Siri Far Behind Alexa and Google Assistant, Says Ex-Apple Employee: Report

While Siri is one of the oldest voice-based virtual assistants to exist, post WWDC reactions to the voice assistant has been less than enthusiastic, with a report further highlighting reactions by a former Appleemployee as well as a developer WWDC attendee. While Amazon and Google have made waves in the home smart speaker space, the newly announced HomePod focuses more on audio quality than intelligence. A former employee blames it on Apple’s culture of prioritising on user privacy, and points out how the HomePod has a long way to go to match Amazon’s Echo and its capabilities.

A WSJ report cites a few Apple ex-employees and a developer who claimed that engineers at the company were dismayed at the launch of Amazon Echo, which showed Amazon had mastered a lot of things that Siri hadn’t yet. “Amazon had figured out how to isolate voices from background noise and have a digital assistant respond to requests from a distance—abilities Siri hadn’t yet mastered. People at Apple’s anxiety level went up a notch,” said a former member of Apple’s Siri team.

Siri’s delayed access to third party apps, and its limited accessibility is also a hindrance for Siri. Furthermore, Apple stresses too much on privacy, and is not so big on using user’s data too much. Amazon and Google, on the other hand, have been very open to third-party integration bringing many new features to its smart speakers in due course of time.

Siri Far Behind Alexa and Google Assistant, Says Ex-Apple Employee: ReportAnother ex-employee told WSJ, “In the years since, former Siri team members say, progress has been slowed by a failure to set ambitious goals, shifting strategies and a culture that prioritizes user privacy—making it difficult to personalize and improve the product. The project also has suffered from the departures of key team members, some of whom went to competitors. About a year after Mr. Jobs’s death, Apple hired Bill Stasior, an Amazon search executive, to oversee Siri. Mr. Stasior studied artificial intelligence at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but his expertise was in search rather than speech or language. This led some members of the Siri team to believe he didn’t fully appreciate the product’s original vision: to expand beyond the iPhone to third-party apps.”

Speaking of the limited and delayed access of Siri, a developer Brian Roemmele, who attended WWDC said, “People went from being happy and excited to sitting in workshops and realising, I can’t use it. Some went back to that attitude: Siri’s always going to be dumb.”

This all point to an urgent need for Apple to set ambitious goals for Siri, in order to match market competitors. Knowing Apple, it would not enter a space it wasn’t confident about, and we expect it make significant improvements to Siri. One thing Siri is better than the others is that it supports as many as 21 languages, while Alexa speaks only English and German, and Google Home works in seven languages.

Polaroid Enters LED TV, Monitor Market in India

US-based consumer products maker Polaroid on Friday forayed into LED TVs and monitors segment in the Indian market.

The company has tied-up with Indian manufacturing company Powerful Technologies Pvt Ltd, an authorised Polaroid licensee, to assemble and manufacture LED TVs and monitors in their Noida factory, Polaroid said in a statement.

Initially six models have been launched – three Polaroid LED TV models and three monitor models. The products are currently available on e-commerce platform Amazon.

It will be available on other online retailers, besides distribution and retail channels.

The LED TVs are priced at between Rs. 7,999 and Rs. 13,999, while the LED monitors are priced at Rs. 3,499-Rs. 4,599.

Polaroid Enters LED TV, Monitor Market in India“India is one of the fastest growing markets worldwide, and we are confident that local partnerships are the right way to tap into this growing market and further introduce the Polaroid brand to India,” Polaroid President and CEO Scott W Hardy said.

Powerful Technologies is the Polaroid licensee for LED TVs and monitors in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Powerful Technologies Managing Director Aditya Gupta said: “With our strong online and offline sales channels and excellent after sales service we are confident Polaroid will be a huge success in India”.

Polaroid is currently present in India in the segments such a cameras, sunglasses, mobile printer and headphones.

Sony Walkman NW-WS623 Wireless Bluetooth Headset Launched in India

Sony on Monday launched its Walkman NW-WS623 wireless Bluetooth headset at Rs. 8,990 in India. Designed specifically to meet the needs of sports enthusiasts, Walkman NW-WS623 comes with connectivity options including NFC and Bluetooth that allow users to connect the headset to their smartphones or other devices. Sony Walkman NW-WS623 will be made available in the country from Friday and comes in Black colour only. The wireless Bluetooth headset will be available for purchase at Sony Centre and electronic stores across India.

