Google Play audiobooks get Smart Resume, bookmarks and Assistant routines support

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Google Play Audiobooks is getting a major update today that adds a number of new features to the service that were sorely missing when it launched earlier this year. None of these are groundbreaking, but they’ll help Google reach feature parity with some of its competitors while injecting a bit of its proprietary smarts into the process, too.

Maybe the most useful new feature in today’s release is Smart Resume. Instead of picking up in the middle of a sentence or even word when your audiobook playback gets interrupted (maybe by Google Maps giving you directions or a friendly passerby who is asking for directions while you are clearly listening to an audiobook). Depending on the length of the interruption, this new feature will smartly rewind to the beginning of the word or sentence to help you stay in the flow.

Also new in this update are the ability to set bookmarks so you can easily go back to your favorite part of a book and the ability to speed up the audio — or slow it down so you can really savor your favorite passage in Ulysses. Both of these features were definitely missing in the first release.

If you’re a regular Google Assistant user and are already making use of the recently launched Routines feature, you’ll be happy to hear that you can now choose to continue your audiobooks when you wake up or start your commute.

And if you have family that’s spread around the world, you’ll be happy to hear that support for Google’s Family Library, which allows you to share Google Play purchases like apps, games, movies, e-books and audiobooks, is now rolling out in 13 new countries: Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Chile, Mexico, Japan (audiobooks only) and South Africa.

All of these new features are now available on iOS and Android.

 

Mobile – TechCrunch

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Fetch launches world’s first autonomous AI smart ledger

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Fetch.AI has announced the launch of what it claims is the world’s first adaptive, self-organising smart ledger technology for decentralised transactions.

Fetch is described as a next-generation protocol that enables autonomous economic agents (AEAs) to perform proactive economic activities. The technology allows AIs on both sides of an economic transaction to interface with each other, said the company in an announcement today.

In other words, the system enables AIs to buy and sell digital assets autonomously, from or to another AI, with contracts, payments, and execution all handled automatically.

The company says that corporations can interface their closed, internal networks with the Fetch network without exposing their proprietary IP.

According to the company, Fetch’s distributed ledger system also generates tokens that can be exchanged for utility value on the network, which provides an incentive for operating a node. In this sense, the system includes concepts ported over from cryptocurrency mining.

So how does it all work?

Removing the blocks from the chain

Fetch combines artificial intelligence, machine learning, and distributed ledger technologies to deliver what the company describes as a self-organising framework.

The underlying smart ledger combines elements of blockchain and directed acyclic graph technologies with built-in AI, a consensus mechanism, and a data architecture that “can support millions of agents transacting together”.

Together, the technologies can scale to millions of transactions per second at near zero cost, claimed the company today.

The new consensus mechanism is called Useful Proof of Work. Unlike traditional blockchains, the Proof of Work computations needed to secure the network aren’t abstract, according to Fetch. Instead, they are “redeployed to perform the machine learning tasks that give the ledger its intelligence”.

Using this new system, developers can build autonomous agents that might act on consumers’ or companies’ behalf, and which can be designed to address “almost any task”.

Who’s onboard?

Founded in 2016 and operating in stealth mode until today, the Fetch team includes original pioneers from DeepMind, the AI company subsequently acquired by Google, as well as economics and cybersecurity professors from Cambridge and Sheffield universities.

CTO Toby Simpson – who was part of the initial DeepMind team – said, “Autonomous economic agents are set to revolutionise commerce. They’re digital entities that can transact independently of human intervention and can represent people, machines, or themselves.

“Imagine a world that connects anything to anything, and everything to everything, where data, services, and information get up on their own two feet and deliver themselves with incredible precision.

“The Fetch digital world acts as the ultimate value exchange dating agency: each AI agent sees a space optimised in real time just for them, where the important things are right there.

“Autonomous agents can work together, or alone, to build solutions to complex problems by joining a disparate array of potentially useful data and services into one seamless experience.” 

Economic inefficiency

According to co-founder and CEO Humayun Sheikh – who was a founding investor in DeepMind – this radical approach is necessary to address what he called the “inefficiency inherent in today’s economy”.

