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Microsoft Touts New Power Saving Feature In Windows 10

April 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is touting operating system-wide power efficiencies in a recent preview of Windows 10, claiming that the technology will reduce notebook battery consumption by 11% on laptops equipped with the newest processors.

The technology, temporarily tagged as “Power Throttling,” was enabled on all copies of Windows 10 Insider build 16176, which Microsoft released Friday. Insider is the beta program Microsoft runs for both enthusiasts and businesses. The latter rely on Insider to learn how the OS will change for the next feature upgrade, as well as for testing the upgrade prior to deploying the final code when it is shipped several months later.

“With ‘Power Throttling,’ when background work is running, Windows places the CPU in its most energy efficient operating modes — work gets done, but the minimal possible battery is spent on that work,” Bill Karagounis, director of program management for Insider, said in a post to a company blog.

The CPU throttling is triggered on an app-specific basis by a detection system Microsoft integrated with the OS, said Karagounis. Like other such technologies, Microsoft’s is meant to recognize foreground tasks — such as active apps — as well as persistent applications, like music streaming applications, then give them full access to the processor. Other apps, or even individual processes within an app, that are classified as “background,” are restricted in how they impact the CPU’s power usage. For instance, they may not be allowed to kick the processor into its higher-frequency, higher-power, higher-consumption mode.

Power Throttling works only on Intel processors with that firm’s Speed Shift, a feature of sixth-generation and later CPUs, including “Skylake” and the newer “Kaby Lake.”

Recognizing that most personal computers are laptops and that battery longevity is a major factor in productivity, Microsoft has aggressively promoted Windows 10’s power savings, notably in the boosterism behind Edge, the OS’s default browser.

The Redmond, Wash. company isn’t working in a vacuum: Other operating systems also try to eke out more battery life by scaling back CPU use. Apple’s iOS, for instance, switches to a low-power mode when an iPhone or iPad battery reaches about 20% capacity. Among other things, the iOS mode halts background app refreshing and stops automatic email fetching.

Microsoft first added Power Throttling to Windows 10 in January, saying that it had turned it on for a subset of Insider-equipped devices as an experiment and promising to provide an update in mid-February. That update never appeared, hinting that Microsoft pulled it from inclusion in the then-upcoming Creators Update, the feature upgrade released April 11.

The first opportunity most users will have to apply Power Throttling will be with 2017’s second feature upgrade. Microsoft has not revealed a release timetable, but most experts expect it to appear this fall.

Facebook Gives Preview Of Futuristic Brain-to-text Program

April 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc has provided a peek inside a secretive unit headed by a former chief of the Pentagon’s research arm, disclosing that the social media company is studying ways for people to communicate by thought and touch.

Facebook launched the research shop, called Building 8, last year to conduct long-term work that might lead to hardware products. In charge of the unit is Regina Dugan, who led a similar group at Alphabet Inc’s Google and was previously director of the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

Dugan told software developers at Facebook’s annual F8 conference that the company was modeling Building 8 after DARPA, a government office founded in the 1950s that gave the world the internet and the miniaturized GPS receivers used in consumer devices.

Any hardware rollouts are years away, Dugan said in a speech. Potential products could, if successful, be a way for Facebook to diversify beyond its heavy reliance on advertising revenue.

One example of Building 8’s work so far, Dugan said, was an attempt to improve technology that allows people to type words using their minds.

“It sounds impossible, but it’s closer than you may realize,” Dugan said.

Using brain implants, people can already type eight words a minute, she said. Facebook’s goal, working with researchers at several U.S. universities, is to make the system non-invasive, as well as fast enough so that people can type 100 words a minute just by thinking.

Possible uses include helping disabled people and “the ability to text your friend without taking out your phone,” she said.

Another Building 8 project, she said, was trying to advance the ability to communicate through touch only, an idea with roots in Braille, a writing system for the blind and visually impaired.

A video played at the conference showed two Facebook employees talking to each other through touch. As one employee, Frances, wore an electronic device on her arm, the other, Freddy, used a computer program to send pressure changes to her arm.

“If you ask Frances what she feels,” Dugan said, “she’ll tell you that she has learned to feel the acoustic shape of a word on her arm.”

In December, Facebook signed a deal with 17 universities including Harvard and Princeton to allow swifter collaboration on projects with Dugan’s team.

 

Bose Headphones Accused Of Spying On Users

April 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Bose Corp spies on its wireless headphone owners by using an app that tracks the music, podcasts and other audio they listen to, and violates their privacy rights by selling such data without permission, a lawsuit charged.

