Displaying items by tag: Alexa

Amazon and Microsoft announced that Alexa, Amazon’s AI personal assistant, will soon be able to communicate with Cortana, the personal assistant for Windows 10, and vice versa. Users of Amazon’s Alexa-controlled Echo speaker will be able to turn on their device and say, “Alexa, open Cortana,” or turn to their Windows 10 device and say, “Cortana, open Alexa.”

The two US technology giants said Alexa and Cortana will begin talking to each other later this year. Under the agreement, Microsoft customers first will be able to access Alexa via Cortana on Windows PCs, and later on Android and iOS devices, said Andrew Shuman, corporate vice president, Cortana Engineering.

Alexa customers will be able to access Cortana's unique features like booking a meeting or accessing work calendars, reminding you to pick up flowers on your way home, or reading your work email – all using just your voice. Similarly, Cortana customers can ask Alexa to control their smart home devices, shop on Amazon.com, interact with many of the more than 20,000 skills built by third-party developers, and much more.

"Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us," said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. "Bringing Cortana's knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments, and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal."

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, said, "The world is big and so multifaceted. There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas. Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience.”

Tractica analyst Mark Beccue speculates that Amazon and Microsoft have mutual interest in developing the ability for their AI assistants to communicate, because neither company has enough presence in the mobile space to stand alone.

He told TechNewsWorld: “Neither Microsoft nor Amazon have the market penetration that Apple and Google do. Their virtual assistants are not very multimodal yet. Maybe they feel stronger together.”

Both Amazon and Microsoft have their own strengths that they can bring to the table; for example, Microsoft is stronger in productivity and search, whereas Amazon is known for e-commerce and has a vast ecosystem of skill applications, including many related to smart home technologies.

Having abolished roaming charges in 50 destinations and introduced industry-leading care initiatives like TOBi the chatbot in April, Vodafone UK has made even more improvements that put customers’ needs at the heart of its service including new AI digital customer service initiatives.

The initiatives include 24/7 social media care on Facebook and Twitter; 24/7 ‘Message us’, a new support service that puts customers in control of how they contact Vodafone; and trialing of new voice authentication services, making it easier for customers to verify their identity, access their details quickly and receive an account update through Amazon’s personal assistant, Alexa.

Vodafone has been working with some of the world’s most sophisticated voice recognition technology companies to improve services for customers calling its 191 number for help. This includes testing a new capability that will free customers from having to remember passwords to access their account. By registering and repeating a pre-recorded phrase, customers can confirm their identity based on the unique sound of their voice. The operator is trialing it now and aims to complete its pilot study by the end of the summer.

The company also developed a fresh skill for Amazon’s Alexa that will enable customers to ask the digital assistant for information about their Vodafone account. Once the customer has followed a simple authentication process, they can ask Alexa for billing data, account details and information about extras. The operator expects to launch the ‘Ask Vodafone’ skill later this summer.

Vodafone UK is also expanding its service capabilities using its chatbot TOBi, to provide customers with instant answers to specific questions about their account as well as advice on the best deals. When Vodafone launched TOBi in April, it became the first UK mobile provider to deploy an artificial intelligence chatbot to speed up responses to customer queries.

Initially used to answer popular support questions in Web Chat, TOBi’s role has now been expanded to answer account-specific questions on subjects like roaming. TOBi can also offer advice on SIM only price plans. Already learning new skills, TOBi understands what a customer needs help with more than 90% of the time, and will be handling even more account transactions by year’s end.

The operator has also been working on enhancements for better mobile coverage. This includes using existing masts to enhance indoor 4G coverage across many areas of the UK.

“Our new service offerings illustrate our commitment to putting our customers at the very heart of everything we do,” said Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK CEO. “Whether it’s providing 24/7 customer care, developing innovative new digital services or outstanding indoor 4G coverage, we are determined to make our network and services easier to use, faster and more engaging for our customers than ever before.”

Vodafone’s current multi-billion-pound network modernization program has resulted in its most reliable network ever, with its call setup success rate at an all-time high, fewer dropped calls and the best indoor coverage the operator has recorded to date.

As part of Vodafone UK’s commitment to deliver outstanding network performance, the company is combining some of its existing spectrum bands to increase the availability and quality of 4G services across major UK locations. This includes both outdoor and, crucially, indoor locations, to give customers confidence that Vodafone’s network will be there when they need it.

Published in Telecom Operators

Google has announced its plans to launch voice-activated shopping from its artificial intelligence-powered home speaker, which analysts have suggested represents a direct response to the success of Amazon’s Alexa.

