Friday Five: 3/13-3/17


Happy Friday and St. Patrick’s Day! Before you head out for the weekend, check out some of this week’s tech stories:

RIP Siri? You can use Alexa in Amazon’s app now, and it’s really smart – Mashable

Amazon launched Alexa in its official shopping app, which offers shopping suggestions and provides answers to any questions. (Some say its responses are better and more informative than Siri’s). The in-app A.I. technology is familiar to anyone who already has an Echo device and when asked a question reads out the answer instead of displaying text.

Vevo aims for more traction with Watch Party, a chatroom for queuing, watching videos – TechCrunch

Vevo, a leader in the music video hosting industry, introduced a new feature called Watch Party. This new social feature allows users to chat with each other, queue up songs and vote for songs in a collaborative group playlist. These are also seen as virtual “rooms” for listening to music so, bringing people together via a group-listening platform. This is the company’s attempt to draw users to its own properties instead of using Vevo only through YouTube.

Google starts flagging offensive content in search results – USA Today

Google is enlisting over 10,000 independent contractors to work as “quality raters.” These individuals aid Google algorithms by helping steer search results away from certain types of content, and this week Google announced the new task for these contractors is hunting for “upsetting-offensive” content. According to the company, this means limiting content such as hate or violence against a group of people, racial slurs or graphic violence to name a few. The goal is to deliver the most accurate information to users and provide less inflammatory results.

Twitter goes after Facebook and YouTube with streaming video move – Fortune

Twitter recently announced it will open up its application-programming interface allowing outside services to connect to the Twitter network to publish and push streamed video content. This solidifies the company’s promise after it shut down Vine last year that it wanted embedded video streaming instead of a standalone app. This move puts Twitter in the video industry alongside competitors like YouTube and Facebook.

Microsoft is infesting Windows 10 with annoying ads – The Verge

Microsoft is known for its up-to-date operating systems that often come at the expense of user control. However, the constantly updated systems are now embedded with more ads than ever. The newest Windows 10 update includes ads in the file explorer and task bar. These ads that come via notification when using built-in features are being seen as a distraction more than ever.

Tweet us your favorite tech story from the week @WalkerSands!

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Friday Five: 3/6-3/10


Happy Friday! Read on to catch up with this week’s tech and social media hot topics:

Google, a Cloud-Computing Upstart, Seeks Credibility – The Wall Street Journal

Google, having conquered the internet search, is on to its next venture: cloud-computing. But it’s not as easy this time around. The company is working on focusing its efforts on expanding its sales, marketing and customer-support staff in order to compete with its cloud cousins: Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

Snap Makes a Bet on the Cultural Supremacy of the Camera – The New York Times

While last week’s IPO has everyone wondering if the platform flop or flourish, Snap has its sights set on the camera. It’s not what you think, though. Spectacles sunglasses aside, the company doesn’t want to become the next Nikon. Instead, Snap is aiming to “enable the cultural supremacy of the camera, making it at least as important to our daily lives as the keyboard.”

Luxury Watchmakers Are Turning to Google to Save Them From Apple – Fortune

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right Movado? This fall you can purchase a Movado with the latest version of Google’s Android Wear software. The new watches will feature Movado’s traditional look for faces, backgrounds and complications, along with fitness tracking, phone alerts, and the Android Pay mobile wallet. Starting at about $500, the initial five watch collection will debut at the Baselworld jewelry show in Switzerland later this month.

Facebook Messenger Day launches as a Snapchat Stories clone for making plans – TechCrunch

On Thursday, Facebook globally launched “Messenger Day.” Similar to the same slideshow format that Snapchat coined and Instagram cloned, Messenger Day is hoping that it’s “Who’s up for?” filters and Active Now indicators will help users find friends to chat and meet up with. The feature will allow also users to share decorated photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours, with the public or a custom friend.

Self-Driving Cars Can’t Cure Traffic, but Economics Can – The Upshot, NYT

Freeing up your hands on your morning commute, won’t necessarily free up your schedule. With all of the the buzz surround autonomous vehicles, it’s a surprise that very few are talking about its affects on traffic. So, buyer beware–experts say the solution will be something similar to Uber’s surge pricing, reducing the number of cars on the road by charging people more to use driverless cars at rush hour.

What’s your favorite tech story from the week? Give us a shout out on Twitter @WalkerSands!

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Friday Five: 2/27-3/3


TGIF! Before you kick off your weekend, check out some of the top tech stories from this week.

Uber to Play by the Rules in California for Self-Driving Cars – Bloomberg

In December, Uber’s autonomous vehicles were pulled off California streets after being test driven without proper registration with California’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Uber expanded the program and operated in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Tempe, Arizona. But now the ride-hailing giant is looking to go back to its hometown in California and is applying for DMV testing permits.

Complicated. Weird. Beautiful! The secret Google Project to put an aquarium of tiny, wiggle water bears inside your phone – Venture Beat

Project Ara, Google’s modular smartphone project, is a phone concept like no other. The Project Ara phone is designed to be used for several years with continuous upgrading and swappable component modules. One of the component modules included a tiny aquarium filled with algae and tardigrades, which is also known as water bears, and will be visible on the home screen via app. They are essentially live Tamagotchis in a smartphone.

Say hi to Snapchat and Specs, your secret AR ‘gateway drug – TechCrunch

Snapchat parent, Snap, launched sunglass-camera hybrid,Spectacles. The glasses are designed to be used for on-the-job tasks, but feature some entertainment apps like email, movies and Internet. They can also be used to take pictures and 10 second videos, which can be viewed later in Snapchat. Specs is a steppingstone for VR and AR wearables. The glasses are retailed at $130.

