Saturday, April 29, 2017

TechTalk with Nexa and Andrew Thomas April 25, 2017

Andrew Thomas rolls into the studio every week for a conversation about what is cool and what is not in the world of technology.

Andrew Thomas Photo by James Piecowye

Here are the show notes and links.

Amazing new ad by Samsung for vr
-very cool
-ostrich flight sim, elton john

-Siri reads whatsapp messages, big right?
Once the app has been updated, a simple "Hey Siri, read my last WhatsApp message" request will have Siri dictate the most recent text. It'll no doubt help keep friends and family updated on the latest group chat happenings, but it will also promote vehicle safety by keeping eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
To make use of Siri's dictation, supported devices must be running iOS 10.3 or newer. The Facebook-owned company has also made visual tweaks to the Calls tab, Contact Info and Group Info screens, while adding the ability to add multiple statuses.

-no no effect for me

Pretty cool if you are planning your summer holiday

We all use user-generated reviews to figure out what points of interest are worth checking out. If you're traveling in a country where you don't speak the language, however, the reviews you rely on are usually in the local tongue. Google has a new feature to help you out. The company will now automatically translate reviews into your native language without any effort on your part.
When you use Google Maps or Search to find a place you're interested in, the reviews will be translated on the fly into the language you have set on your phone. You'll see a parenthetical note that the review has been translated, but that's it. No more pasting unfamiliar language into a translation app or — heaven forbid — using a pocket phrasebook to find that sweet photo spot in Italy or the best shawarma place in Istanbul.

Apple refuses to comment on iPhone rumors such as this one.
Here's the latest update on what to expect from Apple's redesigned iPhone, which is expected to launch this autumn, via my colleague Kif Leswing:
  • One new model could have a screen that covers almost the entire front of the device. The iPhone's screen, using OLED technology for the first time, could be as large as the screen on the iPhone 7 Plus but would fit into an iPhone 7-sized phone.
  • The double-lens camera on the upcoming redesigned iPhone could be oriented vertically instead of horizontally, as on the iPhone 7 Plus. The front-facing camera might also gain a second lens.
  • Apple plans to use faster chips using a "10-nanometer process" that improves efficiency over the "16-nanometer process" Apple currently uses for its processors.
  • The latest prototype of the redesigned iPhone 8 uses slightly curved glass on the front and back and is "similar conceptually" to the iPhone 4.
  • Two other new models could use the same screen technology and sizes as the current iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

The launch of the s8
As Samsung was readying the Galaxy S8, everyone wondered if the company would be able to recover from the disastrous, exploding Note 7. From a pure quality of hardware perspective, the S8 appears to be a home run -- as long as nothing unexpected happens. The other question is whether customers would reject Samsung after the hit it took last year, but it sounds like that hasn't happened: Samsung says that pre-orders for the S8 and S8+ were the best it has ever seen.
Specifically, the company says that pre-sales for the two devices were up 30 percent compared to the Galaxy S7 pre-orders from 2016. Samsung said the S7 was the previous best launch it had, but now that title is held by the company's latest smartphone. Of course, Samsung isn't giving us any hard numbers so it's hard to say just how well this launch went compared to how the iPhone 7 went last fall, for example. But in July, Samsung will report its quarterly financials -- and we'll get a better idea of how the S8's launch affected the company's bottom line then.
In the meantime, Galaxy S8 owners will have a software update to keep an eye out for. It's a fix for the first little bug to plague the phone: a screen that looks to be more red-tinted than most would like. Samsung confirmed there's nothing wrong with the phone's screen and said that a software update adjusting the screen's color calibration will be coming this week.