Weighing in at just 32 grams, Sony Walkman NW-WS623 provides a battery life of around 12 hours, and can be fully charged in 1.5 hours, as per the company’s claims. Interestingly, Sony has claimed that even with a quick charge of just 3 minutes, the Walkman NW-WS623 will provide a playback of around one hour to the user.

Sony Walkman NW-WS623 Wireless Bluetooth Headset Launched in IndiaThe wireless Bluetooth headset comes with a built-in storage of 4GB to carry music on-the-go and has been described to be designed specifically for people who are into sports. This is why the new Sony headset comes with IP65/IP68 water and dust resistance rating. Sony claims that the Walkman NW-WS623 allows users to swim to a depth of 2 meters with up to 30 minutes of submerged time, thanks to its water resistance.

“The Walkman can endure extreme temperatures from -5-degree Celsius to 45-degree Celsius, making it ideal for a hike or climb. With improved wearing comfort, the Walkman NW-WS623 features an ergonomic, slim and light design that stays in place no matter the movement,” the company said in its release.

Enabling the Ambient Sound Mode, users will also be able to hear external sounds while wearing the headset to allow them to communicate to others without having to take the wearable off.

Qualcomm Launches Smart Audio Platform that Makes Developing Smart Speakers Easier

Qualcomm has announced a reference “smart audio” platform for manufacturers that want to develop a smart home speaker like Google Home, Amazon Echo, or the newly announced Apple HomePod. The company says its new smart audio platform chipsets will reduce development time for manufacturers as they have the necessary hardware, software, and tools.

The chipmaker introduced the new audio platform at its Voice and Music Developers conference in Shenzhen, alongside the all-new Qualcomm DDFA audio amplifier technology and new USB Type-C audio SoCs. Qualcomm at the conference also talked about few of the trends in audio industry including streaming of music, removal of headphone jack, and emergence of smart assistants and speakers.

Under the company’s new Qualcomm smart audio platform, it will be offering the APQ8009 and APQ8017 chips; these SoCs will come with a range of software configurations designed to allow OEMs to create smart speakers across various product tiers and categories. The Qualcomm smart audio platform is planned to be available Q3 2017, though the company says that the timelinecan change. These new Qualcomm SoCs support capabilities like advanced far-field voice capture, wake-word detection, AllPlay multi-room audio streaming technology, and support for major voice ecosystems in a single solution.

The far-field voice capture will allow the smart speaker to pick up the user’s voice even from afar, while the wake-word detection will enable to wake up from sleep when the hotword, for example “Hello Google,” is said aloud by the user. Qualcomm’s AllPlay multi-room audio streaming technology will allow users to configure multiple speakers to play the same or different songs in each room of the home from streaming services, local playlists on their devices, or DLNA media servers; moreover, the open nature of the AllPlay ecosystem will enable users to link together speakers from different brands, such as Panasonic, Hitachi, House of Marley, Magnat etc, in their home using this platform.

The Qualcomm APQ8009 and APQ8017 chips also beamforming and echo cancellation; barge-in and voice capture in noisy environments; software supporting virtual assistants, and support for hands-free voice calls over both VoIP and HFP. Qualcomm has confirmed that the new smart audio platform will receive support for Amazon Alexa Voice Service and Google Assistant later this year, as well as Android Things and Google Cast for Audio.

Qualcomm’s Anthony Murray, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Voice and Music, said, “This platform is ideal for traditional speaker manufacturers wanting to make the move to a connected platform as it is designed to bring together all the necessary hardware, software and tools needed to reduce development time. It also offers a great degree of flexibility for those manufacturers who want to push the boundaries when it comes to possible future applications for smart speakers.”

Qualcomm Launches Smart Audio Platform that Makes Developing Smart Speakers EasierAdditionally, the company at the event announced a new addition to its audio system-on-chip (SoCs) platform, namely CSRA68100, which is designed for premium wireless speakers and headphones. The company says it is “designed to provide OEMs with significantly more programming resources and freedom to develop use cases with unique and differentiating features.” A highly integrated platform, it also supports several connectivity, system processing, audio processing and power management resources.

Qualcomm also announced QCC3XXX series of entry-level, flash-programmable audio chipsets. These are aimed at developing entry-level products at competitive price points for Bluetooth headsets and speakers. There’s also the new WHS9420 and WHS9410 single chip USB audio SoC platforms, designed specifically for USB-C connected audio devices. With smartphone brands doing away with the 3.5mm headphone jack, this platform is aimed at users who want to continue to use wired headsets and speakers on their phones by means of transfer of audio via the USB Type-C port.

