Apple buys AI voice startup that helps companies build Alexa and Google Assistant apps

Apple has acquired a San Francisco-based artificial intelligence startup called PullString that specializes in helping companies build conversational voice apps, according to a report from Axios. Pullstring was founded back in 2011 by former Pixar employees — its CEO, Oren Jacob, is Pixar’s former chief technology officer. Up until now, PullString was most well known within the tech industry as the software backbone behind voice systems for popular toys, like Mattell’s talking Hello Barbie doll. It’s not clear what Apple will be getting out of the deal, which is said…

Nest is locking users out of their accounts if it thinks their passwords have been breached

Nest, the smart home company owned by Google, is proactively locking people out of their accounts if it believes their passwords have been compromised. The company began sending out emails to affected users last night. If you’ve been affected, you’ll need to tell your Nest app to forget your current password and enter a new one. The standard response to this type of breach, which Nest recently used, following reports of strangers hijacking people’s security cameras, is to email any users who are affected when a breach has occurred and…

Pressure mounts on Facebook and Google to stop anti-vax conspiracy theories

As a measles outbreak continues to spread in Washington state, Facebook is “exploring additional measures” to fight false anti-vaccine content on the platform, Bloomberg reports. The news comes on the heels of criticism from Representative Adam Schiff, who sent Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg a letter about vaccine misinformation on Facebook and Instagram today. In the letter, first reported by Bloomberg’s Sarah Frier, Schiff voiced concerns that both Facebook and Instagram serve up misleading, fear-mongering content about vaccines, which have been shown to be safe, effective, and critical for public health.…

Chinese phones now account for a third of the European market, with Huawei leading the way

The latest figures from market analysts Canalys have quantified a trend that many of us might have sensed in 2018: the rise of the Chinese phone in Europe. The year saw huge flagship launch events in Paris hosted by Huawei and Oppo, accompanied by Xiaomi’s gradual expansion into more countries across the continent and OnePlus’ enduring popularity. Canalys says that 32 percent, or roughly one-third, of smartphone shipments in Europe in 2018 were from Chinese manufacturers, with Huawei taking the lion’s share of that with more than 23 percent of…

Google adds haptic feedback to its iOS keyboard

Google is adding haptic feedback to its iOS keyboard today. Version 1.40 of Google’s Gboard, spotted by 9to5Google, includes an option to turn haptic feedback on for recent iPhones dating back to the iPhone 7. It’s a subtle vibration for each key press, and it’s something that Apple doesn’t offer with its own built-in iOS keyboard. Most third-party keyboards also don’t offer haptic feedback for key presses, and the ones that do often cost money. Every letter press, symbol, and number provides a tiny vibration in Google’s Gboard update, and…

Phone makers aren’t even trying to keep their secrets secret anymore

The Samsung Galaxy S10 will be launched at Samsung’s February 20th event this year, and the first preorders will be delivered by March 8th. I can tell you these dates straight up, without any hedging or caveating, because they’re official, courtesy of Samsung’s newly published reservation page for the new phone. On that page, the company throws up a white flag of resignation, admitting that “we know you know what is coming.” Who is Samsung capitulating to? Industrious leakers like evleaks and Roland Quandt, who, year after year, preempt flagship…

The LG G8 has a vibrating OLED screen for a speaker

LG is continuing its dripfeed of pre-announcement G8 ThinQ announcements today with some news on the phone’s audio capabilities. The phone uses the same “Crystal Sound OLED” branding that LG has used on some of its TVs before; this means that the entire display will vibrate to work as a speaker, which was previously rumored. The news also confirms that the G8 will be the first flagship G-series phone not to use an LCD. The G8 still has a bottom-facing speaker for louder use cases like speakerphone calls, and LG…

Google’s 2019 expansion plans will put offices in 24 out of 50 states

Google CEO Sundar Pichai today announced that the company will expand its US footprint into several new states, including Nebraska, Nevada, and Oklahoma. The company plans to build new offices and data centers across the country, citing more than 10,000 construction jobs in those areas and total investments of more than $13 billion. In 2018, the company invested $9 billion in facility expansions. “With this new investment, Google will now have a home in 24 total states, including data centers in 13 communities,” Pichai wrote in a blog post. “2019…

Google reportedly launching Pixel 3 Lite and Pixel Watch later this year

What’s next for Google’s Pixel range? A non-premium handset and a smartwatch, says a recent report from Nikkei Asian Review. The Japanese business title claims that Google is planning an “aggressive push into hardware” in 2019, hoping to capitalize on Apple’s wobbly expansion into developing markets with a non-premium Pixel phone and then update its other offerings. This isn’t unexpected. We’ve already seen quite a few photo and video leaks of the Pixel 3 Lite, which rumors say sports a 5.6-inch IPS display, 4GB of RAM, 32GB storage, plastic case,…

Google’s Android Things is not much of a thing anymore

Google may not be throwing in the towel on Android Things, but it’s at least neatly folding the towel and setting it on the ground. In a blog post today, Google said that it’s refocusing Android Things — its Android-based platform for smart devices — exclusively on smart speakers and smart displays. That’s a much narrower scope than the all-encompassing Internet of Things platform that Google had initially dreamed up. When Android Things was first announced in December 2016, Google envisioned it as an operating system that would let developers…

