today at the Amazon Web Services re:Invent meetings. A CNBC report picked up by Geekwire.com says the release would focus on features and skills for workers and businesses. One tricky issue still being navigated is how to authenticate who is speaking so access can be granted based on their permissions.

On a related topic, there’s a new report out that sees up to 375 million workers displaced by AI, robots, or some other form of automation by 2030! The report was produced by the McKinsey Global Institute, which notes that displaced doesn’t mean REplaced. Some will be, but many will add new job skills…others will need to switch occupations. Full employment will be more difficult to attain. The report says what it calls ‘predictable physical work,’ including dish washing, food preparation, and protective services, will take the biggest hit. Demand will increase in India and Mexico, but the US might see 31% less jobs!

Apple is busily working on its own power management chips for iPhone batteries. According to macrumors.com, they could be out in phones in 2 years, and will give users better battery life. Cupertino could replace half the main power management chips in iPhones as soon as next year, but it might be 2019 before they are being built into all Apple mobile devices.

After a very slow start, smart wearables are beginning to take off. Cnet.com reports that global shipments of wearables hit 26.3 million devices in the third quarter of this year, up 7.3%. Most of the growth is in smart wearables…those that can run third party apps. In fact, basic wearables actually declined, but smart watches like the Apple Watch and Android Wear increased by 60%. Fitbit and Xiaomi tied for 1st place in the market, with the Apple Watch third.

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Apple Push on AR Headset iPhone Replacement; Harry Potter AR Game; Facebook Working on Anti-Revenge Porn System

We commented recently that AR- augmented reality and AI-artificial intelligence, will be the next really big thing. Now, word is from bloomberg.com that Apple is working on a breakthrough product to replace the iPhone. It’s an AR headset that could be in customer hands (or more to the point, on their faces) by 2020. That’s only 3 years away, kids! The device will have its own display and run on its own chip and operating system. The whole project is spread over several Apple facilities and code named T288. It builds on the ‘system-on-a-package’ concept of the also small Apple Watch. Not mentioned is how Apple will deal with powering the device…the Apple Watch can easily run all day, but only for an hour when talking on LTE. Streaming video overlays along with live visuals through the glasses won’t exactly be thrifty when it comes to battery use!

Staying with AR, Niantic’s follow up game to the wildly successful Pokemon Go will be a Harry Potter AR game. According to techcrunch.com, it will be out next year. No precise time frame, but the game is expected to let users roam their real surroundings in search of Potter items, casting spells, and fighting villains.

Facebook is working on a system to combat revenge porn. That’s a great idea, but with a catch…9to5google.com says you have to upload your nudes to Facebook…what could possibly go wrong? The idea is that FB would create an encrypted version of the raw data in the image file…if an EX tries to upload a file with that data, it’s blocked. You still have to send the nude to yourself in Messenger…which means people with stupid, simple passwords (lots of them) and people who can be Phished would be vulnerable. No word on how the system would work on altered photos…like the EX pulling the nude of you out of the pic and Photoshopping it into another background or just grabbing (the naughty) parts and posting them, which might show up as different data. Let’s hope Facebook thinks this all through…it’s being trialled in Australia and 3 other countries right now.


Tesla Working on Own Self-Driving aI Chip; Google Acquires People and IP Rights from HTC; Nest Bows Smart Doorbell and Security System

Tesla is teaming up with AMD to make its own AI processor for their self-driving systems. Techcrunch.com notes that the e-car maker already has a relationship with Nvidia, whose GPUs run its Autopilot system. The new in-house designed chip could reduce or eliminate relying on third party AI software. Tesla reportedly already has pre-production samples in hand. The autopilot program at Tesla is run by Jim Keller, who spent much of his career at AMD and then Apple…he helped design the Apple A4 and A5 chips.

Google has struck a deal with HTC to acquire intellectual property rights (non-exclusively) and certain employees for 1.1 billion. The employees were ones already working with Google to develop Pixel smartphones. Google will continue to partner with HTC on smartphones and other hardware, including virtual reality.

Nest showed off new product lines in San Francisco yesterday. Cnet.com reports they include the Nest Hello…a connected doorbell with cam, speaker and microphone. The entryway gadget wasn’t priced, but will be out 1st quarter of next year. Also debuting was the Nest Secure security system. It has a keypad and motion sensor, and a key fob they call the Nest Tag. Systems start at $500, and roll out in November. A new iteration of cam was also revealed, the Nest Cam IQ…which comes in outdoor and indoor versions. The indoor model will have Google Assistant built in. The cam is $255.


Facebook Testing ‘Snooze’ Feature; Huawei Takes a Shot at the iPhone X; Your Nintendo Switch Has Hidden Copy of NES Golf

Everyone with more than a handful of friends on Facebook has a few who post really annoying things…whether it’s too many food pictures, political posts, dozens of kid of cat pics, or hourly selfies. Up to now, you’ve either had to unfollow them or unfriend them. Mashable.com reports that Facebook is testing another alternative…’snoozing’ them. The feature lets you temporarily unfollow for 24 hours, a week, or 30 days. While Facebook tests out things that don’t make it into the app for everyone, let’s hope this one does! It will live on the menu with unfollow.

