Monthly Archiv: August, 2020

Ladies and Gentlemen, Microsoft’s New Voice Controlled PA, Cortana

Microsoft has come up with its own Window’s phone assistant and her name is Cortana. Since digital assistants are all the rage these days, here’s a look at what Cortana is all about, according to the latest science and technology news.

The Setup

Basically, Cortana is designed to learn about the user, and with intelligence that comes from Bing, language processing courtesy of Tellme, and the combined knowledge of Satori’s repository and Microsoft’s Cloud, Cortana can has the power to sense when you feel like taking a nap and silences your phone for you. To set her up, all the user needs to do is choose from some pre-defined categories, such as, headline news, health, sports, and technology. The user can also set their favorite sporting teams, or their favorite restaurant they usually have meals in. Cortana then delivers you information based on your likes and your current location. It can also make suggestions based on what you do and where you do it. the information is then stored in Cortana’s notebook which can be viewed as the equivalent of Google Now’s homescreen.

Cat Fight!

So, can Cortana hold her own against the likes of Google Now and Apple’s Siri? That’s the big question and one that we’ve got the answer for (the hard way). In a way Cortana is unique when it comes to artificial intelligence personal assistants, mainly because Microsoft took its time to study the others in the genre and just came up with a tweaked up version of the AI personal assistant, but how does it fare with the likes of Google Now and Siri?

Well, the first thing one would need to fix in their brain is that Cortana is in actuality, Microsoft’s own Bing search engine through and through. But don’t get us wrong, while Cortana does use the Bing platform, it is all Cortana, and while it’s no woman, it is female. This is actually Microsoft has shown its innovative genius, since Cortana is an extension of the Bing search engine it is a lot similar to Google Now which runs on Android devices. So, in other words, Cortana is able to recognize the stuff that interests you and then use Bing to mine the information you would need or find useful.

At the moment, there are only five 3rd party apps that are built for Cortana, and they are Hulu, Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Flixster. Microsoft has used a combination of cloud and on-device computation, for Cortana’s voice control function, which means that when you speak to Cortana, patterns of your speech are used to interpret your commands and if Cortana is unable to understand what you have said, it will reach out to its neural network to pick out possibilities. According to the latest science and technology news, this function actually helps Cortana learn and improve on its language interpretation and voice recognition functions over time. If you put the three head to head, Cortana and Google Now both have precognitive abilities which Siri doesn’t, but as far as functionality goes, Cortana clearly has the edge.

In a nutshell, Cortana has a personality of its own and because it’s voiced by the same actress of Halo, Jen Taylor, which means that you no longer have a robot like voice responding to your queries and on a side note, since there is an Halo element to Cortana, it is also capable of responding to any Halo related questions you might have.

Ending Note

In the end, the sole purpose of Microsoft to develop their own artificial intelligence personal assistant was to not only have a heads up on their rivals, but to also imbue their creation with a personality of its own and it seems like they’ve succeeded. That being said, it’s still a beta, which means that there might be more to expect when it is officially launched in the Microsoft Windows 8.1 phone which is due later on this year.

Jawbone Up 2012 Round Two for the Activity Tracking Bracelet

Last year Jawbone released a gadget that promised a lot, it was to be a bracelet designed by Yves Behar that tracked your exercise and along with an app for your phone allowed you to plan out your daily routines in an aim to get fit. Combining fashion and fitness with the use of your phone it all looked good and the hype was in full swing, then people actually tried it. The problem was that the bracelets were breaking.

Refunds had to be given and things went silent on the Jawbone Up while they went back to the design and took a look what was wrong. Now here we are a year later and Jawbone is back with a new version of the Up looking for a second chance with the hope to redeem itself and show people what this piece of tech can do. So the question is, are the bracelets truly fixed and more importantly has Jawbone done enough to catch up with a technological world that has move on a year since the initial release?

The Bracelet
It’s fair to say looking at the new bracelet Yves Behar’s design is looking to be less noticed than some other devices that are offered (for example the Nike+ FuelBand with its LED design). This bracelet goes for the more subtle approach with a better look for people who want to use the device and not really have to show it off. If it is noticed though it still looks good and fits around the wrist nicely. Looking at the issues with the original the 2012 version of the UP bracelet is more waterproof and more flexible in its design. This was said to be its original problem.

It’s obvious that Jawbone have concentrated on making the bracelet better, but not looked at improving the technology. Connection to your iPad or iPhone is done through a headphone jack, no Bluetooth or micro-USB support here, which is a shame. This also means that recharging is done through the jack and a converter to connect to the device. Battery life is good though with around ten days use before having to recharge.

Functionality

All of the power of the Jawbone Up is in the software used with it, so whenever you want to look at the details you have to plug it into your iOS device. This will take the date from your bracelet and give you a readout of your activity for the days. The app has been given an update since the last version. One new addition to note is the social aspect where you’ll be able to comment on your friend’s progress (if they are using the Up app too). This is nice to keep you motivated and add a level of competition to your exercise, as well as adding that little bit of shame if you slack off.