Amazing is beefing up its subscription services
Amazon's subscription offerings go beyond Kindle Unlimited, Prime and its various add-ons. The retailer has offered magazine subscriptions for awhile too, and now the company has set up Subscribe with Amazon. It's a hub that gives "subscription providers the ability to offer customers flexible pricing including introductory, monthly and annual pricing options, as well as the opportunity to explore offering Prime exclusive deals," Amazon said in a press release.
The messaging on the customer-facing portal describes subscriptions as "fun to discover" and leverages the company's reputation ("relax, we are always here for you") and ease-of-use as key selling points. As for Prime-exclusive deals, right now you can pick up a free month of Dropbox Plus and two weeks of Amazon Rapids for free, among others.
The requirements seem pretty lax too. As a developer, all you need to get in on the program is to offer an app, website or software; have a US business address and sell a subscription that has recurring fees. Amazon takes the internet-standard 30 percent cut of a subscription's first year, and that decreases to 15 percent if someone renews.
"You have full control over pricing, with the option to create different tiers of service, offer a free trial or set an introductory price," according to the Subscribe with Amazon page. "Subscribe with Amazon is a self-service solution that allows you to make your digital subscription purchasable to millions of highly qualified shoppers who trust Amazon to be their primary shopping destination."
That last line is the key here: Amazon is angling to be everyone's goto stop for online shopping, and it's going to use the subscription service to further push that.

Adidas to sell shoes made of ocean trash!

This could be good and bad!
Insta feed to your smartwatch face
Last month, Michael Kors announced a "My Social" app that lets you tap into your Instagram feed for watch face backgrounds. Today, the company is sharing a video that shows exactly how you'll do that and why you might want the feature. That is, if you already own one of the Michael Kors Access watches. The app rolls out to the company's Dylan and Bradshaw devices via an over-the-air update on April 25th. By the looks of the trailer, those smartwatches are about to get a lot better-looking.
With My Social, you can pull images from your Instagram account to turn into the background for a watch face. Sign in to your profile, pick a picture, then select a filter and watch style before displaying it as your home screen. There is no word yet on whether other social networks will be supported in the future.
Use Sesame Street art and create your own books, cool!
WriteReader recently announced a partnership with Sesame Street that essentially lets students use Sesame Street artwork in their own multimedia stories. As I wrote on Monday, it's essentially fan fiction for elementary school students. Take a look at the following video to see how your students can create their own multimedia Sesame Street stories by using WriteReader.

Google Home can ID 6 voices!
That’s a simple-sounding tweak that will make a big difference to the way the devices are used in the many households that now contain them. After all, people’s needs differ, and the new feature will mean that asking your Home speaker for, say, a rundown of your schedule will yield a personalized response, rather than the answer that the person who set up the device would like to hear.
It’s a function that’s currently lacking in any other smart assistant, most notably Amazon’s Alexa. (Though, amusingly, only Amazon’s offering can allow you to add an event to your Google calendar. Home hasn’t picked up that skill yet.) It will also provide Google with another advantage—at least for now—over Amazon’s AI assistant. Home could use an edge: so far, Alexa has dominated the smart speaker sector.
The implementation of Google’s new multi-user feature is simple enough: people have to train the device to recognize them by saying “OK, Google” and “Hey, Google” a few times and then it’s good to go. That means that it’s just the initial wake command, rather than your free-flowing gabbing, that’s used to identify you as a user.
You might expect the feature to include the option to lock down the device to only the six users known to it, but so far that’s not the case. According to Wired, Google claims the loss of flexibility isn’t worth it, suggesting that it’s better to have your friends be able to ask the device questions when they’re visiting. Leaving Home open to anyone also means that if it misidentifies a voice for any reason—which it certainly could in noisy situations—the device can still respond.
Even if it’s defensible, the decision not to at least offer an option of locking the device down to recognizable users seems like a strange one. First, it could offer at least a little protection to keep children or friends from making random purchases via your assistant.
But it seems especially odd in the wake of last week’s Burger King debacle. In case you missed it, the fast-food chain launched an ad containing the line “OK, Google, what is the Whopper burger?” so that the search company’s Home assistant would read out the sandwich’s Wikipedia entry. It worked, too, sparking outrage—though the ruse was later blocked.
The problem would, of course, have been solved if only specific users could control the device. But for now, at least, to AI assistants any voice is a commander.

Apple Maps get transit mode for PARIS!
-not new to the game but good if you are using an apple watch!

