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Personal Assistant Systems


Smart displays are stealing the show from smart speakers

ZDNet

Resembling a sawed-off section of stovepipe in black or PVC in white, the original Amazon Echo was the anti-smartphone. It operated tethered to an outlet, it was communal. And it was pre-pandemically touch-free if you didn't care about muting its microphone. Unbound by a display, it inspired voice-driven variants that ranged in size from tiny rings to giant rigs. We've hand-picked 11 smart displays that will satisfy a range of wants and needs.


Here's how to get an Echo Dot for just $10 when you buy a Fire TV Edition smart TV

Mashable

SAVE $39.99: Now through Feb. 7 at 8:55 p.m. PST, you can enter the code FTV2021 during checkout to get a 4th-gen Echo Dot for just $10 (normally $49.99) with the purchase of any Insignia or Toshiba Fire TV Edition smart TV from Amazon. Owning a smart TV but not a smart speaker is like having Mario but not Luigi, or Hall but not Oates, or a Wendy's Frosty but not a large order of French fries. Each of those entities can technically exist on their own, but they're much better as duos. Pair a smart TV and speaker and you open up a whole new world of extra functionality where you can use voice commands to boot up the next episode of your current binge-watch, adjust the display's volume, and search for different actors and genres. Conveniently, Amazon is running a promotion now through Feb. 7 at 8:55 p.m. PST where you can score the new 4th-gen Echo Dot for only $10 when you buy certain Fire TV Edition smart TVs.


Qualcomm aims to consolidate auto systems, expands GM, Amazon Alexa partnerships

ZDNet

Qualcomm on Tuesday outlined a broad strategy to advance its Snapdragon platform in the auto industry as it aims to expand in the cockpit as well as a bevy of subsystems. The Qualcomm playbook for the automotive industry rhymes with its plans for IoT, artificial intelligence and compute. That strategy revolves around using 5G and the Internet of everything to consolidate compute platforms. In an event dubbed Automotive Redefined, Qualcomm outlined a new software defined architecture called E/E (electronic/electrical) that aims to put its platforms in everything from the cockpit to autonomous driving to sensors to electric charging infrastructure. As automobiles become more connected via 5G enabled C-V2X technology, Qualcomm ultimately sees cars as the "ultimate mobility platform" with new experiences updated over the air.


Amazon's Alexa Guard Plus security subscription comes to the US

Engadget

Amazon's Alexa Guard Plus subscription service is now live in the US. The company unveiled Guard Plus back in September as a paid option for those who want the extra features that come with the premium version of its free Guard service. While the basic Guard feature can already turn Echo smart speakers and displays into home security devices, its premium version takes things a step further by giving subscribers hands-free access to emergency services and giving Alexa the power to deter intruders from breaking in. Customers who pay for a subscription will be able to ask Alexa to call Emergency Helpline for them to request medical, fire or police assistance. The service also gives Alexa the capability to detect sounds of activity in the house if its residents are away and to sound a siren from Echo devices if it does. Alexa could also play the sounds of dogs barking from the speakers if connected outdoor security cameras detect motion outside the door.


Sony WH-1000XM4 review: Bose-beating noise cancelling headphones

The Guardian

Sony's top of the line noise-cancelling headphones have long had a winning formula and the latest edition has a much-requested addition – multiple device connectivity – to make them the best of class. The WH-1000XM4 have an RRP of £350 and on initial inspection little has changed for the fourth edition of the 1000X line, with its understated design. The high-quality plastic body is well made and lightweight at 254g but doesn't feel as premium as some metal or carbon fibre competitors that weigh more than 300g. They are some of the lightest-feeling headphones you can buy, matching the longstanding comfort kings, the Bose QC35 II. The ear cups are well padded with a gentle, even pressure on the side of your head while a soft leatherette headband sits on your dome.


Hacker leaks data of 2.28 million dating site users

ZDNet

A well-known hacker has leaked this week the details of more than 2.28 million users registered on MeetMindful.com, Here is a step-by-step guide to reducing your digital footprint online, whether you want to lock down data or vanish entirely. The dating site's data has been shared as a free download on a publicly accessible hacking forum known for its trade in hacked databases. The leaked data, a 1.2 GB file, appears to be a dump of the site's users database. The content of this file includes a wealth of information that users provided when they set up profiles on the MeetMindful site and mobile apps.


Democrats ask Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to rework their suggestion algorithms

Engadget

A group of more than 30 democratic lawmakers led by Representatives Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) are calling on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to make substantive changes to their recommendation algorithms. In three separate letters addressed to the CEOs of those companies, the group makes a direct link to the January 6th US Capitol attack and the part those platforms played in radicalizing the individuals who took part in the uprising. "On Wednesday, January 6th the United States Capitol was attacked by a violent, insurrectionist mob radicalized in part in a digital echo chamber that your company designed, built and maintained," the letter addressed to Google and YouTube CEOs Sundar Pichai and Susan Wojcicki says. A letter from some Congress members to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki flexes research on how YouTube's algorithms have promoted conspiracy theories and political extremism. Citing the Capitol attacks, they request changes to its recommendations systems.


The best deals we found this week: $40 off Google's Pixel 4a 5G and more

Engadget

This week brought a return of some holiday sale prices, plus a few deals that are even better than those we saw late last year. Google's Pixel 4a 5G fell to a new record-low price, while the 8th-generation iPad remains on sale for $299. If you want to up your smart-home game, August's WiFi smart lock is more than $65 off and some Beats headphones are 50 percent off, too. Here are the best deals from this week that you can still get today. One of Google's newest smartphones, the Pixel 4a 5G is down to $459, or $40 off its normal price.


Go completely hands-free with Amazon's Alexa-enabled Echo Buds

Mashable

If you're still using an old pair of wired earbuds in 2021, it's time to trade them in for a pair that will actually make your life more convenient. Wireless earbuds are less hassle, perfect for workouts (achieve those fitness resolutions you set), and many of them are voice assistant enabled, meaning you'll be able to ask your headphones to set timers, respond to text messages, choose your music, and more. Amazon's Echo Buds check all the boxes of high-quality sound with helpful features that'll keep you hands-free, and as of Jan. 22, you can grab them for a 31% discount -- just $89.99. The Echo Buds boast high-quality sound and top-tier Bose Active Noise Reduction Technology to reduce any background noise that might be in your environment. Get some work done even if your kids are screaming, or listen to your favorite podcast on a busy street without all the interruption, thanks to the in-ear design.


Google's new Guest Mode for smart speakers is a privacy must

USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

Google is giving users a new way to take charge over their privacy when using its smart speakers and displays. The new security feature, known as Guest Mode, keeps your personal data confidential while still allowing others to get the most out of Google Assistant--and it's already available on your Google smart speaker. Guest Mode is a new privacy feature for Google smart speakers that, when enabled, doesn't store assistant activity and audio recordings, or provide personalized results. The new feature, announced on Jan. 13, is ready for use on Google speakers and displays like the Google Nest Mini and Nest Hub Max. To turn it on, say, "Hey Google, turn on Guest Mode."