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Amazon Issues Recall For Solar Eclipse Glasses

August 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon has issued a recall to consumers who purchased eclipse glasses that may not have come from a recommended manufacturer.

The internet retailer began notifying buyers of the unverified glasses on Saturday, warning them not to use the product for viewing the much-anticipated total solar eclipse later this month. Customers who didn’t receive a recall email are safe to use the ones they purchased.

“We recommend that you DO NOT use this product to view the sun or the eclipse,” the email said.

Sales of eclipse glasses have been hot ahead of the Aug. 21 event, when the moon will pass in front of the sun, completely blotting it out for those along a 70-mile-wide corridor stretching across the contiguous United States.

Amazon said it issued the recall over concerns with the quality of the glasses.

“Safety is among our highest priorities. Out of an abundance of caution, we have proactively reached out to customers and provided refunds for eclipse glasses that may not comply with industry standards,” Amazon said in a statement. ” We want customers to buy with confidence anytime they make a purchase on Amazon.com and eclipse glasses sold on Amazon.com are required to comply with the relevant ISO standard.”

The American Astronomical Society has information on how to make sure you are purchasing effective glasses for viewing the solar eclipse.

eBay Developing Shopping By Picture App

July 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

In the near future eBay will allow consumers to shop on its app by snapping pictures.

The e-commerce company announced that it is developing two new image recognition tools for its mobile app. They’ll only be available in the US and are set for release this fall, with a desktop version arriving later.

The first feature, simply called Image Search, will let you take a photo of a pair of sneakers or a handbag (or an existing photo in your phone’s library) and use it to search eBay to find similar listings. The other, called Find It On eBay, lets you tap images on any online site and “share” to eBay to get a list of similar-looking items.

“We want to make the entire internet shoppable by the image,” Mohan Patt, eBay vice president of buyer experience, said.

The new features might be used on the street or in a store when an item of clothing or piece of furniture catches your eye and you want to see if something like it is available on eBay, hopefully for less. The features also show eBay is now one step closer to a concept offered by CEO Devin Wenig earlier this year, in which people can take pictures of stuff they want to sell and eBay automatically fills titles, descriptions, listing information and even prices.

The new tools could also help eBay catch up to Amazon, which has been offering image-recognition tech in its mobile app for several years. eBay last year bought up three AI-focused companies in hopes of rolling out features like these, so customers should expect more in the future.

Demoing the new features, Patt used a picture he snapped in a magazine of knee-high black boots, fed it to eBay and immediately retrieved more than 500 live listings of the same kind of boots. The intent wasn’t to get the identical item, but provide a range of similar looks and prices for customers, he added.

eBay said it will store images shared with the company and corresponding search results to evaluate the relevance of the results and provide users with their past searches.

The tools will be available across categories on eBay, but the company will develop its AI models most on soft goods like clothes and furniture that often don’t include a bar code. (You can already search by bar code using eBay, Amazon and Walmart’s apps.)

When the new tools launch, Image Search will be available on both Android and iOS and Find It On eBay on Android, but an iOS version is expected later.

iRobot Wants To Sell Data It Collects From Mapping Homes

July 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

iRobot, maker of the Roomba, plans to sell the data the house-cleaning robot collects when it maps your house. Potential buyers include smart home device manufacturers, such as Amazon, Apple and Google.

iRobot’s business strategy hinges on regular updates and understanding the floor plan of your home, according to Reuters.

“There’s an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared,” iRobot CEO Colin Angle said.

Roombas have been mapping homes since 2015 using a camera and sensors or visual localization and cloud-connected app control. The Roomba uses these maps to avoid toppling over lamps and ramming into your furniture. It was made compatible with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant in March.

iRobot said it could reach a deal with Amazon, Apple or Google in the next couple of years.

Amazon Jumps Into Social Media Shopping With Spark Launch

July 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc has rolled out a social feature called Spark that encourages members to showcase and purchase products on its platforms, the retail giant’s first clear move into the world of social media.

Spark, which is currently only available for Amazon’s premium paying Prime members, encourages users to share photos and videos, just like popular social media platforms Instagram and Pinterest. The new feature publicly launched on Tuesday for use on mobile devices that use Apple’s iOS operating system.

Spark users can tag products on their posts that are available on Amazon and anyone browsing the feeds can instantly find and purchase them on the platform. Users can also respond to posts with “smiles,” equivalent to Facebook’s “likes.”

“We created Spark to allow customers to discover – and shop – stories and ideas from a community that likes what they like,” said an Amazon spokeswoman.

