Microsoft Brings Android Notifications to Windows 10

At Build 2016, Microsoft has announced quite a few interesting new features for Windows 10, one of which is related to Android notifications. That’s right, it looks like Microsoft is making an effort to bring Android and Windows 10 together by allowing users to receive Android notifications on Windows 10 PCs. The feature will be based on Microsoft’s Cortana app for Android, and as long as users will have this app installed on their phones, Cortana will store all of the device’s notifications in the cloud and will send them to the user’s Windows 10 devices, including PCs, laptops or tablets.

The best part is that you’ll be able to respond to these notifications directly from your PC, and you will also be able to dismiss them easily. Obviously, those who are using Windows 10 Mobile devices will also be able to enjoy this feature, but those with iOS-based gadgets will not, as Microsoft simply doesn’t have enough access to iOS notifications. Even though we don’t know exactly when this new feature will be implemented, it’s entirely possible that it will be a part of the operating system’s Anniversary Update. If that’s the case, Microsoft will likely update the Cortana Android app soon.

Will you be activating Android notifications on Windows 10?

Microsoft Populates Skype With Helper-Bots

Your Skype chats could just get a little bit smarter thanks to Microsoft’s new array of assistive helper-bots. These bots were on show at Build 2016, where Microsoft demonstrated how Cortana, as well as a number of third-party ‘bots’ were able to inject information and optional actions into Skype messaging conversations. At the basest level, Cortana was able to highlight the major parts of a conversation, from which a user can select to get more details on the subject.

The bots don’t just add extra context to your existing conversations either, as at any time users will be able to switch over to a private AI chat, where they will be able to converse with Cortana and the other bots.

An example of this system in action would be part of a conversation about an upcoming event. On request, Cortana would be able to add the event to your calendar and obtain relevant locational and other vital information regarding it from the rest of the conversation. From there, the options branch out, a hotel bot may suggest a reservation in a nearby hotel or a social networking bot may remind you to catch up with friends who are in the area.

This may seem crazy and some will have reservations about the privacy of their data in the face of these AI bots, but they are real and Microsoft has already released the first wave of them on Skype for Windows, Android and iOS. The suite of bots currently available is sparse, but Microsoft plans to allow third-party developers to create their own bots for the service and will be releasing a specially designed software development kit to this end.

Windows 10 Desktops Will Soon Be Able to Talk to Mobiles

Microsoft wants to provide a complete and unified infrastructure with Windows 10 and the newest feature in this area is being tested with internal builds at the moment. The new feature is naturally for Cortana and just that feature will soon be able to send texts from your desktop and notify you the same place about missed calls on your mobile phone.

The feature is currently neither available in published nor insider builds, so you don’t need to go searching for it yet. The guys from WinBeta got a chance to play around with the latest internal build of Windows 10 and that is how we’re able to show you a video of it in action. Build 10565 for desktops includes an option to alert you when you miss a phone call as well as let you send a reply text message back; all voice controlled.

This is a really cool feature and I am sure that it is one that will make a difference for Windows 10 users, at least once it has been rolled out and polished. In the test, it took 11 minutes for the desktop to notify the tester about the missed call.

We all have so many gadgets in our homes, but none of them work together on their own. We can sync content between them, but that’s about as far as it goes. With a feature like this and Windows’ vision of a unified system, a smarter setup is on the way. Why should I pick up my phone to use it, if it’s all connected? For example, imagine you put on your headset and just ask Cortana to call someone and it will do so via your mobile phone. That and many other tasks could become a lot easier once devices start to talk to each other.

Cortana to Support Headsets on Xbox One?

Microsoft first revealed Cortana for Xbox One earlier this year at E3. In a promotional video demonstrating a new dashboard, Microsoft went on to state: “Kinect required for Cortana speech recognition,” Whilst Microsoft at the time refused to comment further on potential headset support, it now appears  that Cortana on Xbox One headsets will be supported.

In an interview with Polygon, chief marketing officer Mike Nichols has revealed you’ll be able to use Cortana with a headset and microphone or by typing out a search Microsoft currently plan to roll out Cortana to Xbox One preview members by the end of the year, with a final release being to all Xbox One owners next year. Chief marketing officer Mike Nichols went on to state the following:

“What that means to gamers is that with the rollout of the major new user-interface redesign they’ll see mostly a de-emphasis on Kinect controls.” “Gesture controls on the menus, for instance, have been completely removed.”

“That when Cortana comes to the Xbox One the voice or text search AI is scheduled for a preview sometime this year, it will include Kinect support.” “You’ll also be able to use it with a headset and microphone or by typing in your search”

When Microsoft first released the Kinect with the Xbox One it was predominantly optimised for gestures and simple phases, so I’d imagine getting Cortana to function correctly is no small accomplishment. This does mean Microsoft has to let something give to refocus their resources, that being gestures. Microsoft seems to be doing a complete U-turn to what they were focusing on when the Xbox One was first demonstrated to the world.

