Facebook Working on Smart Speaker & Picks up Content Creator Pay Startup; Google Adds Real-Time SOS for Search and Maps; 11 More Smartphones Will be Daydream VR Compatible; Prescription Video Games Coming

Last week, we heard that Samsung was abandoning plans to make a smart speaker…a market dominated by Amazon and with Google in it and Apple planning a Christmas release of the HomePod. Now, businessinsider.com says Facebook is working on a smart speaker similar to Amazon’s that will bow in 2018. It will feature a 15 inch touchscreen, is being designed by Facebook, and will be built for them by Pegatron.

The social giant has picked up a startup which will help it crack down on users that share pirated videos and other content without permission. According to recode.net, it’s Source3. Facebook already has had Rights Manager for a couple years. It’s similar to YouTube’s Content ID. Facebook has wanted to host lots more professional video, but publishers are reluctant to provide them when they think they won’t be paid.

Google is launching a new feature called SOS Alerts, that will work with Search and Maps. Thenextweb.com reports that it’s designed to keep users safe, and will feature emergency hotlines and websites, and even translations of useful phrases. They are partnering with Red Cross and FEMA to help with keeping users abreast of emergency situations and providing safety info to them.

Of course, you may be a bit dialed out of the reality of an emergency if you are wearing a VR headset, but that’s the wave of the future. Google says it’s adding 11 more Daydream VR compatible phones by the end of this year. Pixel, Moto Z, and others are already compatible, according to 9to5google.com, but Huawei and Samsung will join the party, as well as HTC.

Hey, Doc, I need to play more video games…will you write me a prescription? Actually, so-called ‘brain training’ games have been out there, but not without controversy. Some say they really don’t work or work much. Now, theverge.com says a company called Akili is partnering with UCSF’s Neuroscape lab to develop a mobile game called Project:EVO. They aim to get it up to speed for FDA approval to be used to treat kids with ADHD! Clinical trials have already started. It’s not a sure thing, but prescription video games could actually be coming!


Samsung Backs Away From Smart Speakers; Microsoft Reveals Cortana Controlled Thermostat; Sears Rolls Out Alexa Powered Appliances on Amazon

We had reported, along with numerous others, that Samsung was working on a Bixby powered smart speaker to compete with Amazon’s, Google’s, and the upcoming Apple one. Now, thenextweb.com reports that Samsung has suddenly decided they are not marketable, with the dominance of Amazon, and Apple waiting in the Wings. Meanwhile, Global Market Insights predicts that the smart speaker market will grow to $13 billion by 2024. Almost half of smart speaker owners buy an additional one for their homes.

Microsoft has rolled out a great looking IOT thermostat today called GLAS. It’s made for them by Johnson Controls. According to theverge.com, it runs Windows 10 IoT Core, and has Cortana built in. Microsoft says it will detect if you are in the room or not, and also continuously monitor air quality inside and outside. Microsoft plans to add other appliances that will run their system and use Cortana.

Meanwhile, struggling retail giant Sears, which for decades had huge market share in appliances with its Kenmore brand, has started selling Alexa powered appliances via Amazon. Techcrunch.com says the retailer will bake in Alexa to air conditioners in addition to the expected refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers. You will e able to yell at Alexa to turn the AC up or down from your couch!


Prime Day-Best Deals Are Amazon’s Own-Natch; Galaxy S8 Sales Trail S7’s; Audi A8 First Level 3 Semi-Autonomous Car

Prime Day is in full swing, and it should come as no surprise to anyone that some of the primo deals are on Amazon’s own stuff. If you want to get your feet wet with Alexa, bgr.com says to check out the Amazon Echo in black for $89.99, or the 2nd Gen Echo Dot…also in black for $34.99. As for TVs, a Sony 65 inch 4K Smart TV is $1498, and a Samsung 55 inch Smart TV with 4K is $700.99!

According to 9to5google.com, brokerage analysts estimate that Samsung Galaxy S8 sales are trailing the S7 by about 20% for the 1st two months….9.8 million for the S8, where the S7 hit 12 million. They believe the sales hit may be due to stronger competition from Chinese brands, plus customer anticipation of the highly hyped iPhone 8.

Audi has revealed that their 2019 A8 sedan will have level 3 autonomous features. Engadget.com reports that the ‘AI Traffic Jam Pilot’ will move the car in gridlock situations on the highway without driver input. The system handles acceleration, steering, braking, and starting from dead stop. Drivers will be able to take their hands off the wheel at speeds up to 37 mph. As with all of these systems, it depends on local laws, and the car will nag you if you need to take over…no napping! It is a mild hybrid…not hybrid to the level of their e-tron plug in or a Prius, but should save on fuel.


iPhone 8 Color Rumor; 3 OLED iPhone 9 Models; Amazon Prime Poised to Pass Up Cable TV; Alexa Can Tell When Your Stuff is Out for Delivery; Future 3D Printing-Star Trek Replicator?

The latest iPhone 8 rumor is that there will be 4 colors, and one will be mirror like. 9to5mac.com says it will be either sliver or black…which is confusing, since there is already the pretty mirror-like Jet Black. Perhaps with the glass back, it will be even more mirror-like. You can admire it before you stuff it in an Otterbox so you don’t break your precious thousand buck toy! In other future iPhone news, 2018 reportedly will bring 3 new iPhone models, and all will have OLED displays. It’s over a year away, but Nikkei sees Apple suppliers preparing to meet the expected demand.

