Apple defends safety of Siri use while driving after university study rated it highly distracting

 

carplay

Apple has responded to a University of Utah study which criticized the safety of using Siri while driving, stating that it didn’t test the company’s in-car versions, Siri Eyes Free and CarPlay.

Of the six speech-recognition systems tested by researchers, Siri was found to be the worst for driver distraction. The study hooked up drivers to heart-rate monitors and other equipment designed to measure the degree of stress experienced by drivers while carrying out a range of voice-command tasks, giving each system a distraction rating from 1 (best) to 5 (worst) …  Read more

Microsoft’s new Cortana ad mocks Siri for lack of contextual reminders and traffic reports

Microsoft has released yet another Cortana advertisement that mocks Siri for lacking contextual reminders and real-time traffic reports. Microsoft pokes fun at the personal voice assistant by claiming that it “just got bigger,” a sarcastic reference to the larger screen sizes on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Perhaps the Redmond-based company is overlooking all of the new features Siri gained in iOS 8. Read more

Amazon announces Echo, a dedicated, Siri-like speaker system for quick information

Amazon today announced a new hardware product called Echo. It’s essentially a speaker unit dedicated to being a voice-control system. It kind of sounds like Siri but in a speaker for a single room instead of in your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch.

You can set alarms, control music, ask about the weather, search the web, ask questions, and access local news. It streams content via Bluetooth and WiFi, and connects to the Fire Phone (if you have one, lol), iOS via the browser, Android, and desktop computers via the web. Instead of “Hey Siri,” you say “Alexa” to start speaking the device. You’ll need a Fire OS/Android device to take full advantage, but music should work fine via iOS.

The whole concept is very futuristic, and it’s unclear how beneficial this will be to people with voice-controlled phones. But, hey, this comes from the developers of a faux-3D phone and delivery drones, so this is not completely out of left field. The Echo is $99 for Amazon Prime users, $199 for everyone else, and (for some reason) you need an invitation to receive the honor to buy one of these untested things.

Read more

Internal Panera Bread memo claims Apple Pay will launch on October 20

Apple-Pay-app-partners-01

An internal memo sent to Panera Bread employees and acquired by 9to5Mac has revealed that Apple will launch its mobile payment platform on Monday, October 20th. Panera Bread was listed as one of the initial launch partners for Apple Pay during its introduction last month.

An online training course for employees has been published that includes instructions for the VeriFone readers, including the Apple Pay functions. Stores that don’t have the appropriate hardware to support the technology will receive further information on the 20th about how the company plans to handle payments those locations. Read more

Review: CarPlay has promise, but the road to perfection is long

This is CarPlay

With Pioneer now offering aftermarket CarPlay support through their existing NEX displays, I got the chance to finally test drive CarPlay (without having to buy a new car) and see how Apple’s driving-optimized iPhone experience performs on the road.

Apple describes CarPlay as “a smarter, safer way to use your iPhone in the car” because tasks like making phone calls, sending messages, finding directions, and playing music from your iPhone are completed using Siri and the car’s touch screen rather than fiddling with your phone in your hand.

In short, CarPlay has a lot of promise and already makes a few things easier, but it’s not without its hiccups just yet. I’ll share my hands-on experience with upgrading to CarPlay with an aftermarket Pioneer display including a few interesting tidbits and lots of photos below. Read more

Beats Music “Listen Now” feature starts rolling out to Shazam iOS app

Users of the Shazam iOS application have begun noticing that Shazam is testing a new “Listen Now” feature with the Apple-owned Beats Music streaming service. Like it does with iTunes Radio, Spotify, and Rdio, this feature allows a user to tag a song with Shazam and then instantly play it in Beats Music. We tested the feature this morning and it works as advertised. You’ll need a Beats Music subscription or a 14-day free trial in order to make use of the feature. With Beats now under Apple’s wing and Shazam a key partner for Siri in iOS 8, it makes sense that the trio would integrate in a fashion such as the new Listen Now button in the Shazam app. You’ll need the latest Shazam update to make use of the feature.

Read more

As Siri gets more powers in iOS 8, we ask: Do you use it to its fullest or is it still a party trick?

siri

When Siri lost its beta tag almost a year ago, I suggested it might be a good time for those who’d been frustrated with its early performance to give it another chance. What I discovered through your comments was that Siri seems to be one of those things that polarizes views: people either loving it and using it every day, or dismissing it as a useless gimmick. Not too many people seem to fall between the two.

But Apple has continued to work hard on improving the service, adding new capabilities as well as refining its ability to handle existing ones. It might not yet be as sophisticated as its creators envisage for the future, but a year on seemed a good point to revisit the topic and find just how many of its capabilities people are using …  Read more

Former Siri team working on radically new virtual personal assistant with true artificial intelligence

ios-8-siri

“Siri is chapter one of a much longer, bigger story,” says Dag Kittlaus, one of three of the original creators of Apple’s virtual personal assistant. The team, originally acquired by Apple as part of its $200M purchase of Siri, has now left the company to form a new startup, Viv Labs, to work on the rest of that story.

The vision described by the team in a lengthy piece in Wired is certainly ambitious. The problem with Siri, they say, is that it can only do things it has been explicitly programmed to do.

Though Apple has since extended Siri’s powers—to make an OpenTable restaurant reservation, for example—she still can’t do something as simple as booking a table on the next available night in your schedule. She knows how to check your calendar and she knows how to use Open­Table. But putting those things together is, at the moment, beyond her.

What Kittlaus and his team want to do is create a personal assistant which can learn to do new things for itself …  Read more

Wikipedia app re-launches on App Store ahead of iOS 8 integration

IMG_0253

The popular online service Wikipedia has re-launched its iOS app with a new native version that features editing and an offline mode. The free app has some unique features other than browsing through Wikipedia entires, as Wikipedia tells us:

  • Fastest way to get into the content. Other highly-rated unofficial free iOS apps have hurdles to access the content. Either downloading some content, or just simply not being able to dive right in to it. That doesn’t happen with the official app.
  • You can edit with this app, unlike other unofficial apps. And you can do it logged out, if you choose.
  • Wikipedia Zero for developing and emerging countries. If you’re on one of the participating operators, you can use Wikipedia free of data charges.

Wikipedia also shared some other important features:

Read more

Apple TV overhaul not expected to debut until 2015

 

Apple TV mid 2014 screen

A new report from The Information published today discussing the next generation of Apple TV says the new set-top box won’t be ready for prime time until at least 2015. This expectancy timeline aligns with previous 9to5Mac reporting on the Apple TV development progress.

According to the report, Apple employees managing the project have informed Apple TV engineers working on the next generation set-top box that it is currently not expected to reach completion in time to debut in 2014. Read more

Why is Apple hiring Nuance engineers? Apparently to replace Siri’s Nuance-powered backend

Nuance, the company that originally created the backend for the Siri mobile app that would later become the built-in virtual assistant in the iPhone 4S, has powered the speech recognition for the service ever since it launched. However, a new report suggests Apple may be looking to replace the company’s technology with a newer, faster system that could provide more accurate results.

A new Wired report cites several recent Siri-related Apple hires as evidence that the company is working on something big for the system’s next update. This isn’t really a new idea: rumors have been swirling since 2011 that Apple was investigating its own speech-to-text solution. That same year, Siri co-founder Norman Winarsky (not to be confused with current Siri Speech Manager David Winarsky) told 9to5Mac:

Read more