More Cortana Driven Smart Speakers; Waymo Logs Millions of Miles; Apple Buys Sleep Tracker; iPhone 8 Leaked CAD Drawings

Earlier this week, Harman Kardon unveiled Invoke, their Cortana powered Amazon Echo competitor. Now, techcrunch.com says HP is also jumping into the smart speaker market. Instead of following their rather successful Surface marketing effort of rolling their own, Microsoft seems to be using the formerly wildly successful PC model of licensing to numerous makers. The speakers will reportedly use Skype for calling. The Amazon Alexa device can take and make calls, and Apple’s is expected to as well.

Waymo, the self-driving car people from Alphabet/Google, says they have now logged 3 million miles on public roads. According to 9to5google.com, a million of those self-driven miles have been in the last 7 months! In March, Waymo greatly expanded their fleet with 500 Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

Apple has bought Beddit, a company that tracks sleep. According to business insider.com, they make a $150 sleep monitoring pad that goes between the sheets. The monitor tracks a person’s heart rate, awake time, and snoring, then the companion app calculates a ‘sleep score’ and can wake users at an ‘optimal’ time with a smart alarm. The page linked to the Watch App Store is gone from their website, but the app is still live there as of today.

Some CAD drawings have leaked out from a manufacturer of the upcoming iPhone 8. 9to5mac.com says that these show no fingerprint sensor on the back, but do depict the all glass front and back with stainless steel edges and the vertical dual cams on the back. The phone appears to be thicker than the current iPhone 7 and Plus. It’s still possible the 8 will have an ugly and clumsy fingerprint sensor on the back like the Samsung Galaxy S8, but we probably won’t know that until Fall.


Apple Echo-Type Smart Speaker Coming; Galaxy S8 Random Reboots; Samsung Approved for Testing Self-Driving Cars in Korea

There are now two sources saying Apple will make a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or Google’s speaker. Bgr.com reports that now KGI Securities says they will launch a ‘Siri Speaker’ at WWDC in June. No word on the cost (don’t think cheap), but it’s expected to hit stores and the web in the second half of the year. It will reportedly have 7 tweeters and a subwoofer, which should give it great sound. It will use some type of Beats tech and run a version of iOS.

Samsung’s Galaxy S8 had record preorders, but as it gets to peoples’ hands, there’s word that some are having random reboots. 9to5google.com reports there’s quite a thread about this on Samsung’s forums. It can happen when in use, or just sitting around. The phone does fully reboot, and it appears it may be related to an SD card issue, as removing the SD card seems to fix the problem until Samsung rolls out a software patch.

Speaking of Samsung…for those of you who thought they only made phones and TVs, etc, the Korean giant is now approved to test self-driving cars on roads in Korea. According to techcrunch.com, Hyundai has been at it for about a year now, so Samsung will be playing catch up to an extent. Samsung started as a trading company, and has interests in shipping, insurance, and more. The Korean approval allows for operating without steering wheels or pedals, which is also part of proposed new regulations in California and which Michigan already allows.


Voice Calling On Amazon Echo & Google Home; Big Facebook Video Update; Apple May Add Additional OLED Screen Supplier

Voice calling may be coming to Amazon Echo and Google home. Theverge.com reports that the feature could be rolled out this year, but both companies ‘have concerns about privacy, emergency services, and regulatory hurdles.’ Apparently, you will only be able to make calls over speakerphone, which may put off some users. Google will probably just extend Google Voice, while Amazon is looking at options such as syncing to your present number, call forwarding, or even having the Echo get its own number. They also haven’t finalized switching to your phone if you leave the house or room where the Echo is located.

Facebook is rolling out a major update for video. Thenextweb.com says one of them will seem more like a bug than a feature…videos will now auto play sound. There is apparently an app setting to disable it, at least. On the plus side, vertical video will now take up more of the screen on Android and iOS devices, and there is a picture in picture mode. Facebook will also be rolling out a video app for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Samsung Smart TV, as well as other platforms, but no firm date on those yet.

Apple is apparently looking at adding China’s BOE as a supplier of OLED screens for the iPhone 8, according to macrumors.com. Samsung, LG, Sharp, and Japan Display are already believed to be used, but there are concerns that they couldn’t keep up with demand. At this point, it’s still thought that the OLED screen will only be available on the iPhone 8, with the 7S and 7S Plus models staying with LCD displays. BOE is opening an additional factory this summer, and another about 2 years down the line.


Electric Car Builder Faraday to Build Factory in SF Area; Apple Joining the Voice Command Speaker Club

It would be the biggest employer to hit Vallejo, Northeast of San Francisco, since the Navy closed the Mare Island submarine base. Los Angeles based Faraday Future, the electric car startup rumored to be backed out of China, is apparently about to lock in a deal to buy a 157 acre site on Mare Island to build a car production facility and showroom. According to San Francisco Business Times, if the deal is done, Faraday has a 6 month window to firm up a proposal to build a million square foot facility on Mare Island. Faraday is already building a billion dollar, 3 million square foot facility in North Las Vegas.

Now that Google has showed it’s answer to the Amazon Echo, there are reports that Apple will have a new speaker and mic, and tools for Siri developers by their upcoming World Wide Developers Conference next month. Thenextweb.com says Apple probably intends to stitch in their Home system for the internet of things in addition to polling for restaurants and checking Maps and the rest. The lone holdout in the AI assistant sweepstakes now is Microsoft with Cortana.


Leak-HTC 10 More Powerful than Galaxy S7 and iPhone 6S; Google’s Echo Clone & Nest Security System

After disappointing with the M One 9, HTC looks poised to come roaring back and nip at Samsung and Apple with the HTC 10. The 10…they’ve dropped the ‘M’ designation…will be revealed April 10th, but a couple of big leaks shed a great looking phone, and one that tests out better by benchmarked AnTuTu than either the Samsung Galaxy S7 or Apple’s iPhone 6S. It has a 5.1 inch screen, 12 Mp cam with laser-assisted autofocus, and 4 gigs of RAM.

Google is apparently working on a voice recognition device that competes with Amazon Echo…basically Siri in a box. According to arstechnica.com, Google already has the voice tech in place from Android and google.com, so now they’re working on baking it into a box. It’s code named ‘Chirp.’ They are also working on a security system from Nest with a wireless hub dubbed ‘Flintstone’ for now. The hub would connect with window and door sensors using the low power Thread communication standard. As with a lot of projects, these may or may not be released by Google.