The complaint filed by Kyle Zak in federal court in Chicago seeks an injunction to stop Bose’s “wholesale disregard” for the privacy of customers who download its free Bose Connect app from Apple Inc or Google Play stores to their smartphones.

“People should be uncomfortable with it,” Christopher Dore, a lawyer representing Zak, said in an interview. “People put headphones on their head because they think it’s private, but they can be giving out information they don’t want to share.”

Bose did not respond on Wednesday to requests for comment on the proposed class action case. The Framingham, Massachusetts-based company has said annual sales top $3.5 billion.

Zak’s lawsuit was the latest to accuse companies of trying to boost profit by quietly amassing customer information, and then selling it or using it to solicit more business.

After paying $350 for his QuietComfort 35 headphones, Zak said he took Bose’s suggestion to “get the most out of your headphones” by downloading its app, and providing his name, email address and headphone serial number in the process.

But the Illinois resident said he was surprised to learn that Bose sent “all available media information” from his smartphone to third parties such as Segment.io, whose website promises to collect customer data and “send it anywhere.”

Audio choices offer “an incredible amount of insight” into customers’ personalities, behavior, politics and religious views, citing as an example that a person who listens to Muslim prayers might “very likely” be a Muslim, the complaint said.

“Defendants’ conduct demonstrates a wholesale disregard for consumer privacy rights,” the complaint said.

Zak is seeking millions of dollars of damages for buyers of headphones and speakers, including QuietComfort 35, QuietControl 30, SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II, SoundLink Color II, SoundSport Wireless and SoundSport Pulse Wireless.

He also wants a halt to the data collection, which he said violates the federal Wiretap Act and Illinois laws against eavesdropping and consumer fraud.

Dore, a partner at Edelson PC, said customers do not see the Bose app’s user service and privacy agreements when signing up, and the privacy agreement says nothing about data collection.

Edelson specializes in suing technology companies over alleged privacy violations.

Netflix Expansion Talks Include Indonesian Telecom Giant

April 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

U.S. video streaming service provider Netflix is engaged in negotiations with Indonesia’s top telecom firm PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia Tbk (Telkom) to offer its service in the country, a spokesman at the Indonesian company said.

The U.S. company has made an aggressive push globally, but faced problems such as tough local competition and regulatory hurdles in several major Asian markets. In Indonesia, a country of 250 million people, Netflix ran afoul of the film censorship board last year for carrying content deemed inappropriately violent or sexual.

The communications ministry of Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, had also demanded that Netflix set up a office in the country and pay local taxes.

While state-controlled Telkom had blocked Netflix, the service was still available in Indonesia via WiFi connections and other carriers.

Telkom is now negotiating a partnership agreement with Netflix and hopes to complete the process next month, Arif Prabowo, vice president for corporate communication at Telkom, said in a text message.

Telkom was previously concerned that Netflix carried “content that has a negative element”, Prabowo said.

“If we work together, that means we would know and can be responsible for the content broadcast by Netflix.”

Teaming up with Netflix would expand Telkom’s content offering, Prabowo added. “The choices for our customers will be more varied.”

A Netflix spokeswoman declined to comment.

Are Apple Desktop PCs Sells Increasing

April 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

A US news station, which normally chants Apple mantras with the rest of them claimed Apple was the focus of a mini firestorm which is about as scathing as the Tame Apple Press gets.

At the centre of the problem is Apple’s aging Mac Pro desktop line which was due for a refresh to bring the rubbish bin PC into the internet age. You would think after not improving a computer for a since 2013 you could add a few improvements.
Apple decided that the best thing to do was jack up the price – after all you get what you pay for right?

Even MacWorld thought that Apple was taking the Nintendo.

But there’s nothing new about what Apple did. “The two available Mac Pro configurations aren’t new, they’re just newly priced,” MacWorld pointed out.

The entry-level $2,999 Mac Pro model now has 6 Intel Xeon processor cores –versus 4 cores on the previous configuration – with dual AMD FirePro D500 graphics chips. And the $3,999 Mac Pro gets an 8-core Intel Xeon processor with dual AMD
FirePro D700 graphics silicon. Woop!

Apple marketing VP Phil Schiller reportedly said that the Mac Pro had heat (aka “thermal”) issues that “restricted” a user’s ability to upgrade and that Apple is “sorry to disappoint customers”.

Apparently Apple had a meeting where it was claimed that Apple said it is “completely rethinking” the Mac Pro model. And, as a result, the company acknowledged “that its flashy 2013 Mac Pro redesign was a mistake”.

