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Still hush-hush: Amazon working on touchscreen version of Echo

(TECH NEWS) Insiders report that in the first quarter of 2017, Amazon will unveil a new line of Echo speakers that will include a seven inch touchscreen.

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amazon echo

You already know and love her

Commonly heard at my mom’s house: “Alexa, what’s the score of the Royal’s game?”

“Alexa, play Norah Jones.”

“Alexa, is it going to rain today?”

You’d think my mom had a new, highly knowledgeable friend named Alexa. And in a way, she does. But Alexa is just an artificially intelligent bot that lives in my mom’s smart home speaker system and responds to her verbal questions and commands.

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Keeping up with the competition

Amazon’s line of Alexa-powered speakers have been a surprisingly popular product. More than 5 million Echo speakers have been sold since 2014, and that doesn’t include numbers from the sales of more budget friendly Dot and Tap speakers.

But Amazon still has to hustle to out-compete other big tech companies, all of whom are hungry to cash in on smart home devices. Google has a smart home speaker now, and Apple is working on a home device that will bring Siri into your living room.

Insiders report that in the first quarter of 2017, Amazon will unveil a new line of Echo speakers that will include a seven-inch touchscreen.

Currently, the Echo speaker is a simple cylinder. With the addition of a screen, users will be able to access weather reports and news, post events to their calendar, and display photos and notes, much like you would show off your kid’s school art project on the door of your refrigerator.

The rumors swirling

Supposedly the new speakers will have better sound quality since some users complained that the Echo speakers lose quality at higher volumes. The speaker itself will be larger than Echo’s current line, and will also include the screen, which will tilt upwards so that if it’s on your counter or tabletop, you can still see it easily while standing.

Earlier this year the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon’s hardware lab was working on a speaker with screen called “Knight”. Amazon will continue selling their Dot, Tap, and Echo speakers without screens. The new premium speaker with a screen will probably be more expensive than the current Echo speaker, which is $180.

These rumors come from company insiders, and Amazon has yet to confirm the new product.

#AmazonAI

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Real Estate Technology

How Cloudflare’s web analytics could give Google’s tools a run for their money

(REAL ESTATE TECH NEWS) In a world where data is king, Cloudflare’s web analytics value user privacy, staking them as pioneers against other analytic tools.

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Web analytics open on a desktop screen on a table.

When it comes to web analytics tools, users are examining comprehensiveness, usability, and price point. Free analytics tools typically come at a price, which is more often than not the data privacy of your customers.

A new competitor for Fathom Analytics, Simple Analytics, and even Google Analytics is Cloudflare’s web analytics tool. Not only is it free but, unlike the competitors, it will not keep visitor’s data and it will not be able to track conversions, making it the perfect tool for small websites, personal pages, and blogs. Sounds great, right?

In their blog, Cloudflare states: “At Cloudflare, our mission is to help build a better Internet, and part of that is to deliver essential web analytics to everyone with a website, without compromising user privacy. For free. We’ve never been interested in tracking users or selling advertising. We don’t want to know what you do on the Internet — it’s not our business.”

Additionally, Cloudflare doesn’t track users using their IP address, User Agent string, or other attributes. They are truly committed to providing metrics without intruding.

Valuing user privacy makes Cloudflare an industry pioneer. And the best part is, you don’t have to be a Cloudflare subscriber to access this feature.

From the blog: “Today, for the first time, anyone can get access to our client-side analytics — even if you don’t use the rest of Cloudflare. Just add our JavaScript snippet to any website, and we can start collecting metrics.”

What’s next for Cloudflare?

Well to start, they are working on integrating their analytics tool with the rest of the Cloudflare tech. This would mean that customers would receive more stats regarding site performance and security, in addition to traffic stats.

They’re also hoping to develop their analytics tool so that it can be a powerful singular product, with support for alerts and updates in real time.

If you’re someone who wants metrics and values privacy (and free things!), keep your eyes on Cloudflare’s analytics tool. I’m excited to see how far they will take a zero-cost, privacy-first product in a world where data is the hottest commodity.

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Real Estate Technology

Should digital assistants have empathy? Big investors say yes

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Bonding with your digital assistant might be more likely than you expect with ElliQ. The rising numbers of AI assistants have created unique interactions.

