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Amazon is 'doubling down' on the Echo ecosystem

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Amazon is off to a profitable start in 2017. The company's first-quarter sales jumped 23 percent to $35.7 billion, beating analyst expectations, and top executives pinned part of that spike on the Alexa ecosystem.


Google's AI and hardware push wasn't crazy after all

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Even though Google released its hardware products (the Home, the Pixel phones and its WiFi router) late last year, it's not until early this year that we'll likely see any initial impact on overall revenue. Well, the first quarter of 2017 is over, and it looks like there was, at least a little. Google's "other revenues" this quarter -- which comes from sectors like Play, hardware and cloud -- add up to $3 billion this time around, which is a pretty sizable jump from the $2.1 billion from this time last year.


Amazon taught Alexa to whisper sweet nothings in your ear

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Soon enough, Amazon's Alexa will shout out your grocery list. That's assuming developers take advantage of the new language framework that Amazon has added to its digital assistant. The idea is that the Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML) will hopefully give Alexa more natural speaking patterns. Specifically, now Alexa is capable of whispering, bleeping out swear words and adding emphasis to a phrase in addition to changing volume, speed and pitch of its voice.


Google has already lost the hardware chief it poached from Amazon

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You probably have food that's been in your freezer longer than David Foster (nope, still not the composer) stayed at Google after leaving Amazon. After six months, Foster is vacating his position as vice president of Google's vice president of hardware product development, according to Bloomberg. In case you forgot, he played a role in the launch the Pixel phone and Google Home speaker's launches. Prior to that, he led hardware development on Amazon's Echo speakers, the Kindle Paperwhite and Voyage e-readers.



Watch David Hasselhoff in an AI-scripted short film

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Robots are slowly taking more and more jobs -- and soon, they'll come for the writers (gulp). That's the pitch behind director Oscar Sharp and AI researcher Ross Goodwin's short film It's No Game, in which an artificial intelligence swoops in during a Hollywood writer's strike to pen a script for the immortal David Hasselhoff. But the video is something of a meta rabbit hole itself, as all of the Hoff's dialogue was written by an AI called Benjamin, which was built to scribe an experimental short film last year.


Police will scan every fan's face at the Champions League final

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If you're headed to the UEFA Champions League final in Cardiff on June 3rd, you might just be part of a massive experiment in security -- and a privacy uproar. South Wales Police are conducting a face recognition trial that could scan every one of the 170,000 visitors expected to show up in the city for the match, whether or not they're heading to the stadium. Cameras around both the stadium and Cardiff's main train station will compare faces against a police database of 500,000 people of interest. If there's a match, police will get a heads-up that could help them stop a terrorist or frequent hooligan.


Google Home has 5 million recipe options for your next night in

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Google has been rapidly adding new features to its Home connected speaker recently, and the latest will be handy for chefs. Google Home can now read out recipes step-by-step -- but it sounds like you'll need to kick off the process using your smartphone. According to a blog post that went up today, Home will be able to read back more than 5 million recipes from sites like All Recipes, Food Network, Bon Appetit, the New York Times and more. First, though, you'll need to find the recipe you want on your phone using either the Google Assistant on Android or Google search on your iPhone.


Amazon Echo Look is a voice-controlled camera for fashion tips

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Amazon's Echo smart speakers just went in an unusual (but potentially very helpful) new direction. Meet Echo Look, an Alexa-powered camera designed around taking your own fashion photos and videos. If you want to show off your daily wardrobe, you just have to ask the Look to take a snapshot -- you don't have to take a selfie in front of a mirror to get a full-length picture. And since it includes a depth-sensing camera, it can blur the background to make shots pop. The real party tricks come when you're not sure about your outfit, however.


How 'Puyo Puyo Tetris' tricked me into liking puzzle games

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When Larry Kasanoff said he was turning the world's most iconic puzzle game into a trilogy of science fiction movies, I was speechless. After a disaster like Pixels, how could anybody look at Tetris and think there was a narrative to tell? The game may be a classic, but the narrative potential of organizing falling bricks into horizontal lines seemed weak to me.