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21
May

Evernote Adds Ability to Transcribe Voice-to-Text Notes via AirPods, BeatsX, and More


Note-taking app Evernote was updated over the weekend with a new feature that allows you to connect your Bluetooth headphones to the app and use them to record audio and transcribe voice-to-text notes. The company says that as long as the headphones have a microphone they will work, so if you own AirPods or BeatsX you’ll be able to use the wireless earphones to quickly jot down notes and reminders using your voice and Evernote.

To use the feature, make sure your Bluetooth headphones are on and connected to the iPhone, which you can double check in the Settings app > Bluetooth. Next open Evernote, tap the large “+” button at the bottom of the screen to create a new note, then tap the microphone icon at the bottom right of the keyboard on iOS. As long as your headphones are connected, Evernote will now route audio from the headphone’s microphone instead of the iPhone, so you can transcribe notes or save audio files without needing to hold your iPhone up to your mouth.

If your bluetooth headphones also have a microphone (*cough* Apple AirPods *cough*), you’ll be happy to know you can now use them to record audio into Evernote.

The version 8.12 update also brings a tweak to the note list view so you can better keep track of where you are in your notes, with month and year designators staying pinned at the top of the screen as you browse. The company also cleaned up the sharing menu, brought back the Context feature for Premium and Business users, and fixed a handful of bugs.

Evernote previously debuted full “Hey Siri” support last September, allowing iPhone owners to use phrases like “Hey Siri, add ‘I should bring pizza’ to my Meeting Ideas note in Evernote.” The app has long supported voice notes and transcribing features on iOS with the iPhone and iPad’s built in microphones, but the new addition of Bluetooth headphone support should make note-taking easier for many users.

Evernote is free to download on the iOS App Store [Direct Link], while Evernote Premium runs for $7.99 monthly, or $69.99 annually, and comes with more monthly storage space, unlimited devices, and more.

Related Roundup: AirPodsTags: Evernote, BeatsXBuyer’s Guide: AirPods (Caution)
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21
May

Apple Loses Out as Netflix Inks Content Deal With Former President Obama


Former United States President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama have signed a multiyear production deal with Netflix that will see the two producing television shows and films for the service, reports The New York Times.

Though Netflix had been in negotiations with the Obamas for several months, Apple was rumored to be interested in working with the duo had the Netflix deal fallen through. Apple has been developing a slew of original television shows, and a deal with Michelle and Barack Obama would have been a big win.

Image via Getty Images
Obama’s deal with Netflix will allow for him to create content that will reach millions of people both in the United States and internationally through a new production company he created alongside Michelle Obama called “Higher Ground Productions.”

According to Netflix, the Obamas will create “scripted series, unscripted series, docu-series, documentaries, and features” that are meant to highlight the issues and themes the president worked on during his eight years in office.

“One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience. That’s why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix — we hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world.”

Obama has said that he does not plan to use Netflix to wage a public campaign against current president Donald Trump or to fight against conservative media outlets.

While Apple did not secure a deal with the Obamas, the company has more than a dozen original television shows in the works at the current time. Most of the shows are dramas, with one real estate-related docu-series in the works. Apple does not have any politically-oriented shows planned, and is said to be aiming to keep its content family friendly.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Related Roundup: Apple TVBuyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Neutral)
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21
May

Wherever the road takes you, the Pivt app will make you feel at home


Home may be where the heart is, but a new app can make it such that home is where you are. Pivt is intended specifically for expats, travelers, and other folks abroad just looking for a community to call their own — even if only for a short while. The app promises to help its users find and connect with folks in their extended social networks, specifically those with similar interests. The goal? To make any city feel like home. 

A recent study from the University of Virginia suggests, unsurprisingly perhaps, that moving can be associated with “shallower or lower-quality social relationships.” Add to that the notion that people start losing friends at 25, an age at which many young people are still finding new homes, and it becomes easy to see that the idea of making friends can be a rather daunting one. Pivt co-founder Lynn Greenberg found this to be the case herself when she moved to London following her graduation from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

“After going to bars by myself, withstanding one too many blind dates, and trying out other meetup platforms without much success, I decided to create my own solution,” Greenberg told Digital Trends. The trick, she noted, was to tap into her “existing trusted networks of people,” with whom she already had a shared connection. In much the way that Hinge believes that having a mutual connection is a good basis for a romantic relationship, Pivt believes that the same must be true for friendship. A natural conclusion, but not one that other apps have drawn quite yet. 

