Alexa Can Send SMS Messages; Amazon QR ‘Smile’ Codes; Samsung Chip Biz Eclipses Intel; Apple Still Bringing iOS Apps to Macs

Bringing us one step closer to a Star Trek future, Amazon just rolled out another skill for Alexa. Thenextweb.com reports that now you can send SMS text messages by voice command over your Echo or other speaker that has Alexa. A couple of notes, though. It doesn’t work for texting 911 or sending group messages or MMS. Should be pretty handy though, if you need to send a text, and your phone’s across the room or across the house!

Yet another trick Amazon has pulled out of its sleeve…they are working with their own version of QR codes…those little boxes with gibberish patterns. TechCrunch.com says they call them ‘SmileCodes.’ In this case, you can open the scanner that is built into the Amazon app, scan the code, and it will take you to that item on Amazon’s site, or play a related movie trailer or product review. Right now, the codes are listed to pop-up shops and Amazon Lockers in Europe, but the test should be over soon, and expect a rollout in the US before long.

After decades as the top dog in chip manufacturing, Intel has been eclipsed by Samsung as of 2017. The numbers have been crunched, and according to theverge.com, Samsung raked in $69.1 billion worth of the little silicon rascals, while Intel’s take was $62.8 billion. To be fair, Samsung produced more memory and flash, while Intel still leads in processor chips. With the demand only set to increase with self-driving vehicles and more AI coming on line, Samsung should be sitting pretty with this segment of their business.

Yesterday, there was a story out that Apple would be holding back some features for iOS 12 in order to focus on security and reliability of the OS. Apparently, one feature that won’t be held back will be the ability to port iOS apps to Macs. Cnet.com says the team developing that is still on track to roll it out this year, which will make the App Store on the Mac a lot more fun and interesting.

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Magic Leap Unveals AR Headset; Apple Allowing Universal Apps-Mac and iOS; UK Deems High Speed Internet a Legal Right

We’ve been hearing whispers for years, and now Google-backed Magic Leap has taken the wraps off their augmented reality headset’s Creator Edition. 9to5google.com says they will be shipping in 2018, too! The setup consists of a ‘Lightwear’ headset connected to a circular ‘Lightpack’ via a couple cords…the Lightpack contains the processing and graphics, in a mid-sized disk that hangs off a belt or pocket…and a Control’ remote (smaller than most TV remotes) that provides for 6 degrees of freedom and movement. The headset has tech that detects and stores the exact location of walls, surfaces, and physical objects, and also what they are calling ‘360 degree sound field audio.’ The interface accepts inputs from voice, gestures, head poses, and eye tracking. No word on pricing for the Creator Edition yet, but their SDK should be released along with it, in addition to other tools for web and game developers.

Apple is readying to let developers release universal apps that will work across iPhones, iPads, and Macs early next year. In a Bloomberg News writeup picked up by macrumors.com, the official announcement and details could come in June at WWDC 2018. So far, it’s not known if Apple will merge the Mac App Store with the vastly more popular App Store for iOS, but that seems logical. The move would mean better apps for the Mac, since developers put a lot more time and energy into making apps for the more widely used iPhones and iPads.

In the wake of the FCC killing net neutrality here in the US, Britain has taken the opposite position. According to rawstory.com, the UK has deemed high speed internet a legal right for all citizens, and will require that never household is wired for it by 2020.. Communications company BT has pledged to drop around $788 million to connect about a million and a half rural homes to the net. Right now, about 95% of homes in the UK have broadband connections with 24 Mbps or higher speed.


More Google Pixel 2 Rumors; Lensless Camera Could Allow Truly Flat Phones; Amazon Working on Website Translation Service

Rumors are now flying about Google’s Pixel 2 phones. 9to5google.com reports that they will be made by LG, ad previously thought, and will lose the headphone jack. There will be 2 models, and the smaller one will be nearly identical to the present model. The bigger one will have smaller bezels around the screen than the current one, and will have a 5.99 inch OLED display. It will also feature a two tone metal and glass back. Apparently, no dual camera on the Pixels, just a single lens with dual flash.

One of the major items that hasn’t enabled really flat smartphones is the lens assembly for the cameras. According to engadget.com, that may be changing. Researchers at Caltech have figured out an ‘optical phased array’ chip that uses math as a substitute for a lens. Using minute time delays to light from different locations, it can change focus without a lens! They claim it can switch from a fisheye to a telephoto lens instantly. The tech is in the initial stages, but they have already demoed a proof of concept, so in a few years, you may have a much thinner smartphone.

This is a little back end and geeky, but Amazon is working on tech that would let developers making apps and websites translate content to multiple languages. Techcrunch.com says it is technology based on what Amazon uses on its own products. Amazon acquired machine translation startup Safaba around two years ago, and they are building on their machine learning model.


Plenty of Apps For Apple Watch

In a vote of confidence about the imminent Apple Watch, geekwire.com reports that developers submitted over 1000 apps to run on the smart watch in the first 4 days they could be. The watch becomes available April 24th.

Just 4 days after that, on the 28th, LG will roll out it’s G4 smartphone at an event. According to theverge.com, it will feature a new camera with an f 1.8 lens, that shoots much better in low light.

Daimler Trucks, a division of the company that makes Mercedes-Benz cars, has a prototype Freightliner big rig that doubles the 6 mpg of normal rigs. Engadget.com says it uses a hybrid diesel/electric power plant, and has solar panels on the roof of the trailer. No word on when it might hit the market.


New Features for Microsoft Outlook on Android & iOS

Microsoft has updated Outlook for both iOS and Android, according to thenextweb.com. It now shows the full blown address book, there’s a 3 day landscape view of Calendar, and you can now enter zero length meetings & cancel appointments.

Google has expanded App Runtime for Chrome, allowing all developers to make Android apps that will run on any PC or Mac with a Chrome browser. Engadget.com warns that even so, not all mobile apps will play well, but expect many to join Evernote and Vine on your desktop.

The Navy is developing a duck-like drone. Dubbed the Flimmer, engadget.com says it will fly around looking for subs, and then can poke its nose into the water for a better look. They’re trying to improve it’s ability to dive into choppy seas at this point.


Privacy Based App Store Coming

The ultra-secure Blackphone is getting its own privacy-focused app marketplace. Bgr.com says it’s called Spaces, and will roll out with a major system update to the PrivatOS early next year.

People who love their Netflix and especially binge watching series will be cheered about this…the verge.com reports that over the next 5 years, the streaming content provider plans to have 20 original series running!

Amazon’s Fire TV and Fire TV Stick can now run web apps. Techcrunch.com says as an incentive to lure app developers, Amazon is allowing them to make money from their apps on Amazon.