Technology: LG Integrates Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa

LG has integrated Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa into its smart televisions.

“LG’s vision is to become a major name in all things AI based on our philosophy of open platform, open partnership and open connectivity,” said Brian Kwon, president at LG Home Entertainment Company.

Last week the company rolled out all functionalities and software updates for its 2018 LG OLED TV and LED LCD TV range to Australia, Canada, France, Germany, South Korea, Spain and the UK.

The Alexa integration is limited to TV-specific functions, including volume and input control, whereas the Google Assistant integration goes further. Users who have configured the latter with their TV will be able to use voice command to access Google Assistant-compliant apps, answer search queries, and display homes for sale on web as well as shopping platforms like eBay and Woolworths.

Technology: Amazon Promotes Own Brands on Competitors’ Listings

Amazon appears to be testing a new feature to promote its own products under the listings of competing brands.

CNBC reported that users could find the link “Similar item from Our Brands” under search results for a variety of products, which connects to the product page of Amazon’s private brands. For example, users looking to buy body wash from Dove could find under the listing a link directing them to a product page of P.O.V., an Amazon-owned personal care brand. Similarly, the link underneath the listings for Bounty paper towels connects to Amazon’s household brand Presto.

Vendors voiced out their complaints on Amazon’s seller forum, raising questions over the fairness of competition on the platform.

“If you’ve got Amazon brands competing against you, it’s just become that much more difficult to be competitive in the marketplace,” said Jeff Cohen, chief marketing officer at Seller Labs, an agency that helps sellers advertise their business on the online marketplace.

Amazon has not announced any new features on the platform, nor has the company responded to media enquiries on the matter.

A report by TJI Research released last week expected Amazon’s private labels to contribute $7.5 billion in sales this year. “Private label is one of the highly under-appreciated trends within Amazon, in our view, which over time should give the company a strong ‘unfair’ competitive advantage,” the report said.

Technology: Singapore to Embrace Cloud for Government IT Systems

The Singaporean government will move most of its IT systems to commercial cloud services over the next few years, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has announced.

In the Stack 2018 Developer Conference on Tuesday, Lee said the government would need to “re-engineer” its systems and processes to provide better public service.

“With technology, we can … reduce bureaucracy and simplify our processes significantly,” said Lee. “We have done a preliminary study, and concluded that many government systems can in principle exist in the commercial cloud.”

Lee said some systems will be migrated to the commercial cloud infrastructure over the next few years, with plans to create “our own government cloud” for systems that cannot be transferred.

He also emphasised the government’s concern for security and data protection, mentioning the recent SingHealth cyber-attack that saw hackers steal 160,000 medical records and 1.5 million patients’ personal information. “The latest SingHealth incident only drives us to redouble our efforts,” said Lee.

Singapore isn’t the first government to introduce commercial cloud solution. In February, the Australian government unveiled Secure Cloud Strategy to allow agencies to use cloud services more easily.

Technology: Apple Removes the Home Button from New iPhones

Apple is getting rid of the home button on its upcoming iPhones.

In an event at Apple’s Cupertino headquarter last night, the company revealed that its new handsets would not have the home button as the Touch ID biometric authentication system is removed. The upcoming models – namely iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR – would use Face ID instead, where users can swipe up the screen or give a look to unlock the phone.

“You look at it to unlock it,” said Phil Schiller, marketing chief at Apple. “Your phone knows what you look like and your face becomes your password.”

Apple first introduced home button-free device last year with iPhone X.

In the same night, the company also unveiled a few upgrades for the Apple Watch. The Series 4 range will have edge-to-edge screen and a health feature where the device can start an emergency call upon detecting the user’s irregular heartbeat.

Technology: Twitter ‘Purges’ Millions of Accounts

Twitter is set to remove tens of millions of suspicious accounts, amounting to up to six per cent of all accounts.