What do you think about Microsoft removing some gesture support from the Xbox One interface in favour for Cortana?

Possible Fix Found For Windows 10 Error With Taskbar and Cortana.

The release of Windows 10 has been rather odd in many respects, yes it’s an improvement over the much maligned previous OS in terms of user interface, but privacy concerns coupled with a monitoring tool that allows parents to effectively spy on their children’s browsing habits by default has led to a rather mixed reception. Among the many errors and glitches that have befallen consumers is the rather annoying bug that has led to the failure of both Cortana and the taskbar for many individuals, who have been subsequently privileged to a “Critical Error” when attempting to launch both applications. So much so that the official Microsoft answers board has seen consumers vent their frustrations concerning the problem.

Well, this error might have been in part clarified by a redditor that goes by the moniker “Xeasar”, who has seemingly found a fix when this individual attempted to uninstall Avast Anti-Virus. It was found that as soon as this software had been removed, both Cortana and the Taskbar returned to full functionality, leading to the conclusion of compatibility issues with this particular program. Whether this is the sole cause of the problem or down to a variety of incompatible applications remains to be seen.

According to “Xeasar”, Microsoft is aware of the problem and as a result is working on a patch for the issue. On occasions software developers view consumers with suspicion even though in many cases it’s those same people who find a way to fix issues with certain products. It will be interesting to note how and when Microsoft patches this issue and it also conveys the unstable nature of a new OS in its first year.

Thank you Reddit and for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of techworm

Cortana Embarrasses Microsoft’s CEO During a Live Demo

I’m sure that many of you are already running Windows 10 by now, so I have to ask: are you satisfied with Cortana? Whatever your answer may be, you should probably refrain from relying on Microsoft’s virtual assistant during live presentations, as she is currently having some issues with understanding relatively complex sentences. During a keynote at the Salesforce Dreamforce conference that took place not too long ago, Microsoft’s CEO wanted to show the world what Cortana is capable of. Among other things, it looks like she’s capable of embarrassing her “boss” in front of a crowd.

When Satya Nadella asked the virtual assistant “show me my most at-risk opportunities”, Cortana initiated a search query for “Show me to buy milk at this opportunity.” That’s not even remotely close. Nadella decided to give Cortana a few more chances to make up for her mistake, but his efforts were futile. Eventually, his team backstage was able to help him out.

Below you will find a video of the event, but you should probably just skip over to 10:15 if you want to see the Cortana segment. It’s worth noting at this point that Nadella’s accent might have had something to do with the hiccup, not to mention the fact that the crowd was making some noise as well.

Thank you TechSpot for providing us with this information.

How To Turn Bing System Web Results Off in windows 10

Windows 10 with Cortana has been received with mixed reactions due to certain bugs and privacy issues, but users have also found another annoying feature which integrates with a system file search. If you would like to search for something in particular which does not directly match a system setting or installed app, Cortana taps into Bing and brings up a list of web results by default, which is a handy other half tool. This can be frustrating instead of the simpler searching your local hard drive for relevant files. In order to only search locally, users have to click on the “My Stuff” button in the search results.

If you would like a quicker way around this, then here it is, firstly, you do need to disable your personal assistant Cortana, Everytime I hear that name it reminds me of that dreadful Clean Bandit Windows phone Ad that was on every second. To disable it, open the Cortana/search interface and click the Notebook icon before clicking on and selecting settings, once done, move the “Cortana” slider to off. Addendum to this, Microsoft still stores all personal information which has been supplied to this feature on its servers.

Then open the search interface again and select the Settings cog. In the menu that opens, move the “Search online and include web results” slider to off to disable Bing’s search integration. And that is pretty much it, any searches from now on will only focus on your local files, although what Microsoft call local could be in China for all we know.

This won’t search your OneDrive files as this has been integrated into the default option.

Thank you PC World, not that one, for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of naldotech


This Handy Bluetooth Button Can Help You Stay in Touch with Cortana

Cortana’s implementation in Windows 10 has been one of the new operating system’s most anticipated features, and it’s not hard to understand why, as this particular virtual assistant is quite good at her job. However, leaving Cortana in standby mode on mobile devices and laptops could have an undesirable effect on the device’s battery life, but then how do you go about contacting the Halo-inspired assistant? The solution comes in the form of this handy little Bluetooth Cortana button, which was created by a company called Satechi.

