Alibaba undercuts Echo and HomePod with $73 smart speaker

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Aliba
It's only available in China for now, though!
Photo: Alibaba

China’s Alibaba Group has launched a cut-price smart speaker to compete with the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple’s forthcoming HomePod, as announced at WWDC.

Called the “Tmall Genie,” after Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Tmall, the China-only device represents the company’s first step into artificial intelligence hardware. It is priced at 499 yuan ($73.42), which makes it significantly cheaper than the aforementioned rivals.

Former Apple product design engineer reveals how Apple runs its factories

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Instrumental CEO Anna-Katrina Shedletsky
Anna Katrina Shedletsky is a former Apple product design engineer who is using her experience to build AI that helps companies streamline manufacturing.
Photo: Instrumental

On this week’s Apple Chat (the podcast formerly known as Kahney’s Korner): I talk with former Apple product design engineer Anna-Katrina Shedletsky about her take on modern manufacturing and how AI will revolutionize factories. She introduces us to her new company, Instrumental, which is using machine learning to help manufacturers identify and fix problems on their assembly lines.

Using her hard-earned experience at Apple overseeing the production of the first Apple Watch and several generations of the iPod, Shedletsky says machine learning is coming fast to manufacturing. Amazingly, almost all consumer electronics products are still assembled by hand — including hundreds of millions of iPhones.

But that’s changing. Manufacturing is undergoing a huge sea change with the advance of robotics and AI.

Macphun adds AI power to photo editing app

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neptune
Macphun adds artificial intelligence to Luminar with its Neptune update.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

When Macphun entered the imaging software game, it wanted to make products as powerful as Photoshop, Aperture or Lightroom yet with fewer clicks to well-styled photos.

Today, Macphun released an update to its all-in-one editing app Luminar that can make a photo beautiful in still fewer steps.

How does one sound?

Apple finally proves it’s serious about AI

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Apple AI
Apple's ready to embrace machine learning.
Photo: Gordon Johnson/Pixabay CC

Sitting on a cash pile of billions, Apple’s not a company that’s used to being left behind. But when it comes to artificial intelligence, that’s exactly what has happened in recent years. While companies like Google and Facebook led the way with cutting-edge AI, Apple lagged. It was embarrassing for a company in Apple’s position to miss out on the single best tech revolution taking place at the moment.

But during Monday’s WWDC 2017 keynote, Apple went a long way toward making amends.

Apple is developing a special AI chip for iPhone

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A10 Fusion
Custom AI-powered silicon could be Apple's next big thing.
Photo: Apple

Apple is allegedly planning to take its Artificial Intelligence game to an all-new level an AI-powered iPhone chip.

In a race to catch up with the competition at Amazon and Google, Apple has a team of engineers working on a new piece of silicon that’s dedicated to processing artificial intelligence commands which could lead to improved battery life.

Will Siri ever be as good as the Google Assistant? [Friday Night Fights]

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The gap is getting wider.
The gap is getting wider.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Google brought its Google Assistant to iOS this week, finally giving iPhone fans a taste of the best virtual assistant on the planet. But those on Android are in for so much more, with major improvements on the way, including impressive Google Lens integration.

Friday Night Fights bugThe changes make it harder than ever for Siri to catch up. Despite the improvements Apple made with iOS 10, it still feels like Siri is well behind its rivals. Is that gap now too big, or can Apple catch up? Will Siri ever be as good as the Google Assistant?

Join us in this week’s Friday Night Fight as we wage war over virtual assistants.

Apple’s new AI acquisition will help it make sense of data

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screen-shot-2017-05-13-at-13-56-34
Dark data isn't as sinister as it sounds.
Photo: Lattice Data

Apple has acquired an AI company as part of its continued push to embrace artificial intelligence.

The company in question is the Menlo Park-based Lattice Data, which specializes in taking unstructured, “dark” data and transforming it into more useful, structured information. Apple acquired around 20 engineers as part of the deal.

Forget replacing humans, Apple wants AI to improve our memory

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Siri
Siri may soon remember every detail of your life.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

If Apple has its way in the field of artificial intelligence, robots and algorithms won’t just be used to replace you at work, they could help fix your brain too.

Apple executive and Siri co-creator, Tom Gruber, laid out a different vision for artificial intelligence today while speaking at the TED 2017 conference in Vancouver, Canada. During his remarks, Gruber told the crowd how he thinks AI could become more helpful than harmful.