At the event, Qualcomm also revealed its next generation Qualcomm DDFA audio amplifier technology for audio devices like wireless speakers, soundbars, networked audio, and headphone amplifiers. The next-generation DDFA tech will be available on Qualcomm’s CSRA6620 SoC, and will include a DDFA controller with eight channel inputs, two channel outputs, microcontroller and configurable audio processor. Qualcomm says the chip will “help OEMs to integrate best-in-class amplifier performance in a lower complexity, more cost effective way than was previously possible.”

Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless Headphones Launched in India at Rs. 14,990

Popular audio manufacturer Sennheiser has launched a wireless version of its premium Momentum in-ear headphones with NFC and a 10-hour battery life. The headphones are priced at Rs. 14,990 and will be available in black and ivory trims.

Sennheiser’s Momentum series is known for the premium materials used and this one is no exception. The neckband of the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless use soft sheepskin nappa leather for better comfort and the earbuds are built from milled stainless steel for durability. The drivers have a frequency range of 15Hz-22,000Hz and feature an omni-directional microphone for calls.

Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless Headphones Launched in India at Rs. 14,990The Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless feature a rechargeable 170mAh battery with a charging time of around 1.5 hours. It also supports audio profiles like A2DP, AVRCP, HSP and HFP and Qualcomm apt-X. For connectivity, you get Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC. Media controls are placed at the edge of the headband for controlling music playback. The headset also features voice prompts to notify you of the pairing status and if the battery is low. You can also connect it to up to two devices at the same time; get vibration alerts for an incoming call and use it as a wired headset over USB.

Commenting on the launch of Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless, Kapil Gulati, Sennheiser India said, “With wireless being the norm for the discerning audiophile consumers, we are very thrilled to have launched the new Momentum headphones which represent our uncompromised vision and passion to go further and push for something even better. They are for people that demand the best and refuse to compromise on sound quality with progressive technology and high-quality materials in a product that is built to last.”

Nativ Vita Music Player Is a $1,599 Tablet for Audiophiles

Nativ, a tech startup which was came into prominence via a crowd-funded campaign early last year, has launched its Vita music player with a large touchscreen display and starting price of whopping $1,599 (roughly Rs. 1.03 lakhs). The Nativ Vita music player, which can also be termed a tablet thanks to its 11.6-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) display, comes with built-in support for several music streaming services including Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play Music, Pandora, and Tidal.

Nativ Vita comes with built-in multi-directional microphone, which allows users to use voice-commands to direct it to play music, adjust volume, or skip to next track. The music player can also be controlled via Android or iOS devices, as well as smartwatches through its dedicated app for the respective platforms. Interestingly, Vita music player comes along with an IR remote controller as well.

The Vita packs a Cortex A9 processor and features 4GB of RAM. The connectivity options on the music player include USB, Bluetooth, SPDIF, HDMI, and AES/EBU ports. The Nativ Vita also offers connectivity via Gigabit Ethernet, and Dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi as well. Users can connect Nativ Vita to their TVs with Google Cast or HDMI.

Nativ Vita Music Player Is a $1,599 Tablet for AudiophilesThe audio formats supported by the device include Apple’s ALAC, FLAC, WAV, MP3, OGG, and AIFF.

Users can choose to play music through their PC or their smartphone but the Nativ Vita is also being offered with built-in storage options. The storage options go up to an impressive, but rather ridiculous, 4TB of SSD storage. HDD storage options are also available with the music player as well. Notably, the base model ships without any built-in storage.

If you choose to buy the model will 4TB of built-in storage and Walnut desk-stand, the Nativ Vita will set you back by $3,099 (roughly Rs. 2 lakhs). As you might have understood by now, this music player is not for everyone.

Xiaomi Mi Wi-Fi Repeater 2, Mi Bluetooth Speaker Mini, Mi Power Bank 2 Launched in India

Xiaomi India has launched a range of accessories in India expanding its portfolio further. The newly introduced Mi Wi-Fi Repeater 2, Mi Bluetooth Speaker Mini, 10000mAh Mi Power Bank 2, and 20000mAh Mi Power Bank 2 are all going to be available via Mi.com online store and Mi Home, Xiaomi’s newly launched offline store. Prices for new Xiaomi accessories start at Rs. 999. Read more for details.