We noted earlier that Huawei will be rolling out their next flagship phone in October. It’s the Mate 10, and the verge.com says they are now running an ad saying they will unveil ‘the Real AI Phone’ next month…specifically on October 16th! Actually, they have had a chipset that does a decent job with AI, and the new iteration will of course be an improvement. With a nod to Apple’s Neural Engine, Huawei calls the system on a chip the “Neural Processing Unit,” or NPU. Keep you skepticism shields up, but we’ll see what they roll out on October 16th!

Hackers at SwitchBrew.org have discovered a fully playable copy of NES Golf buried inside the Nintendo Switch. According to arstechnica.com, they found it under ‘flog,’ which is golf spelled backwards, and it’s the old 80’s NES golf game, updated specifically to run on the Switch. Since the hackers posted screen shots, it’s presumed they have found how to run it, but so far haven’t given up the button combination to unlock it.


Beats Gets Adaptive Noise Canceling; Huawei Building AI into Mobile Chips; Jaguar Land Rover Shows ‘Tron’ Steering Wheel; iPhone Name Claims

Beats has added adaptive noise canceling to Studio 3 Headphones. Techcrunch.com reports it’s a direct shot at Bose, with the new Beats models claiming to screen out sounds better and more comprehensively…not just jet plane roar. The now Apple division has also toned down its colors, and offers a bit less pumped up bass. They claim 22 ours of battery life, and the price? That’s still pumped up at $350…available now.

All the tech product companies are betting big on AI…AI has even made it into the realm of politics, with Russia’s Vlad Putin claiming that whomever nails AI first and best will rule the world. Now Huawei says they are going to bake AI processing into their next chip, with the first ever Neural Processing Unit for smartphones. Thenextweb.com explains that what that means to you is no need to phone home to the cloud for the handset to offer AI assistance. Huawei also says it will get 50% longer batter life. If you are a little skeptical…we’ll all find out how much of this is real and what’s vaporware in October when the successor to the Mate 9 drops.

For decades auto makers have shown cars of the future, and now Jaguar Land Rover has given a peek at their steering wheel of the future. Cnet.com notes that it’s right out of Tron…the ‘wheel’ is more of a flattened octagon, with no visible buttons or switches. Jag says it will be totally AI operated, and will detach and dock in your home when you’re not driving…so it can be used there as a personal assistant, too. The so-called ‘Sayer’ will be attachable to any car you like, based on what tasks you have for the day. Maybe just a sedan for your commute….or a pickup if you are helping a pal move. Jag presumes by the time something like this bows, almost all vehicles will be self-driving…at least primarily. They will show a prototype in London September 8-10, and then the week after at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

A week before the new iPhone bows, and it’s the silly season with rumors. Now, one report picked up by bgr.com says it will be iPhone X for sure. Another that relies on what major case makers are planning…9to5mac.com says that the name will be iPhone Edition, and there won’t be any 7S models…those will jump right to iPhone 8. Of course, we’ll know for sure next week!


Next Gen HoloLens will Use Custom AI Silicon; Apple Working to Roll Their Own OLED Tech

Microsoft is working on their own AI coprocessor for the next iteration of the HoloLens. Engadget.com says it will give the headset object and voice recognition ability in real time, without any cloud connection. They intend to bake in assistance to blind folks by recognizing objects and describing them. This will also work without a data connection. There isn’t a HoloLens 2, but we will see a HoloLens 3 in late 2018 or early 2019.

Here’s a number that will bring indigestion to cable and satellite providers…Netflix was the top grossing app in the 2nd quarter of this year, with mobile revenue up 233% year over year! According to techcrunch.com, Netflix hauled in $153 million, compared with $46 million a year ago. Average app revenue growth on both the Apple App Store and Google Play is 56%! In the same period, Hulu grew by just 22%.

The new iPhone 8 will feature OLED screens made by Samsung. Apple, like other major manufacturers, is not keen on having a single supplier, and has reportedly bought CVD machines and has set up an R&D line in Taiwan to make OLED screens. 9to5mac.com notes that Apple almost never does actual manufacturing, but has developed the processes and bought the equipment for suppliers in the past. Besides having multiple manufacturers for their own security, Apple may need the production ability….they are planning to make 3 OLED iPhone models next year, and that would require better yields than Samsung has been getting from its process.


Samsung Delays Bixby for the US Again; 5 New Macs & 4 iOS Devices on Horizon

Samsung rolled out its latest Galaxy phones, the S8 models, without the virtual assistant Bixby in the US. It was due by now, but has been delayed a month. The Wall St. Journal reports that they are having trouble getting it to understand English syntax and grammar. Virtual assistants haven’t been the ‘killer app’ on smartphones anyway…only about 9% of users use the AI feature on a regular basis, according to research firm Ovum. Half of smartphone owners either had no interest in the feature or didn’t even know about it. It has been a different story with talking speakers, which the public seems to be accepting more quickly….with Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant in the lead.

There are armies of people digging through regulatory filings around the world to bring you tidbits like this: a Russian filing points to 5 new Macs and 4 new iOS devices on the way from Apple. According to apple insider.com, we could see some rolled out at WWDC. There has already been speculation that Apple would show a new mid-sized iPad Pro at WWDC, fitting in between the 9.7 inch and 12 inch iPad Pros. A recent shortage of MacBooks seems to point to a refresh of MacBook Pros and Airs as well.