We'll recap this week's news highlights, plus big stories from Friday like Project Loon-distributed internet going live in Puerto Rico. Former Google X Lab (and now Alphabet X innovation lab) resident Project Loon is getting its first use in the US, as it's partnering with AT&T to provide service in Puerto Rico. As part of the restoration efforts, the high-flying balloons are launching from Nevada and floating over the island, all in hopes of beaming LTE to areas still without service a month after Hurricane Maria. The first Cortana speaker sounds amazing.Harman Kardon Invoke review The good news about this $199 smart speaker is that it sounds great, and Microsoft's Cortana voice assistant is a natural addition. The bad news is that as a latecomer to the game, it has fewer music service integrations, and right now, Cortana isn't as capable as competitors like Amazon's Alexa.
Isabelle Olsson, Google's Head of Industrial Design for Home, speaks about the Google Home Mini during a launch event in San Francisco, California, U.S. October 4, 2017. Q: With the Equifax breach, I am worried that hackers can steal money from my bank account. A: The sheer number of victims is massive, and it keeps climbing with every new report. Meanwhile, Equifax has done a miserable job of comforting its customers, and the fallout has left far more questions than answers. The best thing you can do for your security is to establish two-factor authentication on your bank account.
We read a lot of news about chatbots reshaping entire industry sectors by utilizing artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and natural language processing. Some chatbots are good in assisting consumers in buying tickets or finding good food nearby. Others can keep a simple conversation alive or replace traditional FAQ pages. What most media pundits miss, however, is that such a capability is nowhere near general AI potential, which casts doubts over the very future of chatbots. For start, chatbots are of two basic types: conversational and goal-oriented.
Every year, companies spend 1.3 trillion dollars on 265 billion customer service calls. That's five bucks a call. On average, the cost to find and hire a call center agent costs $4000 (not including salary), with an additional $4,800 for training -- and with frustrated agents tending to drop like flies in the face of an often brutally stressful job, these costs mount up. AI, or what IBM calls cognitive computing, is changing that. Autodesk began piloting the IBM Watson Conversation Service in June 2016 as a virtual agent called OTTO, later enhancing it and renaming it AVA (Autodesk Virtual Agent) in February 2017.
Hollywood is beginning to recast artificial intelligence from being the lead character in movies to becoming the leading technology driving the industry. Producers and directors alike are discovering the power of a new kind of AI assistant: IBM Watson, the cognitive computing system that is enhancing the work of the human imagination and giving artists, filmmakers, and other creative minds the tools to uncover new ways of thinking and problem-solving. Imagine the ultimate "super-assistant" on the set to help make hundreds of decisions and take care of mundane tasks that free you up to concentrate on making the picture a box office success. IBM Watson can do this by pushing the boundaries of what producers and directors can create on the silver screen. It can analyze volumes of data -- think photos, online content, scripts, video -- and then recognize, inform and project from the patterns it identifies.
With messaging apps on the rise, chatbots are all the hype now. Chatbots are artificial intelligence systems that interact with users via messaging, text, or speech. Many are deployed on chatbot platforms such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, Slack, or text messages. Facebook's expansion with Facebook Messenger has been giving businesses the opportunity to better reach their target audience through different APIs, and chatbots are becoming a necessity in certain industries. Despite the complexity of artificial intelligence used to pick content and context from conversations with users, there are a number of platforms and frameworks available to build a sophisticated chatbot.
This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. After spending over 22 hours plugging in and unplugging lights and other small appliances and turning them on and off using various apps (and by barking orders at Siri and Alexa when we could), we found that the Belkin WeMo Mini is the best smart-switch outlet adapter for people who want to add smart control to their existing outlets. It packs most of the same features as our previous pick, the WeMo Insight, into a smaller size, and it's less expensive. It also plays nicely with both iOS and Android smartphones and tablets and integrates easily with popular smart-home protocols and devices.
During the past week, I've said "Hey Cortana" more times than I have over the past couple of years combined. I've been testing the Harman Kardon Invoke speaker, which is powered by Cortana and includes a custom version of Linux inside. The Invoke speaker will go on sale in the US on October 22. While I've played a bit with a family member's Amazon Echo Dot, I never bought a voice-activated speaker for use at home. I was curious if, after using the Invoke for a week to do everything from set timers, to add items to my calendar, to play music would change my mind and make me want one.
Microsoft is out to prove that Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant aren't the only virtual concierges worth inviting into your home. After first teasing its Cortana-powered speaker last December, Harman Kardon's Invoke will finally launch on October 22 for $199. Invoke's arrival along with similar high-end devices also marks a turning point for intelligent speakers. Potential buyers no longer need choose between high quality audio and having a smart assistant they can summon by voice. Early Internet-connected speakers, such as the first generation Echo and Google Home, provided good enough sound for casual listening.
In the universe of digital voice assistants, Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant are the indisputable rulers of the consumer AI solar system. By contrast, Microsoft's Cortana is like Pluto. We know it's generally the same as the others, but we can't decide if it has all the attributes required for classification as a planet... er... true voice assistant. Part of the problem is that people don't talk to Cortana. Microsoft introduced its digital assistant, named after the synthetic intelligence character in Halo, in 2014 on the Windows Phone platform.