Apple’s HomePod has had underwhelming sales so far, and now they may be trying to rectify that with a cheaper model than the $350 one with killer sound but anemic voice command abilities. Bgr.com reports that Apple is looking at bringing out one for $199 under the Beats brand. With a decent sounding Google Home speaker going for $130, and Amazon Alexa speakers for less yet, Apple might have a fighting chance at under $200 if the gadget still sounds better than its competitors.
Microsoft has picked up an AI team that includes the former chief speech scientist for Siri. According to businessinsider.com, Redmond has acquired AI startup Semantic Machines, to boost its ‘conversational AI’ and potentially make Cortana better at understanding natural language inquiries. At least for the short term, the artificial intelligence team will remain in Berkeley where Semantic Machines has been based. Besides Larry Gillick, the former chief speech scientist for Apple’s Siri, the team includes Cal professor Dan Klein and Stanford professor Percy Liang. Several other members worked at Nuance, the voice recognition company that built Siri.
AT&T has launched the LTE-M button, which you can use to order something online with a single click. Engadget.com says the gadget…which not only sounds like and Amazon Dash button, but is actually powered by Amazon Web Services….does have a new trick up its sleeve…it works over AT&T’s network, so doesn’t need WiFi. The AT&T button is not preprogrammed, so you can set it up to order different things, unlike the single function Dash buttons. It is pricier than an Amazon button, though. the first 5000 will be $30, then it will be $35. Since it has to be programmed, the price may not be the only limiting factor…you’ll also need to be geeky enough to figure out how to program the LTE-M button.
Segway Scooter; Dyson’s New Gorilla V10 Cordless Vac; Outlook Cortana for iOS & Android; Whole Foods Amazon Delivery ExpandsPosted: March 6, 2018
You see a few Segways around, but they never caught on as anticipated. Now, businessinsider.com reports the company has launched an Indiegogo preorder for the Loomo, a robotic platform that you can ride, or park a bag or briefcase on and it will follow you around. It’s kind of a mashup of a hoverboard and a personal robot with a personal assistant…like if you could ride R2D2 and it responded like Alexa. The Loomo is $1300, not cheap, but it not only will carry you or your stuff, or follow you around like a puppy, but will also shoot pics or video on command. It takes about 3 hours to charge, and has a range of 22 miles. It runs on a customized version of Android. BTW, if you think the $1300 pre-order price is a bit steep, it will be $1800 later at retail!
Dyson’s vacuums suck like no others. That’s a good thing when it comes to vacuums, of course. Now, they’ve rolled out the Cyclone V10, the most powerful cordless one yet, which they claim can completely replace a corded canister vac. TechCrunch.com says the suction is 20% better than the V8 model it replaces, and the new canister holds 40% more dirt and dust. It also is lighter due to some ceramics used in place of metal. The vac charges in 3.5 hours, and will run an hour on normal, or 10 minutes on super suction. There’s also an in-between setting for semi-super suction and more battery life. The new rig sports LEDs that tell you when to clean the filters, which has been kind of a guess up to now. Being a Dyson, it’s $499…of course, and on the market in April.
A huge number of businesses use Microsoft Outlook for their email and calendaring, and now Redmond is testing out using Cortana with Outlook over iOS and Android to read you your emails while commuting. According to arstechnica.com, Google Assistant doesn’t offer that functionality with Outlook. Siri will, but only if you have the email poured into the Apple Mail app, not with the Outlook app. Right now, the Cortana for email is only being internally testing, but if it works well enough, they plan to roll it out for a public test before long.
Amazon continues to eat the world, and is making it a bit easier for you to eat, too…at least in San Francisco and Atlanta. Geekwire.com says those cities are getting the expansion of Amazon’s Whole Foods grocery delivery service. The service is already available in Austin, Cincinnati, Dallas, and Virginia Beach. You will be able to get 5% back on purchases on the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card, just like in store purchases in these Whole Foods delivery cities.
Two Wild TVs From CES; iOT-Everything Including the Kitchen Sink; Alexa Baked into Some New Windows 10 PCs; Sony Bows 3 New PhonesPosted: January 8, 2018
It’s CES week, the BIG Show for consumer electronics, and you can always count on some off the wall, ‘wow’ items. Theverge.com reports there are a couple of TVs that won’t disappoint in that department. Samsung has rolled out a 146 inch TV called The Wall. It uses Micro LED, which has a lot of the same benefits of OLED, and is ‘module based.’ The modules can be assembled to make a TV just the size to fit your needs…although 146 inch would probably be perfect for a man cave. You have to think the price will exceed that of many houses, though! The Wall launches this spring.
If a wall sized TV isn’t to your liking, how about a 65 inch screen that rolls up like a piece of paper? LG is showing their updated roll-up TV. It’s a 4K model that rolls down into a base when not in use. No word from LG when this marvel might be available.
The old joke is something has ‘everything but the kitchen sink.’ Well now, the Internet of Things can even control that! According to mashable.com, Delta is showing a sink that can be controlled by Alexa. They plan to have these in model homes to show the tech off by later this year, with the sinks hitting the market sometime in 2018.
