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Big Tech

  • Here’s what Microsoft Zo thinks about Cape Town, social media and Pokemon

    Microsoft is old hat at this artificial intelligence chat bot thing. Remember the drama its teenage bot Tay caused on Twitter? Well, the company has now taken to the less-traversed Kik for some more interesting results. Its new bot on the platform, dubbed Zo, is a little more reserved than her curious, parrot-like sibling, and responds to politics and politically incorrect content and questions with a bat of the eyelids. This makes Zo a less impressionable bot. But is she fun to chat with? And what can she actually do? Taking a few minutes out of my day to talk to an...

  • Google’s Trusted Contacts is the app parents will love

    Once upon a time, you could keep track of your friends' and family's whereabouts using Google Plus. But that was the complicated past. Today, Google debuted a new Android app that aims to simplify keeping tabs on loved ones. Called Google Trusted Contacts, the app lets the most important people in your life request your location data from the app. If you fail to respond to the request, the app will automatically ping your loved one with your last recorded location. It's effectively Google's emergency location app. Trusted Contacts seems to pose a boat load of security problems. For one, your...

  • Apple Music student discounts now available in South Africa

    Apple Music's student additions are now available in 30 more countries, including South Africa, the Cupertino company announced. The student membership, which gives those attending tertiary institutions a discount for up to four years. Users will be required to log-in through the "school's Wi-Fi network when you join Apple Music to validate your student eligibility". Apple will also enroll the aid of UNiDays -- a student discount company used by the likes of Spotify. Apple Music users enrolled at university will receive sizeable discounts The countries added to this list now include Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, Colombia, Finland, France, Hong Kong,...

  • Google Trips: how does it fare against its competition?

    When Google Trips launched in September to little fanfare we covered it here at Memeburn, noting that it arrives as a big upgrade to their previous app, Google Now. But things have been oddly silent in the media since the launch. If you missed our original article, then, it’s entirely possible that Google Trips has slipped beneath your radar, leaving you wondering what this whole thing even is. You certainly wouldn’t be alone in your confusion. Compared to the fanfare that accompanied the launch of Google+, Google Trips, which culls information from your emails to help assemble trip itineraries, didn’t receive...

  • Trump offers Apple ‘large’ tax cuts for US manufacturing return

    US president-elect Donald Trump held a phone call with Apple CEO Tim Cook, offering the tech firm "very large" tax cuts to return manufacturing to the USA. In an interview with the New York Times, Trump said that he received calls from Bill Gates and Tim Cook. "I was honoured yesterday, I got a call from Bill Gates, great call, we had a great conversation, I got a call from Tim Cook at Apple, and I said, 'Tim, you know one of the things that will be a real achievement for me is when I get Apple to build a big...

  • Here’s how Google Play is using AI to improve search

    Trying to find an app on the Google Play Store can be an exercise in frustration, especially if it's an eagerly anticipated app or new release. Things don't get much better for mega-popular apps, as the search results are often cluttered with irrelevant results. Fortunately, Google is working on a solution, using machine learning to get better results. The company detailed its efforts on the Google Research Blog. "Searches by topic require more than simply indexing apps by query terms; they require an understanding of the topics associated with an app," the team of software engineers wrote. The work required machine-learning...

  • Google Search shows how much SA cares about ‘Donald Trump’

    Google News Labs' US Elections hub is about as interesting as the elections itself. Graphing its slew of data garnered from daily search habits, the Mountain View company is giving users another way to explore the gravity of the ballot they're about to cast -- whether its for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Or well, even if you're just an onlooker. Speaking of onlookers... although taking a look at search habits on a state-by-state basis is interesting enough, what about the rest of the world? Who is searching for what? South Africa's Google Search habits centre around racism, Black Lives Matter and...

  • Microsoft Teams: Redmond joins the funky workplace collab party

    Microsoft has today launched its answer to workplace collaboration tool Slack in the form of Microsoft Teams. The company's announcement comes just weeks after social giant Facebook launched its Slack competitor, Workplace. Like Slack, the chat-based workspace allows groups to collaborate on projects through persistent chat threads and rooms, but also supports video calling by plugging into Skype, and group task completion by using Microsoft's Office program suite. Teams will also boast apps for MacOS, Android and iOS, including the web. "At Microsoft, we are deeply committed to the mission of helping people and organizations achieve more—and reinventing productivity for the cloud and...

