On this week's If Then, Slate's April Glaser and Will Oremus discuss the outrage at the largest TV-station owner in the country--Sinclair Broadcasting--after the media conglomerate forced its local-news anchors to read a script that echoes Trumpian talking points. They also unpack Trump's beef about Jeff Bezos owning what he calls the #AmazonWashingtonPost. Meanwhile, music streaming site Spotify went public this week in a totally new kind of way. The hosts take a look at its unorthodox move and what it means for the company's future.
The biggest hardware and software arrival since the iPad in 2010 has been Amazon's Echo voice-controlled intelligent speaker, powered by its Alexa software assistant. But just because you're not seeing amazing new consumer tech products on Amazon, in the app stores, or at the Apple Store or Best Buy, that doesn't mean the tech revolution is stuck or stopped. They are: Artificial intelligence / machine learning, augmented reality, virtual reality, robotics and drones, smart homes, self-driving cars, and digital health / wearables. Google has changed its entire corporate mission to be "AI first" and, with Google Home and Google Assistant, to perform tasks via voice commands and eventually hold real, unstructured conversations.
In a previous column I mentioned the Amazon Echo ($179 on Amazon.com) as a useful device for listening to music and podcasts. But, after using the Echo for the past month and hearing others talk about it at CES, I've come to the conclusion that it's far more than that. I bought the Echo as a music player because I was impressed at how easy it is to use your voice to play songs from your own music library that you've uploaded to Amazon Music along with the million or so songs on Amazon Prime Music, your Pandora playlists and the podcasts, music and online radio stations on TuneIn and iHeartRadio. You address the Echo as "Alexa," Amazon's persona that's equivalent to Siri or the OK Google voice commands for Android devices. Amazon also gives you the option to address Echo as "Amazon," but I prefer calling her Alexa.
The new second generation Echo Show is bigger with a better display, but is size enough to keep Amazon ahead of stiff competition from Google? Since the original Echo Show launched last year the software has been refined, but the experience is broadly the same. The Show is a voice-first Alexa speaker, with touch interactivity as an additional input rather than the core experience. If you never wanted to touch the screen beyond the initial set-up,you wouldn't have to. When you do go to touch it, swipes and taps work as you might expect from a modern smartphone.
Inspired by redditor Atlanticlantern's comment on this ridiculous Siri interaction, Youtube user MW3haha re-edited a short sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey, replacing Hal with a very inept Siri. Stephen Colbert has got those Bey-hives as he makes his own'Lemonade' Can this jaw-dropping'Donkey Kong' short film be real, please? Hopeful Kit Harington faces blunt rejection in new'audition'