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Amazon rolls out male voice for its smart speakers

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Amazon has started to roll out a male version of its smart assistant, called Ziggy, as an alternative to Alexa. Users of Amazon smart speakers in the US now have the option to choose from either Alexa or Ziggy when they're saying a vocal command. They can simply say'Alexa, change your voice' to hear the male voice coming out of their speaker, or go to settings in the Alexa app. There's a short snippet of Ziggy's voice – which has a generic but robotic-sounding American accent – to listen to here. Amazon's smart assistant powers the Echo speakers, including the spherical fourth generation Echo released last autumn (pictured) Note that this option is only available for US users for now.


The Apple TV 4K (64GB) is on sale for $180 right now

Engadget

Apple gave its TV 4K set-top box some love this year by upgrading the internals and revamping its accompanying Siri remote. But it didn't change the price, which means you'll still pay at least $179 for it. However, Amazon has a new deal that knocks nearly $20 off the 64GB Apple TV 4K, bringing it down to $180. The base, 32GB model has been on sale for $169 for a few weeks at this point, but this new deal essentially lets you get the extra-storage model at the base's original price. We consider the 2021 Apple TV 4K to be the best high-end streaming box you can get, and it's even more attractive if you live in the Apple ecosystem.


Sony brings its 360 Reality Audio tech to two new high-end home theater products

PCWorld

Sony announced two entirely new high-end home theater products today: The four-speaker HT-A9 home theater system and a new flagship soundbar, the HT-7000A. The audio manufacturer also announced two wireless subwoofers that can add deeper bass to either product, and wireless rear speakers that can supplement the soundbar. The Sony HT-A9 home theater system ($1,800) consists of a control box with a LAN port and HDMI in and out, along with four cylindrical, wireless, self-powered speakers. Each speaker has two built-in microphones that measure the speaker's relative height and position in the room. Sony's 360 Spatial Sound and Sound Field Optimization technology then creates up to 12 phantom speakers by synthesizing sound waves based on positional information.


Elago's Siri Remote case puts Apple's AirTags to good use

Mashable

It's not crazy to think that Apple should've injected its extensive Find My Network for lost devices into the Siri Remote. But the company didn't, so Elago went ahead and created the Remote R5 case -- equipped with a slot for an AirTag. The R5 case is made of a thick silicone that protects the Apple TV remote from accidental drops. It also has a strap attached to it for extra security if you're the clumsy type and a dedicated Siri button on its right side. On the case's inside, there's a circular slot made specifically to house an AirTag.


Issac Asimov's 'Foundation' lands on Apple TV September 24

Engadget

Apple has revealed when you'll get to watch Foundation, its adaptation of Issac Asimov's series of sci-fi novels. The show will debut on Apple TV on September 24th, with additional installments of the first ten-episode season dropping each week. The company also revealed another teaser trailer for Foundation, which stars Jared Harris as the leader of a group of exiles who predicts the end of the Galactic Empire. The group embarks on a journey to restore civilization by establishing The Foundation. Lee Pace also stars in the show, whose showrunner is David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight, Man of Steel). Apple is reducing the free TV trial it offers to customers who buy its devices from a year to three months.


The Echo Dot is one of our favorite smart speakers--and it's less than $20

USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Amazon Prime Day 2021 is in full swing with hundreds of markdowns on popular devices like the Amazon Echo Dot (fourth-gen). Right now, you can save 50% on the compact, orb-shaped smart speaker, which features Amazon Alexa built-in. Get expert shopping advice delivered to your phone. Sign up for text message alerts from the deal-hunting nerds at Reviewed.


End-to-End Spoken Language Understanding for Generalized Voice Assistants

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

End-to-end (E2E) spoken language understanding (SLU) systems predict utterance semantics directly from speech using a single model. Previous work in this area has focused on targeted tasks in fixed domains, where the output semantic structure is assumed a priori and the input speech is of limited complexity. In this work we present our approach to developing an E2E model for generalized SLU in commercial voice assistants (VAs). We propose a fully differentiable, transformer-based, hierarchical system that can be pretrained at both the ASR and NLU levels. This is then fine-tuned on both transcription and semantic classification losses to handle a diverse set of intent and argument combinations. This leads to an SLU system that achieves significant improvements over baselines on a complex internal generalized VA dataset with a 43% improvement in accuracy, while still meeting the 99% accuracy benchmark on the popular Fluent Speech Commands dataset. We further evaluate our model on a hard test set, exclusively containing slot arguments unseen in training, and demonstrate a nearly 20% improvement, showing the efficacy of our approach in truly demanding VA scenarios.


All the best early Prime Day deals so far: Amazon devices, air fryers, AirPods, and more

Mashable

BEST AMAZON DEVICE DEAL: Echo Show 5 -- $44.99 (save $35) BEST TV DEAL: Insignia 50-inch Fire TV smart 4K TV -- $299.99 (save $80) BEST APPLE DEAL: 2020 Apple iMac -- $1,499.99 (save $299.01) We're counting down the days until Amazon Prime Day (officially) starts on June 21, and in the meantime, there have already been some stellar deals to tide us over. We're of course seeing nice discounts on Amazon devices, but streaming channels, Apple products, and home appliances are already on sale as well. If you're itching to start shopping for your Prime Day haul, these are the best deals to shop early. The Echo Show 5 has been one of our favorites for a couple of years now.


Vizio M-Series Quantum 4K UHD TV review: Same accurate color, now with upgraded ports

PCWorld

It didn't take long to confirm what I suspected during my Vizio V5-Series review--the slightly more expensive M-Series Quantum offers a far better picture. It's not perfect perfect by any means, but the color is more accurate, and the screen uniformity far outstrips that of the V-Series. If you're shopping mid-range Vizio, the M-Series Quantum is what you want. Skip a couple of lunches to save up the extra cash. The M-Series, including the 55-inch class model M55Q6 that I tested, are 60Hz, 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD), 10-bit TVs.


Amazon is offering two Echo Dots for $50 in early Prime Day deal

Engadget

Doubling up on Amazon's Echo speakers has its perks. You can pair them together to get stereo sound or use them to create a Home Theatre setup for your Fire TV. To get you to multiply, Amazon is offering two Echo Dots for $50 -- which is how much you'd normally pay for one -- as part of an early Prime Day sale. If you're signed up to Prime, you can grab the discount by using the code PDDOT2PK at checkout. Those seeking even bigger sound, should check out the $120 deal on two Echo speakers, activated with the ECHOPRIME code and also exclusive to Prime members.