“When customers first visit Spark, they select at least five interests they’d like to follow and we’ll create a feed of relevant content contributed by others. Customers shop their feed by tapping on product links or photos with the shopping bag icon.”

Amazon has also invited publishers including paid influencers and bloggers to post on Spark. Their posts are identified with a sponsored hashtag.

Samsung Finally Launches Bixby Voice App For Galaxy S8

July 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung has finally officially launched voice capabilities for its Bixby smart sidekick in the US, about three months after the artificial intelligence technology first became available on its new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus phones. The company had delayed the launch and missed its own promised “later this spring” deadline, at least in the US.

Owners of its newest phones will be able to access Bixby Voice after downloading a software update, rolling out at 9 p.m. PT. South Korean users, who’ve had access to Bixby Voice in the Korean language since May 1, will also be able to now access the English language capabilities. The company didn’t say when Bixby Voice will be available in other countries.

Bixby is Samsung’s new digital voice assistant that debuted on its latest smartphones. It has its own dedicated button on the side of the device, letting you communicate with the artificial intelligence like you’d use a walkie-talkie. The only problem is the voice part of the assistantdidn’t actually work when the Galaxy S8 hit the market in April. What did work with Bixby was its “Vision, Home and Reminder” functions that identify objects in photos, help you track your day and remind you about upcoming events on your calendar.

Rather than launching voice capabilities right away, Samsung said it needed more time to get Bixby ready for mainstream consumers. It has been testing it out with over 100,000 Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus users in its early access preview program. Those participants generated more than 4 million commands and helped Samsung refine Bixby’s capabilities.

One benefit includes “increased comprehension on command variations.” You can, for instance, ask what the weather is like by saying “Show me today’s weather,” “What’s the weather like today?” or “What’s the forecast today?” Samsung says it has improved Bixby’s response times, increased hands-free operations and included a new “read aloud feature.” You can ask it to read the latest email you’ve received.

Samsung also has worked to make Bixby interact better with third-party apps. If you’re using Google Maps, you can use Bixby to change the location of your origin or destination.

Bixby is the latest entrant in the crowded field of digital assistants that already includes Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana. Every tech heavyweight is investing in these assistants because they’re heralded as the future of how we’ll interact with our gadgets. The hope is to build a relationship with you now and ultimately get you to buy more of their products later.

Will WhatsApp Face Competition From Amazon

July 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Just when you thought the messaging app market couldn’t get any more crowded, along come the rumors that Amazon wants a piece of the action.

According to AFTV News, Amazon has begun surveying customers about the new messaging service to gauge which features are most important them.

Called Anytime, the rumored app will apparently be a one-stop-shop focused on voice and video calls, alongside a photo sharing feature with @mentions, as well as some highly-original real-time filters for photos and video with “special effects and masks.”

So yes, that will almost definitely mean more basic dog-eared AR seflies *eyeroll emoji*.

If the rumors are true, the service would also keep chats private and allows users to “encrypt important messages like bank account details”, allowing them to converse with businesses, make reservations, and – in true Amazon style – virtually shop until they drop.

“Based on the images I’ve been provided, Anytime by Amazon seems to be an all-in-one feature rich service that could even rival social networks,” the AFTV report stated. “[It] will also provide tasks that can be done in groups, like playing games, listening to music, and ordering food.”

There’s no word on how long the app will take to get into the phone-wielding hands of the masses, but a customer said the survey implied it was “a ready product”.

Are you surprised that Amazon is making a move on the messaging app market? We’re certainly not. The firm is desperate to get in on any kind of action these days in its plan to take over the world and be the go-to for everything.

Don’t be shocked when the company launches its own dating service, where we would expect you could get a dinner date with Alexa as part of a Black Friday deal.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Samsung To Delay Bixby Voice Assistant Again

July 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The consumer electronics giant announced to the Korea Herald that the English version of its digital assistant will be delayed — again — because it lacks enough big data to teach it to work properly. Bixby Voice was supposed to launch in late April before it was pushed back to “later this spring” and then to June. It’s unclear when Bixby will launch.

Samsung did launch parts of Bixby in April in the US, including the “Vision, Home and Reminder” components that offer features like image recognition and home controls. But the central part of the service — enabling a person to use voice to control and navigate Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 phone — is still only available in Korean.

The delayed launch of Bixby comes at a time when virtually all of the major tech companies are rolling out their own voice-activated digital assistants. Everyone from Apple to Google to Amazon sees speech as the next significant way to interact with your devices and is keen to develop a relationship with you. The hope is your loyalty to an assistant like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Samsung’s Bixby will better tie you to their products and services.

