If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
Apple has cut the HomePod price by up to 18 percent in various regions as it seemingly tries to gain more of a foothold in a competitive market. As spotted by 9to5 Mac, the smart speaker is down from $349 to $299 in its US store, $449 to $399 in Canada and £319 to £279 in the UK. Third-party retailers have often offered discounts on HomePod, but it's the first official price drop from the mothership. The HomePod arrived only 14 months ago. The move could entice more people to buy a HomePod, though it's competing with many other recognizable brands at both its bracket and lower price points.
Your eyes aren't deceiving you: Apple's HomePod is now cheaper this morning than it was last night. About a year after HomePod went on sale, Apple has quietly dropped the price of its Siri-powered smart speaker from $349 to $299. It's a substantial price cut for an Apple product -- about 14 percent in the U.S. -- and makes the HomePod a more attractive value if you're already invested in the Apple ecosystem. But will it be enough to reverse the HomePod's extremely slow start? From its very beginning, HomePod faced an uphill battle against Amazon and Google's smart speakers.
The HomePod is a squat - less than 7 inches high - unobtrusive speaker that, per Apple, is loaded with technology, including 7 beam-forming tweeters, 6 microphones, an Apple A8 processor, and a upward firing woofer. Apple's $349 (£319, AU$499) Siri-powered HomePod smart speaker produces awesome sound across a broad range of genres, making it stand out, particularly compared to the $199 Sonos One, Google's $399 Home Max and Amazon's next-gen $100 Echo. So, other than to say the sound of the Homepod - and my long time audio system uses excellent Dynaudio speakers - is great, I'm not going to heap more praise on their audio quality. If you have an iPhone, it is quick and painless. A welcome example of Apple's "it just works" mentality.
Pocket Casts, widely hailed as the best podcasts app around, is coming to Amazon's Echo smart speakers. An Alexa skill is a natural progression for the premium app, allowing users to pick up where they left off on their smartphone at home. Using a series of voice commands, you'll be able to continue listening on your Echo device, ask for a recommendation, request a random podcast, or play the latest episode of your favorite show. Of course, you can currently beam audio from Pocket Casts to smart speakers like Google Home (via Cast) and the HomePod (via AirPlay 2), but the Alexa skill lets you go hands-free. It follows a major update to the app in November -- just months after its acquisition by a collective of public radio stations, including NPR -- that brought with it Siri Shortcuts, enabling iPhone users to set up voice prompts.
Over two months since Apple Music landed on Amazon Echo, it's now set for another smart speaker that isn't the HomePod. A listing for the music streaming service has been spotted inside the Google Home app for iOS by a Mac Rumors reader. Though it's currently not live, the update (Apple Music was previously slotted in the app's "limited availability" section) indicates that it could be imminent. Until December, the HomePod was the only smart speaker with Apple Music availability. That changed with its arrival on the Echo, and its Google Home debut would put it on all three leading smart speakers.
While the Samsung Galaxy Home was nowhere to be seen at the company's Galaxy Unpacked event held today, the smart speaker apparently has not been forgotten. DJ Koh, vice chairman and CEO of Samsung Electronics, told CNET that the company plans to launch the long-awaited device by April. At this point, the Galaxy Home has been a long time coming. First announced by Samsung in August 2018 at the company's Galaxy Note 9 event, the competitor for the Apple HomePod, Google Home and Amazon Echo has been relegated to the background for the most part. It was on display at CES 2019 back in January and was able to perform some commands but was still limited in its functionality.
Apple has just bought up the talent it needs to make talking toys a part of Siri, HomePod, and its voice strategy. Apple has reportedly acquired PullString, also known as ToyTalk, according to Axios' Dan Primack and Ina Fried. The company makes voice experience design tools, artificial intelligence to power those experiences, and toys like talking Barbie and Thomas The Tank Engine toys in partnership with Mattel. Founded in 2011 by former Pixar executives, PullString went on to raise $44 million. Apple's Siri is seen as lagging far behind Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, not only in voice recognition and utility, but also in terms of developer ecosystem.
Apple is finally launching HomePod in China, but the timing is tricky as the premium device will have to wrestle with local competitors and a slowing economy. The firm said over the weekend that its smart speaker will be available in Mainland China and Hong Kong starting January 18, adding to a list of countries where it has entered including US, UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico and Spain. The Amazon Echo competitor, which launched in mid-2017, is already available to Chinese buyers through third-party channels like "daigou", or shopping agents who bring overseas products into China. What separates the new model is that it supports Mandarin, the official language on Mainland China and Cantonese, which is spoken in Hong Kong and China's most populated province Guangdong. Previously, Chinese-speaking users had to converse with HomePod in English until a system update in December that added Siri support for the two Chinese dialects.
Today, Apple is holding its Worldwide Developers Conference. So far, they have announced a host of updates. For example, during the presentation, the company noted that their watchOS 4 is going to include advanced AI and be far more personalized. Moving forward, Siri intelligence will automatically display information that is relevant to you on the face of the watch using advanced machine learning technologies that improve and "learn" over time. Ultimately, this means that the more you interact with the watch, the smarter it gets.
Even without a booth, Apple is looming large over CES. In a giant billboard that went up on the side of the Springhill Suites Marriott hotel near the Vegas strip late last week, Apple is touting the privacy features baked into the iPhone, telling people, "What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone." It's a clever and effective ad that plays off the classic Vegas slogan. In an age of regular data breaches and scary hacks, privacy and security have become a really big deal. Apple has made privacy a major component of its iPhone sales pitch for years, so while the ad might not mention Google, Samsung, or Amazon, it's clearly aimed at trolling Apple's biggest rivals and their somewhat laissez-faire approach to privacy.