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Microsoft's voice assistant, Cortana, is banned from talking to kids

Microsoft's voice-activated personal assistant that is baked into the company's Windows Phone OS will be not be capable of speaking to anyone under the age of 13, according to CNET.

 

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Why? Because Cortana is capable of collecting data on its users in order for it to better assist users in finding answers to their questions. This data is collected and sent to Microsoft services, meaning the voice-activated personal assistant falls under the purview of United States' Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 1998.

 

COPPA restricts the information that children share online, or data that can be collected from them, without parents' permission. But for now, Cortana sits in the beta state, with the issue on a forum for Windows Phone developers, with one developer wanting to help his daughter use Cortana. The bigger issue at hand is that Cortana can only know a users age if she is told their age, it can't recognize grade voice patterns for someone's age... yet.

Apple says iTunes has 800 million accounts, 70 billion app downloads

During today's earnings call to investors, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, announced that the company's iTunes service now has more than 800 million accounts. This is a massive number and includes accounts for iPhone, iPad, iPod and the Mac line of devices. Additionally, Cook said that Apple has $5.2 billion in billings through the iTunes service and more than 70 billion app, song, and other downloads.

 

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What this breaks down to is that iTunes generated more than $5.2 billion for Apple in the last quarter, and that it has grown by about 225 million accounts since last June, when it reported about 575 million accounts. Apple wont release any specific metrics on where these accounts are tied to, but it is a safe bet that most are generated from iPod and iPhone sales, and a good number of them are long inactive.

NPD: 75% of connected HDTV owners believe video apps are important

The majority of connected HDTV owners believe video apps are critical, with 75 percent saying video apps are 'extremely' or 'very important' to their viewing habits. In addition to knowing which apps are available to watch, consumers also want to be able to easily discover new online content available to them.

 

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"The importance of having core video aggregation apps such as Netflix and YouTube, has a lot to do with the convenience that allows consumers to easily access a multitude of programming options in one place," said John Buffone, NPD Group Connected Intelligence Executive Director, in a press statement. "The next wave of TV app user, however, is looking for a different experience than earlier adopters and is placing greater emphasis on TV Everywhere apps from their favorite networks."

 

The top 10 most important video and TV everywhere apps, according to NPD: Netflix, YouTube, The Weather Channel, HuluPlus, History, Amazon Instant/Prime Video, HBOGO, Fox News, PBS, and WatchESPN.

Continue reading 'NPD: 75% of connected HDTV owners believe video apps are important' (full post)

WhatsApp hits 500 million monthly users

WhatsApp was involved in one of the biggest deals to hit the tech world on the last few years. Facebook purchased the app for $16 billion. That purchase made some fans of the app upset in part because Facebook doesn't have the best reputation when it comes to privacy. Despite angering some users, WhatsApp continues to grow under the Facebook umbrella.

 

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WhatsApp has reached 500 million users according to the company. The company wrote, "Thanks to all of you, half a billion people around the world are now regular, active WhatsApp users. In the last few months, we've grown fastest in countries like Brazil, India, Mexico, and Russia, and our users are also sharing more than 700 million photos and 100 million videos every single day."

Continue reading 'WhatsApp hits 500 million monthly users' (full post)

You can now use Google Wallet on Android to order Domino's Pizza

Domino's Pizza now accepts payments for orders through Google Wallet, with the new payment method now baked into the company's Android-based application. Once you're in the check out with your pizza order, you can select "Buy with Google" to complete the order.

 

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In order to promote the new payment method, Domino's is offering a free order of its specialty chicken to anyone who places an order of $10 or more, and pays through Google Wallet. This deal is all good until June 15, so get your Google Wallet ready, and order yourself some pizza!

Google Hangouts 2.1 will merge conversations, homescreen widget

Google is about to push out a new update to Hangouts, bringing it up to version 2.1, which will bring forth some major changes for Google's messaging application. It will finally merge conversations, making it easier to keep track of your conversations between SMS, and the usual Hangouts chats.

 

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This means if you were talking with a friend through SMS, but had a simultaneous chat with them through Hangouts, those two world's will collide. The messages will be visually distinct, so you'll be able to tell the difference between SMS and the instant messaging chat. The contact lists has been simplified, split into two sections: People you Hangout With, and Phone Contacts.

 

Video call quality has been improved, as well as SMS and MMS reliability. One of the surprise new features is a new homescreen widget, making it much easier to access your conversations. The updated Hangouts app should be made available later in the week.

Google wants developers to be smarter about the design of their apps

Google I/O isn't far away, but now the Mountain View-based giant is warning its developers to work more on the design of their apps. The warning fires have been shot, so we should see some big changes at the event in June.

 

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Google's Staff Designer and Evangelist, Nadya Direkova, took to a blog post saying: "When Google launched, it was a crisp white page with a simple search box. You might not have thought there was much in the way of design, but its appearance underscored two of our most important principles: simplicity and usefulness".

 

The company wants its developers to emphasize design as they consider the best way to develop and distribute their apps and services. Google's Director of Developer Relations, Billy Rutledge, said in a blog post that the goal Google has it to help developers "build and prove your app from start to finish".

Keep your friends closer with Facebook's new 'Nearby Friends' feature

Facebook has just rolled out a new "Nearby Friends" feature which joins a bunch of other location-broadcasting apps that are already available. Nearby Friends will allow you to see which of your Facebook friends are close to you.

 

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The new feature is an opt-in option, where you'll have to enable it on your account. The service will let you see which of your friends are nearby, but you can turn the location tracking off whenever you want. Both you and your friends will need to have it enabled in order to see each other on the map, but once it is activated on both sides, you'll receive a push notification telling you that your friend is nearby.

Kindle for Samsung app brings eBooks to Samsung devices

Samsung has announced that a new app is available globally for Samsung device users. The new app is called Kindle for Samsung and it will deliver millions of best selling digital books from the Amazon Kindle platform. Samsung says that 500,000 of those titles will be exclusive to Samsung users.

 

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The application is available for download on any Samsung smartphone or tablet that runs Android 4.0 or higher. The app is a free download. Most of the books will be titles that you have to purchase. However, Samsung will offer Samsung Book Deals that will deliver up to 12 free eBooks each year.

Continue reading 'Kindle for Samsung app brings eBooks to Samsung devices' (full post)

YouTube for Android updated, can now cast live videos to Chromecast

YouTube for Android been updated, with version 5.5.27 of the app adding in some new features. The latest version of YouTube for Android now supports the ability to cast live videos to Chromecast.

 

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The Preloading menu on the app has also been removed, but there's a new Captions menu that has been added to the latest version of YouTube for Android. You can get the latest YouTube for Android from the Google Play store.

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