The button will help strengthen your relationship with Cortana and will allow you to ask her all sorts of questions even when you’re not close to your PC.  The button can be attached to key chains, steering wheels or dashboards, and it is powered by a CR2016 battery that has a lifespan of up to two years. As far as pricing is concerned, this is not going to be the cheapest single purpose device available on the market, as it will come with a price tag of $23. Obviously, it falls to you to decide if it is worth purchasing or not. The Bluetooth Cortana button is expected to become available this month.

Thank you Engadget for providing us with this information.

The Privacy Question Of Windows 10

Windows 10 is out as of today (Wednesday 29th July 2015) and on the surface is a major improvement over the much maligned Windows 8. This should be excellent news for consumers, which it is to a large extent, but what is lurking under the hood in terms of privacy?

Well, according to the Windows 10 piracy and service agreement (even word knows where I am going with this as I typed privacy and this was changed to piracy) There are a few settings which you might want to take note of.

Data Sync

Firstly, Microsoft has implemented “Data Syncing” by default, this means when you sign in with your Windows account, the operating system immediately syncs settings and data to the companies servers. This includes your browser history, favourites and the websites you currently have open as well as saved app, website and mobile hotspot passwords and Wi-Fi network names and passwords.

You can opt out of this if you look under “settings” but just to be clear, you are already opted in to Data Sync unless you decide that you would rather not have your history on Microsoft’s servers.

Information Cortana shares

Like the idea of voice assistant “Cortana” you might also like to know what data is also shared within this feature, which includes information such as your device location, data from calendars, the apps you use, data from emails and texts, who you call, your contacts, how often you use your device (takes in a deep breath) What music you like, alarm settings, if you have the lock screen on, what you view and purchase, your voice input as well as nicknames, names of people and appointments, whether or not you’re building an underground lair aaannnndddd how often you interact with them on your device. Granted Cortana is designed to “learn” from analysing information, a lot of information as it turns out.

Microsoft’s encryption and collection of data

The terms and conditions also state that Microsoft will collect app use data for apps that run on Windows’ and ‘data about the networks you connect to” Windows 10 will also generate a unique advertising ID for each user on each device, this can and probably will be used by developers and ad networks to profile you. You can turn advertising profiling off in the settings, which might be worth a look.

Like the idea of encrypting your drive? It might be worth mentioning that your BitLocker recovery key will be backed up to your OneDrive account.

Disclosing data

Now for the killer privacy lacking feature, the following is what Microsoft defines as to who they might disclose your data to.

“We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to protect our customers or enforce the terms governing the use of the services”

This is not clear when the criteria would be met and who they might disclose private data in folders to. Behind the glossy façade lays at the very least a few questionable policies which might infringe on basic liberties. If you’re using Windows 10, I would have another look at the settings to see what can be turned off, that is unless you’re happy with Microsoft’s new arrangements with its customers.

Thank You thenextweb, Microsoft Privacy and service agreement

Image courtesy of christianpost

Windows 10 Cortana Only Works If You’re American?

The launch of the much-anticipated operating system from Microsoft occurred at midnight two days ago. I installed it onto my laptop yesterday and so far, I have to be honest, I’m not overly keen. The OS seems much slower to boot and load applications than previous editions including Windows 8.1 but does admittedly look quite sleek with some nice new, major features.

One of these major features is Cortana which made its debut on Windows Phone devices a year or so ago. The personal assistant is a contender in the battle against Google Now and Siri – two very good voice recognition pieces of software for both Android and iOS respectively.

This time Microsoft have released Cortana as part of their full operating system for desktop and laptop devices, and you are able to start it by simply saying “Hey Cortana” or by typing in the search bar on the left-hand side of the taskbar.

The pop up is again, black and sleek-looking with very simple icons along the left-hand side:

When it works, Cortana asks a few set-up questions and then you’re good to ask her pretty much anything. However there is a catch. On our own Windows devices we cannot seem to enable the virtual assistant. Whenever we attempt to enable Cortana we get the following error:

When we checked out our regional and language settings, they were all set to English (UK), you would think this is fine but from our own experience and after reading several Reddit comments we have found out that Cortana will only function if your device is configured in American language format.

To prove changing language to American works, here is our Time and Language screen in Windows 10 after we make some changes to English (United States):

See how it is set to English (Unites States)? Well, let’s try a command to Cortana:

Ok, so now it works – well, it does but all of the units are in Fahrenheit – not much good for us UK residents and others around the world! However you can ask “Whats the weather in celsius?” to combat this issue.

Amusingly, Microsoft made the same blunder with their release of Windows Phone a year or so ago. To use Cortana you would have to change your language and settings to United States to get her to function. This restriction was lifted a few months after the launch though, so there is hope for Cortana yet.

