We still do not get voice assistants

The BBC launches its own voice assistant, appropriately named "Beeb" (although the effectiveness of that wake word is completely suspicious in a world where people can talk about Justin Bieber, just saying). Upon hearing this news, you might be tempted to think, "Ugh, why? This is not necessary." I would not come to that conclusion.


The Beeb Assistant can be a boondoggle, a waste of British tax money and a classic example of the BBC makes something technical without a super clear reason or need, simply because it is possible. In fact, I would even spend money on it because it's all those three things, but I'm still in favor.

I am root for Beeb because we are still screwing up this whole ambient computing, digital assistant stuff. Thanks to the popularity of Alexa and the Google Assistant, we have come to believe that some sort of winner-take-most (or all) platform war is happening along the lines of Windows versus Mac or Android versus iPhone. If the future of computing is an environment, we need to think better about what that environmental ecosystem might look like.

Consider the conventional wisdom about voice assistants. We consider each platform to be direct competitors to create a larger ecosystem, while a little other competitors (Siri, Cortana) struggle to ensure that it does not become a two-horse race. In a remarkable twist, Google is the one who creates a more limited, composite experience, while Alexa is accessible to everyone. All the while, each of the Internet makes the equivalent of a cable bundle: gives you content that often comes from partnership agreements.

To throw the Beeb assistant in that mix is ​​like throwing a puppy in an MMA cage competition. Everyone loves that puppy and the big, muscular fighters will probably do their best not to hurt it, but their priority is to kick the other person's ass and so there's a good chance our little dog will be rubbed.

These are bad metaphors, but that's the point. Judging Beeb on the same scale as Alexa or Siri is simply unfair. There is no inherent reason that Alexa versus Google versus Siri versus whatever should be a competition for winning the winner with everything in the cage. If voice becomes an important part of how we deal with computers, I don't want any of those companies to have a monopoly on it.

I can think of many reasons why I want a news-focused, accent-friendly speech interface. I'm an NPR listener here in the US and would like to have access to it through smart speakers, but the Google Assistant and Alexa are pretty stupid about finding NPR stories about a specific topic that I might care about. Imagine that the BBC or NPR could create a speech interface for their respective content that worked just as well as a web page, for example.


I think it would be great to have different voice assistants available on different devices, all specialized for different things. But somehow the idea that we can build a computer ecosystem based on speech that is somehow equivalent to the openness of the web and web browsers is almost unimaginable. The giant technology companies are running the world, so we are just waiting for them to start the next phase of computing.

Now I understand that every tech giant cannot build a good voice assistant without getting his hand in the privacy cookie jar. The suggestion that we should have a lot of different voice assistants after we all discovered that everyone let contractors listen to our voices is very naive. But perhaps if voice assistants don't have to be good at everything, they don't need to collect that much data or require a human assessment of our expressions.

I could imagine a world in which there were a lot of different voice assistants, each specialized in their specific duties and willing to hand questions to each other. That is not so far from what the collaboration between Alexa and Cortana could become.

If these assistants had smaller tasks, they might have been easier to build. Creating an assistant who must do everything seems impossible, but making an assistant who knows how to communicate with just the BBC or your microwave, car or email app seems much more manageable. And we can also land faster on a number of common conventions, vocabularies and grammar & # 39; s to talk to them.

I could also imagine other worlds where AI-enhanced speech interactions are commonplace and are not performed by algorithms controlled by Amazon or Apple or Google. I can imagine those worlds, but it seems that few people try to build them. So although I doubt that the BBC will be successful with Beeb, I am happy that there are people trying to introduce me.

Here are some other great technical stories

Microsoft announces Surface event on October 2 in New York City

Tom Warren predicts that we will see a two-screen device during this event, and I am naturally very excited to see how Microsoft is tackling that. But to tell the truth, I'm probably going to buy a new Surface Pro (preferably with LTE, possibly with an ARM processor?). If you think about it, that could be a scenario exactly why this device must exist with two screens: it is a concept car that brings people like me into the showroom to buy the boring sedan. On the other hand, if the sedan doesn't have a USB-C, I'll get out.

Microsoft has been building a new two-screen device for more than two years, code-named & # 39; Centaurus & # 39 ;, and it is designed as the hero device for a series of new two-screen tablet / laptop hybrids that we expect to be everywhere see 2020.


