Google makes voice search faster and more accurate

Google voice searches just got faster and more accurate, thanks to new acoustic models that provide better voice recognition, especially in noisy environments. “New acoustic models are now used for voice searches and commands in the Google app (on Android and iOS), and for dictation on Android devices,” wrote the Google Speech Team on the […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)

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Amazon Debuts New Fire TV with 4K Video & Alexa Voice Assistant

Amazon today announced the follow-up to last year’s Fire TV streaming device, simply dubbed „The New Amazon Fire TV.“ The new $99 box is getting a handful of new features, including 4K ultra HD video streaming, the addition of the company’s Alexa voice assistant into the operating system, and a processing boost of 75 percent over last year’s model.

The introduction of Alexa will allow customers to play their music, check on the score of a sporting event, and see how the weather is outside, all while using their voice. Speaking into the Fire TV remote will bring the voice assistant up – who made her debut in the Amazon Echo last fall – and she will eventually become more acclimated to each customer’s speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences.

In addition to 4K ultra HD streaming, the company promises higher quality basic HD video for everyone who doesn’t have a television set that supports 4K settings. Amazon has also introduced expandable storage, allowing customers to increase the 8GB of on-device storage all the way up to 128GB for a variety of apps and games.

“The team has packed an incredible amount of technology and innovation into a tiny package,” said Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO. “The new Fire TV includes 4K support, more processing power, Alexa integration, the largest selection, and exclusive features—for less than $100. The new Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote brings voice search and Alexa integration for less than $50. These are powerful devices at incredible prices.”

Concerning games specifically, the company also announced an entirely new Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition, which is essentially today’s newly announced Fire TV bundled alongside the new Fire TV Gaming Controller, a 32GB microSD card, and Shovel Knight and Disney’s Ducktales pre-installed. The new gaming controller includes voice commands and search like the traditional Fire TV remote, plus access to Alexa, up to 90 hours of battery life that use AA batteries, and an audio headphone jack.

With a launch date of October 5, both bundles of the new Fire TV can be pre-ordered beginning today, with the traditional Amazon Fire TV retailing at $99 and the Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition going for $139. The company also introduced a new bundle of the Fire TV Stick for $49 that now includes the voice remote, which will begin shipping on October 22.

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Remote for Next-Generation Apple TV to Include ‘Touch Pad’ for Scrolling

Apple’s next-generation Apple TV will include a new touch-based remote with a revamped design, reports The New York Times, citing sources with knowledge of Apple’s plans. Described as being „slightly thicker“ than the current version, the new Apple TV remote will gain a „touch pad“ that will be used for scrolling, along with two physical buttons.

The touch pad will likely replace the circular click-wheel style control that’s on the existing remote, giving users an easier way to scroll through content on the Apple TV. Currently, navigating through content on a channel like Netflix with the Apple TV remote requires users to click multiple times on the click wheel.

A touch-based control area on the remote would likely function similarly to the Apple Remote apps on the iPhone and the Apple Watch, allowing for swipe-based controls for scrolling through content available on the Apple TV. Using the Apple Watch or the iPhone to browse channels and make selections on the existing Apple TV is both quicker and easier than using the current physical remote.

Size wise, The New York Times’ source says the new remote will be similar in design to the remote control for the Amazon Echo speaker system, which is approximately 0.6 inches thick. The current Apple TV remote is 0.2 inches thick and has not seen a redesign since the Apple TV initially debuted in 2007.

Rumors have suggested that Apple’s redesigned Apple TV could make an appearance in June, at the annual Worldwide Developers Conference. Along with today’s rumor pointing towards a new design for the remote, previous rumors have indicated the device will include an A8 processor, Siri integration, a dedicated App Store, and expanded internal storage.

Apple is also rumored to be working on an accompanying Internet-based television service, which may see it providing between 20 and 30 channels at a price of $30 to $40 per month.

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