Speaking of Alexa…and I realize you know what I did there, last year Amazon and Microsoft announced plans to let Cortana and Alexa talk to each other on Windows 10 PCs. Now, arstechnica.com says Acer, Asus, and HP have all announced that Alexa will be baked into some of their notebooks that will be coming out this year. All will apparently use the Alexa Windows 10 app that will be released later this year. It should be just about like using an Echo.
Sony has unveiled 3 new smartphones at CES. According to bgr.com, they are mid-range phones, not flagship type devices. Nothing spectacular about them, with one exception….the Xperia XA2 Ultra has two FRONT facing cams, and a 23 megapixel rear cam! The phones should be out late this month, giving people a chance to see if the buzz over the cam setup is worth it, or just a cool gimmick.
Nest has dropped a new baby bird into the air to let it fly. The Nest E is the first really new Nest since 2011. Theverge.com reports a main feature is its plainness…it’s a white ring with a frosted screen. The really big selling point is the price…it’s way down from earlier nests, starting at $169. The traditional nest will still be sold at $249. The rub is, the new E model is compatible with less systems…about 85%, while the old school one will work in 95% of homes. It also lacks ‘farsight,’ which senses if you’re across the room and turns the screen on. Since mine is in a hall, like most people’s, I am never more than 2 feet away from it when I walk past, so this won’t be a feature you will miss. It works with the Nest app like the older Nests, and they claim it will save 12-15% on your heating and cooling bills.
Amazon and Microsoft have made a remarkable announcement: they are working on getting Alexa and Cortana to work together. According to businessinsider.com, the two AI voice assistants will be able to hand off to each other. There are no plans for them to completely merge, as both companies want to hold on to your data. Switching from Alexa to Cortana will help you use voice assist for Office 365, as well as connect with more IoT stuff in your home. Switching back to Alexa will be great for listening to streaming music and of course, buying stuff from Amazon.
There was a hint earlier this year, but now 9to5mac.com says the Korea Herald has added to it….the ‘it’ is a 6.46 inch iPhone for 2018. The new iPhone 8 is due to bow on the 12th of September, and will sport a 5.85 inch screen, but apparently there will be the new bigger Plus model a year from now. Samsung is reputedly building the world’s largest OLED factory in prep for these phones and their own. The bigger 2018 iPhone would have its own production line.
Samsung Backs Away From Smart Speakers; Microsoft Reveals Cortana Controlled Thermostat; Sears Rolls Out Alexa Powered Appliances on AmazonPosted: July 20, 2017
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!
In more of a broadside than a shot across the bow to Tesla, Mercedes-Benz Energy has partnered with Vivint Solar to sell home storage batteries in the US. Techcrunch.com says homeowners who hire Vivint Solar to install an array on their roof can add up to 8 2.5 kWh Mercedes batteries for a whopping 20 kWh of storage! This is a major direct competitor to Tesla with their Solar City, solar shingles, and PowerWall. As the move to greener and more self-sustaining power systems picks up speed, expect more big players in this area.
Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft all have them, and are aggressively pushing them into our lives….digital assistants, that is. According to research by Ovum picked up by cnet.com, the number of devices with digital assistants will be over 7.5 billion by 2021, which will then exceed the population of the world! By the way, there are already 3.5 billion of the sometimes helpful little devils active in the world right now! Ovum projects that Google Assistant will command the market, followed by Chinese assistants, Siri and then Bixby form Samsung…mainly due to the count of cell phones and tablets. Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana are primarily in devices other than smartphones.
More Cortana Driven Smart Speakers; Waymo Logs Millions of Miles; Apple Buys Sleep Tracker; iPhone 8 Leaked CAD DrawingsPosted: May 10, 2017
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.
Even after the catastrophe with fiery Galaxy Note 7’s, time marches on for Samsung and everyone else. According to bgr.com, Sammy is pressing ahead with the expected Galaxy S8 models for February 26th rollout. Expect an edge to edge 4K Super AMOLED screen (and wraparound in the case of the Edge), with just a bezel at the top and bottom. Screen real estate is supposed to be 80% of the front, so it sounds like they are getting rid of the home button. Inside, expect a faster processor, and either 6 or 8 gigs of RAM!
Microsoft’s Surface event is tomorrow, the 26th. Theverge.com reports that it will be jam packed, but look for the spotlight to be on a new Surface all-in-one PC. Think of a Microsoft iMac, only with a hinge to lay flat on a desk. It will rock a touchscreen and have stylus support. Other big areas to watch for are emphasis on creating 3D content, and it looks like Redmond will be letting 3rd parties build their own HoloLens headsets. Microsoft may also show an Amazon Echo competitor with Cortana built in.
We’ve been reporting for over a year about Amazon’s drone program. All well and good, but how are those little rascals going to find a place to drop off your package?
Geekwire.com says Amazon plans for you to print out a symbol on your printer, and put it where you want the drone to land. You’ll have to supply your own rocks to keep the paper from blowing down the street!
Electric Car Builder Faraday to Build Factory in SF Area; Apple Joining the Voice Command Speaker ClubPosted: May 25, 2016
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.