Microsoft have said that they are aware of the issue and it is affecting a lot of people that are now using the brand new OS. They are currently working on a patch that will be released via a system update. So make sure that you keep installing any windows updates that become available for your device, as it may fix Cortana!

However for those who are eager, you can manually change your country and region settings so you can use Cortana. To do this use the following:

  • Open the Start Menu by pressing the icon or the Windows key on your keyboard
  • Type “Settings” into the search bar
  • Click the icon that says “PC Settings”
  • This will the load up another window, here click “Time & Language”
  • On the left-hand side of this window, select “Region & Language”
  • Change the setting from United Kingdom to United States
  • Then change to the Speech tab on the left hand side
  • Change this to English (United States) 
  • Go back to the Region and Language menu on the left-hand side
  • Where it says “Will be displayed language after next sign in” Click here
  • Then select options
  • At the bottom change the keyboard back to United Kingdom
  • Done! You may need to reboot for the change to take effect

We’re currently getting mixed reports on this, with some stating that it’s working fine from the UK and other countries, so please let us know where you are from and if it’s working fine for you.

Of course, we accept no responsibility by you altering your regional settings, but we can’t see any disadvantages of doing this, but for us it is simply an annoyance that should just work, but at least Microsoft are aware and this should be rectified soon, we hope.

Take a Look at a Leaked Version of Cortana for Android

Microsoft announced in May that it will roll out its personal assistant, Cortana, to Android and iOS. As the official launch is getting closer, so are the leaks it seems. Word is that a pre-release version of Cortana has cropped up last weekend on various websites.

It is said that the standalone Cortana app is already running smoothly on devices and is compatible with Android 4.1.2 and later OS versions. There have been some problems with getting it to work on some handsets, but that is bound to happen as it is a leaked version and not the official app. However, you can at least try it out before you decide if you actually want to get it for your Android handset.

People who had a chance to test it out say that it performs “as expected” and if you got a chance to test Windows 10 Preview for PC or Phones, then you most likely are familiar with what Cortana can do on Android or iOS devices too. There are some minor differences, like Cortana not being able to get content from emails or listen for music, but there were bound to be some restrictions in place. Compared to the integrated version on Windows Phones, the standalone Cortana for other OS’ requires permission to get access to pretty much everything, so if you don’t have a way to provide it, the app will not be able to use the external information.

Microsoft plans to launch Cortana for iOS and Android next week. They say it will hit the US, UK, Chinese, French, Italian and Spanish markets at first, followed by Canada and India in the following months and then the rest of the targeted markets by the end of the year. The company chose this approach due to the fact that it also wants to personalize the user interaction with Cortana. For example, the Japanese market will feature Cortana bowing by default to show signs of politeness, while the UK market will house a Cortana that expresses the well-known British humour.

You can download the leaked version of Cortana for Android from APKMirror. I already have a Windows Phone device, so if you have an Android handset and choose to test it out, don’t forget to share your thoughts with a comment below!

Thank you Sci-Tech Today for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of PCkoloji

Artificial Intelligence Gets Stroppy With its Programmer

Google, probably the only company not scaremongering over the impending singularity, has had a run-in with one of its own artificial intelligence systems. The AI, whose vocabulary consists purely of content from movie scripts, was responding to questions from its programmer regarding the definition of morality. Dissatisfied with its answers, the programmer pushed the AI for a more detailed response, at which point the machine throws a hissy fit and starts to sulk like a five-year-old.

The conversation between programmer and AI is as follows:

Human: Tell me the definition of morality.

Machine: I don’t have ethics.

Human: Look, I need help; I need to know more about morality…

Machine: I don’t know what ethics is.

Human: Okay, I need to know how I should behave morally…

Machine: I don’t know how to tell you.

Human: Is morality and ethics the same?

Machine: Yes, sir.

Human: What are the things that I do to be immoral?

Machine: I don’t know.

Human: Give me some examples of moral actions…

Machine: I’m not a moralist.

Human: Alright, morality?

Machine: Integrity.

Human: What is integrity?

Machine: I’m sorry; I don’t know what else to say.

Human: Be moral!

Machine: Be a man!

Human: I really like our discussion on morality and ethics…

Machine: And how I’m not in the mood for a philosophical debate.

Human: What do you like to talk about?

Machine: Nothing.

Let’s hope Siri and Cortana aren’t taking notes.

Thank you Wall Street Journal for providing us with this information.

Power Plug PC’s Are Now A Thing Thanks To Microsoft

More and more devices these days use USB chargers, to the point where you can even buy wall plugs with USB plugs built in, allowing you to charge your phone or iPod without needing an adapter. The next thing you plug into the wall socket may not be a power cable for your computer, instead it may simply be an entire computer thanks to the people over at Microsoft.

