This week on The Shift with Drex, I talked about Apple and TV shows, the new Alexa Voice Remote for Amazon’s Fire TV sticks, Roku and Infowars, Amazon’s Neural Text-to-Speech, London Drugs’ packaging recycling amnesty, and Women in Games upcoming event.
Tech round-up for January 16: TV stuff from Apple, Amazon, and Roku, London Drugs wants your packaging, Women in Gaming discuss diversity
This week, lots of things happening in the world of TV technology from all the big players, London Drugs expands its recycling offering, and the importance of character diversity in video games.
Apple makes a big splash at CES without even being there
Apple doesn’t officially participate in the annual consumer tech show, but the company always finds a way to have an impact. This year it was through surprising partnerships with other tech companies, including rival Samsung.
Samsung, LG, Sony, and Vizio all had TVs in Vegas that support AirPlay 2, Apple’s connectivity feature that enables users to push content from their Apple devices to other screens.
Samsung went even further. Its TVs will have an iTunes app, too.
This is all in advance of Apple launching its TV service, which is expected this year.
I expect partnerships with Roku and even Amazon are on the horizon.
Roku took heat for adding Infowars to its streaming platform so dropped it
Alex Jones’ streaming video show, Infowars, has been kicked off of nearly every major streaming service in the past year, including Apple, Facebook, and YouTube.
This week, Roku added it. In a statement to TechCrunch, the company said, “While open to many voices, we have policies that prohibit the publication of content that is unlawful, incites illegal activities or violates third-party rights, among other things. If we determine a channel violates these policies, it will be removed. To our knowledge, InfoWars is not currently in violation of these content policies.”
Jones and InfoWars have been instructed to turn over documents in a case brought by the families of Sandy Hook.
This is the same argument used last year after the Parkland, Florida school shooting when Roku took flak for including NRA TV on its platform.
The negative response in social media was swift and effective. By the end of the day, Roku had reversed course.
After the InfoWars channel became available, we heard from concerned parties and have determined that the channel should be removed from our platform. Deletion from the channel store and platform has begun and will be completed shortly.— Roku (@Roku) January 16, 2019
Roku has had success recently with partnerships with TV manufacturers and new hardware, and is clearly looking to protect its brand.
New Alexa Voice Remote releases in Canada
Yesterday, Amazon started selling a new remote control for its Fire TV streaming stick. The new Alexa Voice Remote gives you voice control over your viewing. It can also control the power and volume on compatible receivers, sound bars, and television sets, something earlier remotes could not do.
The new remote is available for only $20, 50% off, for a limited time, and it will be included with all new Fire TV Sticks, including the standard ($50), the Fire TV Stick 4K ($70), and Fire TV Edition smart TVs from Toshiba.
London Drugs declares “packaging recycling amnesty” through January
If you’ve still got boxes and bubble wrap and styrofoam lying around the house from the holiday season and don’t know what to do with it, get thee to a local London Drugs.
The retailer has always offered to take recyclable packaging from things purchased at its stores. Through the month of January, and in an effort to help people who may have received more packages by mail and courier this year, London Drugs is willing to take recyclable packaging no matter what the origin.
It’s all in an effort to keep this stuff out of the landfill.
Amazon uses machine learning to teach Alexa how to read better
In the U.S., Alexa is going to sound more like a human when she reads to you. Amazon has developed what it calls neural text-to-speech technology (NTTS) that involves the software learning how to read text more naturally.
Well, natural for a human.
But because Alexa was designed to make us comfortable, it makes sense that it would work best if it sounded like us. Here’s how different Alexa will sound to users in the States.
Women in Gaming event to discuss importance of character diversity
Women in Gaming is a community of females working for Xbox, and the chapter based in Vancouver at Microsoft Game Studio, the Coalition, is hosting an event, When Art Imitates Reality — The Value of Diverse Characters in Games.
The free event will have panelists working in the games industry talking about “how expanding character diversity in the game development process contributes to increased creativity, audience authenticity, and player confidence.”
Participating panelists include Ann Lemay, from WB Games Montreal, Cherry Rae, an accessibility and inclusion consultant, Bonnie Jean Mah, from the Coalition, Katie De Souza, from Phoenix Labs, and Melissa Boone, from Microsoft.
Carolina Smith, also from the Coalition, will moderate the panel on Saturday, January 26.
This leads into the coming launch of Gears of War 5, in development at the Coalition, releasing this year.
While Gears games have always included female characters, this is the first time players will play as a female protagonist in the narrative campaign. The sequel to Gears of War 4 focuses on the adventure of Kait Diaz.
The Shift with Drex, January 10: #ces2019, #samsung, #apple, #amazon, #alexa, #google, #lg, #sony, #lenovo
Last night on The Shift with Drex, I talked about the trends we’re seeing at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, including fancy new TV technology, folding smartphones, and the rise of digital assistants in smart home technology.
If you’re interested in consumer technology, you’re interested in what’s going on in Las Vegas this week. After all, CES 2019 is upon us.
The trade show runs January until Friday this week, and there’s lots going on.
TVs and more TV
There’s always lots of television news at CES and this year is no exception.
- LG has a 4K OLED television that disappears when you’re not using it. It’s the Signature OLED TV R, and the screen rolls up into a box. You can also have a quarter of the screen exposed for smart home controls and notifications.
- Sony showed off 85- and 98-inch LED screens that have an 8K resolution (nearly 8,000 pixels horizontally; two times bigger than 4K) and can reportedly upscale 4K content to 8K; the company also has OLED screens in 55-, 65-, and 77-inch sizes.
- Samsung, meanwhile, is updating its line of excellent screens, and adding something nobody thought possible: iTunes. Yes, you’ll be able to access your iTunes movies and TV shows on your Samsung television. You’ll also be able to stream content from your Apple devices to Samsung screens with AirPlay 2.
- While Samsung briefly showed a folding smartphone last November, the company did not have anything to say about the device during a briefing at CES. It was showing the device to select media behind closed doors, however. While no name has been announced, Galaxy Fold and Galaxy X have both been rumoured as possible. According to media who saw the device in Vegas this week, the Samsung folding smartphone has an outside screen that is 4.5 inches. When unfolded, the display becomes 7.3 inches.
- Royole FlexPai is actually in the wild already, and the company is showing off the foldable smartphone in Vegas. Reports out of CES are that the foldable screen is very interesting, but that the device itself is far from being ready for primetime.
Smart homes and digital assistants
- Almost all new smart home technology at CES is supporting Amazon’s Alexa. From cleaning robots to mesh networking platforms, from smart plugs to LED arrays to speakers, every tech company wants to work with Alexa.
- Google, meanwhile, is pushing its Google Assistant hard by creating an entire ecosystem for it, in the same way Amazon has with Alexa. And tech companies are creating products for Assistant to work with. Case in point is the Lenovo alarm clock which works with Google Assistant (and doesn’t have a camera).
Samsung profit down, too
Just a few days after Apple revised its earning guidance, Samsung revealed an estimated 30 percent profit drop leading from “stagnant” smartphone sales and weak demand for its processing chips.
The Shift with Drex, January 3: #facebook, #apple, #iphone, #deloittepredicts, #netflix, #blackmirror, #bandersnatch
Last night on The Shift with Drex, I talked about Facebook as we head into a new year, Apple’s revised earnings announcement due to fewer iPhone sales in the fall of 2018, Deloitte’s tech predictions for 2019, and whether Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is a game.