It has apparently taken them four years at least to have worked that out, and even longer before Apple comes up with a solution. In fact the overhaul will not happen this year.

9to5Mac insists that Apple is trying to assuage any perceived user frustration, and this is the closest thing that Jobs Mob has got to an apology.

“The very fact that Apple felt compelled to hold [Monday’s] meeting in the first place is evidence of just how much it thinks it screwed-up here. The company that has always taken the view that ‘people don’t know what they want until you show it to them’ has clearly had to face the fact that, in the pro market at least, that’s not the case.”

Courtesy-Fud

Dallas Emergency Sirens Set Off By Hacker

April 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A computer hack triggered all the emergency sirens in Dallas for about 90 minutes overnight in one of the largest known breaches of a siren warning system, officials in the Texas city said on Saturday.

Dallas’ 156 sirens, normally used to warn of tornadoes and other dangerous weather, were triggered at 11:42 p.m. CDT on Friday. The wailing did not end until 1:17 a.m. CDT on Saturday when engineers manually shut down the sirens’ radio system and repeaters, city Emergency Management Director Rocky Vaz said.

“At this point, we can tell you with a good deal of confidence that this was somebody outside of our system that got in there and activated our sirens,” he told reporters.

The breach in the city of 1.6 million people was believed to have originated in the area, city spokeswoman Sana Syed said in an emailed statement.

Vaz cited industry experts as saying the hack was among the largest ever to affect emergency sirens, with most breaches triggering one or two. “This is a very, very rare event,” he said.

Engineers are working to restart the system and should have it restored by late on Sunday, he said. Until the sirens are running, Dallas will rely on local media, emergency 911 phone calls, and a federal radio alert system, Vaz said.

The hack is being investigated by system engineers and the Federal Communications Commission has been contacted, but police have not been involved, he said.

The sirens went through 15 cycles of a 90-second activation before they were shut down, he said.

 

Facebook’s Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Unit Named In Patent Lawsuit

April 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Facebook Inc’s virtual reality unit Oculus VR has been hit with a lawsuit alleging it incorporated without authorization a smaller competitor’s patented technology into its Rift headset.

Techno View IP Inc, a Newport Beach, California-based technology licensing firm, filed suit against Facebook and Oculus for infringing a 3D imaging patent owned by the VR headset maker ImmersiON-VRelia.

According to the complaint filed in federal court in Delaware, ImmersiON-VRelia, which has offices in Spain and California, agreed to let Techno View litigate the patent on its behalf.

The lawsuit comes as Facebook weighs its options following a $500 million verdict in an unrelated lawsuit brought over its VR technology by video game developer ZeniMax Media Inc. A Dallas federal jury in February found Oculus used copyrighted computer code developed by video game designer John Carmack while employed at ZeniMax.

Lawyers for Oculus and Facebook have said they will seek to have the verdict set aside.

ImmersiON-VRelia makes VR headsets similar to the Oculus Rift, as well as a VR device for use with smartphones. Techno View said in its lawsuit ImmersiON-VRelia’s chief executive, Manuel Gutierrez Novelo, attained several patents between 2003 and 2006 on various aspects of VR technology.

Techno View said Oculus and Facebook specifically infringed a patent held by ImmersiON-VRelia on a method of generating left and right perspectives in a 3D video game. Techno View said it may add claims relating to other patents owned ImmersiON-VRelia at a later date.

Facebook acquired Oculus for an estimated $3 billion in 2014. Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has predicted that virtual reality “will be part of people’s daily lives,” revolutionizing industries like media, education and medicine.

Facebook and Oculus did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Techno View’s lawsuit.

The case is Techno View IP Inc v. Oculus VR LLC and Facebook Inc, 17cv00386, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

Twitter Unveils New ‘Lite’ Version

April 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc is launching a more streamlined and faster version of its mobile service geared towards people with sporadic connections or little data on their smartphone plans, hoping to pick up users in harder-to-reach emerging markets.

The company calls the version Twitter Lite and it will be aimed largely at users outside the United States. Twitter Lite works through a web browser, not a stand-alone phone application, but its appearance and functionality are nearly identical to what app users experience, according to a preview shown to Reuters.

The launch comes on the heels of similar products from other U.S. tech firms. Facebook Inc released Facebook Lite in 2015 and on Tuesday, Alphabet Inc’s YouTube unveiled a low-data mobile app designed for India.