Amazon Prime is nipping at cable TV’s numbers. According to recode.net, there are 79 million US homes that have Amazon Prime, including Prime Video. That compares to 90 million who are paying for cable or satellite this year. Amazon’s numbers grew from 66 million to the 79 million year over year, to they may pass up pay TV by next year! It’s a desirable market, too…over 80% of America’s wealthiest households have Amazon Prime.

If you are like most of us, you probably go to Amazon’s website and obsess over when your loot is going to be delivered. Theverge.com says you can ask Alexa ‘where’s my stuff,’ and your Echo will track deliveries. Now, just in time for prime day, your Echo will also light up a different color on delivery day. Alexa will ask you if you want to be notified when your package is out for delivery. For some of us, the Echo’s LED ring will probably actually stay that ‘out for delivery’ color all the time!

3D printing just gets more amazing all the time. They are building everything from toys to food to cars to houses right now…some admittedly pretty crude. Zdnet.com says the logical extension will be the Star Trek replicator making our food …or ‘Tea…Earl Grey….hot!’ They point out that there is a difference between printing materials at the molecular level and the micron level, but it’s really not that much. We may not see this right away, but it’s definitely on the horizon. With improving printers to work at the molecular level and better voice assistants, we could all be Captain Picard in this lifetime!


Samsung Working on Smart Speaker With Bixby; Valve Founder Raises $$ for New Startup; Texting Makes You Walk Funny

With Apple now getting ready to enter the smart speaker sweepstakes along with Amazon and Google, Samsung appears poised to join the party. The Wall St. Journal says it will use Bixby, the voice assistant that has been late rolling out on the Galaxy S8 due to issues with English! It will be a touch market, with Amazon’s Alexa presently holding 70% of the US market, and Apple not even in the market until the end of the year. Microsoft also has a voice controlled speaker using Cortana called Invoke, which hits this fall. If Samsung can get Bixby working in English like they plan, they could have a edge in the Internet of Things, since they actually produce some appliances like TVs and fridges.

Rick Ellis, who founded Valve’s Steam gaming platform is on to another startup…he’s raised $1.25 million for Sharkbite Games. According to geekwire.com, the new company is already working on two games…the first is a casual mobile game that will be out later this year. The other will bow in 2019, and is an ambitious multiplayer game that will run on PC and mobile, and which Ellis says is aimed at the ‘mid-core’ space. He has hinted that they were looking at virtual reality in the future.

Quick— call the Ministry of Silly Walks! A study from Anglia Ruskin University indicates that people walk funny while texting, reading text, or chatting on phones! Cnet.com reports that phone users spend 61% less time watching out for obstacles, and lift feet ‘higher and slower’ over them while walking…adapting a ‘cautious and exaggerated stepping strategy.’ Or…as most of us call them….smartphone zombies, often shortened to smombies!


Patent Reveals Striking Future Google Pixel Feature; Survey Shows Way More Switching PC to Mac Than Vice Versa; Best Buy’s Interactive Alexa and Google Home Displays

Google will continue the unusual glass/metal back with the Pixel 2, and now we may know where they’re going with it. Bgr.com reports on a Discovery by Patently Mobile -a patent that highlights a touch sensitive surface on the back that would let the user control the device without touching with any elements on the screen-instead, touching the back of the handset. This allows commands and selection without obstructing anything you would be viewing on the screen.

A survey of US computer owners indicates that 21% of Windows laptop users will switch to Mac next time, but only 2% of Mac owners will change to Windows. The number switching Windows to Mac is even higher for Windows desktop users. According to 9to5mac.com, the survey is from Verto Analytics. The biggest no shock in the survey— most of the PC to Mac flippers are in higher income brackets, reflecting Apple’s pricey offerings!

Best Buy is rolling out Amazon Alexa and Google Home products in 700 stores, to be highlighted in separate, free standing display areas. Geekwire.com says the setup will allow customers to use Alexa devices and Google Home devices to interact with nearby products like Nest thermostats, Philips Hue lighting, and Insignia Smart Plugs…a way to try before you buy. 80 million smart home devices were delivered worldwide last year according to IHS Markit, up 64% from 2015. They expect 130 million to be sold this year.


Echo Show Will Connect to Security Cams; Vivo-1st Smartphone To Screen-Embed Fingerprint Sensor; Facebook Tests Securing Profile Pics

Amazon says the new Echo Show will connect to Nest, Ring, and other security cams via Alexa. According to geekwire.com, the $230 smart speaker with screen, which ships next week, will also talk to cams from August, Amcrest, EZViz, IC Realtime, Vivint, and Arlo….with just a simple command to Alexa like ‘show me the front door .’

Vivo may beat both Apple and Samsung to the punch, showing the 1st smartphone with a fingerprint sensor embedded in the screen at Mobile World Congress next week in Shanghai. Macrumors.com reports that a video leaked shows the Chinese maker’s phone being unlocked with a fingerprint. Samsung had to put a sensor on the back of the Galaxy S8, but the new Note may have an embedded sensor when it launches in August, and the iPhone 8 reportedly has the feature.

Facebook is testing out a feature aimed at protecting profile pictures from scammers. Techcrunch.com says it is being piloted in India right now. The so-called ‘photo guard’ will prevent other users fro downloading a profile pic or sharing it with others, prevent others from tagging using a profile pic, and prevent others from taking screenshots of another person’s profile pic…although that appears to be an Android only feature. If activated by the user, the optional guard will show a blue border and shield around your profile pic. If it tests out, look for Facebook to roll it out to other countries soon.