Samsung faces entrenched competition. Amazon leads the market with nearly 71 percent share, thanks to its family of Echo speakers with Alexa, according to eMarketer. Google is No. 2 with almost 24 percent share due to its Google Home speaker with Google Assistant.

Creating a digital assistant that actually, well, assists you takes a lot of data and examples of human interactions. These assistants get smarter with only time and experience, and Samsung’s delays underscore how complicated creating one can be.

Amazon has flooded the market with cheap Alexa-infused speakers over the past couple of years to get more people using its digital assistant. In its attempt to catch up, Google is relying on its treasure trove of data from billions of search queries to power Google Assistant. Microsoft’s strategy is to add its Cortana digital assistant to all Windows 10 devices.

Six years after Siri launched on the iPhone 4S, Apple is just starting to make it more useful but the company has a base of millions of iPhone users to instantly tap.

Samsung doesn’t have that luxury. When the Galaxy S8 phone launched in the US in late April, Bixby was notably missing, especially considering the time Samsung spent talking it up during the launch presentation. The Korea Herald said that early beta tests with US consumers showed mixed results.

“Samsung is continuing to dominate hardware, but once again its shortcomings in software and particularly artificial intelligence are laid bare for all to see,” said Richard Windsor, an analyst at Radio Free Mobile.

The Korea Herald report, citing unnamed sources, also said that the complexities of US engineers communicating with management in Korea has led to slower progress than with the Korean-language version.

A spokesman for Samsung wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Are Smartphones Making People Dumber

July 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apparently having a smartphone close to hand significantly reduces your cognitive ability, according to a new scientific study.

It does not even matter of the smartphone is off, your brain stops working in the presence of the shiny toy.

The study was prepared by the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure, for the first time, how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they’re not using them.

In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration to score well. The tests measured participants’ available cognitive capacity — that is, the brain’s ability to hold and process data at any given time.

Before beginning, participants were randomly instructed to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room.

All participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent. The researchers found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.

We are not sure about this as it did not identify the brands of the smartphone. iPhone users have a low cognitive ability to start with, otherwise they would not think shelling out $650 for a $300 phone was a good idea.

Courtesy-Fud

Amazon Announces Return Of ‘Prime Day’ Sales Bonanza

June 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

If you missed last year’s sales extravaganza, Amazon has good news for you.

The e-commerce titan has officially announced its third annual Prime Day will be July 11. The sales day will include hundreds of thousands of deals worldwide and run for 30 hours, starting at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on July 10. As usual, these deals will be available only to Amazon Prime members, who pay $99 a year in the US and can sign up for £59 in the UK until July 3, for unlimited two-day shipping and other perks.

The sale will also expand to more countries to include Mexico, China and India, where Amazon launched its Prime membership program over the past year. The US, UK, Spain, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, Belgium and Austria are also included.

Amazon has found huge success creating the sales holiday in 2015 to mark its 20th anniversary. The company even broke its single-day sales record during Prime Day last year. But, as Amazon’s dominance continues to grow, Prime Day serves as another example of the online seller gobbling up more market share as traditional retailers file for bankruptcy or close stores. The company last year accounted for 43 percent of all online sales in the US, according to researcher Slice Intelligence.

Perhaps aware of its increased influence, Amazon mentioned in its announcement Wednesday that 40 percent of its “Lightning Deals” promotions on Prime Day will come from small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Since its first year, Prime Day has also gotten knocked for offering undesirable deals along with low inventories of the most popular items. Responding to that criticism, the company increased its stocks of big-name items last year and decided to embrace the sometimes oddball or unexpected nature of the deals offered. These changed seemed to work, with Adobe Digital Insights reporting that customer sentiments on social media was more positive last year than during the first Prime Day.

The company is also doing more this year to better organize deals and make it easier for customers to track and shop for sales.

Amazon will be continuing its “countdown deals” in the run-up to Prime Day, offering sales starting today. Those include discounts on memberships for Amazon Music Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited and Audible.

Roku Device Sales Halted In Mexico

June 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

A cable service provider belonging to Mexico’s largest television network has won a legal case to halt the sale of Roku video streaming devices in the country on the grounds that the gadgets are often hacked to let users view pirated channels.

Cablevision, a cable TV provider owned by Televisa, said a Mexico City tribunal on Wednesday upheld a previous order to suspend the importation and distribution of the devices.

“Cablevision cannot allow the content that it licenses from domestic and foreign companies to be illegally used,” Cablevision spokeswoman Maria Eugenia Zurita told Reuters via email. “We would also like Roku Inc to better supervise the use of its software so that it’s not used inappropriately.”

