PTJ 192 News: Someone to Watch Over Me

Another developers’ conference has come and gone as Google wrapped up its 2016 I/O conference last week — so let’s circle back to the highlights!

As expected, Android N got a further reveal from the version developers have been playing around with for the past couple months.  Google even invites Android fans to help choose the final name of the software by asking for snack ideas that start with the letter N and it set up a website for submissions. Android N will also support a new virtual reality platform coming out this fall called Daydream.

googlehomeAlso in the announcement pile: The company’s personal data-hoovering predictive helper program Google Now looks like it could be morphing into: Google Assistant (or as some would have it, just Google). No matter the name, it’s artificial- intelligence software that responds to natural language questions. Google also announced its Google Home smart speaker, clearly a rival to Amazon Alexa. As you might have guessed, Google Home is powered by . . . the new Google Assistant.

The Google Assistant shows up in the company’s new Allo messaging app, too. There’s also a new video-chat app called Duo, and both new apps are coming for Android and iOS. Android Wear 2.0 for smartwatches and other wearables also got a preview and the company introduced Android Instant Apps which can run off the web and save you the trouble of installing them on your device. Also, the Google Play store is coming to Chromebook laptops and the company updated I/O attendees on its Project Tango .

Facebook, which has gotten into live videostreams in a big way the past few months, updated that platform this week to allow its broadcasters to maintain continuous live streams, so hello more puppy and baby goat cams. As The Verge site points out, this puts Facebook in direct competition with YouTube. And also in Facebook Live news, the company told a reporter over at TechCrunch that it plans to over the audience engagement meter from a live stream on the recorded version.

chewbacca-mom-get-the-look-ftrIt’s not all Chewbacca Moms and kitten cams in Facebookland, however. The company is still smarting over the charges of bias against conservatives in its Trending News Topics content, responded with a letter to Senator John Thune after a meeting last week.  Facebook’s General Counsel Colin Stretch addressed the matter in  blog post as well. (And for those of you still suspicious about algorithms, check out the “Machine Bias” story put up on the Pro Publica this week.)

As predicted, Twitter is pretty much going to give you all 140 characters to use for the text of your Tweet. Spotify is also giving a little back to its users in the form of an upgraded family plan that lets up to six family members enjoy the premium service, all for $14.99 a month. The new plan is available to Spotify users around the globe except, as an asterisk on the announcement indicated, *Excluding Canada. Do not be mean to Canada, Spotify.

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Good and bad news for Microsoft this week. On the good side, the company announced it has awarded Affordable Access Initiative grants to 12 businesses to help them scale their products to increase affordable Internet access in worldwide communities. But on the bad-news side of the fence, a new report from the Gartner research firm concerning global smartphone sales for the first quarter of 2016 shows that Windows Phone sales have dipped below one percent. Some tech blogs already pronounced Windows Phone dead back in January and the sales numbers here seem to back that up.

After nearly 20 years, Blizzard Entertainment has moved past games based on Diablo, Warcraft and Starcraft and has released an all-new game called Overwatch for the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Early reviews for the game note that it moves away from having players just kill the hell out of each other to more team-based competition and gamers can play one of 21 different characters. The pre-fab characters feature a mix of multiethnic, multispecies male and female characters, all with unique abilities and all out to restore peace to a war-torn world. That’s a skill that could come in handy these days.

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And finally, summer is unofficially here as of this weekend and with it, summer movies. While we’ll discuss the geekworthy upcoming releases in the next segment, Netflix has announced that its refreshed its film catalog just in time for the start of the lazy hazy slacking season.

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