Pivt boasts a proprietary messaging platform that uses personalized, interest-based group and private chats to connect users with their friends, friends of friends, or potential friends from within a mutual network, be it your hometown, university, or workplace. Moreover, with Pivt Communities, users can connect with others with similar interests and goals in their new city. They’ll also be able to tap into this broader network to ask for recommendations, create gatherings, or stay up-to-date with local events, shared hobbies, or general happenings in their new city. 

I start every day energized by our mission to make any city feel like home,” Greenberg said. “By taking some of the fear out of moving and traveling, we hope that Pivt will make it possible for more people to go to unfamiliar places, embrace opportunity, and expand their outlooks.”

You can download Pivt on the the App Store or on Google Play.

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21
May

How much energy does Bitcoin mining require? Experts are unsure


How much energy does crypto mining really use? One recently released study conducted by Alex de Vries says that Bitcoin mining consumes 24 THw of energy or as much as Ireland. To make matters worse, the study estimates that Bitcoin’s energy use is doubling every six months. By the end of 2018, Bitcoin could use as much as 67 THw or the annual energy consumption of the Czech Republic.

While those numbers might seem high, things may not be as bad as they sound. For starters, one of the main issues with Bitcoin mining is that it was originally powered in large part by coal plants in China. In recent years, however, China has worked to rein in its pollution problem, and many Bitcoin mining operations have moved to countries which make use of cleaner energy.

Another issue is the matter of distribution. Comparing Bitcoin’s energy usage to countries such as Ireland or the Czech Republic is useful to help visualize the scope of their operations, but that doesn’t tell the full story. Bitcoin mining can happen from anywhere in the world so no one country’s infrastructure is bearing the brunt of the cost.

Beyond that, there are numerous experts who dispute this study’s findings. Jonathan Koomey, a professor at Stanford who, in the 1990s, disproved similar fears about the internet, says there simply isn’t enough data available to draw conclusions.

“For two decades, people have been eager to overestimate electricity use by computing,” Koomey told NBC News. “My concern is that we simply don’t have adequate data to come to the strong conclusions that he’s coming to.”

One of the issues Koomey points out is that it is difficult to determine how the value of the energy used in Bitcoin mining and the price paid for that energy. He is unsure of where de Vries is getting the two numbers he uses for those values.

“The worry is that those are two numbers that are picked out of the air,” said Koomey. “There may be some basis for them, but it’s a very unreliable way to do these kinds of calculations, and nobody who does this for a living would do it like that. It’s odd that someone would.”

The other issue is the accessibility of Bitcoin data. Many Bitcoin miners are concerned about their privacy which can make it difficult to accurately determine how much energy is used.

The mining of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies does consume a fair amount of energy, but it’s unclear as to exactly how much.

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21
May

The Fairy drone is an aerial photographer with nearly magical powers


It’s been years since you believed in the tooth fairy, your fairy godmother, or the best known fairy of all — Tinkerbell. But that doesn’t mean fairies don’t exist. In fact, the Fairy drone is very real indeed. It’s a pocket-sized drone that promises to be able to fly and take photos just about anywhere.

Currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, the Fairy has clearly captured the imaginations of backers around the globe, with nearly 800 individuals already pledging almost $100,000 as of press time to bring this drone to market. What makes the quadcopter so appealing is likely its relative ease of use. This drone promises to be “perfect for newbies,” combining easy flying control with a 1080p FHD camera, auto tracking, motion control, and 16 minutes of flight time on a single charge.

With the Fairy’s companion app, you can quickly transform this flying device into your personal air camera. Meant to be used on the go, the drone folds into the size of a phone and weighs in at just 140 grams, which means that it can literally fit in your pocket. Plus, this particular quadcopter does not require FAA registration (though you should still certainly fly responsibly).

