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?

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.

Apple Announces iOS 9

Apple has just announced their next version of iOS called iOS 9 (what a surprise!). With the latest version of the smartphone OS; Apple are focusing on making it a more clever operating system, starting  off with a major upgrade to Siri. Siri will have a feature called Proactive that can offer awesome new features like application suggestions and even more. Of course, this depends on contexts such as time of day or location. Proactive allows Siri to see what apps you have on your phone and suggest useful ones based on what you’re trying to do. Apple is also saying that Siri can even look into your inbox to ID incoming calls that aren’t in your address book. All of this is wrapped into a new user interface for Spotlight.

iOS 9 also introduces deep linking within these searches, letting you access content inside apps whenever you do a system-wide search, instead of just opening the app’s main page. Spotlight also can do unit conversions without opening a web search, something that Siri has done for a while, but now queries can be typed in addition to spoken. Apple says that all of this new intelligent processing happens on the phone itself, meaning your data isn’t being sent to a server in the cloud. It’s a different stance than Google or Microsoft take, which leverage cloud processing to power their virtual assistants on Android and Windows Phone. Of course, this may mean that you will be able to use some basic features whilst offline.

Apple Pay is also due to launch in the UK and will be compatible with more banks and credit card providers. They’re even going to kill the passbook name and replace it with an application called Wallet which will be able to integrate with credit cards, debit cards and more all in one place.

Apple also plans to update their much-slated Map application including support for trains, buses and subways. It will be launching in more than 20 cities, including London.

Are you Apple fans excited?

Thank you to TheVerge and The TeleGraph for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Apple

Siri Can Now Play a Helpful Role in Controlling Your Smart Homes

Apple seems to be focusing on making you upgrade your homes as well as your gadgets this year. After it first announced a release date for the first smart home devices, the company is now focusing on getting their personal assistant, Siri, to help you out inside your smart homes.

What this means is that Apple made Siri compatible with certified products to give you the ability to control appliances via voice commands. This is a good thing given that most if not all manufacturers are now interested in joining the Internet of Things. Why? Well, everything nowadays is made or will be made with a microchip and yes, that includes your fridge, doors, lighting and so on.

Also, if you think Apple is the only one focusing on smart homes, think again! Google just announced it is also working on its own piece of code that will help you control things in your smart homes, having Microsoft and Samsung promoting their own solutions too. In addition, the list of manufacturers is most likely to get bigger by the end of the year, but it will also depend on how comfortable you are with having microchips in your appliances. What we do know is that your toaster will not try to kill you.

If you are interested in purchasing some smart devices to upgrade your home, Lutron Electronics and Insteon are two manufacturers now selling wireless hubs that allow you to control the lighting inside your house. Other manufacturers have also placed their products up for pre-order and are working on other home solutions, so you can now browse and save some cash for future home improvements.

Thank you Phys.org for providing us with this information

Apple WWDC 2015 Could Bring 12-inch iPads and Dual-App View Mode

We are nearing that time of the year when Apple will unveil its stuff at the annual World Wide Developer Conference. Out of all rumours, the most interesting ones consist of 12-inch iPads, dual-app view mode and a multi-user login feature.

Since Microsoft released their Windows 8 and provided split-screen app support for both desktop and Surface devices, Apple has been keen on adding the same thing to their iPads. However, up until now, the feature gave the Cupertino-based company a lot of headaches, which eventually forced them to push back the feature release date.

The latest iOS 9 firmware is now rumoured to bring the aforementioned feature, which might debut at the WWDC in June. Word is that the feature will support 1/2, 1/3 and 2/3 views and could be shown on current iPad models.

Aside from the above, Apple might introduce two new 12-inch iPads codenamed J98 and J99, which could be the long anticipated iPad Pros we heard about in the past. Due to their size, Apple is now rumoured to be working on tweaking the iOS and resizing core apps and features such as Siri, the Notification Centre and others in order to make them display properly on the larger displays.

Last but not least, Apple might even introduce support for multiple users. Similar to the Macintosh OS, users will be able to sign into their own accounts and have access to their own personal apps and files. Rumour has it that the feature will not come with the first iOS 9 build, but since Apple is strongly considering to enter the business and education sector, we might see the feature added in an update by the end of the year.

Thank you 9to5 Mac 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

Cortana Coming to Android and iOS

As reported by Reuters, Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant, will be available on Android and iOS as a standalone app after the launch of Windows 10 in the fall.

With Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella wanting to bring Microsoft services wherever their customers are, bring Cortana to other platforms is the next step. After Office for iOS was released last year, and Outlook for both Android and iOS this year, Microsoft has made head-ways already.

Named after the AI from the successful Halo franchise, the digital assistant we get will be powered by Microsoft Bing search technologies. But more than just searching, she will also be able to interact with users contacts, calendar, music, messages, and much more. Microsoft has been able to retain the services of Jen Taylor from the games, so that ever familiar voice isn’t going anywhere.