Connected to televisions, Roku devices provide access to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Starz and other services over the Internet. They and similar products are a major part of a consumer trend away from cable television in recent years.

Los Gatos, California-based Roku disagrees with Wednesday’s court ruling and will continue legal efforts to ensure it is able to distribute its products in Mexico, General Counsel Steve Kay said in a statement.

“Today’s decision is not the final word in this complex legal matter, and it is not expected to prevent consumers from purchasing Roku products in Mexico at this time,” Kay said.

Hackers in Mexico use messaging app WhatsApp to offer Roku owners illegal access to monthly packages of hundreds of television channels, including Televisa’s, HBO, ESPN and others.

In some cases, customers make cash transfers at convenience stores and then send the hackers photos of their receipts.

A judge last week issued a court order requested by Cablevision to stop the importation and sale of the Roku devices, but Roku then won a suspension. Wednesday’s decision overturned that suspension.

Following the latest ruling, Roku devices on Thursday were available for purchase on the Mexican websites of Amazon.com, Best Buy and Wal Mart de Mexico.

Roku accounted for nearly half of all over-the-top streaming devices in the United States last year, according to market research firm comScore.

Facebook Looks To Enter Original Content TV Market

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc is holding discussions with Hollywood studios about producing scripted, TV-quality shows, with an aim of launching original programming by late summer, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The social networking giant has indicated that it was willing to commit to production budgets as high as $3 million per episode, in meetings with Hollywood talent agencies, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Facebook is hoping to target audiences from ages 13 to 34, with a focus on the 17 to 30 range. The company has already lined up “Strangers”, a relationship drama, and a game show, “Last State Standing”, the report said.

Facebook could not be immediately reached for comment.

The company is expected to release episodes in a traditional manner, instead of dropping an entire season in one go like Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc, WSJ reported.

The company is also willing to share its viewership data with Hollywood, the report said.

Apple Inc hired co-presidents of Sony Pictures Television, Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, earlier this month, to lead its video-programming efforts.

Apple began its long-awaited move into original television series last week, with a reality show called “Planet of the Apps”, an unscripted show about developers trying to interest celebrity mentors with a 60-second pitch on an escalator.

The company’s future programming plans include an adaptation of comedian James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” segment from his CBS Corp  show that will begin airing in August.

 

Amazon Files Patent For ‘Drone Towers’ Delivery Facility

June 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

One can argue that Amazon has some lofty ideas for drone delivery.

The e-commerce giant has filed a patent application for a “multi-level fulfillment center” that would allow drones to deliver packages in urban areas. Basically, it sounds like a giant robot-powered tower that would make it easy for drones to zip in and out as they deliver packages around a city.

There’s a “growing need and desire to locate fulfillment centers within cities, such as in downtown districts and densely populated parts of the cities,” Amazon says in the patent application, published Thursday by the US Patent and Trademark Office along with several other drone-related applications by the company.

The other patent applications, which were earlier spotted by The Mercury News, cover things like drone performance and noise control. Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Of course, patents are no guarantee this drone tower will become a reality, but Amazon’s been pursuing drone deliveries in recent years. In March, the company’s drone delivery arm, Amazon Prime Air, shipped its first package out in public in the US. Amazon, UPS, Google and others are also developing drone delivery tech in hopes of bringing shipments to customers more quickly and cheaply.

Amazon’s Acquisition Of Slack Could Mean Deeper Enterprise Presence

June 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Online retail giant Amazon is rumored to be interested in purchasing collaboration firm Slack Technologies — a possibility that could give Amazon a more direct entry into the enterprise.

“Bottom line: this could be a good move for Amazon in terms of upping their game in the enterprise collaboration market, but the devil is in the details of staying power and execution versus competitors like Google, Microsoft and Facebook,” said Forrester analyst Art Schoeller.

Bloomberg News reported Thursday that Amazon is considering the move in a deal that could be valued at $9 billion.

A Slack official declined to comment on the report. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

Slack has more than 5 million daily users, and has seen widespread adoption since its inception three years ago. More recently, Microsoft was thought to be eyeing the company, but backed away from a deal when it determined the price — possibly as much as $8 billion — was too high, Schoeller said.

Microsoft eventually shifted tactics and formed Microsoft Teams, which launched in November 2016.

The Amazon interest in Slack is noteworthy, given that in February it released a video and audio conference service named Amazon Chime. Schoeller also noted that Amazon’s WorkMail offering has not put much of dent in the popularity of Microsoft’s well-established Exchange/Outlook combo or Google Gmail.