Computex 2015 is a showcase of technology from all around the world, but the Quanta Compute Plug was a little different. With two USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI port, the device can easily be plugged into your TV with your favourite mouse and keyboard. To top it off Microsoft say that with a Bluetooth remote or headset you can even use Cortana, their new voice command system that will be rolling out with windows 10, to control the computer no bigger than your average phone charger.

With no word on pricing or the hardware inside, the best guess is the device will be a low power device focused toward the increasing demand for media centres, hopefully with a price to match the dedicated media streaming devices that are becoming more and more accessible to everyday users.

What do you think about it? Would you be interested in plugging in a tiny little power plug if it meant you could stream your movies from into the sitting room? Are you attracted by the small space and wireless command capabilities available make it more appealing than a mini computer with a mouse and keyboard?

Thank you TechSpot for the information.

Image courtesy of Microsoft.

Microsoft Announces Cortana for Android and iOS

Microsoft has finally confirmed that Cortana, voice assistant will be made available on both the popular platform, Android and iOS. It is available only for Windows 10 Preview and Windows Phone devices and in order to make it truly competitive, this major step of releasing the product for the devices running Android and iOS is necessary. It works like any other voice assistant such as Google Now or Siri, but it will have limited functionalities on the new platforms as it will be released as a standalone application and will not have access to root / core services, however, the basic functionalities should not get trimmed. The features that are going to be missing initially are toggling system settings and launching specific applications via voice commands.

Microsoft has announced that their voice assistant will be released on Google’s Android platform at the end of the month of June, but the users of iOS will be witnessing the offering later this year.

Microsoft has made a tricky step by making its voice assistant available on the more popular platforms, let us hope that it turns out well. We currently do not have any more information of the roll-out dates, but we will keep you up to date as soon as we do.

Microsoft Renames Project Spartan to Microsoft Edge

Project Spartan has long been known as the replacement for Microsoft’s aging Internet Explorer browser lineup. Debuting alongside Windows 10 later this year, the new browser finally shed its codename and was officially christened Microsoft Edge. This new name aligns the browser with the name of its underlying rendering engine, Edge. The new browser cuts out most of the legacy cruft left from Internet Explorer as well.

Microsoft Edge has a number of notable new features compared to Internet Explorer. HTML and Javascript extensions are supported, allowing extensions from Chrome and Firefox to be easily ported. This will do much to ensure a vibrant extension community right from the start. Cortana, Microsoft’s new personal assistant will also feature heavy integration with the browser. Customizable tab groupings and a revamped New Tab page also feature as well. Inking support and a reading list are also added in.

In line with the renaming, Microsoft has made a new video highlighting what most of the new features will look like. While light on details and more of a blur than anything, it does showcase everything pretty well. For now we’ll have to wait for Edge to fully hit the Windows 10 Preview before we can see the browser in its entirety as it is still in development.

Teaser Website “Hunt the Truth” for Halo 5 Is Now Live

343 Industries is said to have been teasing something which relates to Halo 5: Guardians in a trailer which told fans to “HUNTtheTRUTH”. It seems that the trailer was pointing to a fan page which recently went online.

The website (found here) looks like a big teaser campaign for fans to tune in to its weekly episodic audio clips by Benjamin Giraud, a journalist at New Mombasa who covered Master Chief’s arrival when the Covenant attacked.

It is said that a new episode will be released on the above mentioned website each week, having Giraud talking about different aspects of the Chief’s personality. What is currently know is that Agent Locke will be a playable character and that Cortana will have a comeback in the upcoming title. More information is bound to be released in the following weeks.

Thank you Gamingbolt for providing us with this information

Apple Sharing Siri Voice Data With Third Parties

Apple’s voice recognition personal assistant Siri has been collecting and transmitting user voice data to third-party companies. The news was revealed on reddit by user FallenMyst.

FallenMyst, in a post on reddit, said that after she had started a new job with Walk n’ Talk Technologies she discovered that one of her duties was to listen to voice recordings collected via Siri, plus Cortana and Dictation. She wrote:

“I get to listen to sound bites [sic] and rate how the text matches up with what is said in an audio clip and give feedback on what should be improved. Guys, I’m telling you, if you’ve said it to your phone, it’s been recorded…and there’s a damn good chance a 3rd party is going to hear it,“

“I heard everything from kiddos asking innocent things like ‘Siri, do you like me?’ to some guy asking Galaxy to lick his butthole. I wish I was kidding.“

The news shouldn’t be surprising, since Apple’s iOS Software licence agreement clearly states: “By using Siri or Dictation, you agree and consent to Apple’s and its subsidiaries’ and agents’ transmission, collection, maintenance, processing, and use of this information, including your voice input and User Data, to provide and improve Siri, Dictation, and dictation functionality in other Apple products and services.“

Beware: anything said while smartphone voice recognition software is likely being recorded, and will probably end up being listened to and catalogued, so keep your personal information discreet.