The company said removing locked accounts, which have been restricted from posting after a large number of unsolicited replies or mentions, is part of the effort to discourage “the purchase of followers and fake accounts to artificially inflate follower counts” and “improve the health of conversations” on the platform.

“Over the years, we’ve locked accounts when we detected sudden changes in account behaviour,” said Twitter spokeswoman Vijaya Gadde.

“In these situations, we reach out to the owners of the accounts and unless they validate the account and reset their passwords, we keep them locked with no ability to log in. This week, we’ll be removing these locked accounts from follower counts across profiles globally. As a result, the number of followers displayed on many profiles may go down.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey posted that he lost 200,000 followers in the ‘purge’.

However, according to Gadde, most users will only see a drop of four followers or fewer.

Technology: New 4D Printer Unveiled

A team of researchers have developed a 4D printer, a progress that promises to bring changes in aerospace, medicine and other industries.

The 4D printer is able to print 3D objects which can change shape after exposure to heat, humidity and/or light, and then revert back to its original form. Furthermore, whereas most commercial printers can only print 4D structures in one material only, the new printer is able to bring together different varieties.

The team presented its creation at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) late March.

“We are on the cusp of creating a new generation of devices that could vastly expand the practical applications for 3-D and 4-D printing,” said team leader H Jerry Qi, who is also a professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“Our prototype printer integrates many features that appear to simplify and expedite the processes used in traditional 3-D printing.

“As a result, we can use a variety of materials to create hard and soft components at the same time, incorporate conductive wiring directly into shape-changing structures, and ultimately set the stage for the development of a host of 4-D products that could reshape our world.”

The team is currently working with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to find out the technology’s suitability for printing prosthetic hands in children with malformed arms.

“Only a small group of children have this condition, so there isn’t a lot of commercial interest in it and most insurance does not cover the expense,” Qi said. “But these children have a lot of challenges in their daily lives, and we hope our new 4D printer will help them overcome some of these difficulties.”

The printer, which was funded by HP, the National Science Foundation, the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and Northrop Grumman, cost approximately US$350,000 to build, Qi revealed.

The creation received positive response at the meeting. “We just had a conversation where we were dreaming of that kind of machine,” said Geoff Spinks, materials engineering professor at the University of Wollongong. “I’d imagine in the near future we might have 16 different types of printheads, or even more.”

Technology: NASA Discovers 10 Earth-Sized, Potentially Habitable Planets

NASA has discovered 219 new possible planets outside our solar system, including 10 near-Earth-sized candidates with potentially habitable conditions.

After four years, the Kepler Space Telescope mission has found a total of 4,034 planet candidates, with over half of them confirmed.

“With this catalog, we’re able to extend [our analysis of planets’ demographics] out to the longest periods, those periods that are most similar to our Earth,” said Susan Thompson, a Kepler research scientist for the SETI Institute in California.

“As a result, this survey catalog will be the foundation for directly answering one of astronomy’s most compelling questions: How many planets like our Earth are actually in the galaxy?”

However, Thompson said it will still take a year for the Kepler team to find out how common potentially habitable planets are in the Milky Way galaxy.

Technology: Australians Should Be Wary of Mindfulness Apps Offering ‘Quick Fix’, Doctor Says

Users of smartphone mindfulness apps are urged to be cautious of quick-fix promises, as doctors call for better regulations of the digital mental health market.

Dr Quinn Grundy, a postdoctoral researcher with the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre, said her investigation of these apps revealed a worrying trend.

“There was a lot of messages around how easy and quickly the app could solve your problems,” said Dr Grundy.

“[But] if your app has promised that you’ll get better really easily and really quickly and you don’t, consumers shouldn’t feel like there’s something wrong with them, or that their mental health can’t be treated.”

The investigation, funded by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), also found that only a small proportion of the apps were created by universities or healthcare professionals.

“In the end we didn’t feel comfortable in endorsing any of these apps because even the ones that were from reputable organisations didn’t provide the privacy assurances one would hope for, or if they had a great privacy policy it was unclear that the developer had any mental health expertise or that it was based on sound evidence,” Dr Grundy told AAP.