Acquiring Slack would help boost Amazon’s market position, Schoeller said, but it would need to follow through with more investment after any purchase if it hopes to take on the major collaboration rivals. He also noted there could be spillover effects on Amazon’s cloud operations.

“If Amazon continues to add business applications on top of Amazon Web Services, it will give other partners pause because they would now operate on a competitor’s platform,” Schoeller said.

Although Amazon Chime already has a Chat Room capability, Schoeller expects Slack would displace that as instant messaging gives way to similar team messaging apps.

Chime competes with online web conferencing services such as Zoom, Uber Conference and Join.me. Alan Lepofsky, vice president at Constellation Research, noted that besides WorkMail, Amazon also offers Amazon Docs which is a file-sharing service.

“It will be interesting to see if Amazon and Slack make a good combination,” Lepofsky said. “Amazon has been trying to improve their reach inside corporate accounts, outside of just developers. They have their Workspaces virtual desktop, WorkMail and WorkDocs, Chime and Do…, but we don’t hear much about corporate customers adopting these tools.

“Perhaps Slack would provide them a foot in the door, kick starting the opportunity for more of their platform,” he said.

Slack could also act as a front end to many of Amazon’s A.I. services, Lepofsky added. The company could wind up with an Echo product line and the Slack platform for software.

After Acquiring Whole Foods Is Slack The Next Amazon Target?

June 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Online retail giant Amazon is said t be interested in snapping up collaboration firm Slack Technologies — a possibility that could give Amazon a more direct entry into the enterprise.

“Bottom line: this could be a good move for Amazon in terms of upping their game in the enterprise collaboration market, but the devil is in the details of staying power and execution versus competitors like Google, Microsoft and Facebook,” said Forrester analyst Art Schoeller.

Bloomberg News reported Thursday that Amazon is considering the move in a deal that could be valued at $9 billion.

A Slack official declined to comment on the report. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

Slack has more than 5 million daily users, and has seen widespread adoption since its inception three years ago. More recently, Microsoft was thought to be eyeing the company, but backed away from a deal when it determined the price — possibly as much as $8 billion — was too high, Schoeller said.

Microsoft eventually shifted tactics and formed Microsoft Teams, which launched in November 2016.

The Amazon interest in Slack is noteworthy, given that in February it released a video and audio conference service named Amazon Chime. Schoeller also noted that Amazon’s WorkMail offering has not put much of dent in the popularity of Microsoft’s well-established Exchange/Outlook combo or Google Gmail.

Acquiring Slack would help boost Amazon’s market position, Schoeller said, but it would need to follow through with more investment after any purchase if it hopes to take on the major collaboration rivals. He also noted there could be spillover effects on Amazon’s cloud operations.

“If Amazon continues to add business applications on top of Amazon Web Services, it will give other partners pause because they would now operate on a competitor’s platform,” Schoeller said.

Although Amazon Chime already has a Chat Room capability, Schoeller expects Slack would displace that as instant messaging gives way to similar team messaging apps.

Will Samsung’s Bixby Compete With Apple’s HomePod

June 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The as-yet-unnamed speaker will be powered by the Samsung’s Bixby AI assistant, according to the Korea Herald, which the firm has already confirmed will be coming to IoT gadgets as well as smartphones and tablets.

However, this is likely a sign that the speaker won’t be arriving any time soon, as Samsung last week announced plans to delay the rollout of Bixby to Galaxy S8 handsets in the US, because it’s, er, struggling to understand English. 

We don’t yet know much else about Samsung’s smart speaker, although the report notes that the firm has been granted patents for the mooted device in South Korea. 

News of Samsung building its own AI-powered speaker comes, unsurprisingly, just days after Apple took the wraps off its first stab at the Amazon and Google-dominated market. The speaker, called the Apple HomePod for some God-forsaken reason, is a 7in tall bin-like device

The speaker, called the HomePod for some godforsaken reason, is a 7in tall bin-like device, which can be controlled using Apple’s Siri AI assistant. 

Inside you’ll find Apple’s A8 processor, which the company claims is “the biggest brain inside of a speaker”. This sits alongside a 4in Apple-built subwoofer and a seven tweeter array with precision acoustic horns and directional control. We don’t really know what that means, either, but Apple claims it will “rock the house”. Er. 

The speaker also features “spatial awareness,” which allows it to automatically tune the sound to the space that the speaker is in.

“Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

“HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a beautiful speaker that is less than 7 inches tall, can rock most any room with distortion-free music and be a helpful assistant around your home.”

The Apple HomePod will be available from December, priced at $349. UK pricing has not yet been announced.

Courtesy-TheInq

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