12 Oct 2019

TechBits, Oct 12, 2019

1. Here’s what to expect from Google’s Pixel 4 launch next week

  • Here in New York, the air is crisp and the leaves have begun to turn crimson and brown. That can only mean one thing: hardware season is upon us. Backdropped by cloudy, gray Manhattan skies, Google is set to take to the stage on Tuesday, October 15, to show off its just-in-time-for-the-holidays hardware line.
  • As ever, the event will be headlined by the latest version of the company’s flagship smartphone, the Pixel. But this event has always been packed. The Google Nest (née Home) line has long been a highlight. This time last year, we got our first peek at the company’s very good Home Hub smart display.

2. Alexa now speaks Spanish

  • At Amazon’s hardware event last month in Seattle, the company announced plans to launch multi-lingual modes for its Alexa devices in the U.S., Canada, and India, where the smart voice assistant would be able to speak a combination of English and Spanish, French and English, and Hindi and English, respectively. Today, Amazon says the multi-lingual mode for U.S. speakers is officially live across the country, allowing users of both Echo and Alexa-powered devices to switch between Spanish and English. Alexa can also be set to speak only Spanish in the Alexa app settings.
  • The new support also means developers can build skills for the platform that target Spanish language speakers.
  • The experience introduces a new Spanish voice for Alexa, plus local knowledge, hundreds of Spanish skills including those form Univision and Telemundo, and more.

3. Renault & Waymo to explore autonomous mobility routes in Paris

  • Waymo and Renault are working with the Paris region to explore the possibility of establishing an autonomous transportation route between Charles de Gaulle airport and La Défense, a neighborhood just outside of Paris city limits that plays host to a large number of businesses and skyscrapers, including a large shopping center. This is part of the deal that Renault and Nissan signed with Waymo earlier this year, to work together on potential autonomous vehicle services in both Japan and France.
  • This route in particular is being explored as a lead-up project to potentially be ready in time for the Paris Olympic Games, which are taking in place in Summer 2024. The goal is to offer a convenient way for people living in the Île-de-France area where Paris is located to get around, while also providing additional transportation options for tourists and international visitors. The region is committing €100 million (around $110 million) to developing autonomous vehicle infrastructure in the area to serve this purpose, across a number of different projects.

4. Twitter returns to Mac

  • Twitter has returned to the Mac with the debut of a new Catalyst-powered app for macOS Catalina, launched on Thursday. The company in June had been among the first to announce its plans to take advantage Mac Catalyst — Apple’s new toolset for bringing iPad apps to the Mac desktop — following Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, where Catalyst had been officially introduced.
  • The idea with Catalyst is to make it easier for iOS developers to create software for the Mac ecosystem, by allowing them to leverage their existing iOS project and source code, then layer on native Mac features and convert touch controls to the keyboard and mouse.

5. Apester unveils a new Story Strip format for online publishers

  • Apester, which helps digital publishers add interactivity to their content, is rolling out a new format called the Story Strip.
  • CEO and co-founder Moti Cohen told me that the Story Strip is modeled on the Story format popularized by Snapchat and Instagram — a format that he praised for being one of the few content types that’s truly “tailored to the mobile experience,” offering a fast, interactive experience for readers.
  • Cohen said that by bringing the format out of “the social walled gardens” and allowing publishers to embed Story Strips into their articles, Apester is “paving the way for media companies to capture a new audience, a young audience.”

6. New Superconducting Material discovered that could power future Quantum Computers

  • Quantum computers with the ability to perform complex calculations, encrypt data more securely and more quickly predict the spread of viruses, may be within closer reach thanks to a new discovery by Johns Hopkins researchers.
  • “We’ve found that a certain superconducting material contains special properties that could be the building blocks for the technology of the future,” says Yufan Li, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at The Johns Hopkins University and the paper’s first author.

7. Researchers Find Way to Harness AI Creativity – Dramatic Performance Boost to Deep Learning

  • Researchers have found a way to marry human creativity and artificial intelligence (AI) creativity to dramatically boost the performance of deep learning.
  • A team led by Alexander Wong, a Canada Research Chair in the area of AI and a professor of systems design engineering at the University of Waterloo, developed a new type of compact family of neural networks that could run on smartphones, tablets, and other embedded and mobile devices.
  • The networks, called AttoNets, are being used for image classification and object segmentation, but can also act as the building blocks for video action recognition, video pose estimation, image generation, and other visual perception tasks.

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