Algorithmia Blog

Weekly Tech News Roundup: Viv, Delivery Drones, Smart Homes, and More

Issue 10
In this issue we meet
Siri’s sister Viv, learn how Amazon is equipping their delivery drones with computer vision, what Google is doing to own the smart home market and makeaugmented reality ubiquitous, how VR will change how you experience concerts, and we top things off with a collection of links from the near // future


Meet Siri’s Little Sister Viv

You Might Have Heard: The creator of Siri showed off the first public demo of Viv last week. The multi-platform, AI-powered personal assistant aims to be the “intelligent interface for everything.”

Viv is more natural in conversation than Siri, Cortana, or Alexa, thanks to dynamic program generation — aka software that writes itself. Meaning, Viv can understand not only the intent of a question, but follow-up questions as well.

“Viv has the ability to create programs out of thin air to complete commands that may not fit the pre-defined mold,” The Next Web writes. “This is a stark contrast to Siri, which defaults to a Web search when it doesn’t understand — or can’t find — an answer.”

Not only that, but Viv aims to be “the connective tissue between all your meaningful digital interactions” by creating an open marketplace for third-party developers – like the App Store, but for bots.

“I’m sure others have said it, but five years later, this is where Siri should be,” blogger Cody Lee tweeted. “Dynamic learning, developer API, etc.”

Watch: The demo of Viv from Disrupt


Delivery Drones that can See

Amazon has a team building “sense-and-avoid technology” for their drone delivery program, Prime Air.

To be truly autonomous, UAVs need to be able to ‘see’ the world around them, which is why the team is comprised primarily of top computer vision experts.

“Amazon’s drones are aiming to deliver packages under five pounds in 30 minutes or less with a range of 15 miles,” the Verge writes. “After leaving the controlled airspace of the warehouse with their cargo, the drones will rise up to a cruising altitude of several hundred feet. They will travel to the destination at around 60 miles an hour, then attempt to land and drop off the goods.”

Plus: Amazon Prime Air demo video


Building a Smarter Home

Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo is code-named “Chirp,” and is expected to launch later this year.

Does this mean competition for Alexa? Probably. Chirp is bringing ‘Okay Google’ to the home, which combines Google’s search engine with its voice assistant technology.

“I’d like to see the day when both Alexa and Chirp are bidding for my conversational economy in my home,” entrepreneur Ben Huh tweeted.

Speaking of voice assistant technology: Now anyone can add voice recognition to their app. Google open-sourced SyntaxNet last week,a TensorFlow neural network framework for parsing natural language.

Out of the box, the release includes Parsey McParseface – not to be confused with Boaty McBoatface, the British polar research ship — the most accurate English parser currently available (about 95% accurate).

The SyntaxNet release also includes all the code needed to train new models with your own data, too. Stay tuned: We’ll be adding Parsey McParseface to Algorithmia in the coming weeks.

$ git clone SyntaxNet

That’s not all: Nest, the Google smart home device, released OpenThread this week, an open-sourced version of its Thread home automation networking protocol.

Thread, the low-power mesh network, is attempting to be the standard for connected devices, snag more IoT partners, and take on Amazon.

“As more silicon providers adopt Thread, manufacturers will have the option of using a proven networking technology rather than creating their own, and consumers will have a growing selection of secure and reliable connected products to choose from,” the company said in a press release.

PLUS: Smart-home technology must work harder to create smarter consumers


Concerts in VR

NextVR signed a five-year deal with Live Nation to offer up hundreds of concerts in virtual reality, leading some to ask: Is this be the non-gaming experience the industry has been waiting for?

With VR poised to revolutionize media content like concerts, the bad news is Gear VR will be the only headset to get these streaming concerts, though NextVR promises more platforms are coming soon (Gizmodo).

Not only that, the current headsets need to evolve for VR to bring truly immersive experiences to the masses (TechCrunch).

HoloJam: A video interview with VR expert Ken Perlin

PLUS: Charlie Rose looks at VR technology and possibilities


3D Maps for Augmented Reality

Google plans to digitally map the interiors of buildings in 3D through Project Tango.

The future of Google’s Android platform lies with this project, which gives phones a new sense of their surroundings “by adding an additional camera and more sophisticated sensors to a smartphone or tablet.”

The cameras and sensors Tango provides will play a crucial role in Google’s efforts to make its augmented reality platform “ubiquitous.”

“Fire up the application and point the device at a space and it sucks in images and depth information to re-create the environment on the screen and locates itself within that new digital realm.” (Bloomberg).

Google will showcase progress this week during their I/O developer conference.

PLUS: The Google I/O 2016 preview


Links From The Near // Future


Emergent Future is a weekly, hand-curated dispatch exploring technology through the lens of artificial intelligence, data science, and the shape of things to come. 

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