Along with the data from the bracelet you’ll also be able to track the foot you have eaten by putting the details into the app, this will let you see your personal calorie intake, when you ate and other information. This includes functionality to scan the barcode of your food to make identifying it better. The only drawback to this is that some of the foods aren’t in the database yet, and of course you can be showing what you are eating to your friends, which may not be something you want to do.

The next feature is the sleep tracking with the advertising saying that it will help you improve your sleeping patterns. There is also functionality within the bracelet itself to act as an alarm to wake you up when required, whether this works is questionable though as the vibrations it creates may not be enough to get your attention. The same vibration alarm is also used to detect if you are being too idle and need to become more active which can be quite a good alert to if you are having a lazy day.

Statistics

The aim of tracking your life using the Up bracelet and app is to push yourself to be fitter and to track what your food habits are. Even if you have this type of functionality available you still need control. For people who like exercise though it can be quite a useful too, but the fact is there are plenty of other devices like this that can actually do the same thing.

Verdict

The problem with the original Jawbone Up appears to be that the bracelet was breaking too easy and refunds had to be made to the customers. It’s nice to see that Jawbone took the design away and improved it to make it more functional and stronger, which is obviously important if you are going to be wearing the bracelet all day. It does appear that Jawbone have fixed the issues that they have found and have provided a good solid and flexible bracelet that can be used with the app to track your life.

The problem is though that there is really nothing that new in the Jawbone Up, especially compared with newer devices that offer the same functionality. Many phone can offer tracking without the bracelet, especially Android phones running the latest Jelly Bean OS so it’s questionable if people really need something like the up anymore? Saying this there are many positives to the Up, for people interested in tracking all their exercising and life and improve their health it definitely provides plenty of tools to help you with this.

It’s Time for the Swatch Smartwatch

To have a chance to compete with the soon to be released Apple Watch, Swatch has recently announced that it is going to develop its own smartwatch. This is exciting news for fans of the Swiss watchmaker that is best known for its chic and robust timepieces since 1983.

According to CEO Nick Hayek, the watch company is planning to roll out its new wearable by May of this year, which is coincidently just a month after the launch of the much talked about Apple Watch. Some of the highlights of the new Swatch design according to industry insiders is that the watch will work on both Windows and Android operating systems and users will be able to connect to the internet without having to charge their watch. The company has also announced that users can also use their Swatch smartwatch to make mobile payments, which is one of the perks that the Swiss watchmaker will be banking on.

But the recent announcement of a smartwatch by Swatch comes as a surprise to many because of the fact that the CEO has voiced his concerns on the potential of the smartwatch market. That being said, the Swiss company might just have what smartwatch buyers will be looking for, considering they’ve been known for their colorful and fun watches that also go easy on the pocket. Some other players in the smartwatch marketplace are also Sony, Samsung, Pebble, Qualcomm and Apple just to name a few.

Battery life still remains to be the driving force for sales when it comes to smartwatches. While Swatch has not yet revealed its battery capabilities to the public, considering the company’s experience, we should expect a battery life of no less than two days minimum if it really wants to compete in a growing industry.

The Apple Watch is expected to sell for around $350 dollars and also allows users to connect to the internet, send and receive instant messages, and of course, track the wearer’s fitness levels. And like the Swatch, the Apple Watch will also allow users to pay for goods and services with their Apple Pay service. The only downside of the Apple Watch being that, unlike the Swatch, it will need to be recharged. For how long, that’s a question that still needs to be answered since the company has been keeping its cards close to their chest on any information regarding the battery life of the new Apple Watch.

iTunes Ping : The Social Networking for Music

Apple Ping is one of the new face of the social networking genre which is dedicated for music and comes under the bold banner of ‘Social networking for music’ by Apple. Initially, this social networking feature was planned to be integrated with facebook but due to some disagreement between them and Apple, it was finally brought up by integrating it into the iTunes 10. Being a source of social gathering on the web, any music enthusiastic can simply drop by and take stock of all the informations regarding the artists, new music releases and also share or know what others are listening. With more than 1 million users registered, the Apple’s iTunes Ping has reflected a rapid growth overtime and has now become a new craze for all the music lovers to follow their favourite artist and also share their favorite playlist with their friends.

Setting up a profile in Ping is very straight forward and involves no lengthy and complicated steps. However, there are a few aspects on the lower side as it has some restrictions in place like allowing only three music genre to choose from all the 21 available categories. However considering the matter of fact that it is still under the stage of infancy, we can go along with what it offers as of now. In case of the artists, there can be no more then 10 which can be selected to cover the profile page along with the corresponding album covers.

The personal feed displays the most recent activity but there is so far no specified way to get any notification whenever anything new is posted. It can also be accessed from the iPhone 4 and the iPad through a separate tab in the iTunes which makes the browsing experience much better with all the support for multi-touch that is built into the duo.

Now as the iTunes Ping has registered its presence in the list of available social networking entries, it would be interesting to see how it performs in between some of its close and big competitors like Facebook and Spotify. Even though it is new or quite unknown to most of the folks, it can be expected to gradually attain the status that it deserves being one of the many products of the industry giant i.e. Apple.