The new feature can enable users to tell the speaker to order them items and get delivery from dozens of retailers who are participating in the collaboration with the US tech giants. Google Assistant product manager David Wang said it’s just the start of what’s possible with the Google Assistant and declared that they would continue to add new features in the forthcoming months.

 "If picking up paper towels or stocking up on coffee is on your list, consider it done. To help you keep up with your busy schedule and shop for the things you need, we're introducing shopping with your Google Assistant on Google Home." The service marries in with Google’s delivery arm ‘Google Express’ whose US retailers include Costco, Whole Foods Market, Walgreens, PetSmart, Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Consumers can add payment information to their accounts to enable voice-activated shopping, which is a feature on Amazon's devices powered by the digital assistant called Alexa. Wang added: "Today is just the beginning of what's possible for shopping with the Google Assistant. Over the coming months, we'll continue to add new features and enable purchases for other apps and service."

Published in Internet of Things

There were some incredible gadgets and devices on display at CES 2017 in Las Vegas, but one domestic appliance really stood out! Samsung’s latest vision for the connected family was unveiled at CES with the talking fridge getting people talking literally, excuse the pun!

Last year, the company released the Family Hub Fridge, which proved to be a big hit with consumers. The fridge was equipped with a king-size touch-screen, cameras positioned on the inside of the appliance in order to help you keep track of food and Wi-Fi connectivity. However, their newest upgrade of the Family Hub Fridge is set to be an even bigger success.

At CES 2017, Samsung launched its brand new line-up of fridges called ‘Family Hub 2.0’. Not only has it expanded the collection to 10 models, the fridge can now also be controlled via voice commands! In a design that has drawn comparisons to that of the LG connected fridge, it was disclosed that you can ask the Samsung Family Hub 2.0 to read out recipes, tell you what your itinerary for the day is, and inform you of anything you may need from the shops.

That’s not the only task and duty this incredible connected appliance can do – it will also dish out recipes based on the contents of your fridge and allows you to order food through a click of a button if supplies are running low. The connected smart appliance is the latest in a number of gadgets designed to transform your home into a ‘smart home’ with a range of innovative products.

In addition to the above, the Family Hub 2.0 also allows each family member to create a profile to run simultaneously with calendars, to-do lists and personalised messages. New collaborations with Spotify and iHeart-Radio also mean you can ask your fridge to serenade you whilst doing the dishes or preparing a meal.

Since the huge popularity of Amazon’s Alexa, not to mention the increased functionality of Siri and Google Assistant, voice-controlled assistants are becoming an increasingly integral part of the connected home.

Huawei release new smartphone aimed at challenging the iPhone

While many vendors wait until the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of February to reveal their new range of smartphones for 2017, some took the decision to officially unveil their new products at CES 2017 in Las Vegas. One such vendor was Chinese company Huawei, who released a fabulous new android device aimed at challenging the iPhone called the Huawei Honor 6X.

The company have outlined a clear vision with the introduction of the Huawei Honor 6X and that is to take on the iPhone. Huawei’s primary aim is to lure away users (especially millennials) from the much-loved iPhone.

Management at Huawei have been greatly encouraged by the initial reaction to their new device. Its customer satisfaction scores on par with those of Apple’s iPhone. Advantages of the Honor 6X over the latest iPhones, says Huawei, is stronger battery life (at up to two days for average usage), a speedy octa-core processor and a far lower price starting at $249.99. The Honor 6X also comes with a dual-camera setup, improved photo editing software and high-definition video capabilities. 

The Huawei Honor 6X is priced at $244.99 (3GB RAM, 32GB of storage) or $299.99 (4GB, 64GB of storage).

Nokia finally unveils long-awaited Android at CES 2017

Nokia finally remerged into the mainstream mobile market at CES 2017 with the introduction of its new android phone named the Nokia 6.

Nokia’s latest device the Nokia 6 is only available in China. However, there are fortunately more Nokia android phones to come with a big announcement expected at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona according to Nokia’s Facebook account. This Nokia 6 is merely just a taster.

Back in the early 00’s, Nokia were market leaders in the mobile phone industry, but the Finnish multinational corporation suffered a dramatic fall from grace. Once the biggest and best-known mobile phone manufacturer, following some tough competition from iPhone and Android Nokia in 2011 made the fatal mistake of agreeing to produce only Windows phones. In 2014 it packed up its mobile phone game and sold its business to Microsoft. Fast-forward to 2017, and with Android onboard, this could be the Nokia comeback we've been waiting for.

