CAN COMPUTERS BE OUR FRIENDS? Dave Smith at ReadWrite discusses developments in mobile recommendation engines and personalized mobile assistants, technology that can sort through our vast amounts of personal data and provide a real-time decision in a matter of seconds. Smith likens the developments to the plot of the 2013 Spike Jonze movie, Her, in which operating systems are tailored uniquely to users and can understand human emotion and behavior. Leading the way is voice-recognition service Nuance. CEO Peter Mahoney says the company is improving the ways in which artificial intelligence can communicate with humans, rather than just spitting back data.
"Dialogue is really important. In the original systems that came out, it operated like a search engine. You say something and something comes back, but it may or may not be the right thing. But that’s not how humans work. Humans disambiguate. We clarify," said Mahoney to Smith. (ReadWrite)
Nuance is also reportedly studying paralinguistics, or the understanding of how people speak rather than what is being said. "We're looking at the acoustic elements to be able to detect emotions in speech," said John West, a Nuance principal solutions architect. Nuance's technology already helps power Apple's voice-recognition service Siri, and the company could potentially incorporate their paralinguistics findings into Siri as well. It's a clear step forward in a growing effort in machine learning, personalization, and ultimately artificial intelligence.(BBC)
BREAKING: Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten will buy Viber, a popular mobile messaging app, for $900 million, according to Reuters. (Reuters)
AUDI'S AUGMENTED-REALITY CARS: BBC UK visited the Audi global headquarters in Germany to find out how the automaker is starting to incorporate augmented reality technology into their vehicles. The BBC's video shows someone using Google Glass to help identify the car's issue and demonstrate — virtually— how to fix it, and engineers at an Audi factory using augmented reality to identify any imperfections in a car's design. (BBC)
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "You're not going to be able to afford four data plans and four of the highest-priced phones for that family."— Former Motorola Mobility CEO Dennis Woodside saying U.S. wireless carrier data rates are too expensive for middle-class families, which is why Google, Motorola, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Charter Communications are entering a coalition to push the government to increase the allocation of Wi-Fi airwaves. (Wall Street Journal)
COMCAST-TIME WARNER CABLE DARK HORSE: Many were caught talking about the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger in terms of its implications for the cable television industry. But both companies also own a significant share of U.S. Wi-Fi networks. The merger could lead to the new company renting out Wi-Fi networks to other carriers or even creating a new mobile data service, according to Kevin Fitchard of GigaOm. (GigaOm)
A MOBILE WORLD: Cell phones have become nearly ubiquitous across the world, even now in emerging markets and developing nations, according to a new study from Pew. The research outfit conducted face-to-face interviews with almost 25,000 total people from 24 emerging and developing nations between March and May of last year. Among each of the 24 nations surveyed, more than half of the population owned a cell phone, a share that has grown significantly over the last decade, says Pew. Jordan, China, Russia, Chile and South Africa are ahead of the pack, with more than 90% of their populations owning mobile phones. In turn, landline ownership in these countries has dipped. A median of just 23% claimed to have a working landline in their residence.
But smartphone adoption is still catching on. According to Pew, none of the 24 countries have reached over 50% smartphone penetration. Lebanon led the way with smartphone adoption of 45% and China was in second place with 37% penetration, based on Pew's results. Regardless, smartphones are still a relatively new technology, particularly for consumers in the most underdeveloped nations in the Middle East and Africa. But smartphone ownership across the board in these nations skewed significantly higher among 18- to 29-year-olds. That demographic's smartphone adoption went as high as 69% in China, 62% in Lebanon, and 55% in Chile. As smartphone adoption rates max out in much of the developed world, these nations and regions will shoulder the weight of the next wave of mobile growth. (Pew Research)
780 PERCENT GROWTH: Finnish mobile game developer Supercell saw its revenues increase 780T in 2013, growing to $892 million (US), up from just $101 million (US) in 2012. Supercell is best known for its mobile games "Clash Of Clans" and "Hay Day," which are both free to download on iOS App Store and Google Play, meaning its games generate most revenue from ads and in-app purchases. Supercell is following the path of its Finnish counterpart Rovio, maker of the popular Angry Birds brand. Gaming continues to be a massive money-maker on mobile. (Wall Street Journal)
SURVIVING TECH EXTINCTION: New York Times' writer Farhad Manjoo outlines a strategy for mobile consumers looking to not get left behind or locked into a soon-to-be obsolete company or service. Essentially he tells consumers to buy Apple hardware, use Google services, get content from Amazon, and bet on "connector" services like Dropbox and Evernote that can work across platforms and devices. Meanwhile, Microsoft's head of communications, whose company was left off the list, has a stern response. (New York Times, Business Insider)
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