Amazon’s Echo Look: A Fashionista’s Friend

Echo Look
Credit: Amazon

There is no doubt that Amazon has continued to make way into our households with its Echo devices and smart assistant Alexa.  Today, Amazon unveiled a new addition to the Echo family, with its Echo Look device, being offered by invitation only to Prime members.  The device is being billed as a “style assistant” camera that will help to catalog your outfits, and assigns your look a rating based on “machine learning algorithms with advice from fashion specialists.”

Each Echo Look comes with a built-in LED light, microphone, as well as a base mount that can either be attached to a wall, or it can be left to be freestanding such as on a nightstand, dresser, etc.  It can also work with a companion app that has a Style Check feature for comparing two outfits.  If you’re not necessarily interested in the Echo Look, you can access this feature by going to your iOS Amazon app, go to Programs and Features, and look for it in that menu.

Similarly to other Echo devices, with the Look, you can still have Alexa read you your daily news flash briefing, play music, or check on how long it will take you to get to work with traffic estimates.  Amazon plans on adding additional skills to the Look also.

From the product page:

  • Introducing Echo Look—everything you love about Alexa, and now she can help you look your best
  • Using just your voice, easily take full-length photos and short videos with a hands-free camera that includes built-in LED lighting, depth-sensing camera, and computer vision-based background blur
  • See yourself from every angle with the companion app. Build a personal lookbook and share your photos.
  • Get a second opinion on which outfit looks best with Style Check, a new service that combines machine learning algorithms with advice from fashion specialists
  • Echo Look helps you discover new brands and styles inspired by your lookbook
  • Ask Alexa to read the news and audiobooks, set alarms, get traffic and weather updates, control smart home devices, play music, and more
  • Always getting smarter and adding new features, plus thousands of skills like Starbucks, Fitbit, NPR, and more

Facebook Looking to Hire for Role to Combat Fake News

A picture of a fake news newspaper
The problem is finding someone with the chops for it.

Earlier this month we wrote about how search engine giant Google was stepping up its efforts to help users discern fake news.  According to Recode, Facebook is wanting join in the effort by hiring for a position to head up its news products, with the goal of helping to defeat fake news on its service.

While Facebook is said to be speaking with experienced individuals in both the tech and media industries, multiple sources are reporting that the company is said to be having trouble finding someone with both the necessary applicable skills in news and technology.

Fidji Simo, who is Facebook’s VP in charge of news and video, would oversee the role.  However, the position is not currently listed on the company’s website.  Nonetheless, those sources are reporting that whomever is in the new position would assist Facebook in creating news products for media partners, such as Instant Articles, in addition to looking for ways to help prevent “fake” news from being spread.

As many know, since the US Presidential election, the sharing of misinformation has grown significantly, with some critics having blamed Facebook for the outcome of the election.

Facebook’s recent efforts for combating misinformation have included flagging inaccurate news stories as well as working with third-party fact checkers.

Rumor: Nintendo Working on SNES mini Release This Year

It had to have only been a matter of time, right?  If recent rumors are to be believed from EurogamerNintendo is planning on following up on the smash successes of its Nintendo Classic from last year and this year’s Nintendo Switch with a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) mini edition just in time for the holidays.  According to the sources, development is already underway.  Eurogamer does tend to have a decent track record though in Nintendo rumors, as was evidenced by the Switch concept last summer.

A picture of the SNES system on a desk.
Bring back a bit of nostalgia?

Nintendo provided reasoning that it had never actually expected for the NES mini to be a permanent product, as the unit was discontinued.  “We can confirm that we are no longer manufacturing the Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System,” a Nintendo spokesperson said.  “If production resumes in the future, an update will be posted on the official Nintendo website.”  Perhaps the company was merely trying to shift its plans toward the SNES mini and its ongoing lineup for the new Switch device.

Late last year, after the NES mini launched, it would go on to sell out worldwide.  Further shipments would arrive in the lead up to the Christmas shopping season, but the unit still remained hard to obtain within stores.

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Okay Google, What Is The Whopper Advertising Mishap?

You have to admit, it was a pretty cunning ad by the fast food giant.  In case you hadn’t heard by now, Burger King had unveiled the above ad that was designed to query your Google Home device, which would in turn read a rather lengthy description of the Whopper burger from Wikipedia.

However, the search engine giant was less than amused, and as of about 2:45 PM ET yesterday according to The Verge, Google disabled the functionality, and it will no longer respond when prompted by the specific Burger King commercial that asks “What is the Whopper burger?”  Although it will still respond from Wikipedia with the top result when a real user poses the same question.  Similarly to its own Google Home commercials, more than likely the company was able to disable the audio clip from firing off the unwanted Home query triggers.

You may have noticed that before Google pulled the plug, the Whopper query brought up some rather less than flattering descriptions of the flagship sandwich, deeming it being full of ingredients like “toe nail clippings” and “rat.”  Wikipedia admins must have caught wind of this as the entry is now locked and only authorized users can update it.

For now, users will have to “have it their way” another way when researching Burger King offerings.  What’s interesting though is why Burger King didn’t address Siri or Alexa?

Imagining The New Modular Mac Pro Design

 

The previous Mac Pro lineup
One was modular, the other, not so much.

In what turned out to be a bit of a surprise in the tech world, Apple announced plans that it would be working on an updated Mac Pro, that would contain a modular design for users wishing to perform regular component upgrades.

