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Google may be readying its own smart headphones

Engadget

After some sleuthing inside the Google app, the team at 9to5Google has found references to headphones that would use Google Assistant to augment the usual physical controls. Other details are scarce, but a mention of a Google Assistant button on a left earcup suggests these are over-ears (possibly wireless) instead of earbuds. Given the timing, though, it wouldn't be shocking if Google had Bisto ready for its now-customary fall hardware event, which could include new Pixel phones, a reborn Chromebook Pixel and an entry-level Home speaker. Google is betting big on AI, and that means making AI technology available wherever possible.


Disney Research taught AI how to judge short stories

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Disney researchers have been coming up with some striking new technology lately, including a method for real-time speech animation, shared augmented reality and some creepy face-projection tech for live performances. Now, researchers at Disney and the University of Massachusetts Boston have been working on neural networks that can evaluate short stories. "Our neural networks had some success in predicting the popularity of stories," said Disney Research scientist Boyang "Albert" Li in a statement. Both neural nets were better at choosing a story's popularity over a baseline text evaluation, but the holistic network showed an 18 percent improvement over the one that focused on sections.


Walmart may use a blimp to deploy its delivery drones

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Walmart has applied for a patent on "gas-filled carrier aircrafts" that would serve as airborne bases, helping courier drones fly to homes they couldn't reach if they flew from a fixed location. Blimps would fly at altitudes up to 1,000 feet and talk to a remote scheduling system that indicates when drones should fetch packages from inside the blimp and head to their destinations. The thought of ever-present Walmart blimps is more than a little odd, and there's no guarantee that it'll happen (this is just a patent), but it's more plausible than you might think. If Amazon fulfills its Prime Air ambitions and delivers many of its orders using drones, Walmart might not have much choice but to deploy blimps if it wants to keep up.


Google Home's Bluetooth audio feature is available to all

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Google has opened up its Home smart speaker in a big way. Today the search giant has added Bluetooth audio to the device for everyone, after teasing it back at I/O in May and slowly rolling out to select users after that. This is perfect if your app of choice doesn't support Google Cast. And here you probably thought that the recent music-related Google Home news would stop with Spotify.


One week with Google Assistant

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I had been in a years-long relationship with Siri when my affair with the Google Assistant began. I set up a Google Home speaker in my apartment and linked it to my lamp. Being able to just tell Assistant to turn my lights on and off or play some "chill at home" music has been my favorite thing about welcoming the smart speaker into my home. Siri can pronounce my name correctly without having to phonetically spell it in her head.


Elon Musk urges the UN to limit AI weapons

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They believe that smart, self-guided kill bots would become the tool of choice for despots and tyrants. The group believes that smart weapons, that don't need a human to control them, are a step too far in how we wage wars with each other. This is not the first time that the South African billionaire has come out swinging against artificially intelligent weapons. Similarly, Musk has had a very public fight with Mark Zuckerberg over the potential for artificial intelligence to wipe us all out.


Engadget is testing all the major AI assistants

Engadget

Hardly a day goes by that we don't cover virtual assistants. If it's not news about Siri, there's some new development with Alexa, or Cortana or Google Assistant. For one week, we asked five Engadget reporters to live with one of the major assistants: Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, the Google Assistant, Microsoft's Cortana and Samsung's Bixby. This week Engadget is examining each of the five major virtual assistants, taking stock of how far they've come and how they still have to go.


Barclays customers can now ask Siri to make payments for them

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In today's edition of companies making it all too easy for us to spend money, Barclays has added a feature to its iOS app that will debit your account after hearing you utter but a few words. Or, less sinisterly put, Barclays' mobile banking app now lets you make payments with Siri commands. Provided you've granted Apple's assistant access to your account in the app, you can transfer money to any previously known payee, or anyone in your iPhone's contact list. That's technically true, though PayPal added the feature towards the end of last year and Santander added voice payments to its app in February, though it's not Siri you're asking in that instance.


Microsoft co-founder's remote vehicles find a legendary WWII ship

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A team piloting Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's research vessel, the R/V Petrel, has found the wreck of the Indianapolis at the bottom of the Philippine Sea. Once it found something, the team used another remotely operated vehicle (the BXL 79) to swoop in and capture the AUV's findings on video. It ends a mystery for the survivors and their families. This isn't Allen's first big expedition (it previously found the wreck of Japan's Musashi and the bell of the HMS Hood), but it suggests that solving additional mysteries is really just a matter of time and effort.


Prisma hopes to market its AI photo filtering tech

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Prisma's machine learning photography app may not be as hot as it was in 2016, but that doesn't mean it's going away. In theory, you'd see Prisma's clever processing find its way into your next phone or a favorite social photography app. The Prisma app is staying put, to be clear -- it has 5 million to 10 million monthly users, which is no mean feat for a small startup. Don't be surprised if its technology is interesting enough that a larger company eventually decides that it eventually needs to snap up all of Prisma, rather than paying for a toolkit.