It's still not quite Nokia as we know it, since Finnish brand HMD Global currently owns the rights to develop, build and sell Nokia-branded phones - although it does so with Nokia's input.

The decision to launch the Nokia 6 only in China is "a reflection of the desire to meet the real world needs of consumers in different markets around the world.” With over 552 million smartphone users in China in 2016, a figure that is predicted to grow to more than 593 million users by 2017, it is a strategically important market where premium design and quality is highly valued by consumers.

VR a hot topic, but HTC lead the way with a number of amazing products

Virtual Reality (VR) was once again a hot topic at CES – and in truth it was everywhere in the convention centre – with countless booths displaying headsets and accessories. A large volume of studious and creators used CES to either launch or preview new experiences. But the biggest advancements may not be available to consumers for another year or two.

But the real winner in VR at CES was clearly HTC. The company not only unveiled its tracker, which makes it possible to turn toy guns, baseball bats and even fire hoses into trackable VR controllers. HTC also committed to building a standalone wireless VR headset, announced a VR subscription service and unveiled a content marketplace for VR arcade operators.

HTC’s efforts to monetize VR content could help smaller producers to see some return for their work. Right now, VR app stores favor popular apps, which tend to be video games, while burying some of the non-gaming and cinematic content.

It was further disclosed at CES that HTC will launch a new tracking module, subscription service for Vive VR. Viveport President, Rickard Steiber said: “Offering a subscription service can help with these kinds of discovery problems, and to entice consumers to give lesser-known fare a try.” “If you are app number 500 on that list, you are going to be very eager to be in the subscription plan,” he added. Steiber also said that subscriptions could enable more episodic content, and suggested that HTC could over time launch separate subscription packages for different types of content.


Published in Reports

One of the many exciting announcements made at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas from January 5-7, 2017, came from Chinese computer manufacturing company Lenovo, which announced the launch of its new ‘Smart Assistant’ powered by Amazon’s ‘Alexa’. Lenovo is the latest company to join the market for voice-activated devices, and its Smart Assistant comes at a reasonable price.

Lenovo’s new Smart Assistant will sell for $129, and will compete with Amazon’s Echo speakers using the artificial intelligence developed by Amazon. The smart home assistant was reportedly built in collaboration with Amazon, and is able to recognize “users’ voice commands to conduct web searches, play music, create lists, calendar reminders and much more,” Lenovo said in a statement.

The Smart Assistant was announced just ahead of CES 2017, along with a vast array of exciting tech showcases. Lenovo’s product risks being overshadowed by other similar devices, such as Google’s smart home product which can respond to questions and voice commands and connect to smart appliances, enabling the user to set a thermostat or turn on an oven remotely.

Lenovo’s senior vice president for personal computers and smart devices, Johnson Jia, said, “Our goal has never been to simply build smart home devices for the sake of advancing computers and smart devices. In the same way a person’s IQ is measured by applied knowledge, we believe products are ‘smart’ to the degree they’re actually understood and applied to daily life by their users.”

Amazon is said to be “excited to work with an innovative company such as Lenovo to bring the Lenovo Smart Assistant with Alexa to customers this spring,” said Amazon’s vice president for Amazon Alexa, Steve Rabuchin. The Lenovo Smart Assistant is expected to be available for purchase in May 2017.

Published in Internet of Things

LG had big plans for CES 2017 and didn’t disappoint the crowds. The South Korean tech giant unveiled its latest innovative robotic helpers that go far beyond your average kitchen appliances. LG’s Hub Robot, for example, was revealed as well as its Mini-sized counterpart. The robots can control smart home devices, play music, offer advice on commuting times, and overall make life a bit easier. LG appears to be competing with the Amazon Echo, by also revealing its Airbot assistant.

The LG Hub Robot features a circular "face" with a screen displaying what looks like eyes perched atop a white body. The robot can re-orient itself to face the user and move along to music that it’s playing. The screen can also display images and videos, although how exactly it accesses these wasn’t disclosed by LG.

LG’s Airbot is able to guide wayward travelers through busy airports. It can also provide useful travel information on its large display, and talk you through steps to get through an airport when you get lost – perfect for traveling children. The Airbot is already being used by travelers at South Korea’s Incheon airport, according to reports, so it seems likely that we could see it in action in other airports around the world in the future.

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee of when that will happen, or how much the robots will cost. LG hasn’t revealed such details yet. LG has teased the Hub Robot before, and also announced other home appliances at the press conference, including a smart fridge featuring Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant, and a robot lawnmower.

Published in Gadget