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CES: Apple surrenders to Smart TVs

Apple made waves at CES as big TV brands announced built-in software, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Every year at the CES expo, the biggest brands in TV technology showcase what they think the latest hardware and software will be in consumers’ living rooms.

Samsung revealed the concept of the modular TV, which is made up of square display panels that can be clipped and unclipped to any shape. LG unveiled a rollable TV, which rolls up like a poster when it’s not being used.

Apart from the physical upgrades, embedded smart TV software is also getting better. These upgrades pose a threat to smart TV boxes, like Roku and Apple TV, as they will become redundant. 

In a strategic move, Apple has opened up its revenue-generating movie service, iTunes Movies, to Samsung as a smart TV app. This will allow consumers to rent or buy movies through Apple’s service without the need for an Apple device.

Apple’s AirPlay 2 streaming platform has also come to major TV brands like Samsung, VIZIO, Sony, and LG. This will allow iOS and macOS users to mirror their devices’ screens on their smart TVs, as well as stream music to their TV speakers without the need for an Apple TV. A select few existing smart TV models from 2018 will receive an update to support AirPlay 2, although no models have been confirmed. 

HomeKit, Apple’s smart home device software, will also feature on VIZIO, Sony, and LG TVs. This will allow users to control their TVs with the Home app on iOS or with Apple’s voice assistant, Siri.

“By adding support for Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, users can play content from their iPhone, iPad and Mac directly to our TVs,” said Bill Baxter, CTO at Vizio, “This will enable controlling the TV through the Home app and Siri.” 

These moves aren’t unusual for Apple, as the company has licensed software on other platforms to expand the audience of its product line. For example, releasing iTunes on Windows didn’t suggest that the company was in trouble and, instead, boosted iPod sales in the early 2000s. 

It does, however, suggest that the company is feeling pressure to keep its services relevant in an ever-changing market.

Click here to see which TV models will support Apple’s software.

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CES: Most useless gadgets

The worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Language tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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