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Galaxy Buds: Samsung S10’s hearable companion

Samsung puts artificial intelligence into the size of an olive with its latest “truly wireless” earphones, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Until now, Apple’s AirPods have been the only commercially successful artificially-intelligent (AI) wireless earphones. The appeal of the AirPods diminishes for those who don’t like the design and disappears for non-iOS users. Samsung’s Galaxy Buds released at Samsung’s Unpacked event this week are very likely to be next commercially successful AI hearable technology, and answers directly to a market of minimalists and Android users.

The AI earphones are the successor to the less-intelligent Gear IconX. The IconX received a luke-warm reception, and was criticised for having a low capacity charging case compared to Apple’s AirPods.

The Galaxy Buds fix a lot of the IconX’s issues. “We’ve listened to customer feedback,” said Sung Yoon, CEO of Samsung Africa. “All the criticism from the previous generations has been used to construct a product that our consumers want. Ultimately, our customers always come first.”

A built-in processor allows these earphones to do some voice processing directly from the buds, eliminating on-smartphone voice processing. Currently, it’s being used for Bixby commands, which allows the virtual assistant to perform functions like controlling music or adjusting ambient sound settings. 

The design from IconX to the Galaxy Buds hasn’t changed much, with the exception of being 30% smaller than the previous generation. They are round, touch-controlled units that have a silicone “fin”, which ensures that it locks against the cartilage of the ear. Standard in-ear soft silicone fits into the ear. Overall, the design is very minimalist while staying in one’s ear.

Samsung calls these earphones “truly wireless” because the included charging case can charge wirelessly. What’s even better is that they can charge directly off the back of a Galaxy S10. When idle at a table, one enables reverse charge mode, puts the S10 on its face, and places the case on the back to charge, providing a truly wireless experience.

For faster charging, it houses a USB-C port, which happens to be the S10’s charger as well. so one only needs to carry around one charger. Convenience is key.

The earphones offer around 6 hours of playback, with an additional 7 hours when charged with the case. 

The speakers use AKG sound, produced by Harman. AKG’s audio is also included in other Samsung products, including the Galaxy S10. 

The earphones and matching cases will be available in white, black, and canary yellow on 8 March.

Click here to read the specs of the Galaxy Buds.

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TikTok looks for SA talent

The fast-rising short-video platform has launched a #PickMe campaign to discover local stars.

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TikTok, which claims to be the world’s leading destination for short-form videos, launches its first PickMe campaign, an effort to discover creative talents and provide a stage to express themselves in South Africa. Starting March 1, TikTok kicked off a month-long search through participants’ 15-second videos under hashtag #PickMe.

TikTok says it is committed to investing in South Africa and discovering the local talents. The PickMe campaign is supported by its local partners like Huawei, MTV Base and Digify Africa.

Local stars, including comedian and singer Lasizwe and singer Nadia Jaftha, have joined the campaign and called for users to show their talents on TikTok.

There are 5 categories of video shooting in the campaign, namely dance, acting, comedy, singing and cosmetics. Participants need to shoot a 15-second video using TikTok using #PickMe and tag @tiktok_africa to participate in the challenge. The finalists will be selected based on their video performance. The most popular and talented participants will have the chance to win prizes like Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphones, a day at MTV Base, and a once-off-presenter opportunity and attendance at an intensive video production workshop delivered by Digify Africa.

“TikTok has definitely evolved into something that everyone loves and uses. It’s given creators a space to create more unique content and also help the creator gain a whole new kind of fan base, ” says Preven Reddy, Imbewu The Seed TV-star and Megazone radio host who is also a TikTok user.

Says TikTok video creator Mihlali Nxanga: “As a young South African working towards being in the entertainment industry, TikTok has given me the platform to grow my following tremendously. Within 6 months, my fan base has grown by a whopping 90 000, and not only from South Africa, but the whole world. For me, TikTok is not just a content platform, it is a global community.”

The campaign will wrap up on March 31. The list of the finalist will be announced in the app and on official Instagram @tiktok_southafrica. For more information, please visit the TikTok app.

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Rugby fan experience transformed by digital platform

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The South African Rugby Federation has embraced digitalisation as a key enabler of its strategic aspirations. It has worked with Accenture to transform fan engagement for Springbok supporters with the launch of a digital fan platform.

“Digital technology and social media have transformed how modern fans watch, support and engage with their favourite teams,” says SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux. “To maintain our relevance amid this new market dynamic, and grow our fan base, we’ve acknowledged the vital need to digitally transform our organisation.”

Wayne Hull, managing director for Accenture Digital in Africa, says: “SA Rugby’s ambition to pivot to a more fan-centric strategy requires digital design, content, platforms and insights because modern consumers, including loyal Springbok supporters, engage predominantly via mobile digital channels and expect hyper-personalised experiences.”

Accenture Digital’s development process started with quantitative and qualitative research, which informed the user experience (UX) design guidelines and content strategy for the digital fan engagement platform.

“To know what fans want, we needed to understand the fans themselves,” says Hull. “The Accenture Digital team mined the research data and identified multiple fan ‘personas’, which all have different content consumption, platform functionality and engagement preferences.”

The platform development team focused on three critical elements to meet these requirements – the customer experience (CX), the engagement engine and cloud-based deployment.

“To deliver a memorable and engaging CX, Accenture Digital leveraged leading digital experience software,” says Hull. “The result is a fully integrated and responsive platform that creates seamless, personalised digital fan experiences across SA Rugby’s content, commerce and digital marketing initiatives in a manner that makes fans feel recognised and connected to the players and the game.”

The new platform will serve as the first point of call for any rugby fan who wants to get their data fix with exclusive statistics, analytics and insights. The platform’s content style will include more visual elements – videos and images – with more concise articles that are easier to digest, in accordance with evolving content consumption preferences on mobile screens. This will complement long-form thought leadership and insight pieces. 

In addition, fans will enjoy exclusive access to player-related content, such as behind-the-scenes footage and game and training performance stats. SA Rugby will also benefit from the ability to track comments and mentions via the Sitecore analytics platform Accenture Digital implemented, to respond and engage in the conversations Springbok fans are having on social media about the game, the teams or the players.

To do this, SA Rugby required a consolidated view of the customer. However, data resided in disparate sites across ticketing providers and SA Rugby’s e-commerce and online magazine databases. This information will be consolidated into the CRM system, with multiple integration points available to leverage this data.

The CRM system’s functionality will help to reveal insights such as fan communication preferences and their likes and dislikes, which will place hyper-relevance at the core of SA Rugby’s fan experience and engagement strategy.

 The final element in the platform development was cloud deployment, which allows fans to access the platform from any device that has an internet connection. The platform is hosted within the Microsoft Azure environment, which is stable, secure and fully redundant. It gives SA Rugby the flexibility to manage the platform themselves, with the option to integrate or scale additional functionality down the line.

Based on the outcome, Hull believes that Accenture Digital has successfully reimagined, built and delivered a world-class, modern and mobile-friendly digital fan platform that creates a fun, immersive and engaging experience for fans.

“It’s a major step towards helping SA Rugby realise its ambition to become a fan-centric, forward-looking and nimble organisation, and we look forward to building and developing the platform further with the team as their digital fan engagement requirements evolve,” says Hull

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