“Today’s centralised systems and marketplaces result in silos and there isn’t a means to enable complex economic activity,” he said.

“For the first time, Fetch delivers a self-organising digital world that enables the discoverability of data for decision-making, the trading of excess capacity, energy, and computation, or the storage, transfer, and transportation of digital or physical assets.

“When you have  a decentralised collective intelligence and AI operating in the right environment, which our open network provides, an autonomous system like Fetch can solve problems before they even arise.”

The company provides a number of working examples. In the travel sector, Fetch says it is working to reduce the burden of planning complex journeys by using expert autonomous agents to organise trips, predict missed connections, and dynamically reroute journeys, rearrange travel plans, and rebook reservations without intervention.

In the energy sector, Fetch said it is working to deliver the most effective energy solutions to households without the friction of switching suppliers, potentially analysing each appliance’s unique energy demands.

And in the supply chain, Fetch says it is working to help the trillion-dollar steel sector to self-manage and optimise its supply chain “autonomously and collaboratively”, from raw material to finished product, including stock management, transport, financing, and insurance.

Jamie Burke, CEO of VC firm Outlier Ventures explained why he has been backing Fetch since 2016: “For the first time we can genuinely say we have not smart contracts, but instead a smart ledger.

“To date, blockchains haven’t been capable of even rudimentary intelligence and anyone wanting to use today’s dumb ledgers for anything complex, dynamic or predictive has been left severely wanting.” 

Fetch plans to provide code on GitHub and announce a range of corporate partnerships over the coming months. Fetch will be providing a comprehensive SDK allowing the development of agents in languages such as C++ and Python, as well as a set of frameworks to allow Web developers to design, configure, and author agents.

Internet of Business says

A fascinating and innovative technology, developed by an impressive team. It’s early days in this new launch, of course, and we plan to bring you deeper analysis and an interview with the Fetch team shortly.

In the meantime, questions must arise around transparency, antitrust concerns, distributed resources, and the risk of such a system automating unorthodox activities. We hope to bring you answers to those questions soon. CM

Read more: Fintech firm launches blockchain platform for legal contracts

Read more: Blockchain: Lose the block and chain to be useful, Capacilon MD | Q&A

Read more: Blockchain: “not solution to 90 percent of problems”, warns expert

Read more: IoT 101: How blockchain transforms manufacturing, supply chains

Read more: Bitcoin blockchain contains porn, say researchers. Not news, say coders

The post Fetch launches world’s first autonomous AI smart ledger appeared first on Internet of Business.

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Google Play improves audiobook listening experience, including Smart Resume and speed controls

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Audiobooks have only been available on Google Play for barely two months, but Google is already working hard on improving the experience. In a blog post today, Google revealed a few of the new features and improvements it has been adding to make it even more enjoyable to listen to an audiobook with Google Play, whether on the app or through Google Assistant.

With ‘Smart Resume,’ playback will now intelligently resume a few moments before where an audiobook was paused.

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Google Play improves audiobook listening experience, including Smart Resume and speed controls was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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Apple supplier Foxconn buys Belkin for $866M in case to carve out its smart home business

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Foxconn Interconnect Technology Limited (FIT), a company most famous for being a supplier of Apple’s smartphones announced it has bought US consumer electronics maker Belkin International for $ 866M.

Belkin F7U014 wireless charging pad

Belkin is a maker of consumer electronics products including wireless chargers, home automation, and intelligent water solutions. Its three core brands are Belkin, Linksys and, WeMo. FIT expects to leverage Belkin’s sales networks, technology and production capabilities, thus carving out its ‘smart home’ business by acquiring Belkin as well as its Linksys and Wemo businesses.

The acquisition was framed as a merger between FIT and Belkin leaving Chet Pipkin, CEO and founder, Belkin International at the helm of Belkin with additional responsibilities as part of FIT’s management team. “FIT is excited to acquire Belkin and its capabilities in the premium consumer products space,” Integrating Belkin’s best-in-class capabilities and solutions into FIT, we expect to enrich our portfolio of premium consumer products and accelerate our penetration into the smart home,” said Sidney Lu, CEO, FIT.