San Francisco-based Twitter lags behind those companies in building a user base. It had 319 million average monthly active users at the end of last year, up 4 percent year-over-year but still a fraction of Facebook’s 1.9 billion users.

A primary reason in some parts of the world is how much data its app and earlier website consumed, Keith Coleman, Twitter’s vice president of product, said in an interview.

“We didn’t feel like we were reaching these other countries well enough, and this will allow us to do it faster, cheaper and with a better experience than we’ve had before,” he said.

The company estimates that, with several changes it is making to its mobile website, mobile.twitter.com, users will see their average data consumption on the browser version go down 40 percent.

With an additional data-saving feature users can turn on, data consumption will drop some 70 percent on average, said Patrick Traughber, a Twitter product manager. The reduction will come from differences such as initially displaying previews of pictures instead of full pictures.

 

Spotify Inks Exclusive Artist Deal With Universal Music

April 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Music streaming service Spotify announced that it has signed a deal with Universal Music Group that will allow artists to release new albums exclusively on its paying premium service for two weeks.

Spotify, a rival to Apple Music, has yet to report a profit as it expands, but is under pressure from some artists who have boycotted the usually free service and needs to show investors it can generate cash as it considers a U.S. listing.

The multi-year license agreement with Universal Music could make Spotify more attractive to Universal Music’s artists, who include Taylor Swift, Adele, Lady Gaga, Coldplay and Kanye West.

“We know that not every album by every artist should be released the same way, and we’ve worked hard with UMG to develop a new, flexible release policy,” Spotify Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Daniel Ek said in a statement.

“Universal artists can choose to release new albums on premium only for two weeks, offering subscribers an earlier chance to explore the complete creative work, while the singles are available across Spotify for all our listeners to enjoy,” he said.

Spotify said the deal also covered collaboration on marketing campaigns and would give Universal Music “unprecedented access” to data.

Spotify did not disclose details of the agreement in the statement, such as the fee structure or its exact duration, and a company spokeswoman declined to provide further information.

Launched in 2008, Spotify said last month it had reached 50 million paying subscribers, a rise of 25 percent in less than six months, extending its lead over Apple Music.

Snapchat Adds Search Option To ‘Our Story’ Feature

April 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Snap Inc has announced that its Snapchat messaging app would add an option for users to search through photos and videos that users have posted to the public.

The move comes just days after larger rival Facebook Inc stepped up efforts to encourage users to take more photos and edit them with digital stickers that show the influence of Snapchat.

Snapchat will enable users to search for photos and videos known as “Snaps” posted to the “Our Story” option on the app, by creating new “Stories” using machine learning technology, the company said in a blog post.

The “Our Story” option is derived from Snap’s widely-copied “Stories” feature that is a slideshow of user content that disappears after 24 hours.

“Our Story” allows users to post their Snaps as part of a larger public collection, which users will be able to search through with the latest update.

For instance, users can use the search feature to find “Snaps” related to events such as local basketball games and topics such as puppies.

The search feature, which will be rolled out in some cities starting Friday, is an addition to curated “Stories”, where public “Snaps” about major events like Wimbledon or the Coachella music festival already appear.

Snapchat popularized the sharing of digitally decorated photographs on social media, especially among teenagers, but faces intense competition from larger Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram.

Users will now be able to search for over one million “Stories” on Snapchat, Snap said, making the app more accessible.

Snap’s shares were up 1.5 percent in afternoon trading, while Facebook’s stock was down marginally.

Intel Shows Off Optane SSD

March 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Over the weekend, Intel pushed ahead with the release of its first consumer and enterprise SSD based on 3D XPoint technology, with latency rates roughly one hundred times lower than NAND flash alternatives that have dominated the market since 2007.

The first Optane-branded storage device is called the Optane SSD DC P4800X, which the company says is designed to be used either as high-performance storage or as a caching device in data centers. The card features a capacity of 375GB, with latency of under 10 microseconds (10µs), along with 550,000 random 4K reads, 500,000 random 4K writes, and an overall endurance rating of 12.3 petabytes written (PBW).

3D XPoint memory is about 100 times lower latency than NAND flash, sits right under DRAM (faster), but really puts some pressure on the data center market in terms of access times and endurance ratings. Intel claims that the low latency and high endurance can yield between eight and 40 times faster responses under large workloads, especially for database applications, while consistently outperforming NAND-based technologies.

Originally, the company’s plan was to release 16GB and 32GB Optane storage products under the Intel Optane Memory 8000p series. These units were capable of reaching up to 300,000 random 4K reads and 120,000 random 4K writes, and up to 1,600MB/s sequential reads and 500MB/s sequential writes. The release date for these smaller configurations is currently unknown but are still scheduled for release sometime later this year.