Apple is finally adding transit options to its Maps app for the city of Paris. Starting today, you can use Apple Maps to calculate itineraries using public transportation.
You’ll find subway, RER and bus lines, and even Transilien lines. Just like in Google Maps, you can look around the map with a new subway layer or you can calculate an itinerary from A to B. If you tap on a station, you can see all the lines leaving this station as well as real time information about the next departures.
Finally, you’ll also find Autolib car sharing stations as well as VĂ©lib bike sharing stations. Unfortunately, it doesn’t say if there are bikes or spaces available.
Apple is late to the party with this one as Google Maps has provided transit data in Paris for years. Many Parisians also use Citymapper for more complicated itineraries.
Still, I’ve been using Apple Maps over Google Maps for a couple of years now, and there are a few nifty features that you won’t find in Google Maps. For instance, Google Maps doesn’t tell you the next departures. Even better, Apple Maps has identified all station entrances, which is quite useful when you want to find the nearest entrance.
Apple Maps works really well with the Apple Watch. If you’re walking around a city, your watch vibrates with two distinctive vibration patterns to tell you if you’re supposed to turn left or right. This way, I get to look around and leave my phone in my pocket.
Apple has been aggregating data from a lot of third-party companies for Apple Maps. In Paris, Apple uses Yelp, TripAdvisor and Pages Jaunes information and reviews. You can book a table using La Fourchette.

Google maps to soon tell me if destination has onsite parking! And the difficulty level

Google Maps is working on helping you deal with parking your car. Last month, Google focused on what happens after you arrive at your destination by upgrading Maps with tools to help you remember where your car is parked and how much time is left on the meter. This month they’re looking at giving you parking information that helps you plan your route before you leave. Android Police reports that Google Maps v9.51, currently in beta, tells you if there’s on-site parking at your destination and whether it’s free or paid.
Here’s how it currently works. The details page that appears when you tap on the destination marker includes a line directly under the address that indicates whether the destination has free or paid customer parking. The cost of paid parking is not given.
Google has also added an “On-site” indicator to the parking difficulty information that appears next to time and distance under a map displaying a marked route. In its current form, the parking difficulty indicators are Easy, Medium, Limited and On-site. This means that if you plan on on-site parking and arrive to find it filled, you won’t know about the availability of alternative parking in the area. You can work around this by entering an address near where you want to go that is unlikely to have on-site parking.

Lots to talk about here! Diana Greene wow!

In a wide-ranging conversation touching upon security, artificial intelligence and open source technology, Google's top cloud boss reasserted her confidence that Google can catch Amazon as the cloud leader.
"I think we have a pretty good shot at being #1 in five years," senior vice president Diane Greene said. "I actually think we have a huge advantage in our data centers, in our infrastructure, availability, security and how we automate things. We just haven't packaged it up perfectly yet."
Speaking with San Francisco bureau chief Miguel Helft at the Forbes CIO Summit in Half Moon Bay, California on Sunday afternoon, Greene said she's now operating a division spanning thousands of people, though she demurred when pressed for a number. "People don't realize Eric is an old enterprise guy," she said of Eric Schmidt, chairman of Alphabet and Google's former CEO.
Asked for some examples of where Google was pushing its offerings in artificial intelligence and machine learning, Greene invoked several of the company's acquisitions: DeepMind, acquired in January 2014, and Kaggle, acquired just last month in March 2017. The data science competitions hosted on Kaggle are hoped to give Google an edge, according to Greene, while DeepMind has advanced Google's capabilities in using neural networks to answer questions too abstract or complex for a simple query or regression analysis.
For examples of some of Google's latest work with customers in artificial intelligence, Greene noted projects in insurance, satellite imagery and malware detection. With insurance, the Google executive pointed to AXA, a customer that has been using Google's TensorFlow tools to better predict "large-loss" major traffic accidents. With satellite imaging, she pointed to one of the company's high profile customer wins from October 2016, Airbus, which is using the tools to automatically spot and correct flaws in the images. And in malware detection, she name-dropped SparkCognition, named an AI partner to the company in March 2017 and which offers such detection for Android.
Greene has been leading the cloud division at Google since November 2015, when the company acquired the cloud startup she was working on with her husband, Stanford professor Mendel Rosenblum (Greene said she'd donate her share of the sale to charity). The couple are more famed for their cofounding of VMware, the public enterprise company with a market capitalization of more than $37 billion.
Since taking over Google Cloud, Greene's revamped the unit to make it more competitive with Microsoft Azure and cloud market leader Amazon Web Services, investing large sums into its sales operation and organizational structure. She's made major acquisitions, such as the $625 million purchase of Apigee in September 2016. And she's also overseen efforts to differentiate Google through its customer support for cloud business users, an effort centered around the company's famed site reliability engineering group.

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