“The Fairy drone has been designed with a high-performancing camera and a Sony 1/3” (CMOS) sensor to deliver 1080P full HD videos (30 fps) and 8-megapixel images,” the team notes on its Kickstarter page. The camera offers continuous capture and delay capture modes, which ought to help you acquire the footage you need.

The Fairy’s auto-tracking mode will automatically have the drone follow you around so that you can have a hands-free content-capture experience. Alternatively, the motion control mode allows you to turn your phone into a motion-sensing controller, which means you can tilt your phone and have the Fairy follow you. And thanks to Fairy’s SLAM 3D precise position hovering technology, the drone purports to take steady images, and maintain high altitude. That said, given how little the drone weighs, we’re a bit skeptical of how well it would perform on windy days.

And if landing a drone still seems like a tough act, the Fairy should be able to return home quickly. The team claims to have developed a smart function that forces the Fairy to return to its initial starting point should it venture out of range or otherwise become too difficult to manage. This is made possible with the drone’s dual-band GPS that tracks exact positioning as well as its starting point.

Fairy promises three different sensitivity modes for different flying experiences depending on if you’re flying for the sake of capturing photos or video, or engaging in some high-altitude racing.

The team behind the drone claims to have already sourced their suppliers and parts, and completed a trial manufacturing run. Mass production is slated to begin at the conclusion of the campaign, which ought to take place in just under four weeks.

While you should always exercise caution when backing a crowdfunding campaign, if the Fairy drone seems to be up your alley, the team is offering early bird pricing of $99. Delivery is anticipated for July 2018.

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21
May

Bose’s revolutionary adaptive suspension gets a reboot for 2019


Bose

Bose is a company known for audio equipment ranging from home and personal use, to even commercial applications. But what about car suspension designs? Not really.

But for those of us who remember this video demonstration clip from the early 2000s of a first-generation Lexus LS400 sedan exhibiting virtually no body motions through various driving tests, your memories aren’t tricking you and it wasn’t a simulation. It was indeed a Lexus LS400 prototype equipped with an active adaptive suspension made by the same company that makes some of the best active noise-canceling headphones today. And after 30 years since it was conceptualized, the technology is set to officially reach production, thanks to a new proprietor called ClearMotion, a U.S-based engineering and tech startup.

Bose actually designed and produced a working adaptive suspension setup?

Yes, Bose actually engineered its own electromagnetically controlled adaptive suspension system, initially designed to revolutionize traditional and current automotive setups. In 1980, Amar Bose himself expressed interest in developing alternative solutions to the traditional spring-and-shock absorber suspension setup after having a hellish ownership experience with a 1957 Pontiac equipped with air suspension and a 1967 Citroën, whose hydropneumatic self-leveling suspension always leaked.

During his company’s peak of developing loudspeaker drivers for home theater systems for the digital age, he realized that the idea of a speaker, which consists of a magnet and an electromagnetic coil that oscillates a speaker cone in and out to produce sound, can be scaled to move a corner of an automobile weighing more than 1,000 pounds. Because vehicle suspension struts only move bidirectionally, the idea wasn’t at all far-fetched.

With the help of advances in technology that provided the industry with better electromagnetic motors, more powerful electrical amplifiers, and most of all, significantly improved computing power, Bose was able to make his vision a reality. By 2004, the company felt comfortable enough with its development to impress its own accounting department by releasing its first video demonstration of his suspension system in action as a proof of concept. It was called Project Sound.

How does it work?

Similarly to modern adaptive and active suspension setups today, it utilizes a combination of clever engineering and software to essentially eliminate all body motions for a completely flat and level handling and driving experience. Bose’s system specifically uses what’s called a linear electromagnetic motor or “LEM” at each of the vehicle’s four suspension corners, instead of the conventional shock-and-spring setup. Amplifiers then pulse electricity to the motors, which also regenerate power from each compression of the strut. This provides the main benefit of the LEM in that their oscillation range isn’t limited by the inertia incurred by the dissipation of energy in conventional fluid-filled dampers.