The first noticeable benefit to using Optane as a storage product for enterprise users is the option to significantly upgrade the overall capacity of onboard RAM. For instance, Intel’s dual-socket Xeon systems can support up to 3TB of DRAM but are able to accommodate an additional 24TB of Optane storage. Quad-socket systems, on the other hand, can accommodate 12TB of DRAM and an additional 48TB of Optane storage.

Not cheap – $1,520 at launch, compatible with Kaby Lake

The Intel Optane P4800X 375GB PCI-E add-in card will initially be a very application-specific product for “creative professionals” and enterprise users who need low-latency caching at every point in their systems – from onboard CPU cache, to storage, to DRAM. The other usage model will be for enterprise users who need substantially more memory available to their systems, even at a slightly higher latency cost. The company will initially release the 375GB PCI-E model at $1,520 with limited availability, followed by 375GB and 750GB U.2 models in Q2, and a 1.5TB PCI-E add-in card in the second half of the year.

We expect these modules to be compatible with current Z270 chipsets along with upcoming X299 chipsets due in fall.

Optane DIMMs come next year

This year, Intel is sticking to Optane products in the PCI-Express form factor, but next year plans to make the technology more flexible to performance and enterprise users in the form of individual Optane DIMMs. Pricing and spec options on such modules has yet to be discussed, though the technology available in both formats is expected to significantly boost applications that require large amounts of raw memory consumption.

Courtesy-Fud

Facebook Focuses On Camera Shots With Latest Smartphone App Update

March 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Facebook Inc is giving the camera the spotlight on its smartphone app for the first time, urging users to take more pictures and edit them with digital stickers that show the influence of camera-friendly rival Snapchat.

With an update scheduled to take effect today, Facebook will allow users to get to the app’s camera with one swipe of their finger and then add visual details like a rainbow or a beard of glitter.

Users will be able to share a picture privately with a friend, rather than to the user’s entire list of friends, and add a picture to a gallery known as a “story,” similar to a feature on the Snapchat app.

Snapchat, owned by Snap Inc, popularized the sharing of digitally decorated photographs on social media, especially among teenagers, and exposed a weakness of Facebook as the companies battle for eyeballs and leisure time.

Snap, which went public this month, has recently emphasized its ambitions to build gadgets and has called itself a camera company rather than a social media firm.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network with some 1.86 billion users, denies it took its camera ideas from Snapchat and says it got them from Facebook users.

“Our goal here is to give people more to do on Facebook and that’s really been the main inspiration,” Connor Hayes, a Facebook product manager, said in a briefing with reporters.

In a glimpse of how the features could tie in with other businesses, one of the first camera effects will be the ability to morph someone in a photograph into a yellow, cartoon “Minion.” The latest Minion movie, “Despicable Me 3,” is due out in a few months from Comcast Corp’s NBC Universal.

Facebook has deals to license content from six film studios, as well as from two artists, said Kristen Spilman, design director at Facebook.

Another visual effect that can be added to pictures allows someone in a picture to “become a laser cat with super powers,” Spilman said.

The effects will vary by location. Spilman said that when Facebook tested the ability to add the phrase “LOL” – the acronym for “laugh out loud” – to a picture, users in Ireland were confused by what it meant.

Trello Updated To Integrate With BitBucket, Jira, HipChat And Confluence

March 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Trello will be linked into the entire Atlassian ecosystem with a series of integrations announced this week. The new “power-ups” for the project management software connect it with BitBucket, Jira, HipChat and Confluence, to help customers get their work done more efficiently.

Using Trello is intended to help users keep their projects organized. The service lets people lay out virtual cards in columns on a workspace known as a board. Doing so can help with things like tracking the status of software bugs or tracking contracts through different stages of completion.

Each of the connections announced Wednesday is supposed to help with the process of using Trello. Confluence users can now tie cards to new pages in Atlassian’s content management system, Jira users can connect issues from the bug tracker with cards and BitBucket users can better organize their code.

The integrations come two months after Atlassian announced that it would be acquiring Trello. They show a glimpse of a future where the project management software is increasingly tied into the other products that Atlassian owns.

Customers were asking for the integrations as soon as Atlassian’s acquisition of Trello was announced, according to Hamid Palo, the director of product and partnerships at Trello. Overall, the goal behind them is to minimize how much users have to switch between different services, in order to save time.