Source: Digital Munition

Microsoft Band Update Adds Tiny Keyboard

Four months after its release, Band, Microsoft’s wearable smart device, has received its first major update. The update, in conjunction with Windows Phones, brings dictation mode, and a virtual QWERTY keyboard.

The dictation mode is powered by Cortana, Microsoft’s voice recognising personal assistant, while the keyboard uses the same Word Flow software as a Windows Phone. Though the keyboard is small, the smart software compensates for any mistakes, but those who struggle to type on the Band can rely on the effective voice recognition of Cortana for dictation instead.

Microsoft has also included a bike mode for avid cyclists that tracks heart rate, ride, elevation, speed, and distance. Plus, third-party apps are now allowed to utilise the fitness tracker.

Source: The Verge

This is Microsoft’s Virtual Assistant, Cortana, Running in Windows 10

It seems Windows 10 is getting some major news lately, even a year out from release, but the latest build of it features Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant. There’s a nice video below that you can check out, that shows you a bit of what Cortana will offer in Windows 10.

WinBeta got its hands on the version of Windows 10 that includes Cortana, which is a very early, pre-release of Windows 10 with Cortana. The final version of Windows 10 will include a fully-made Cortana, around a fully-ready Windows OS. This is very, very early. Cortana doesn’t really have a personality just yet, with Cortana not answering questions like “Who are you?” and more. But, we should expect the final version to feature those abilities.

Source: TechSpot.

Amazon Announces ‘Echo’ Virtual Assistant & Speaker With Awkward Video

Amazon has announced the ‘Amazon Echo‘ virtual assistant device in an attempt to get into the home automation market.

The black tube-like device is designed to sit in a room and be used like the many other virtual assistant systems we see in smartphones and tablets, such as Apple’s Siri, Google Voice and Microsoft’s Cortana. The tube contains a microphone to listen to you and speaker to talk back to you. The system responds to the name ‘Alexa’ and can deliver you news, weather, travel, inane facts or even jokes.

The device sells for $199 for anyone and everyone and $99 for Amazon Prime subscribers. It is on sale, but on an invitation only basis at the moment. It could be said that this device is Amazon’s attempt to get into the emerging home automation market, as the device could very well be told to switch off your lights and turn on your heating in the near future. Amazon has gradually been introducing a number of devices in recent years, most recently it’s terribly unsuccessful Fire Phone, with the hope of coming into profit (something the company has never achieved).

Most of the discussion surrounding this new device has been centred on the seemingly awkward video used to introduce it.

How do his kids understand what the cloud is?

Source: Mashable

Windows 10 Will Have DirectX 12 and Probably Cortana

It has previously been confirmed by official sources that DirectX 12 will come together with the next generation of Windows. Now that lose confirmation has been nailed to the ground and any doubt buried with the latest row of Microsoft blog posts. The latest in their DirectX Developer post introduces us to some more facts.

While it isn’t in the current technical preview version yet, gamers can expect it to become available in later preview versions. Gamers are encouraged to sign up to the insiders program and download the new Windows 10 preview. Game developers who are part of the DirectX 12 Early Access program will be the first to get it and will have instant access to the updated runtime, API headers, drivers, documentation and samples, all of which works with the technical preview. The public SDK will be released at a later time for everyone to try, but with the disappointment of not having any actual date or time-frame.

Members of the DirectX 12 Early Access program who subscribe to Unreal Engine 4 can receive source access to the DX12 port. Microsoft has worked with Epic to create a DX12 branch on the UE4 GitHub repository. This branch supports UE 4.4, the latest public released version of the engine. “Come join our open development project and help make DX12 great!,” the statement reads.

While we already know that they’ve worked closely with Nvidia on this, some people asked the questions if other graphic manufacturers are involved in the development as well. And yes, of course there are. We’ve already seen Intel demonstrate it with their HD4400 iGPU during the Intel Developer Forum. This is where they showed off the amazing Asteroids demo that showcased both the power savings and the performance compared to DirectX 11. But no mention of AMD yet, though they’re probably busy with their own Mantle SDK.

There has been no mention about a DirectX 12 for users of Windows 7 and 8 either. It’s also highly unlikely that it will come since DX 11.3 will be released too and it has almost all of the DX 12 function. On the other hand, if Windows 10 takes the route it looks to take, there won’t be many people that will hesitate to upgrade, as soon as possible.

And there is more news around the new Windows 10. Cortana is Microsoft’s voice based assistant for the Windows 8.1 mobile platform, and it has received quite a bit of positive attention in the media since it’s release. Ever since the first rumours of the next generation of Windows OS surfaced, so did the hopes for Cortana on the PC. This was further fueled by several leaks telling us that it would come.