Your Microsoft telephone service was switched off just a few days after the release of Galaxy Note 10

With a bit more clarity and focus, Microsoft could really achieve something with its Android efforts. It is perhaps a third of the way to having an Android-based Surface phone, which can be fascinating. But you know, the software must work when the stakes are large (or even medium-low, as in this case). If I were Satya Nadella, I would laugh at anyone who suggests making an Android phone out of the room until these types of software errors are completely resolved.

The timing of the outage is particularly unfortunate for Microsoft, because Your Phone is a major part of the company's new partnership with Samsung. The new Galaxy Note 10 comes with a unique version of your phone, called "Link to PC", built into the handset that went on sale last week.

Nintendo Switch Lite hands-on: a budget handheld with a premium look

Chaim Gartenberg spent some time with the Switch Lite – be sure to watch the video. For $ 199 this thing is going to sell like hotcakes. Maybe better, to be honest. I no longer know that hotcakes are such a big problem. In any case, do not assume that this cannot do all the things that a full-sized switch can do and do not sell well.

GlobalFoundries sues TSMC, wants to ban US imports for Apple and Nvidia chips


TSMC is the most important technology company that you (probably) have never heard of. There is no real way to know if this lawsuit is going anywhere. But if you do, you'll soon hear more about TSMC, because there is a 100 percent guarantee that the chips it makes are in the things you own.

Although the legal battle is still at an early stage, case law in favor of GlobalFoundries can have major implications for consumer technology: together with Apple, Google and Nvidia, GF also calls on companies such as Asus, Broadcom, Cisco, HiSense, Lenovo, MediaTek , Motorola, OnePlus, Qualcomm and TCL who also rely on TSMC chips for their hardware as part of the lawsuits.

Apple puts "Walkie Talkie" iPhone project on hold – The information

It is very difficult to read this nice scoop from Aaron Tilley on The information and not daydream for the next four hours about the possibility (and dangers) of a full mesh network that makes the need for giant internet providers superfluous.

Apple worked with Intel on the technology that would allow people to send messages from their iPhones directly to other iPhones via long-distance radio waves that bypass mobile networks, said two people familiar with the project. The technology would have functioned as a walkie-talkie for text messages, giving people the ability to communicate in areas not served by wireless providers.

Fairphone updates its ethical smartphone for 2019

After all the foofaraw about modular phones a few years ago (Project Ara? More like Project Wah-Wah!), I am very happy that the Fairphone keeps the dream alive. That is why modularity is really important: sustainability and less impact on the environment. Plus, replaceable batteries!


Dear Jeff Bezos: the Fire Phone has been bombed, but you could invest in this thing (please do not buy it) and give it the capital not only to offer this phone, but also to offer higher quality components to gearboxes in to pull like me.

Yelp now offers personalized results based on your diet and lifestyle

Yelp lets you tell what you like and recommend things in that zone. Which, certainly okay. But maybe you don't use it? It is not about data protection. (Maybe it should be, I don't know.) It's a thing about filter bubbles. You already select from whom you hear on social media and your choices are enhanced by algorithms. I suggest that Yelp, which sends your IRL to local businesses, should not be another place where you limit yourself with a filter bubble. Go ahead and try weird food, I say. Anyway, Dami Lee has a good story about the updates:

"This isn't just about an algorithm that tries to listen to what you've done and makes biased decisions about who you are," Akhil Ramesh, head of Yelp's consumer product, told The Verge. "What we have built through personalization is an experience that gives the user control."

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga from Lenovo get the latest 10th generation of chips from Intel

I'm happy to see that the new chips from Intel hit more laptops, and I hope some of these are available for journalists to poke at the IFA conference. But I have to admit that I am a little unaware that the X1 Yoga – my personal favorite ThinkPad – is not the & # 39; Athena & # 39; which reportedly guarantees nine hours of battery life. These laptops are also pricey!


How the composer of Deadpool and Mad Max changes the way we score films

Dani Deahl profiles for Tom Holkenborg for our Future of music series. His process for making film scores sounds intense, but frankly, everything that results in the following sentences is great in my book:

Of course he also works with orchestras, but he is not bound by their traditional sound. He can also, as he describes the sounds of Deadpool, "Frankie goes to Hollywood and Miami Vice, but then on acid."

The cheaper water meter from Belkin can detect usage and leaks anywhere in the house

Growing up in Minnesota, leaving your home for more than 12 hours in January was like gambling with your entire financial future. It was like throwing the dice that your oven would continue to work so that your pipes do not freeze and burst and destroy your entire house. You would never know if the gamble paid off until you got home. What I am saying is that this gadget looks neat and I would like one if I lived in the frozen north.

- Advertisement -