This Chrome extension lets you learn a new language by watching Netflix

Learning a new language through immersion doesn’t mean you have to pack your bags and move to Europe for three months. Now, you just need to turn on Netflix. Language Learning with Netflix is a Chrome extension that lets you watch shows with two subtitles on at the same time so you can visually pair translations with dialogue and learn some new vocabulary in the process. It’s a clever service that makes use of Netflix’s massive catalog and all of the major languages in which it already offers subtitles, including…

Huawei doesn’t need nationalism to beat Apple in China

Huawei’s reputation in the US took a serious battering in 2018, a year bookended by major carriers shelving high-profile phone launches and the arrest of the company’s chief financial officer on fraud charges. Last week, however, a report and survey from the Financial Times suggested that the external controversies could actually be helping Huawei in its domestic market. The FT report claims that Huawei’s struggles are “leading to a surge in the brand’s popularity among Chinese consumers and a sharp rise in the sales of its smartphones,” citing a 33-percent…

Right-clicking in Gmail is about to get a whole lot more useful

Google is finally addressing one of the more annoying quirks of Gmail’s web interface by overhauling the right-click menu, adding a lot more options in the pop-up list that should make it way more useful. As updates go, it’s a pretty simple one: once the rollout hits your account, you’ll be presented with the above list of options when you right-click on an email, adding options to reply, forward, label, move, mute, and snooze emails — options that honestly should have been there for a long time. Compare that to…

Google is poaching Qualcomm and Intel engineers for its new chip design team

Google is expanding its efforts to design its own smartphone and data center chips by building a new team of engineers dedicated to the project in Bengaluru, an up-and-coming semiconductor site in the capital of the south Indian state of Karnataka, according to a report from Reuters. The new team, which Reuters says includes at least 16 engineers and four recruiters and will likely continue to increase in headcount, is the latest sign that the tech industry’s biggest players are trying to rid themselves of reliance on the traditional chip…

Best Buy now sells Google Fi SIM cards

Google Fi is taking a big step into retail today, with Best Buy now selling SIM cards for the MVNO at over 500 of its stores. The Fi SIMs cost $9.99 each at purchase, but you’ll be credited $10 toward your service within a week of activation. Here’s the link where you can check to see if your nearest store is selling them yet. For now, Best Buy is only selling the Talk and Text SIM cards. If you’re looking for data only — for a tablet, perhaps — you’ve…

Google engineer reveals the Pixel 4 will likely have better dual-SIM support

According to comments from a Google engineer on code in the Android Open Source Project, Google is working on a new “2019 Pixel.” Well, duh, of course Google is working on new smartphones for this year. But what’s interesting, as XDA Developers discovered over the weekend, is that the new handset should have better support for dual SIMs. That could mean that the Google Pixel 4 could work better on two different cellular carriers’ networks simultaneously instead of having just one enabled and the other disabled (and forcing you to…

Robot delivery startup Nuro raises nearly $1 billion from SoftBank

Driverless delivery startup Nuro just got a rocket-fueled boost from SoftBank. The company announced Monday that it has raised $940 million in financing from the Japan’s tech company’s Vision Fund, an gigantic sum that will help accelerate Nuro’s mission to put driverless delivery vehicles on the road en masse. It’s also a huge vote of confidence for one of the lesser known startups working on self-driving technology. Formed in 2016 by a pair of ex-Google self-driving engineers, Nuro has set itself apart by focusing on food delivery rather than people…

Google and Microsoft warn investors that bad AI could harm their brand

For companies like Google and Microsoft, artificial intelligence is a huge part of their future, offering ways to enhance existing products and create whole new revenue streams. But, as revealed by recent financial filings, both firms also acknowledge that AI — particularly biased AI that makes bad decisions — could potentially harm their brands and businesses. These disclosures, spotted by Wired, were made in the companies’ 10-K forms. These are standardized documents that firms are legally required to file every year, giving investors a broad overview of their business and…

Google wants to bring encryption to all with Adiantum

Google has a new form of encryption called Adiantum that’s designed to bring storage encryption to cheaper Android devices without impacting performance. Currently, devices such as low-powered Android Go smartphones, smart watches, and TVs fall below Google’s performance requirements for encryption. With Adiantum, Google says that every Android device can be encrypted, meaning privacy won’t just be for those who can afford it. Encryption is a vital defense against anyone, whether it’s criminals or snooping authorities, who want to access your personal information without your consent. Adiantum is designed to…

Google is letting some users test its AR navigation feature for Google Maps

At last year’s I/O developer’s conference, Google showed off a new augmented reality feature for Google Maps, which would provide people with directions from your phone’s camera in realtime. As my colleague Chaim Gartenberg noted, it’s a bit like what was promised with Google Glass, but without the headset. The Wall Street Journal’s David Pierce got to try out an early version of the feature. He says that while it “isn’t likely to be your primary turn-by-turn option, it’s a huge step in the right direction for Google Maps.” He…

Google is hiring a VP of engineering for wearables, but what does that really mean?