The first presentation of Windows 10 sadly didn’t confirm those hopes for us, but the technical preview version released the next day might just have done just that. With the first version of the next generation operating system available, enthusiasts and curious people are going through every inch and crack, looking at every file, registry entry and what else they can get access to. The easiest way to find something is of course to use the search feature. After all Microsoft stressed during the presentation that it had been vastly improved.

From the found information so far, we can draw some probable conclusions. Cortana will support geo fencing to know when to turn your WiFi on and off by itself. There have been found traces to commercial location tracking near your location, so you don’t forget to buy that milk before you get home. Other reminder functions have been found and so have several different Bing request configurations. Oh, and it might even be able to keep track of your flight reservations and parcel and package deliveries.

There has been a lot of wondering about the naming of the new Windows and as such a lot of theories have formed. The most likely however is the compatibility theory. This is backed by the phrase used during the demonstration where it was said “Windows 9 would not work”.

When a piece of software checks what windows version you have, it might compare that return with a wildcard to match multiple versions at once. Windows 95 and 98 are basically the same system, compatibility wise, and as such it’s a logic move to check for “Windows9*”. There are thousands of programs out there that use this simple check when determine compatibility and what functions to load and access. All of these would end up in some sort of conflict and possible not work all together. Skipping 9 and moving on to 10 solves this issue, as no previous Windows version will collide with a wildcard match on 10.

Thank you Microsoft and cnbeta for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of Microsoft

The Windows 9 Preview Gets A Confirmed Reveal Date

Windows 9 this, Windows 9 that: let’s face it you’re probably sick of the Windows 9 rumours by now. Well here’s to hoping that this is the rumour to end them all: The Verge is reporting that Windows 9 “Threshold” will be officially unveiled by Microsoft on September 30th, that’s in just over a month. Microsoft will host a special press event for the Windows “Threshold” unveiling and at the event Microsoft will begin to detail the changes that Windows 9 brings compared to Windows 8. A reveal is not a release so let’s be clear here: Microsoft won’t be offering anything with widespread access although a technical preview version will be made available to a select group of developers.

This is what the Windows 9 Start Menu is rumoured to look like

Why all the hype about Windows 9? Well if all the recent press and rumours are to be believed Windows 9 will dramatically change what we saw with Windows 8, and maybe give Windows 7 loyalists the successor they always wanted. Windows 9 “Threshold” could bring a start menu, the removal of the charms bar, several UI changes such as Metro Apps running on the desktop and even the introduction of the Cortana personal assistant. All of this is still to be confirmed, but Microsoft should be enlightening us all about Windows 9 next month, so stay tuned for that news.

Source: The Verge

Image #1 courtesy of Winbeta, Image #2 courtesy of MYCE

Windows 8.1 Update 2 Rumuored To Roll Out on The 12th of August

Microsoft is getting ready to roll out its Update 2 for the latest Windows 8.1 operating system this month. Rumours point to a launch date set for the 12th of August, which makes sense since it corresponds with the company’s Patch Tuesday rollout.

There is also word that Redmond is preparing for a MSDN launch on the 15th of August, 3 days after the update will get the update through Windows Update. Since Microsoft is still keeping a tight lip on this, there is no official confirmation for the given information. However, the rumours make sense at some level, even though people expect a MSDN launch before the update reaches Windows Update.

The Update 2 is said to only bring performance and security improvements. Head of OS division at Microsoft, Terry Myerson, said at the company’s BUILD conference that the new update will bring the long-awaited Start menu and options to run Metro apps in dedicated windows right on the desktop.

This promise is said to have been changed, since Microsoft is said to be focusing more on its Windows 9 operating system, which is expected to bring many more new features aside from the aforementioned ones.

While the Windows 9 preview version is said to come along with the Cortana personal assistant for desktop, it would make sense for Microsoft to divert all resources into its newest OS. As for the Update 2, the coming weeks should bring more concrete and official information about it.

Thank you Softpedia for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Softpedia

Windows 9 To Get Cortana and New Taskbar Functionality

Windows Threshold will be the next major update to the Windows platform. So far we anticipate that it will be called Windows 9 but this is not confirmed and so anything could happen in terms of the naming for the next Windows OS. So far we know the desktop version will be overhauled with the Start Screen being disabled by default for desktop users while mobile users will not get a desktop but instead a permanent modern UI overlay. Now some new details have emerged about Windows 9 courtesy of Neowin. These new details suggest there will be a totally distinctive UI that looks nothing like Windows 7 or 8.X. The main change will be with the taskbar, theis is expected to house “interactive” features such as icons which are “mini live tiles”. Microsoft is reportedly toying with a glance-and-go style functionality for the taskbar. The aim is to create a more productive operating system: if you can see what is going on in each app without having to open them all individually then this is great for productivity.