This ultimately improves vehicle handling significantly by further managing the distribution of weight under specific driving situations while maintaining a center of gravity for the utmost control.

But not only that, the system can anticipate specific road imperfections and hazards and could even actively jump the car over an obstacle in order to completely avoid an impact, essentially rendering speedbumps and potholes a complete nonissue.

So what happened to this technology?

While a technical success with a strong proof of concept, Bose’s active suspension system never commercially took off because it was still too heavy, too complex, and too expensive to implement. But 30 years following its conception, the company’s incredible technology finally got the reboot it needed to actually get on the road. Back in 2013, ClearMotion bought the rights to the technology with hopes to revive it with modern updates and to put it into production.

“Our technology is the fastest proactive ride system that exists today,” ClearMotion CEO Shak Avadhany said in an exclusive interview with Autocar. “It really delivers an almost instantaneous level of isolation that’s so noticeable you’d feel the difference in the first 10 feet of driving.”

“In our system, we equip the damper with an active valve that allows the fluid inside to pass in and out,” Avadhany continued. “We have real-time accelerometers that are reading the road and reacting instantly, with motors providing the car with unparalleled ride quality.”

To help drive the cost down, ClearMotion is reworking Bose’s original design to be more cost efficient than the original. So far, more than five luxury and high-end automakers expressed their interest in the tech, but Avadhany didn’t specify which ones.

ClearMotion plans to introduce its new suspension system in a new “low-volume” vehicle in 2019 with hopes to further implement the system to the mass market by 2020.

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21
May

From BigDog to SpotMini: Tracing the evolution of Boston Dynamics robo-dogs


Boston Dynamics

Boston Dynamics makes some of the most badass robotic beasts around. Launched in 1992 as a spin off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the company has created some remarkably sophisticated machines, especially when it comes to replicating animal movements. It took more than a decade for the company’s first robots to emerge from its lab, but since then, Boston Dynamics has positioned itself as a leader in the field, unveiling robots that can sprint faster than Usain Bolt, leap onto buildings, and backflip better than most humans. But its most well-known creations are its canine-inspired robots.

Here’s a list of the evolutionary milestones made by Boston Dynamics, from it’s first iteration of BigDog to the commercialization of SpotMini.

January 2009 — BigDog makes its debut

Boston Dynamics first hit the scene in 2005 with the introduction of a three-foot-long, two-and-a-half-foot-wide, 240-pound robot named BigDog. Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — which specializes in high-risk, high-yield investments — BigDog was designed to be a pack mule for soldiers, capable of carrying 340 pounds, climbing 35-degree inclines, and no doubt striking fear into the heart of opposition.

February 2009 — LittleDog crawls into the spotlight

If BigDog was the size of a beefy Great Dane, LittleDog was unveiled as a scrappy chihuahua. Also funded by DARPA, LittleDog represented the smallest four-legged robot in the Boston Dynamics product line. Powered by lithium polymer batteries, LittleDog had a 30-minute operation limit, could be controlled remotely, and was capable of crawling — albeit slowly — across rocky terrain. Whereas BigDog was built by Boston Dynamics for Boston Dynamics, LittleDog was developed as a testbed for use by third parties.

September 2011 — AlphaDog Proto introduced

When AlphaDog Proto came onto the scene in 2011, Boston Dynamics’ military aspirations became ever more transparent. Thanks to funding from DARPA and the Untied States Marine Corps, AlphaDog Proto was capable of varying a 400-pound payload during a 20-mile mission through varied terrain. An internal combustion engine served to quiet the noisier BigDog — which came with a rather loud rumble — making it more appropriate for missions in the field.

September 2012 — Legged Squad Support System arrives

The next evolution of AlphaDog Proto was the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), which proved more versatile and robust than it’s predecessor. An array of sensors along the LS3 let it follow its human leader, while simultaneously navigating rough terrain to avoid obstacles. If tipped over, the robot could roll itself upright.

February 2013 — BigDog takes on objects

BigDog returned with a new trick in 2013 — arguably its most intimidating to date. This time, equipped with an “arm,” the robot could pick up a 35-pound cinder block and vigorously toss it up to 17 feet behind it. To do so, BigDog was trained to use its legs and torso as leverage, gripping and slinging the rock like a drunken Olympian throwing discus.