Xiaomi Mi Wi-Fi Repeater 2 price, features

Xiaomi has launched the Mi Wi-Fi Repeater 2 that essentially is a neat tool to pull Wi-Fi to those corners of your house where the signal is weak. It enables you to expand your home Wi-Fi coverage without buying a new router, and delivers connections for up to 16 devices. Xiaomi says the Mi Wi-Fi Repeater 2 is compatible with most popular router brands, and comes with two built-in high performance PCB antennas to expand router signal range and boost download speeds. The Mi Wi-Fi Repeater 2 will be available exclusively via Mi.com and Mi Home from June 20 onwards at Rs. 999.

Mi Bluetooth Speaker Mini price, features

The new Xiaomi Mi Bluetooth Speaker Mini is a small speaker that weighs just 58 grams and has a full metal casing. The tiny speaker’s dimensions are at 52x52x25mm and it supports Bluetooth v4.0, and a Micro USB charging port. The circular shaped speaker has a built-in microphone with nose reduction technology, and it comes with a lanyard hole to make it easy to carry it around. The tiny Mi Bluetooth Speaker Mini will be available in Grey and Gold colour variants via Mi.com and Mi Home from June 21 at Rs. 1,299.

10000mAh Mi Power Bank 2 price, features

The 10000mAh Mi Power Bank 2 has also been introduced, and it comes with two-way fast charging, and high-density batteries. This 14.1mm thin device easily slips into your pocket, and Xiaomi says the Mi Power Bank 2 comes with nine layers of circuit chip protection including temperature protection, input/ output overvoltage protection, hardware-level short circuit protection, and output over-current protection. The 10000mAh Mi Power Bank 2 will be available in Black from June 20 via Mi.com and Mi Home, at Rs. 1,199. It will also be available via Amazon India and Flipkart from July 7.

powerbank main Xiaomi

20000mAh Mi Power Bank 2 price, features

This power bank has dual USB outputs, two-way fast charging, weighs 330.5 grams, and is portable with dimensions at 135.5×67.6×23.9mm, and at 20000mAh comes with double the capacity. The nine layer circuit protection is also available on 20000mAh Mi Power Bank 2, and it will be available in black from June 20 via Mi.com and Mi Home. It, too, will also be available via Amazon and Flipkart from July 7.

Sony Launches 2017 Lineup of Its 4K HDR TVs in India

Sony has launched the 2017 models of its 4K HDR TV line-up in India, starting at Rs. 72,900 for the 43-inch model. A total of 17 models are being launched across six different series: X95E, X94E/ X93E, X90E, X82E, X75E, and X70E. While most of them go on sale this week in Sony stores across India, some will be releasing in the near future. There’s no mention of Sony’s OLED 4K TV, which stole the show at CES 2017.

The biggest and most expensive of the lot is the 75-inch X94E, which costs a whopping Rs. 6,04,900. The X95E is Sony’s new top of the line 4K HDR TV, priced at Rs. 3,04,900 for the 55-inch model, and Rs. 4,04,900 for the 65-inch one. The X93E comes after that, coming in at Rs. 2,64,900 for 55-inch, and Rs. 3,64,900 for the 65-inch.

Stepping down further, you get the X90E series, which starts at a slightly more reasonable Rs. 1,54,900 for the 49-inch model. The 55-inch and 65-inch X90E models cost Rs. 2,04,900 and Rs. 2,84,900 respectively. Further down the line you’ve the X82E, costing Rs. 87,900 for 43-inch, Rs. 1,24,900 for the 49-inch, and Rs. 1,54,900 for the 55-inch.

In the X70E line-up, you can choose from the aforementioned 43-inch model, at Rs. 72,900. If you need something bigger, the 49-inch X70E costs Rs. 94,900. That leaves the X75E – in 43-, 49-, 55- and 65-inch variants – which don’t have prices or a release date yet.

Sony Launches 2017 Lineup of Its 4K HDR TVs in IndiaThe reason the X94E is so expensive isn’t just for its size (75-inch), but also because it has direct LED technology in its panel, as opposed to edge LED on the rest of the 2017 Sony line-up. That means the LEDs are behind the panel, which provides better contrast and brightness, at the expense of thickness and a premium. The X90E models also have direct LED.

To compensate on the X95E and X93E (which have edge LED), Sony is touting “Slim Backlight Drive+” for more brightness, which it says brings more accurate local dimming control. From X90E upwards, the Sony 4K HDR TVs also have better systems for picture processing, and clarity, and contrast enhancement.