You rang? I Called Hotel Room Service–And Got A Robot – Fast Company

Since 2014, Aloft Hotel in Cupertino, California has taken full advantage of hospitality technology by integrating full-service hotel robotic butler, Botlr. Botlr is like hiring another employee — it uses laser sensors, depth cameras and sonar that put together a map of the hotel for accurate navigation as well as identifying people and objects in its path. Botlr is primarily used to deliver requested items like towels and toothbrushes to hotel guests. Hotel attendees place requested items in Botlr, enter the room number and Botlr delivers them.

Apple Gets Patent Approval For Biometrics Reader – PYMNTS

There are rumors that Apple will revamp the entire design of its tenth anniversary phone — it’s said this smartphone will not resemble any of the previous iPhones. One design feature that iPhone users can look forward to is biometric reader using fingerprints on the screen itself. Apple wants to eliminate the separate Touch ID sensors. The future design feature was recently approved by U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices.

Did you come across any interesting tech news this week? Tweet us your favorite story @WalkerSands!

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Friday Five: 2/20-2/24


Happy Friday! Here’s a quick roundup of tech news from the past week:

Here’s How You Can Buy Snapchat Spectacles Online – Fortune

Snap Inc announced the online sale of its Spectacles headset, available to U.S. customers for $129.99. An alternative to queueing at the pop-up vending machines, shoppers can now snag Spectacles from the comfort of home. However, this doesn’t mean buyers won’t be left waiting – delivery could take two to four weeks. The announcement conveniently precedes Snap’s IPO debut as a “camera company,” projected to occur Thursday, March 2.

The next iPhone could have a bigger display and more battery – TechCrunch
The next iPhone is rumored to be even bigger – and it’s reflected in the price. In addition to new versions of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, a high-end “iPhone Pro” could retail at over $1,000. The mysterious new addition is rumored to feature a 5.8-inch OLED display – requiring Apple to eliminate borders around the screen. Apple is also doing away with physical buttons in lieu of virtual ones, like the Touch Bar seen on the new MacBook Pro.

WhatsApp’s New Feature Continues Facebook’s Snapchat Mimicry – New York Times

Snapchat wouldn’t be bought out by Facebook, so Facebook made its own. On Monday, new features rolled out on Facebook-owned Whatsapp, which are eerily similar to Snapchat’s “Stories” features. The new “Status” feature allows users to share images, GIFs and videos which will last for 24 hours only. This isn’t the first time Facebook has tried to emulate Snapchat – this August Instagram unveiled its own “Stories” feature. Spokespeople from both camps declined to comment on the similarities.

Apple’s futuristic new HQ will be called Apple Park, employees start arriving in April – VentureBeat

Apple revealed the April opening of its new 175-acre campus, Apple Park. The 2.8 million-square-foot campus will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy and feature a 1,000-seat “Steve Jobs Theater,” commemorating their late founder. Apple Park is surrounded by workspaces and parklands that are designed to inspire innovation “for generations to colme.” The entire process of relocating the company’s 12,000 employees will take about six months.

Bitcoin is hovering near all-time highs – Business Insider

Bitcoin is making a comeback. The cryptocurrency hit its highest high for the second day in a row today. This comes amid speculation that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will finally approve Bitcoin-focused exchange-traded funds. The recent surge of more than 20 percent in the first week of 2017 is due to the heavy buying interest coming out of China.

What was your favorite tech story from the week? Tweet us @WalkerSands!

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Friday Five: 2/13 – 2/17


Happy Friday! Before you head into the weekend, check out some of the top tech headlines from the week:

Facebook is about to launch a standalone TV app – Business Insider

Facebook’s newest app is strictly for television and allows users to watch videos from friends or pages they like in addition to the top trending Facebook Live videos. This television app will have features similar to YouTube and Netflix where videos are recommended based on what users have already watched. The app is expected to be available soon on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TVs.

Microsoft open sources a simulator for training drones, self-driving cars and more -TechCrunch

Microsoft created a beta version of a virtual training world for AI and other robotics technologies where they learn how to navigate real-world situations. This machine learning environment allows robots to encounter real-world situations that are potentially confusing such as reflections, shadows and sun glare. Microsoft claims their simulations are highly-accurate, aiming to provide an effective system for educating autonomous flight technologies.

Amazon launches Chime, its own Skype for Business – Mashable

This week Amazon launched its own video-conferencing service, Chime, in effort to deliver frustration-free meetings to companies. Chime allows users to join or “run late” to a meeting in a single click, and the solution also suppresses background noise of any meeting participants. Amazon’s service allows for internal and external meeting communications.

Apple tiptoes into producing original video but plans to pick up pace – New York Times

During the Grammys this past Sunday, Apple aired a trailer for its first original show, “Carpool Karaoke,” a spinoff of James Corden’s late night sketch. This is one of two shows Apple plans to release via Apple Music. The future of Apple in the video streaming space is also to include scripted dramas such as Planet of the Apps, a reality TV series following iPhone app developers.

You could soon make a phone call from your Amazon Echo – Fortune

Amazon and Google are bringing back “landlines.” Both companies anticipate rolling out calling capabilities this year for their Amazon Echo and Google Home devices. This means the ability to make or receive calls via the AI devices. The companies foresee roadblocks such as privacy and telecom regulation concerns in addition to issues switching from speaker to handset when a user attempts to leave the house.

Did you come across any interesting tech news this week? Tweet us your favorite story from the week @WalkerSands!

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