February 2015 — Spot

In 2015, Boston Dynamics unveiled it’s latest creation — an electrically powered, hydraulically actuated robot named Spot. At just 160 pounds, Spot was significantly smaller than previous canine-inspired models, and was designed for both indoor and outdoor activities. Sensors in its head allowed it navigate rocky terrain and avoid obstacles in transit. Spot could capably climb stairs and ascend hills, making it more versatile than its beefier forebears.

June 2016 — SpotMini bounds into the spotlight

We got a glimpse of Spot’s little brother, SpotMini, in 2016. Weighing in at 55 pounds, SpotMini was by far the smallest — and most mischievous — Boston Dynamics robot yet. Promoted as all-electric, meaning there were no hydraulics involved, SpotMini boasted 90-minutes of operation on a single charge, a slew of sensors that gave the robot advanced navigation capabilities, and the ability to perform some basic tasks autonomously. SpotMini sported an optional arm and gripper that let it pick up fragile objects and right itself after slipping on a banana peel.

November 2017 — SpotMini gets a makeover

In November 2017, Boston Dynamic introduced the new and improved SpotMini, a yellow robot whose fluid movements showed significant improvement over the more jerky prototype. But it wasn’t until a few months later that the robot’s robustness was demonstrated in a series of videos showing the machine pulling a door open, deftly putting its leg in front, and even working against one of the many Boston Dynamics engineers who seem hellbent on breaking its stride.

May 2018 — SpotMini explores autonomously

A video posted by Boston Dynamics in May of 2018 shows just how far its SpotMini has come. Equipped with a sophisticated navigation system, the robot is able to autonomously navigate through the company’s offices and lab, following a path it had previously mapped out during a manually driven run. This video was soon followed by news that, after nearly three decades, Boston Dynamics will make the SpotMini commercial available in 2019.

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21
May

How to buy the OnePlus 6: Options include online, pop-up events


Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The new OnePlus 6 has high-end specifications, a beautiful and modern design, and a lower price tag than other flagship smartphones. It’s safe to say that the OnePlus 6 lives up to the company’s “flagship killer” moniker.

Want to check out our impressions? See our OnePlus review for an in-depth look. How do you nab one for yourself? We break it down in our handy OnePlus 6 buying guide.

Does my carrier support the OnePlus 6?

The most important fact to know before buying the OnePlus 6 is that it does not work on Verizon or Sprint networks. The phone, like all of its predecessors, also doesn’t work with many crucial CDMA frequencies. That also means that Sprint and Verizon mobile virtual network operators, like Boost Mobile and Straight Talk, are incompatible as well.

Thankfully, the device does work on GSM networks, like T-Mobile and AT&T. If you’re already on one of those networks, you should be good to go. If not, you’ll have to think about switching carriers if you really want one.

Get it unlocked

In the U.S., OnePlus sells its phones unlocked directly from its website, and the OnePlus 6 will be no different. The phone is officially available on May 22 on the site, but the company has also announced a few pop-up events in Europe, India, and the U.S. on May 21.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

In the U.S., the pop-up event will take place in New York City at The Flat NYC from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Popular YouTubers MKBHD and Linus Tech Tips will be present as special guests, but perhaps more importantly, you will be able to buy the phone at the event. We recommend arriving early, as the line can tend to get quite long. You can check the OnePlus website for a full list of all the other pop-up events in other countries.

There are a few models of the phone, and they don’t all come at the same price. Here’s a quick rundown of the pricing of the OnePlus 6.

  • Mirror Black with 6GB RAM and 64GB storage: $530
  • Mirror Black with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage: $580
  • Midnight Black with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage: $580
  • Midnight Black with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage: $630
  • Silk White with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage: $580

Other than the OnePlus website, the OnePlus 6 will also be sold through Amazon and various other partner retailers.

OnePlus Bullets Wireless headphones

Along with the phone, OnePlus is also selling a pair of wireless headphones called the Bullets Wireless headphones. The headphones connect through Bluetooth, offer magnets that can pause your music when activated, and more.