Dr Grundy also expressed concerns over the commercial nature of these apps. “We would argue that mental health consumers are perhaps in a more vulnerable position to things like targeted advertising, or in-app purchases or a subscription model,” she said.

“So for example we saw apps that would be about anxiety or depression, but at the bottom you have these banner ads advertising weight loss products.”

Dr Grundy said governments should increase regulation of the digital app market.

PhD student Jazmin Ozsvar said mindfulness apps made her anxiety worse. “At first I found the meditations useful, particularly at night,” Ozsvar said. “But the requirement for daily reporting started to get annoying, and I realised that when I rated myself as feeling down, that actually compounded those feelings, I ended up feeling worse. So I gave it up.”

Ozsvar recommended the use of these apps in conjunction with professional help.

Technology: iPhone Turns 10

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the original iPhone, which was first introduced by late Apple founder Steve Jobs in an Apple conference.

On January 9, 2007, Jobs said: “Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. One’s very fortunate if you get to work on just one of these in your career. Apple has been very fortunate that it’s been able to introduce a few of these into the world. In 1984, we introduced the Macintosh. It didn’t just change Apple, it changed the whole computer industry. In 2001 we introduced the first iPod, and it didn’t just change the way we all listened to music, it changed the entire music industry. Well, today we’re introducing three revolutionary products…”

These three revolutionary products – an iPod, a phone, and an “internet mobile communicator” –  were later revealed to be “not three separate devices, and we are calling it iPhone. Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone. And here it is.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hUIxyE2Ns8

Jobs unveiled a smartphone with a 3.5 inch touchscreen and features like web browser, music player, weather and map apps, which would turn out revolutionary for mobile and communication technology.

The touchscreen technology was the main driver in making the device a dominant force in the market, Foad Fadaghi, managing director at technology analyst firm Telsyte said. “With the arrival of the third party app store and 3G connectivity the iPhone really started to help the device take off,” Fadaghi said.

iPhone also helped drive the smartphone market to condense multiple features, such as camera and music player, into one device, said Dr Christine Satchell, mobile device expert at Queensland University of Technology. “The smartphone both democratised internet access and improved it for many millions of people,” Fadaghi said.

Although iPhone was one of Apple’s biggest moneymaker, the sales of the latest iPhone 7 have been sluggish. The company’s operating profit declined 16 percent to $60 billion due to a decline in the sales of the device for the first time since it came out a decade ago.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDZEoBgKTiY

However, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook said the anniversary only marks the beginning. “iPhone is an essential part of our customers’ lives, and today more than ever it is redefining the way we communicate, entertain, work and live,” Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook said in a statement. “iPhone set the standard for mobile computing in its first decade and we are just getting started. The best is yet to come.”

Technology: BlackBerry to Stop Making Its Own Phones

BlackBerry has announced that it will stop making phones in order to focus on software development.

The production of handsets will be leveraged to a new, Indonesia-based joint venture called BB Merah Putih. This venture will be led by PT Tiphone, an affiliate of Indonesia’s largest carrier, Telkomsel.

Chief operating officer and general manager at BlackBerry, Ralph Pini said the decision enables the company to continue bringing BlackBerry devices to the market and develop “state-of-the-art security software for devices”.

“BlackBerry is no longer just about the smartphone, but the smart in the phone,” said BlackBerry CEO, John Chen. “Through this strategy, there will continue to be BlackBerry-branded devices in the market; when you see our logo it means security, from our class-leading enterprise software to devices secured by BlackBerry software.”

BlackBerry smartphones have long been overtaken by Apple and Samsung, with current market share of 0.1 per cent and recorded losses of $670 million in the last quarter.

BlackBerry was known as the inventor of smartphones, with the launch of BlackBerry 850 in 1999. It was popular among business executives and heads of state, with President Barack Obama as one of the world’s most prominent fans of the phone product.