With his personal assistant on leave, LUCKY RADEBE, pens an open letter to Bixby, Samsung’s virtual personal assistant which learns your preferences and speaking habits over time, making it smarter each time it used.
With my organised Personal Assistant (PA) on leave and my partner on a well-deserved holiday, the release of the Samsung Galaxy Note8 couldn’t have come at a better time, as I try to balance work and home life without my trusted support system. Not only does my new phablet enable me to speak, ask questions and make requests from you, Bixby, but as your deep learning technology continues to improve over time and you recognise my preferences and manner of speaking, so does my appreciation for your genius.
Take this morning for instance. My alarm went off at 5am and I was tempted to press the snooze button but you reminded me that today I had to get the children ready for school and that we needed to leave 45 minutes earlier to get them there on time. This helped me avoid running late and possibly receiving a scornful letter from the headmaster. By simply asking you what the weather was like today before leaving the house, we were prepared and dressed for the day’s weather.
While stepping out of the house, my teenagers told me that they hadn’t prepared lunches for themselves, but with a simple ‘Hi Bixby, find me the shortest route to school with a convenience shop en route to grab lunch’, a catastrophe was averted.
Having taken the least congested back routes and having dropped the children at school, it was you, Bixby that reminded me of my 9am meeting with the Managing Director and Vice President of my company. In preparation, I said ‘Bixby, open my emails, go to the last email sent by my PA with background information for the meeting’. I then asked you to read the documents back to me while I was driving. After gathering my thoughts, I dictated my response to you to type in Samsung Notes for me to reference as speaking points during my meeting. This was all in good time to receive an international call from my partner, who was pleased to find out that all was well and subtly made mention that the children had ballet and gymnastic classes at 3pm. After asking you, Bixby, to check my schedule for the day and realising I had an overlap of commitments, I asked you to help me pre-order an Uber for my daughters. You texted them the details, which allowed me enough time to dash off to my meeting.
For the next few hours, I had back-to-back meetings with clients and suppliers and enjoyed my perfectly productive mobile office. I conducted my business and even managed to reschedule my daughter’s tennis training for tomorrow and reserved time in my calendar so no one at work could schedule a meeting, preventing me from going with her. Amazingly, without the normal distractions of the office, I was more productive with both my work and dad tasks.
The day was shaping up well, but there was still one last hurdle to cross, dinner! But even that was no challenge for you. While I was chopping and mixing, making reference to the beef lasagne recipe which you pulled for me off the internet, I simply said, ‘Hey Bixby, set a timer for 20 minutes’ before I put the dish into the oven. 20 minutes later, you alerted me that the lasagne was ready – and for a change, nothing was burnt.
My partner, my PA and now you, Bixby, make a great team, empowering me to better manage my work and personal life. I’ll soon discover how new innovations from Samsung will further empower me and help me manage this blended life, but I can tell you, Bixby, you did an excellent job!
Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart
Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.
As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page
KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching.
The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter.
The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style.
The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button.
The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on.
In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode.
Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.
Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.
Find them on Kickstarter here.
Taxify enters Google Maps
A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.
People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.
Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.
Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.
If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.
This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.
“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.
Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.