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ElliQ assistant

It sounds crazy to think that you could form an actual bond with something like Siri or Alexa, but actually, humans are pretty dang good at forming emotional connections to machines. For instance, a Canadian company threw an entire retirement party for five mail delivery bots. People will use Roombas as a substitute for companionship, not unlike a cat or dog. Humans just seem to enjoy connection – even if it’s with a lifeless robot.

Intuition Robotics is taking this desire for emotional connection a step further by working to create digital assistants that can more easily bond with their human companions. At the moment, their biggest product is ElliQ, a robotic digital assistant designed to bond with eldery users. In fact, according to Intuition Robotics, their average demographic falls between ages 78 – 97.

And ElliQ seems to be doing its job. The company reports that customers interact with ElliQ regularly throughout the day, even holding conversations with the machine, and are more likely to listen to ElliQ’s suggestions, which often include proactive behavior like getting outdoors or eating more vegetables.

By working to create a more empathetic and emotional digital AI, Intuition Robotics has started to discover a whole world of new possibilities. And they’re just getting started, having recently raised another $36 million to continue research.

One of their plans? Combining these empathetic digital assistants with the automotive industry.

Imagine an assistant that could suggest you pull over when it senses you’re getting drowsy, or provide something to talk to during longer drives. Plus, unlike ElliQ, which stays put while you move around, you and the assistant will be together in a car, making it easier for the AI to learn your preferences and habits.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg for Intuition Robotics, which has recently majorly expanded its workforce. A digital assistant that can provide a better emotional connection to humans has a world of possible applications, from nursing homes to elementary schools.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of reasons to be worried about a more empathetic AI – the marketing capabilities alone are something I’m side-eyeing. That said, humans have been befriending vacuum cleaners and we’ve turned out alright, so for now, let’s focus on the positive possibilities that could come with tech from companies like Intuition Robotics.

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Real Estate Technology

How to spot cyberbullying, sexual harassment within a remote team

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) With more people working remotely, cyberbullying may rear its ugly head. Here’s what to look out for and how to handle the problem.

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Cyberbullying doesn’t occur only between children. Adults are often the perpetrators. A study published in 2017 found that 80% of the respondents had been a victim of cyberbullying in the previous 6 months. Many other studies have confirmed that cyberbullying is a problem in the workplace.

Suzanne Lucas, EvilHRLady.org, reminds us that cyberbullying and sexual harassment can still be a problem when we’re working at home. Don’t think because your staff isn’t within physical proximation of each other that they are all suddenly angels. Employers should be on alert for bad behavior through remote channels.

What is cyberbullying?

Bullying behavior presents itself in many forms, from sarcasm, the invisible treatment, deliberate sabotage and physical assault. Cyberbullying occurs when these behaviors are done over electronic devices.

A cyberbully might purposefully delete a person from an email list, then follow up with that person. Sext messages sent between employees. “Accidentally on purpose” not wearing pants during a video-conference, then getting up so that everyone can see you. Trolling a colleague’s social media to post mean or destructive comments. One of the biggest problems with bullying is that it can be difficult to recognize, because it takes so many different forms.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to know whether it was a one-time slip-up or a deliberate action. Generally speaking, if it’s a pattern of behavior, it’s bullying.

Steps to take to reduce the risk of cyberbullying

Lucas recommends that employers take complaints of cyberbullying seriously. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, employers could be held responsible for employees who cyberbully. Employers have a legal responsibility to address cyberbullying.

Lucus suggests:

  • A dress code for video-conferencing to prevent “accidental” excuses.
  • A reminder to everyone that their camera is on when using video.
  • Don’t make employees leave their camera on when working at home unless in a conference.
  • Have permissions set high to prevent camera-sharing.

Employees may need to be reminded of what is acceptable and what isn’t. If your organization doesn’t have policies in place about responding to bullying, you need to get on the ball. While people are working from home, it can be good to have a training on recognizing bullying behavior, on- or off-line.

COVID-19 has disrupted everyone’s life, but it can’t be used to excuse bad behavior. You can’t wait until things get back to normal before dealing with complaints of harassment.

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