Apple Pays $25m to Patent Troll

Apple has paid a “patent troll” $24.9 million to settle a lawsuit alleging infringement over its Siri personal assistant. The payment will be split between the Marathon Patent Group – a business whose stock in trade is exploiting patent licences to file lawsuits against infringing companies – and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), from where a professor and student claim they invented the voice recognition and response system that Apple has implemented in Siri.

US Patent No. 7,177,798 describes a “method for processing natural language input,” using a database containing “case information, keywords, information models, and database values.” The lawsuit [PDF] alleged that Siri “processes natural language” in exactly the manner outlined in the patent.

Drs. Cheng Hsu and Veera Boonjing – the former a Professor of Decision Sciences and Engineering at RPI, and latter being a doctoral student at the time the patent was filed in 2000 – assigned their patent to the university, as is the common practice for inventions developed within academic facilities. Professional patent troll Marathon Patent Group – was made aware of the filing via its subsidiary Dynamic Advances and used it to file a lawsuit on behalf of RPI, taking half of any award in return.

“Apple encourages consumers to use Siri as claimed in the ’798 Patent and, in fact, has entire webpages devoted to teaching consumers the benefits of using Siri to process natural language inputs, how to use Siri to process natural language inputs, and encouraging them to buy Apple products so they can use Siri to process natural language inputs,” according to the filed lawsuit.

The plaintiffs were successful, settling the case with Apple for $24.9 million, though reports suggest that RPI was eager to hold out for more money.

“Dynamic Advances believes RPI has unreasonably withheld its consent to the reasonable royalty rate set forth in the settlement agreement between Dynamic Advances and Apple, and that issue may have to be resolved in arbitration,” the company stated.

For Dynamic Advances, though, Apple is but its first victim – the company “believes that other voice recognition products infringe the ‘798 patent.” Is a suit against Microsoft’s Cortana set to follow?

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

Jaguar Working on Self-Learning Smart Car Personal Assistant

There have been a lot of talks about smart cars and their ability to make driving a lot safer suing self-driving technologies in order to eliminate human distractions and error from roads. There will even be a time where drivers can even send text messages, video call and browse the internet, but that time is still far away. Until then, Jaguar seems to have designed a piece of tech of its own for the Land Rover to make driving a lot safer, namely the Smart Assistant.

It is said that the Smart Assistant is able to identify the driver of the car based on a smartphone and learns his or her driving style and in-vehicle habits. The information is then ran through an algorithm which keeps track of background information, such as your calendar, traffic conditions and current weather, in order to predict and handle a variety of non-essential tasks. The Smart Assistant even starts before the driver enters the car, adjusting the seat, mirrors and steering wheel based on the individual’s likings.

Once the Smart Assistant learns the driver’s behavior behind the wheel, it can then handle tasks and perform small vehicle adjustments. For example, if a person calls his or her boss each morning, the Smart Assistant is said to ask you if it can initiate a call with your boss. The same goes when running late for work, having the Personal Assistant prompting if you would like to send a text message and notify about you being late.

There are a variety of activities which Jaguar’s Personal Assistant could help you behind the wheel, though the company states that the technology is currently in the works with no known release date planned. An interesting and unique feature present in the Personal Assistant’s design plans is the fact that Jaguar intends to make the tech cloud-based, meaning that if you want to rent a Jaguar when abroad on a business trip, it will still have your personal preferences available and in effect as soon as the car is available to drive.

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

BlackBerry Shows its Answer to Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana

Personal assistants have been around for some time now, having people demanding a more complex and interactive approach from their voice-enabled personal assistants. Apple’s Siri has been the first to arrive, followed by Android and Google Now, and Microsoft’s recent Cortana addition in the WP 8.1. All of the latter provide users with some great features, coming with their own pros and cons. However, it seems that BlackBerry is gaining some ground in the personal assistant sphere with its new BlackBerry Assistant.

“The BlackBerry Assistant is in lockstep with what I need to do on my Passport, without being distracting or costly (resource-wise)” said Donny Halliwell, BlackBerry’s social media marketing executive.

It is said that the company will release the new feature to its BlackBerry 10 devices this Wednesday in the BlackBerry 10.3 update. This is said to be a welcomed development for BlackBerry users, as well as developers, since a voice-enabled personal assistant will boost the BlackBerry handset brand. In addition, BlackBerry could also draw some developers into making some productivity applications featuring the personal assistant, thus helping users “manage simple tasks” on their devices.

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

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

Windows Phone’s ‘Cortana’ Personal Assistant Leaked In Short Video

Previous reports highlight that Microsoft is working on a personal assistant, similar to Apple’s Siri or Google Now, for the Windows Phone platform. Previous reports say that it is codenamed “Cortana” after the advanced AI seen in Microsoft’s Halo game series.

The latest rumors and leaks about it comes in the form of a video which is said to show off a fragment of Microsoft’s Windows Phone voice assistant feature. Unfortunately, the video quality is very poor. The person filming it shot only part of the screen as you can see, and to make matters worse, he did not even paused the track playing in the background, so you can barely hear the personal assistant’s voice. It seems to be giving some sort of navigation instructions.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WenVxycrvk[/youtube]

There are sounds and image features that leads us to think that it is a Windows Phone platform, such as the dings that alert the beginning and end of a voice action, and the typography patch the Segoe UI font found on all of Microsoft’s Metro UI. There is not a lot to go on here, but if this is real, it shows what we should expect from the ‘Cortana’ project Windows is working on.

We still are looking forward for it to be shown off in April along with Windows Phone 8.1. We hope to see it perform at least simple search queries, navigation, appointments, etc.

Thank you Phonearena for providing us with this information
Video courtesy of Phonearena

Apple And Google To Battle Over Personal Assistants

Smartphone manufacturers have been battling over features, specs and design. But now it seems that the battleground is moving towards the personal assistant area, where Siri and Google Now comes into play. According to a report out of the U.K., both Apple and Google are hard at work improving their virtual personal assistants. Both companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to improve how each of their “assistants” comprehends the human language.

Google Now works differently than its rival Siri, anticipating what information is needed by reading a users emails and looking at their calendar. Google feels it has an advantage in understanding real world language because of the way search results are ranked on the Google search engine. Google Now, which also plays a big part in Google Glass, will also be found on smartwatches, cars, and in the home.

Apple might have felt some pressure from the way that Google Now anticipates information requests. This could explain Apple’s decision to purchase Topsy for $200 million. Topsy looks for patterns among the 500 million tweets that are sent out daily. Nick Halstead, the CEO of Topsy’s U.K. rival DataSift, believes that Apple will use the information delivered by Topsy to improve how Siri responds to requests for information.

Thank you Phonearena for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Giga.de