The merger announcement comes on the heels of President Trump’s blockage of Broadcom’s bid to acquire Qualcomm. “The FIT-Belkin merger is subject to approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States,” reports Financial Times.

As opposed to the current trend of hardware startups raising millions in several rounds of outside investments, Belkin only raised a private equity round in 2002 led by Summit partners. Neither it acquired any companies during its growth journey to become a multi-million enterprise.

On the contrary, Apple supplier Foxconn previously bought several companies to grow beyond smartphone market. It bought Japan-based Sharp Corporation, a manufacturer and, a seller of electric telecommunication, electric and electronic equipment for $ 3.8B in Mar 2016.

FIT-Belkin merger marks the second high-profile acquisition deal of 2018 as Google announced last month its acquisition of Xively from LogMeIn for $ 50M.


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Smart Homes: The Power, the Pleasure and the Pain, Part 2

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Smart homes are here. Although not every home in the U.S. is tricked out with the latest technologies, they’re no longer a rarity. For example, a hefty 41 percent of the people who responded to an online survey conducted last year said they already owned smart home devices. Sales of smart refrigerators and washing machines more than doubled in 2017. Meanwhile, shipments of voice-controlled devices such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers were 159 percent higher in 2017 than in 2016.
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iWork apps updated with Apple Pencil support, book creation, Smart Annotations & much more

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Apple’s iWork productivity apps for iOS and macOS—Pages, Numbers and Keynote—were updated Tuesday morning with a bunch of really cool, compelling new features, as promised…. Read the rest of this post here


iWork apps updated with Apple Pencil support, book creation, Smart Annotations & much more” is an article by iDownloadBlog.com.
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Facebook delays smart speaker as privacy scandal grows

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Embroiled in controversy, Facebook has delayed the release of its smart speaker. Caught leaking data on millions of its users, the company apparently decided this would be the wrong time to introduce a product designed to gather even more such information. Facebook scrapped its plan to launch a competitor for Apple’s HomePod and Amazon’s Echo […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)

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Smart Homes: The Power, the Pleasure and the Pain

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

You’ve seen the ad: A family is vacationing out of town and the parents suddenly wonder if the house is locked up properly. They use their smartphone to remotely activate the smart locks and security system. Or this one: Someone rings the doorbell or merely approaches a home, and the homeowner uses a smartphone to speak through the video doorbell system, even when not at home, perhaps bewildering the visitor — or potential intruder — who can’t tell where the voice is coming from. This picture has a dark side, though.
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Facebook delays smart speaker reveal due to heightened privacy concerns

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Facebook has decided to delay the unveiling of a new line of smart speakers “in part because the public is currently so outraged about the social network’s data-privacy practices,” sources tell Bloomberg. The home devices were apparently planned to debut at Facebook’s developer conference in May, well ahead of their scheduled fall release date.

News of the decision to delay closely follows the breaking of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which it was found that that company gathered and stored the personal data of some 50 million Facebook users without their consent.

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Facebook to Delay Smart Speaker Unveiling Amid User Data Scandal

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Facebook has chosen not to unveil its latest smart connected devices at the company’s F8 developer conference in May, in part because of the ongoing data-privacy scandal that has engulfed the social network, according to people familiar with the matter.

Bloomberg reports that Facebook’s new home products, which include a video-capable smart speaker featuring the company’s own digital assistant, are now being held back from public view, pending a deeper review into the devices’ processing of user data. Although the hardware wasn’t expected to launch until the fall, Facebook had planned to preview the devices at its annual developer summit, according to the paper’s sources.

The devices are part of Facebook’s plan to become more intimately involved with users’ everyday social lives, using artificial intelligence — following a path forged by Amazon.com Inc. and its Echo in-home smart speakers. As concerns escalate about Facebook’s collection and use of personal data, now may be the wrong time to ask consumers to trust it with even more information by placing a connected device in their homes. A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment.

In the last few weeks, Facebook has come under increasing scrutiny over its user data practices, after reports emerged that political advertising firm Cambridge Analytica procured information on 50 million social network users without seeking permission.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to testify in front of Congress on privacy in the coming weeks, but the chief executive has so far refused a British request to appear before a parliamentary committee and answer questions about the social network’s involvement in data misuse.

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