India

How Alexa wants to be your round-the-clock assistant

The future is inclusive and connected

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Amazon is popular for its marketplace but the company has ambitious expansion plans that range from enterprise-grade data centers to an on-demand personal assistant. Dubbed Alexa, the voice-enabled assistant is the backbone of their in-house Echo line of speakers.

We had a closer look at how these devices are going to help users in their day-to-day life and the results so far are amusing as well as promising. The company’s goal is to let you focus on what matters and just dictate commands to the assistant. We’ve seen a similar concept on Google Assistant as well as Apple’s Siri. So, how is Alexa different?

All day, all-around assistant

Thanks to a wide range of speakers that come across all sizes and budgets, Amazon is able to push Alexa right into your bedroom. The service is also available via a standalone app on Android, iOS, Fire TV and Kindle HD tablets.

To start off, the mic onboard Echo speaker’s is always listening by default and can be muted if required. The always-on feature lets you dictate command whenever you want and background noise isolation is excellent. You can ask basic questions like “How’s the weather today?” as well as some complicated trivia like “Who’s the President of Hungary?”

With a well-programmed backend that supports multiple third-party platforms like AccuWeather and WikiHow, any question that you have will never go unanswered. Similarly, Amazon has worked with curated developers to offer additional functionality for display enabled speakers like the Echo Show 5. This includes Prime Video, YouTube, as well as cooking guides.

If you have multiple speakers in your house, they can be synced via a single account and even use to broadcast messages from one room to another. You can also pair the speaker with an Alexa-enabled accessory or appliance like a bulb, geyser, or TV and operate it via voice commands. How cool would it be if you could say “Alexa, switch on the AC”, and you’re done!

For kids, special additions include trivia apps, quizzes, audible stories, and more. Amazon wants Alexa to be a learning companion and security measures have been taken to ensure they don’t veer off.

Apps that are meant for kids need to undergo screening before they get published. For privacy, Amazon guarantees the mic doesn’t store any personal data on their servers and a mute button is provided on almost all speakers. With the recently launched Echo Show 5, a camera has been incorporated on the front and it’s accompanied by a physical shutter to turn it off.

Amazon is working on voice profiling technology that can detect who is speaking to Alexa and provide customized content in return. But, this is still in development and we expect it to materialize in the coming years.

Amazon’s regional push

For India, a few dedicated regional applications have been added like Bollywood Quiz, Curated Cooking Guide by Sanjeev Kapoor, and regional music from Amazon’s library. Additionally, third-party connections like Zomato, Uber, and Ola have also been added. Amazon also announced that Alexa will soon be able to communicate in regional languages.

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Google launches virtual visiting profile called People Cards

Time to google yourself!

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Have you ever googled yourself? If not, this new feature on Google search will surely prompt you to give it a shot. The search engine wants to make it easier to find new people and has unveiled a new feature in India called People Cards.

People Cards act like your virtual visiting card. If someone’s looking for you on Google, they’ll usually come across a few social media profile links or any other online content you’re associated with. Thanks to the new card, you can directly control how much information you want to keep up front.

The feature is limited to the mobile app for now. To set up your own card, all you need is an active mobile number and a Google account. It’s also limited to India for the time being and only supports English.

To create your own card, just:

  • Open the Google app on your phone.
  • Search for “add me to Search.”
  • You’ll immediately see a prompt to set up your card and after mobile number authentication, you’re all set.

You can enter brief details about yourself, add a bio, link social media profiles, and even make it easier to connect with you by publishing your email, website, or mobile number.

While the feature makes discovering people easy, it also opens a floodgate of privacy concerns. Spammers can easily collect information from the partially open system. We advise our readers to proceed with caution and ensure they’re not divulging any personal details.

Individuals who have already created their cards can opt-out of the experience anytime. In the case of people who share the same name, Google Search will show multiple modules.

The search giant says it has a number of mechanisms to fight spam and abuse. Only one card can be created by an account and you can flag a card in case of false information or an imposter.

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India

Mi TV Stick turns any TV into a smart TV

Why get a new TV when you can transform the old one

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Today Xiaomi launched the Mi TV Stick in India. It’s a simple HDMI thumb drive that can turn any TV into a smart TV. The brand had announced it globally in July, along with the Mi Electric Scooter Pro 2, the Mi Smart Band 5. However, India is yet to see get the latter.

Coming back to the Mi TV Stick, it runs on Android TV 9. With an onboard processor, the stick can turn any HDMI-enabled TV into a smart TV. The plug and play factor can be attractive for frequent travelers who can seamlessly connect to their “television” on the go in any hotel room.

Although, the Mi TV Stick is built for a different audience. According to a February 2020 report by Cisco, TV would be the second biggest medium to connect to the internet by 2023. For a developing country like India, the low-cost factor plays a crucial role.

It sports a quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU and an ARM Mali-450 GPU, along with 1GB RAM and 8GB storage. It’s powered by a micro-USB port and connects to the TV via an HDMI port.

It can stream up to Full HD at 60fps. The Mi TV Stick comes with support for apps like Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar, and more. The apps can be downloaded via Google Play Store. It also comes with a Bluetooth remote, which does not need to be pointed towards the device to operate.

The Mi TV Stick is priced at INR 2,999 (US$ 40) and will be available via Flipkart, Mi.com, and Mi Stores from August 7. However, if you want to stream content 4K resolution, you can get the Mi TV Box 4K priced at INR 3,999 (US$ 53). Xiaomi’s offering will go up against Amazon’s Fire Stick, which is priced at INR 3,999.

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India

Redmi 9 Prime launches with quad-cameras and Helio G80

Realme should be worried

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After a brief sabbatical, Xiaomi is back with its blitzkrieg strategy. The company has gradually announced the Redmi 9 series in India, covering every possible price segment. Going after the affordable segment, it has now launched the Redmi 9 Prime and it’ll go up against the Realme 5i and Narzo 10A.

At first glance, the design of the phone looks identical to the POCO X2. However, it has substantial changes including a water-drop notch, rounded edges, and a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. The back has a gradient color with a ripple texture that adds to the premium feel.

On the front is a 6.5-inch Full HD+ display with Gorilla Glass 3 protection and TÜV Rheinland low blue light certification. Powering the phone is a MediaTek Helio G80 processor with 4GB RAM. Storage is expandable via a microSD card.

The rear sports a quad-camera setup consisting of a 13-megapixel primary sensor, an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens, a 5-megapixel macro sensor, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. For selfies, an 8-megapixel camera is located on the front.

Backing these internals is a 5020mAh battery that supports 18W fast charging. Although, the in-box charger is rated for 10W only. In line with all other Redmi phones, it ships with MIUI 11 out-of-the-box and supports face unlock.

The Redmi 9 Prime has two configurations available. The 4GB+64GB option costs INR 9,999 and the 4GB+128GB variant costs INR 11,999. The phone shall be available from August 17 via Amazon, Mi.com, Mi Stores, and other offline partners. Color options include Space Blue, Mint Green, Matte Black, and Sunrise Flare.

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