Whilst development of the new Mac Pro has only just started, which of course means that release is probably still a year or more away yet, designers are already starting to dream up concepts of what the new machine might look like, such as today’s offering from CURVED/labs.  The design includes a Mac-mini style box along with the familiar Apple branded display.  Check out their video below the fold.

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Google Shines Focus on Level Pay Equity Field

Leveling pay equity a picture of Google Headquarters
Credit: Digital Trends

There is no doubt that pay equity and the wage gap is a hot button issue not just for specific companies but across all industries.  Google commented further in their blog today about the importance to them that men and women who join Google in the same role are compensated on a level playing field, both when they start and during the duration of their careers with the company.

In 2016, the company wanted to highlight the conversation around the gender pay gap – along with how companies could fight it – by sharing their top-level analysis publicly.  Annually, Google conducts what they deem as rigorous analyses so that their pay practices can remain aligned with their commitment to pay equity.

However, the federal government had another observation.

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Starbucks Gift Card Deal for iPhone Users

Starbucks Gift Card can be used for their frappucinos that are pictured.

Starbucks gift card fans will appreciate this deal.  Since Apple revamped its iMessage system with the latest iOS update last year, companies and app developers have been finding ways to make use of the service.  With the Starbucks app, you can receive a $5 Starbucks eGift Card via iMessage when you send a $5 Starbucks eGift Card in conjunction with the Starbucks app and Apple Pay.

See below for terms:

Terms:

  • Starbucks will give away up to 45,000 Promotional Gifts to eligible customers between 4/10/17 and 4/23/17. To receive a Promotional Gift, you must purchase a $5 or more Starbucks eGift Card using the Starbucks App and meet the other eligibility requirements below.
  • Promotion Period: The Promotion Period runs from 6:00 AM PST on 4/10/17 and ends the earlier of (a) when all 45,000 Promotional Gifts are distributed or (b) at 11:59 PM PST on 4/23/17.
  • Eligibility: This offer is open to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C. who have an Apple Pay account, have downloaded the Starbucks App with an iPhone 5S or above and are iOS 10.2.1 and above users.

Visual directions can be found at Starbucks’ official promotion site.

In Ongoing Legal Battle, Qualcomm Hits Back at Apple With Countersuit

Qualcomm logo on building facade

Apple stock is only down a point or so in early morning trading as a fight between chip maker Qualcomm and the tech giant has been heating up lately, with the former filing its own countersuit against Apple.  In the suit, Qualcomm is stating that Apple covered up how iPhone 7s that had Qualcomm chips in it, outperformed those that contained Intel chips.

Per Investor’s Business Daily, Apple “acted to prevent Qualcomm from revealing to consumers the extent to which iPhones with Qualcomm’s chip sets outperformed iPhone’s with Intel’s chip sets,” said Qualcomm in the countersuit that was was filed later in the day on Monday in the US District Court for the Southern District of California.

Allegations from Qualcomm include that Apple lied to regulators to spur investigations of the chipmaker.  Back on January 20, Apple had started the legal battle against Qualcomm over its technology licensing practices.

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Search Giant Google Aims To Help Extinguish Fake News

A colorful logo of a Google Doodle while looking for the news

Our Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds sure have evolved over the last few years haven’t they?  They started as a means to see what is going on in our friends lives to maybe having a chance to get a re-tweet from a celebrity. News mediums have taken over, with many using their social media feeds to share and re-share news links.  However, given our heated political climate, how do we know what news may or may not be “fake news”?

There is no doubt that Google reigns supreme on the Internet when it comes to searching for information, aiming to help users obtain useful content that sites and publishers create.  But as Google came to realize, multitudes of new articles are published constantly every day, and that sheer amount of content could be overwhelming to most.  Therein lies the rub of also being able to help readers decide whether information could be factual, or sadly, false.

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Live from New York…It’s Apple

The front face of the Apple Store in New York City
Apple is Giving SNL Viewers A Reason To Stay Up Late

In this day and age of DVRs and being able to skim through commercials at will, television programs have had to find ways to reinvent themselves and continue to look for means of revenue.  That being said, Apple has signed on with NBC, in a move that will see Saturday Night Live cast members create humorous ads that will air during what would usually be commercial breaks on the show, Variety is reporting.  While we do not know yet what kind of content the show will create for Apple, it will be featuring Apple products.

Verizon is also joining in on the fun, as SNL’s “Weekend Update” anchor Colin Jost will be writing a spot for the carrier that will be starring cast member, Kenan Thompson.  However Apple’s ad will differ in format from Verizon’s.

Saturday Night Live’s goal with the ads is to try and develop new content that will hopefully be more appealing to advertisers as well as giving viewers a reason to stay up and watch the show live, versus catching replays on apps and streaming services.

“Everyone is struggling now in a world where there is so much media,” SNL head Lorne Michaels shared. “We are all competing for sponsors, and everything is being reinvented. ‘SNL’ has been reinventing itself from season two.”

With the recent events within US politics, and SNL’s knack for political satire, the show has seen a surge of popularity this season.  However, NBC is at the same time trying to make the show more appealing to advertisers as SNL is subtly trying to work more advertising into its sketches.

“Comedy is a big force in the culture, and I don’t think there’s a lot of over thinking about doing commercials as there was in the late ’60s and early 70s,” says Michaels. “When I grew up, it was like Jack Benny for Jell-O or Bob Hope for Chrysler or Texaco Star Theatre.”

Verizon’s ad should air sometime this month with Apple’s slated to follow sometime next month.