In terms of connectivity, you get four HDMI inputs on X82E onwards. While the X82E has two on the side and the back, X90E has three on the side and one on the back. There is one on the side and three at the bottom in the X93E, X94E, and X95E. The X70E has three in total, two on the side and one in the back.

The entire Sony X-series runs Android TV 7.0 Nougat by default, with Sony’s own interface running on top of it. The Android aspect is stressed on the remote as well, with dedicated buttons for Netflix, Google Play Store, and YouTube. All of Sony’s 2017 Android TVs are part of Netflix’s recommended programme, if that’s a checkbox for you.

UE Wonderboom Portable Speaker Launched in India: Price, Release Date, Specifications, and More

First unveiled in March, Logitech brand Ultimate Ears’ Wonderboom portable speaker was launched in India on Tuesday. It has been priced at Rs. 7,995, and will be available from Tuesday itself in the country. The palm-sized UE Wonderboom is claimed to offer 360-degree sound.

The UE Wonderboom has been launched in six colour variants in India – Grey (UE calls it Stone), Black (Phantom), Red (Fireball), Blue (SubZero), Pink (Cashmere), and a Purple shade (Lilac).

ue wonderboom colours ue

The company claims that the new UE Wonderboom can deliver up to 10 hours of non-stop music. Ultimate Ears says that the device can be fully charged in less than 3 hours. Ultimate Ears claims that the new Wonderboom speakers have been tested for drops, and can sustain drop from a height of up to five feet. The portable speaker also features a hanging loop on top that Ultimate Ears claims can be attached to a bag, bicycle, or backpack. You can control the music via speakers which will let you increase/ decrease volume as well as skip song from the speaker.

The speaker also comes with IP67 certification which means that it’s dust and water resistant, and can be immersed in up to 1 metre of liquid for up to 30 minutes. The company about the Wonderboom says, “It is also great for showers, pools, beaches, waterfalls, muddy fields and rainy days. If it gets dirty, just rinse it off.”

The UE Wonderboom speakers can be paired with up to eight other Bluetooth-enabled Wonderboom speakers, and can also connect to up to two source devices simultaneously. The speaker supports Bluetooth mobile range of up to 33 metres. The UE Wonderboom weighs in at 425 grams, and has dimensions of 102mm height, 93.5mm diameter, and 140mm width.

Speaking at the launch, Ashok Jangra, Logitech, Cluster Category Head – India & SWA, said, “Wonderboom’s basic proposition of being fuss free is designed for the user who is always-on-the-go and leads a very busy lifestyle. While it may look small, don’t be fooled by its size or price; this little beauty comes with surprisingly big sound and like its predecessors is virtually indestructible. Wonderboom is for users who are extremely passionate about music and always see it as a personal experience. We truly believe that this pint-sized, super-portable Bluetooth speaker is the answer for all personal music related needs.”

Foxconn Plans US Display Plant for Over $10 Billion, Scouting for Location

Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics maker and a major Apple supplier, plans to invest more than $10 billion (roughly Rs. 64,588 crores) in a display-making factory in the United States and will decide on the location of the plant next month.

The Taiwan-based firm has been eyeing US investments for some time and its CEO, Terry Gou, had previously said the company hoped to spend over $7 billion to set up a display-making plant in the country – which has no panel-making industry but is the No.2 market for televisions.

Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, is currently considering Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina as possible locations, Gou told reporters after the company’s annual shareholders meeting on Thursday.

“In July we will make a conclusion,” Gou said, adding the company would invest the money over five years.

Foxconn operates vast factories in China, where it employs a million people and makes most of Apple’s iPhones, but so far it has not invested heavily in manufacturing in the United States.

“This time we go to America, it’s not just to build a factory, but to move our entire supply chain there,” Gou told shareholders, without providing specific details.

While the plant would create jobs, Gou added it would not employ as many people as in its China plants, as the cost of labour is higher and the plant would rely on automation.

Foxconn Plans US Display Plant for Over $10 Billion, Scouting for Location“In the US, the state governors’ sincerity and confidence to attract investment … is beyond my imagination,” Gou said.

President Donald Trump has called for firms to build more products in the United States. He has made several announcements since his election in November about US investments by both foreign and domestic manufacturers, building on his campaign focus on preserving and creating American jobs.

According to Tai Jeng-wu, CEO of Foxconn’s Japanese unit Sharp, six US states were being looked at for a possible location for the display-making plant.

Foxconn already has operations in Pennsylvania.

Gou said that an agreement announced four years ago to invest in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was still pending.