  • ‘Harambe’ lives on as emoji in Apple’s iOS 10.2 update

    Good news, internet. Harambe might be making a triumphant return to your Apple mobile device in the form of an emoji. Although many Apple mobile users currently run iOS 10.1, version 10.2 is just around the corner. And with it, comes a slew of new emoji. 72 emoji are included in Apple's latest developer preview build of iOS, with male and female counterparts providing the bulk of the new items. But one particular emoji is causing a bit of a stir on the internet. If iOS 10 doesn't have a Harambe emoji I'm going to be so disappointed. — Harambe (@_The_Harambe) September 12,...

  • Apple’s new TV app is called ‘TV’ because some things never change

    Apple's October event wasn't all MacBooks and iPhone updates. Today, Tim Cook and crew announced a few things for the Apple TV. Chief of which is the company's new TV app simply dubbed TV. No, seriously. It's actually called TV. Even with that uninspiring name, the app is heading to both tvOS (Apple TV) and iOS (iPhone and iPad) for users in the US "by the end of the year", and aims to provide users with a unified viewing experience. It's essentially a digital TV guide, displaying the collated content from all of your video-on-demand accounts -- from HBO to CBS --...

  • Apple Q4 2016 financials: revenue slides as services boom

    Apple has revealed its Q4 2016 earnings report, revealing US$46.9-billion in revenue and US$9-billion in profit for the quarter. How did they fare compared to Q4 2015 though? Well, the company reported revenue of US$51.5-billion and US$11.1-billion in profit back then, marking a notable slide. The company has also seen a significant year-on-year decline in the crucial Greater China market, going from US$12.5-billion in Q4 2015 to US$8.7-billion in Q4 2016 (representing a 30% drop). As for the all-important hardware sales this quarter? Well, the firm recorded a 17% revenue drop for Macs compared to a year ago, as well as a 13% revenue drop...

  • Google purchases eyeball tracking firm Eyefluence

    "Eyeball tracking" might sound like the stuff of science fiction horrors, but it's an essential focus for those in the virtual and augmented reality spaces. And who better to know this than Google? The company has bought eyeball tracking firm Eyefluence, which should help it in its present and future VR and AR ambitions. Financial information was undisclosed, but according to Mattermark, Eyefluence raised around US$21.6-million in two funding rounds. Eyefluence, founded in 2013 by Livescribe founder Jim Margraff, develops technology to "create a more natural, intuitive way to interact with augmented and virtual reality displays". "Over the last three and a...

  • Microsoft Q1 2017: huge cloud growth, big Phone drop

    Microsoft has seemingly hit the purplest of its purple patches this week, after the Redmond-based company announced its Q1 2017 earnings. Shares ballooned to US$60.43 -- at one point, a jump of nearly 6.3% -- adding around US$25-billion to its market cap. The company's CEO Satya Nadella, was pretty happy to say the least. "We are helping to lead a profound digital transformation for customers, infusing intelligence across all of our platforms and experiences," he explains. "We continue to innovate, grow engagement, and build our total addressable market." Microsoft's Windows 10 is flat, its phone business is dying but its cloud portfolio is...

  • Google Camera’s trigger button is now a voice command

    Tapping a screen too energy sapping for you? Google Camera's latest update adds the ability to snap pictures using a simple voice command. The feature, which was first available on the Google Pixel and Pixel XL running Android Nougat 7.1, has now extended its compatibility with any device running the OS. That means practically any device running Android Nougat 7.1 can use the new Google Camera app. Snapping a picture using Google Camera can be done using a simple five-word phrase Google Camera's voice snap feature, although seemingly over-complicated, actually simplifies the action of taking a photo in some cases. The activation command, "Okay...

  • Microsoft makes speech recognition more human

    Microsoft has announced a breakthrough for speech recognition, producing a system that recognises words in a conversation as fast as a human. The new speech recognition system, by Microsoft's Artificial Intelligence and Research team, makes either the same or fewer errors than transcriptionists, having a word error rate (WER) of 5.9%. "The 5.9% error rate is about equal to that of people who were asked to transcribe the same conversation, and it's the lowest ever recorded against the industry standard Switchboard speech recognition task," Microsoft explained on its blog. The US tech firm says that the breakthrough marks the first time that a...