Last night, Android Police caught two new job listings at Google: “Vice President, Hardware Engineering, Wearables” and “Wearables Design Manager, Consumer Hardware.” Given the sorry state of Wear OS smartwatches, everybody has their fingers crossed that this finally means that Google is getting serious about doing something to improve its smartwatch offering — specifically, by making one itself. It’s certainly a reasonable conclusion to jump to. There are lots of clues you could put together that seem to add up to Google working on its own hardware for a smartwatch:…

Mobvoi TicWatch E2 and S2 review: making the best of a bad platform

I’ve been testing a couple nearly identical Wear OS smartwatches: the TicWatch E2 and S2 made by Mobvoi. You probably haven’t heard of it, but Mobvoi is nearly the last company (that isn’t a Fossil subsidiary) still trying to make Wear OS watches. I think Mobvoi has done as good a job as can be done with its devices. If that sounds like faint praise for the TicWatch E2 and S2, that’s because it is. These smartwatches are not that great. They’re thick, slow, and generally frustrating to use for…

Google Chrome is getting official multimedia key support in its next update

Google Chrome is at long last getting official native support for media keys in the upcoming Chrome 73 update, which will allow users to control music and videos that are playing in their browser directly from their keyboards, via ZDNet. There are various applications that allow users to get a similar sort of function, but the new update just bakes it directly into Chrome. Chrome will support play / pause, start, stop, forward, back, volume up, volume down, and mute functions with the update. It will also work when Chrome…

Google Fiber is leaving Louisville in humiliating setback

Google Fiber’s attempt to bring its gigabit internet to the city of Louisville has apparently failed so spectacularly that the company has decided to completely shut down the service and leave town altogether. CNET has a report on the news, which Alphabet’s Access division confirmed in a blog post on Thursday. “We’ll work with our customers and partners to minimize disruption, and we’re committed to doing right by the community, which welcomed us as we tested methods of delivering high-speed internet in new and different ways,” the Fiber team said.…

Chrome is getting a dark mode for Windows 10 and macOS

Google is testing out a new dark mode for its Chrome browser. 9to5Google reports that both macOS and Windows 10 will get dark mode support, and it’s currently in testing in the latest Canary development builds of Chrome. Google’s browser appears to enable dark mode by default, picking up your system settings on macOS and Windows. It’s not entirely clear how Google plans to introduce its dark mode for Chrome. We’ve tested it in the latest Chrome Canary release. On some systems, it respects the system-wide dark mode, and on…

‘Fauxtography’ is now a fact of life

Over the course of the past year, especially as I was reviewing Huawei’s P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro cameras, a portmanteau kept surfacing to the top of my mind: “fauxtography.” It’s a term that’s been used to describe images that are manipulated to factually misrepresent a situation as well as sloppy but innocuous Photoshop chop jobs. To this point, it’s been largely about post-production fakery, whereas the novelty in recent times has been about how good phones have become at doing such things on the fly. The camera system…

LG confirms the G8 ThinQ will have a 3D front camera for face unlock

LG’s next flagship hasn’t been announced yet, but as ever, the company likes to drip-feed nuggets of information about it in the lead-up to the full reveal. Today, we’ve learned that it will indeed be called the G8 ThinQ, and it’ll include a time-of-flight sensor as part of its front-facing camera array. (That likely explains the recent supposed render that showed two cameras in the phone’s display notch.) ToF sensors work by bouncing infrared light off subjects and can be used for 3D object recognition. This allows for secure face…

Google probably won’t pull DWI checkpoints from Waze despite NYPD demand

The New York Police Department has sent a letter to Google demanding that it remove drunk-driving checkpoints from its Waze navigation app, as Streetsblog NYC and CBS New York reported earlier today. In the letter, the NYPD writes that “the posting of such information for public consumption is irresponsible since it only serves to aid impaired and intoxicated drivers to evade checkpoints and encourage reckless driving.” Reached for comment over email, a Google spokesperson responded in a way that makes it clear the NYPD will need to do a bit…

Google’s most powerful Pixelbook is $450 off

Google’s most expensive Pixelbook configuration is currently being discounted by several hundred dollars on Amazon. Normally going for $1,649, this model with a 7th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, 512GB of storage, and 16GB of RAM is down to just $1,192.98 on Amazon, per Chrome Unboxed. The $999 base model went as low as $750 during the holiday period, and the current lowest price is $849.99 on Amazon. So right now, Google’s high-end model is the smarter buy if you’re after a high-end Chromebook. Keep in mind that for this…

Gmail is now blocking 100 million extra spam messages every day with AI

Google has recruited its in-house machine learning framework, TensorFlow, to help train additional spam filters for Gmail users. With the new filters in place as of last month, the company claims Gmail is now blocking an extra 100 million spam messages every day. In the context of Gmail’s 1 billion-plus users, this isn’t necessarily a huge gain — it works out as one extra blocked spam email per 10 users — but Google says Gmail already blocks 99.99 percent of spam, so working out what constitutes that last sliver of…