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!


Uber Rolls Out Self-Driving Cabs; Facebook To Muscle in on Steam

We may be seeing quite a few car makers and tech companies rolling out self-driving cars by 2020 or 2021, but meanwhile, Uber is rolling out a small fleet of self driving Volvo SUVs later this month in Pittsburgh. Thenextweb.com says they’ll still have a driver supervising from behind the wheel. The cars will be assigned at random, and here’s the cool part….rides in them will be free for the time being! Uber will be staffing them with a co-pilot of sorts, to take note of how everything is working. Uber has had a $300 million dollar deal with Volvo to build fully autonomous cars, and apparently has been working on its own global mapping system, so they won’t have to rely on Google for navigation.

Facebook is looking to go after Steam, or at least claw back some of the revenue it’s lost since casual gaming moved to mobile. According to techcrunch.com, the social media giant announced it was working with game engine Unity to build a dedicated, downloadable desktop gaming platform, in addition to broadening the Facebook.com experience for gamers. It’s thought the desktop app will support both casual games and more hardcore games. Of course, Oculus was a big…and pricey…step back to gaming for Facebook, but the bulk of us still stare at screens, as opposed to strapping on headsets for hours at a time at this point.


The Genius Bar Goes Concierge

A makeover is coming to Apple’s Genius Bar. 9to5mac.com says they’re launching what they call a Concierge service. Once you’re in the store and the problem is inputted in their system, they will send you text messages…freeing you to go shop elsewhere while you wait.

Google Glass’ demise is apparently greatly exaggerated. According to bgr.com, Glass 2 prototypes are already in the hands of developers. This time, it’s a very small selection of trusted developers, and no word yet on what improvements Google has made.

Valve is jumping into the virtual reality market. Geekwire.com reports that the Steam games developer will show a new VR hardware system at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco next week.


Sapphire Glass on All iPhone 6 Models

Earlier rumors have said Apple would only be able to use sapphire glass on its larger iPhone 6, but macrumors.com now says there’s enough for the 4.7 inch iPhone 6, the 5.5 inch model, AND the iWatch, with room to spare. The nearly unbreakable screen will be welcomed by klutzy or unlucky iPhone users.

Still looking for an angle to claw back market share, Blackberry has launched BlackBerry Messenger Protected. Techcrunch.com reports its a confidential instant messaging system. It’s primarily aimed at government, government contractors, corporations, and law firms that have extra concern about secure messaging.

No Steam gaming machines from Valve or any of its suppliers this year, but geek.com says a team is working on a handheld dubbed the Steamboy to be out early next year. It’s not expected to be robust enough to play the most robust games, but hey…it’s portable.


Solar Powered Bike Lock

For your two-wheeled transport…and specifically making sure it stays yours… cnet.com reports on the Skylock from Velo Labs. Velo is crowd funding a solar powered bike lock you can access from your smartphone. An hour in the sun, and it’s good to go for a week. It will notify you via your smartphone if your bike is moved around, and you can lock and unlock it from your phone via either Bluetooth or wifi. The company was founded by former Boeing and Jawbone people. Skylock similar to BitLock, but BitLock doesn’t work over wifi and isn’t solar. It’s $159 for backers, and will be $249 retail.

If your transportation leans towards the 4 wheeled variety, Pioneer has demoed a number of automotive entertainment systems using Apple’s CarPlay. 9to5mac.com says Pioneer demoed them this past week…they’re already discounted on Amazon from $536 to $984!

The Steam PC gaming system continues to gain steam…Gamasutra.com says more games have been released on Steam so far this year than in all of 2013! The Steam game platform from Valve Corporation runs on Windows, Apple OSX, and Linux. Valve has plans to convert Steam into an open platform, where any developer can publish their games, with Steam users acting as the curators.