The headphones come at $70, and will be available from OnePlus’ website. Unfortunately, they won’t be available until the end of June, and there’s no specific date just yet. They may also be available from retailers like Amazon, but we’ll have to wait and see.

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21
May

Acer’s new 4K, HDR, 144Hz G-Sync gaming monitor will cost $2,000


If you need a 27-inch monitor that has just about every cutting-edge feature there is for a gaming display, Acer’s new Predator X27 4K is right up your street. The only downside is that it’s incredibly expensive. While you can pick up a monitor with 4K resolution, or a high-refresh rate, or G-Sync support for a few hundred dollars, if you want all of them in one display, it’s going to cost you a lot.

For a few years now, the only real way to experience high-refresh rate gaming was to opt for a 1080P or 1440P display. That’s not been much of an issue, considering almost no one could afford a graphics card that could support high frame-rate gaming at 4K anyway. Now that we have a new Nvidia graphics generation on the horizon though, Acer has stepped up with a brand-new 4K monitor that can do just about everything.

The new Predator X27 4K has a full, 4K resolution (3,840 x 2,160), a 144Hz refresh rate, 99 percent coverage of the Adobe RGB color gamut, 10-bit HDR support, G-Sync frame synchronizing technology, and a brightness of 1,000 nits. There are no monitors out there for gamers that have that kind of feature set and perhaps that’s why Acer feels confident pricing the new Predator display at $2,000.

Other features of this display include a 4ms response time, which isn’t as good as some, but is certainly fast enough for almost all users and is still rather impressive, considering this display is made using an IPS panel. That’s why it can support a huge viewing angle of 178 degrees on both the horizontal and vertical axis and guarantees a uniform color display across the screen.

In terms of inputs, it sports HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.4, and a USB hub with four USB-A 3.0 ports. The monitor stand can be adjusted through all three major axis, offering tilt, swivel and height adjustment. It also supports VESA mounts for those who would rather use an adjustable arm.

You can’t quite buy this monitor just yet, but you can pre-order it from Newegg, as The Verge points out. The price is currently set at $2,000 and unless some competition shows up in the near future, is unlikely to come down for a while.

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21
May

Microsoft acquires conversational A.I. technology firm Semantic


Microsoft is betting big on artificial intelligence. In a blog post published Sunday, May 20, the Redmond, Washington-based technology giant announced the acquisition of Semantic Machines, a company focused on building conversational A.I. “Their work uses the power of machine learning to enable users to discover, access, and interact with information and services in a much more natural way, and with significantly less effort,” Microsoft notes. The move could help give Cortana the leg up it needs on competitors like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

“AI researchers have made great strides in recent years, but we are still at the beginning of teaching computers to understand the full context of human communication,” wrote David Ku, CVP and chief technology officer of Microsoft A.I. and Research. “Most of today’s bots and intelligent assistants respond to simple commands and queries, such as giving a weather report, playing a song or sharing a reminder, but aren’t able to understand meaning or carry on conversations.” But conversational A.I. could turn this norm on its head, and Semantic could be at the forefront of this change.

Semantic has previously worked with major tech firms, leading automatic speech recognition development for Apple’s Siri. In essence, Semantic employs machine learning in order to provide context to chatbot conversations, making dialogue seem a bit more natural and better-flowing.

“With the acquisition of Semantic Machines, we will establish a conversational AI center of excellence in Berkeley to push forward the boundaries of what is possible in language interfaces,” wrote Ku. “Combining Semantic Machines’ technology with Microsoft’s own A.I. advances, we aim to deliver powerful, natural and more productive user experiences that will take conversational computing to a new level. We’re excited to bring the Semantic Machines team and their technology to Microsoft.”

Thus far, no financial details of the acquisition have been disclosed.

Microsoft is by no means the only company trying to make strides when it comes to artificial intelligence and its smart assistants. Amazon, for example, is trying to give Alexa a better memory, while Google is making bots so human-esque that they’re practically indistinguishable from humans during phone conversations with its new Duplex offering. We’ll just have to see how Microsoft keeps up.

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