Survey shows growth in podcasts and voice assistants, little change in streaming

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Fable Studio founder Edward Saatchi on designing virtual beings

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Sonos acquires voice assistant startup Snips, potentially to build out on-device voice control

Sonos revealed during its quarterly earnings report that it has acquired voice assistant startup Snips in a $37 million cash deal, Variety reported on Wednesday. Snips, which had been developing dedicated smart device assistants that can operate primarily locally, instead of relying on consistently round-tripping voice data to the cloud, could help Sonos set up […]

The time is right for Apple to buy Sonos

It’s been a busy couple of months for smart speakers – Amazon released a bunch just this week, including updated versions of its existing Echo hardware and a new Echo Studio with premium sound. Sonos also introduced its first portable speaker with Bluetooth support, the Sonos Move, and in August launched its collaboration collection with […]

Is Amazon’s Alexa ready to leave home and become a wearable voice assistant?

Amazon’s device event today played host to a dizzying number of product announcements, of all stripes — but notably, there are three brand new ways to wear Alexa on your body. Amazon clearly wants to give you plenty of options to take Alexa with you when you leave the house, the only place it’s really […]

Apple is turning Siri audio clip review off by default and bringing it in house

The top line news is that Apple is making changes to the way that Siri audio review, or “grading,” works across all of its devices. First, it is making audio review an explicitly opt-in process in an upcoming software update. This will be applicable for every current and future user of Siri. Second, only Apple […]

Facebook’s human-AI blend for audio transcription is now facing privacy scrutiny in Europe

Facebook’s lead privacy regulator in Europe is now asking the company for detailed information about the operation of a voice-to-text feature in Facebook’s Messenger app and how it complies with EU law. Yesterday Bloomberg reported that Facebook uses human contractors to transcribe app users’ audio messages — yet its privacy policy makes no clear mention […]

Amazon’s lead EU data regulator is asking questions about Alexa privacy

Amazon’s lead data regulator in Europe, Luxembourg’s National Commission for Data Protection, has raised privacy concerns about its use of manual human reviews of Alexa AI voice assistant recordings. A spokesman for the regulator confirmed in an email to TechCrunch it is discussing the matter with Amazon, adding: “At this stage, we cannot comment further […]

Google’s new version of Android Auto focuses on Assistant

Google is starting to roll out an updated version of its in-car platform, Android Auto, that aims to make it easier and safer for drivers to use. The version, which was first revealed during Google I/O 2019, has a dark theme, new fonts and color accents, more opportunities to communicate with Google’s virtual assistant and the […]

A guide to Virtual Beings and how they impact our world

Money from big tech companies and top VC firms is flowing into the nascent “virtual beings” space. Mixing the opportunities presented by conversational AI, generative adversarial networks, photorealistic graphics, and creative development of fictional characters, “virtual beings” envisions a near-future where characters (with personalities) that look and/or sound exactly like humans are part of our […]