Author: Brian Heater

Anki’s Vector is getting Alexa access next week

TECHCRUNCH Vector’s already got the adorable bit down, courtesy of a team staffed by former Pixar and Dreamworks animators. But Anki’s grownup version of Cozmo can use a bit of help when it comes to smarts. Starting next week, the desktop robot will be able to tap into Amazon Alexa’s deep base of answers. The new feature will arrive as a software update on December 17. As evidenced by the below preview video, it’s not a direct integration into Vector’s AI personality. “Hey Vector” will get you an answer from the familiar robot face, while “Alexa” will pop up...

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Tumblr’s back in the App Store following porn ban announcement

TECHCRUNCH Tumblr is back. Sort of. The social blogging platform reappeared on Apple’s App Store this week, some three weeks after being pulled over child pornography concerns. Ten days ago, the company adopted a scorched earth response to the issue, announcing a blanket ban on adult material as part of a “better, more positive Tumblr.” The move appears to have paid off on one front, at least. The iOS version has returned to Apple’s hallowed halls with a version history noting that “this particular update[…]includes changes to Tumblr’s Community Guidelines, which prohibit certain kinds of content from being shown...

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Google Assistant can now do British and Australian accents in the US

TECHCRUNCH Even the old smart assistant needs a fresh coat of paint, from time to time. For those looking to switch things up a touch, Google announced today that Assistant is now capable of speaking in a couple of additional accents for U.S.-based users. Head to the Settings tab on a compatible handset, and you can swap the standard American for an Australian or British accent — or, rather “Sydney Harbour Blue” and “British Racing Green.” Google’s blog post that spells out the new feature, along with few obligatory references to fish and chip shops and the like. No...

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Here’s what you missed at Startup Battlefield Lagos

TECHCRUNCH Yesterday TechCrunch held its first-ever event in Nigeria — our second in Sub-Saharan Africa. The day was packed with Battlefield presentations from 15 different startups from across the region, along with panels featuring some of Africa’s best known tech entrepreneurs and executives. It was an incredible day and offered a fascinating peak into an absolutely vibrant tech community. For those unable to make the trek through the standstill Lagos traffic, have no fear. We’ve included footage from the day’s event below. And for those who were lucky enough to join, you can relive the highlights right here. Expats,...

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Samsung refreshes its S Pen-packing convertible PC

TECHCRUNCH Welcome, friends, to the consumer electronics dead zone. It’s that increasingly brief window between the last of the pre-holiday releases and the CES deluge. It’s rarely home to genuinely exciting announcements, but when you’re a company like Samsung, you’ve got to find somewhere on the roadmap to portion out all of those gadgets. Say hello to the new Notebook 9 Pen. It’s a convertible Windows laptop aimed at creatives. It’s a very Samsungy answer to the Surface line, right down to the inclusion of the S Pen. The PC sports a swiveling 13 or 15 inch screen encased in an all-metal frame. It’s an update to he admittedly somewhat confusingly named line, still sporting an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 and a hearty 15 hours of battery life by Samsung’s estimation. On-board audio has been improved, courtesy of the company’s AKG arm. The S Pen also gets some upgrades here, with improved latency and three swappable tips. Today’s news is the latest in what’s been an uncharacteristically noisy holiday season for Samsung, including the recent partial announcement of two 5G phones due out next year. A spate of new rumors also have the company announcing the Galaxy S10 around MWC in Feb/March. And then, of course, there’s that folding phone. Should be a packed 2019 for the company, all around. The new Notebook 9 Pen, meanwhile, is due out in...

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New York Amazon warehouse employees push to unionize

TECHCRUNCH Workers in a recently opened Staten Island Amazon warehouse have announced their intention to unionize. The news comes at a less than ideal time for the retail giant, which is in the midst of opening one of two “HQ2” locations in nearby Long Island City, Queens. The push also arrives as Amazon has faced increased scrutiny over the treatment of employees in its fulfillment centers. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders applied pressure against Bezos, finally convincing the company to raise its minimum minimum wage to $15 an hour. In an interview with Bloomberg, employees complained about working conditions and...

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Qualcomm lays off 269 employees in North Carolina and California

TECHCRUNCH Qualcomm’s struggling data center business was hit another massive blow as the company laid off hundreds. The news, first revealed by the Information, has since been confirmed by TechCrunch. The chipmaker laid off 269 employees in all, including 144 in Raleigh, North Carolina, where its data center business is located, and an additional 125 in San Diego, the company’s hometown. This is the latest in a number of cost-cutting moves made by the company this year. In April, it slashed north of 1,500 jobs, primarily in California. The news comes at the tail end of what ought to...

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Essential acquires email startup CloudMagic

TECHCRUNCH Andy Rubin’s Essential has acquired CloudMagic, makers of the Newton email app, for an undisclosed sum. The news, first reported this morning, has since been confirmed by TechCrunch. An Essential spokesperson offered the following admittedly open-ended statement, “We are always on the lookout for companies with great technology and talent to help accelerate our product roadmap.”  What precisely that roadmap looks like is anyone’s guess. CloudMagic shuttered its premium email offering in September, leaving some 40,000 paid subscribers in the lurch. Likely the app will work its way into Essential’s hardware offerings, via the next iteration of its handset,...

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