The acquisition and power-ups don’t mean that competing services will be boxed out of connecting with the work tracking software, Palo said.

“We’re going to continue making Trello awesome, we’re going to integrate with all of the tools that people use with Trello, and that is not going to change,” he said.

All of the integrations announced on Wednesday are available immediately, for no extra cost.

Advertising Coalition Agree To Online Ads Standards

March 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A broad coalition of advertising trade groups, ad buyers and sellers from Western Europe and the United States are pushing the industry to stop using annoying online marketing formats that have given rise to use of ad-blockers.

The types of ads the coalition has identified as falling below standard include pop-up advertisements, auto-play video ads with sound, flashing animated ads and full-screen ads that mask underlying content from readers or viewers.

The explosion of ad-blocking tools has launched a prolonged debate within the advertising industry over whether to rein in abusive ad practices or simply freeze out consumers who use ad blocker and still expect access to premium content.

The Coalition for Better Ads said on Wednesday it was publishing the voluntary standards after a study in which more than 25,000 web surfers and mobile phone users rated ads.

They identified six types of desktop web ads and 12 types of mobile ads as falling beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability and called on advertisers to avoid them.

Matti Littunen, research analyst at Enders Analysis focusing on digital media, said the ad formats identified by the coalition “have already been discouraged for years by these bodies and yet are still commonplace.”

The coalition is made up of major advertising associations from Britain, France, Germany and the United States, online ad platforms Google and Facebook, advertisers such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever and news publishers including News Corp, Washington Post and Thomson Reuters, the corporate parent of Reuters News.

“This is an opportunity, with the breadth of our participation, to actually not only capture what the consumer doesn’t want but also to really educate and take action to make that a reality in the online experience,” said Chuck Curran, a lawyer for the coalition, on a call with reporters.

“It’s that measurement of the point where the consumer is not just dissatisfied with the ad experience but actually more likely to use ad blockers and this is what we capture with the better ads standards.”

Ad-blocking, which has surged steadily since 2013, covered 615 million computer or mobile devices in 2016, up 30 percent from a year ago, according to estimates from Dublin-based PageFair, a firm that helps advertisers find ways to overcome blockers. That’s 11 percent of the world’s online populatio

Samsung Reveals More Details About Personal Digital Assistant ‘Bixby’

March 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Samsung has revealed that Bixby, an intelligent voice assistant, will run on the Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone scheduled to be announced March 29 in New York.

Bixby will be activated using a special physical button on the side of the phone, differentiating it from some other assistants that rely on a trigger word, like “Alexa” or “Siri.” Samsung also said Bixby will eventually work on millions of Samsung-made devices, potentially including TVs and washing machines.

The S8 will come with a subset of preinstalled apps that are Bixby-enabled, according to Injong Rhee, executive vice president of software and services for Samsung Electronics. Over time, this set of apps will expand; Samsung will release a software toolkit to allow third-party developers to Bixby enable their apps and services.

“Bixby will be our first step on a journey to completely open up new ways of interacting with your phone,” Rhee said.

Gartner analyst Werner Goertz said Bixby is a late-comer to the digital assistant game, arriving two years after Amazon’s Alexa and behind Google Assistant, which already have rich databases of voice inquiries and searches to add context to queries.

Alexa is well known for working with Echo room units. However, just last week, Amazon announced that Alexa works in its Amazon app on iOS devices.

Bixby is going to be playing catch up,” Goertz said. “Samsung faces a complete greenfield with its knowledge base.”

Even Alexa is in its “very early stages” in terms of how well a user can get an answer to a complicated question. “Everybody has a good time trying to trick these digital assistants, but if you bring in Bixby it’s going to be even easier to trip up Bixby.”

The functions of converting speech to text with digital assistants “works relatively well unless you trip it up with accents and background noise,” he said. The more critical issue is the knowledge base needed to find accurate information.

Still, Samsung argued that Bixby will offer a “deeper experience.” The company said that the feature in a Bixby-enabled app will support almost every task the app is capable of performing, including touch commands. By comparison, most agents currently only support a few selected tasks, which can confuse users about what works by voice command in an app.

Samsung also said Bixby will know the current context and state of an app to allow users to carry out work in progress. Users will be able to weave touch with voice interactions, depending on what they like.

And Bixby will also be smart enough to understand commands with incomplete information to the best of its knowledge, then ask for more information. “This makes the interface much more natural and easier to use,” Rhee added.

Even though Samsung is getting a late start with Bixby, Goertz said it stands to gain traction quickly, partly because Samsung is so large.

 

 

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