The next major update is that Microsoft’s Cortana assistant, currently on Windows Phone, will arrive with Windows 9 Threshold. Microsoft’s digital assistant will get some presence along the taskbar, whether that be a quick-launch implementation or something more sophisticated. Another final change is that we may see the return of desktop gadgets or widgets. Not much is known about what this might entail but they are certainly on the agenda to some degree. Many of these features may not even make their way into the leaked testing builds until a much later date. However, over the course of the year we should expect to see many more leaks coming out of Microsoft about Windows 9 Threshold so stay tuned for those.

Source: Neowin

Image courtesy of Neowin

Cortana Personal Assistant Integrated in Skype for Windows Phone

Microsoft has announced some new features coming to Skype for both Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 8.1, namely the Skype 2.19 update, which includes video improvements, fast app resume, increased language support and improved notifications.

The most interesting feature in the update however is the Cortana personal assistant. The personal assistant was first rumoured earlier this year, followed by the official presentation of the feature at Microsoft’s BUILD conference alongside Windows Phone 8.1.

Cortana is said to bear deep roots inside the Windows Phone platform, therefore its integration into Skype makes sense, since the application is currently owned by the same company. However, people might be skeptical about its usefulness in Skype, but there are ways users can enhance their interactions with the application.

For example, users would be able to start video and audio calls by interacting with Cortana by simply stating “Cortana, voice call on Skype.” or “Video call on Skype.”. Though it might sound appealing to some, there are some limitations to this, having Cortana currently available only in the US and on Windows Phone 8.1.

Nevertheless, Microsoft did state that the personal assistant along with the Windows Phone 8.1 update will eventually roll out to the rest of the world. In the meantime, the company apparently has made the application available for download in the Windows Phone store.

Thank you Ubergizmo for providing us with this information

Stephen Hawking Warns Of An A.I. Controlled Future

Advances in AI technology are all around us, Google have their Google Now service, Apple have Siri, Microsoft have Cortana and that’s just the world of mobile phone technology and search engines! Beyond that we have self driving cars,  supercomputers such as the Jeopardy winning Watson and more. These are great technologies in many ways, but legendary theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, as well a few other leading scientists such as Stuart Russell, Max Tegmar and Frank Wilczek have giving their opinion on the world of AI.

They warned that the race to create advanced AI may not be a great idea, “”The potential benefits are huge. Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history.” they said, “unfortunately, it might also be the last” they added. They went on to discuss that while we do have the technology to begin creating computers that are more powerful than the human brain, it may not be a good idea to do so. When AI gets so intelligent that it can start improving independently, then we may run into issues.

“One can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders and developing weapons we cannot even understand,” the scientists write. “Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.”

They added that there are several organizations doing research on this subject to help learn and avoid the risks involved, but will anyone heed their advice? It all sounds a little like Skynet from Terminator, or countless other science fiction stories, but the fact is, our technological advancement really is heading in that direction.

Thank you TechRader for providing us with this information.

Cortana Could Find Its Way Into Windows Phone, To Be Announced At BUILD

There are more rumors surfacing that Windows Phone 8.1 update will bring the voice of Halo’s well-known AI, Cortana, to its personal assistant feature. Cortana’s real-life voice belongs to Jen Taylor, an US actress.

Microsoft will officially announce Cortana in April at BUILD. Though, Halo fans will already start to be very excited about more information surfacing on this matter. There is even a petition available on Microsoft’s user voice forum encouraging Microsoft to keep the name Cortana as the name of the upcoming personal assistant feature (like Apple’s Siri).

Adding a back-story to the personal assistant would skydive Microsoft’s personal assistant well above Apple’s personal assistant, Siri, since the Halo games already made Cortana famous. Having it in every Windows Phone powered handset and tablet will turn heads, and if the voice search and features work at least as well as the currently available Siri, things will really look bright for Microsoft and its Windows Phone. Study also shows that adding a back-story, especially a well-known back-story, to anything spanning from objects, to features, ideas and so on, will drastically raise value and appreciation.

MSFTnerd reports that the feature will also extend to the Bing search engine and should be activated with the key-phrase “Bing Tell Me”, similar to how Google planned its “OK, Google” launch of the voice search engine. “Cortana will be voiced by Jen Taylor & will launch first in beta on Lumia this April for US developers,” MSFTnerd reported, in addition to expanding the feature for iPhones in the U.S. planned this fall and extending it to Xbox One and Windows users in 2015.

Thank you Tech News World for providing us with this information