As is standard with both Google Now and Siri, Cortana will be voice activated with a simple saying of the command “Hey, Cortana.” With full Windows 10 integration, she will dish out information on weather, show your friends that great selfie you just took, or play that perfect song to make the mood.

Source: Polygon

 

How Siri Can Help you Locate The Owner of a Lost Phone

These days, the three major mobile operating systems all ship with their own ‘personal assistants’. Windows Phone has Cortana, Android has ‘Ok Google’, and iOS of course has Siri.

The artificial intelligence behind these systems is so complex, that many hidden features are regularly being found by users. Thanks to OS X Dailya new feature of Apple’s Siri has been discovered that could go a long way in helping someone track down the owner of a lost iPhone or iPad.

Simply by asking “Whose phone is this?” or “Who owns this iPhone?”, Siri will give you the contact details of the owner – all from the lock screen, so you don’t need to know the passcode to get this vital information.

The thing is, if you ask “Whose iPhone is this?” or any other similar question that is not identical to the two above, you won’t get that information. It seems that this may not be a feature we’re meant to see yet, as it is not yet currently documented officially by Apple and its poor integration with Siri’s UI suggests that it may well be something for a future software update.

Nonetheless, it’s certainly a thoughtful feature, one that no doubt will be fully integrated as time goes on.

Source: OS X Daily

Yahoo and Microsoft Compete to Become Apple’s Default Search Engine

As Google Search’s contract with Apple nears its end, Yahoo and Microsoft are both vying to replace it as Safari’s default search engine. Yahoo have already stepped into the vacant spot Google left at Firefox, becoming their search engine of choice, and now another lucrative partnership is due for negotiation when Google’s agreement with apple expires next year.

Safari is the core browser on Apple’s Mac and iOS devices, so as such has a sizeable market penetration, making this a potentially lucrative contract. Both Microsoft and Yahoo have ongoing relationships with Apple, the former providing search results via Bing within the iPhone’s Siri, and the latter providing stock data for iOS.

Source: electronista

Apple Defends CarPlay Safety

Apple has defended its CarPlay product, after a University of Utah study suggested that Siri was the most distracting of all speech recognition systems when used in the car.

Apple said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal that the study only tested Siri alone, not the company’s in-car product CarPlay, which includes Siri Eyes Free.

“CarPlay and Siri Eyes Free intuitively use your vehicle’s native controls so you don’t need to pick-up and look at your phone while driving. These experiences are tailored so you only have access to iPhone apps that are optimized for the car and make sense for an in-vehicle experience.”

The study compared multiple in-car systems, as well as Apple’s Siri. However, it must be said that the researchers didn’t make it clear that they only used the standard version of Siri included with iPhones and iPads, not Apple’s CarPlay, which is tailored for driving.

Source: 9to5Mac

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

Rehab Clinics say our Smartphone Dependencies Fuel Other Addictions

Morningside Recovery rehab clinic’s executive director (Joel Edwards) has recently made some comments claiming mobile phone addiction is making some of our bad habits even worse.

As we learned, Edwards stated:

“The smartphone is the tool that helps exacerbate that addiction or it’s a tool they use not to deal with that addiction”

There is no denying that smartphones have well and truly become a part of our everyday lives. As according to a study conducted by comScore in May, roughly 169 million Americans currently own a smartphone and nearly two-thirds of people are living without a traditional ‘land line’ wired phone. This being a 6% rise in smartphone usage since February 2014.

With this data in mind, Edwards commented:

“We’re dealing with more and more smartphones as part of the underlying issues. These technologies are driving addictions faster and with more intensity than ever before”

Substance addictions are one of the most publically common issues being supported through smartphone use. Edwards went on to mention a few specific examples as we learned thanks to Market Watch, with one of these being drug related. Thanks to new technology, substance addicted users can simply ask ‘Siri’ for assistance:

“I’m in Newport Beach looking for tar or 420” — refers to black tar heroin and cannabis, Edwards adds, but those code words for drugs will go over the heads of most people.”

Smart phones are also said to play a part in behavioural addictions. Things like gaming, social networking, pornography and sex are all included as according to Restart Life‘s co-founder Hilarie Cash. Restart life is responsible for looking after treatment of males over the age of 18 and provides a digital free retreat for between 35 to 90 days to help improve social skills. 95% of Restart Life’s clients are said to have a gaming addiction, but there are also other issues including pornography and social networking generally present.

In extreme circumstances some users can suffer major anxiety issues surrounding their smartphone. Although smartphones can often be used to treat anxiety, some users were found to have anxiety issues after being separated with their device for only 10 minutes as according to a study co-authored by Larry Rosen. Rosen also commented:

“Most people can’t last an hour without getting highly anxious if their smartphone is taken away”

This information is not intended to portray that all smartphone users are going to lure themselves into a mental illness through ‘normal’ or ‘constant/excessive’ use. It’s showing you that for those with a substance or behavioural addiction problem, smart phones can play a major part of the problem or in some cases even begin the complications.

How would you fare without your phone for 24 hours?

Image courtesy of Talk Android

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.

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