Thursday, August 27, 2015

Say Hello To M, Facebook's New Personal Assistant

It seems that every piece of technology needs an "assistant" these days. I mean Apple has Siri, Windows 10 has Cortana, even Google has Now. And now, it seems, that Facebook is jumping on this bandwagon. There have been rumors that Facebook was working on an assistant within the Messenger app, but details have finally surfaced that bring it all together. This means that Apple, Microsoft, and Google will have yet another company to compete with.

In a post on Facebook (of course), Facebook Messenger Lead David Marcus wrote, "Today we're beginning to test a new service called M. M is a personal digital assistant inside of Messenger that completes tasks and finds information on your behalf. It's powered by artificial intelligence that's trained and supervised by people."

Marcus went on to say, "Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments, and way more. This is early in the journey to build M into an at-scale service. But it's an exciting step towards enabling people on Messenger to get things done across a variety of things, so they can get more time to focus on what's important in their lives."

Ever since Marcus joined with Facebook the Messenger product has been churning like crazy in terms of development. Regardless if it's payments or a standalone site, the product seems like it is getting a lot more attention than it ever has before.

Siri, Now, and Cortana, and M are now one big happy family! Basically what these companies are doing is they are taking the data that you've put into the service and are using it to help you out or suggest different things based off of what it knows about you. Putting M inside of Messenger is a quite a brilliant move due to the fact that people are used to tapping out messages to people as opposed to speaking out commands like other assistants sometimes require.

Facebook acquiring back in January provided the human side of the project, meaning the "trained and supervised by people" part that Marcus mentioned. Google and Apple have focused primarily on the science of Artificial Intelligence whereas Facebook has decided to power through the development of a personal assistant with more human hands.

This means that it won't be cheap for Facebook. Should the project scale out it will have to wait until the humans teach its AI to handle most requests automatically or it will have to spend a ton of money hiring a ton of people to assist the assistant. In addition to that, the launch of this tech will be very, very slow but as soon as it is released you can check back here for more information!

Content originally published here
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Friday, August 21, 2015

Droidcon NYC 2015

In the world of mobile technology, we've all seen the rivalries. Apple has done their very best to stay at the top of the mobile market, but it seems that Android is always on their heels. While there are many conferences for both companies, one can't forget about Android's Droidcon coming up! Are you unfamiliar with Droidcon? In case you are, Droidcon is considered to be the world's largest, community-driven, Android developer's conference. It's a globally held conference that has hit beautiful locations, such as London, Dubai, Moscow, Madrid, and Berlin. With a developer's conference that has this type of following, it only makes sense that Droidcon come visit The United States in the melting pot capital of the world. That's right, Droidcon is heading to beautiful New York City, New York!

Although Droidcon is a conference on the global scale, there are still some who are uninformed as to what the goals behind the conference are. The idea behind the Droidcon conference is to support the Android platform and create a global network for developers and companies. The conference is known for offering high-class talks from different parts of the ecosystem, including core development, embedded solutions, augmented reality, business solutions, and games. The Droidcon Conferences have been being held since late 2009. Ever since the first two cons were held in that year, the community-driven conference format has repeated itself in all of the held locations since.

Droidcon covers all aspects of the Android ecosystem from mobile devices to TV to cars to gaming and so much more. It is organized by local partners and only possible with the generous support of sponsors from big blue chips of this industry to SMEs and a lot of volunteer work. It truly is a conference driven by a community that loves Android and wants to see as much progress for the products and services as possible. When Android has made such an incredible name for itself, it only makes sense that their community would go out of their way to hold an event like this.

What most people may not be aware of, is that this will be the first ever Droidcon to take place here in America for the development community! This year's event will host a vast majority of sponsors. Arguably the biggest sponsor this year will be Google Play. Google's cross-platform products for mobile developers help them to design, develop, distribute, and monetize apps and games. From the Google Play Store and Google Play game services to Google Analytics and AdMob, Google's solutions are helping millions of app businesses grow globally. It would only make sense to have Android be backed by such a huge sponsor. Other names, such as some of the larger social media sources (ex. Facebook and Tumblr), are sponsoring this year's event, as well as companies like American Express, Microsoft, and Uber.

This year's Droidcon schedule is still currently being updated at the time of writing, but even now the line-up looks superb. Between the different keynote speakers and the workshops, New York City's Droidcon will be sure to have something for everyone. There have been a couple of keynotes already confirmed for the conference this year.

The 2015 NYC Droidcon will be held at the Metropolitan Pavilion. The Metropolitan Pavilion is one of New York City’s most versatile and reliable event spaces for media-intensive events, trade events and product launches. This year it was the site of Internet Week New York and NYC Uncubed, among other cutting-edge tech events. This particular venue offers a wide range of audio-video, and entertainment technology enhancements; it's also within walking distance from the subway and minutes away from Madison Square Park and Union Square. Droidcon NYC will be held on the main floor (The Full Pavilion) and the second floor (The Suite) for breakout rooms and a lounge.

When you're visiting this year's event, but sure to check out the beautiful areas of New York City. Go out and enjoy the sights and attractions of Times Square. Everything from futuristic a McDonald's to a four-story Toys R' Us with a Ferris wheel inside. This event was made for tech geeks and is being hosted in the Melting Pot of America. You can bet there will be memories made here!

The event will take place August 27th and August 28th at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City.

For more information about the event or to register visit the Droidcon NYC 2015 website.

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Great News! Your Next Android Will Have Less Bloatware!

There's something special about getting a new phone. You open it up, take a whiff of that "new phone smell", and then fire it up so you can start playing with all the new apps and features that your old phone only dreamed about having. But then you start to realize that there are a lot of apps pre-loaded on your new phone that you don't necessarily want or need. And the worst part about it is that there's absolutely nothing you can do to get them off (unless you jailbreak your phone, which isn't advisable).

This has been the woe of many a smartphone user, the dreaded bloatware that comes pre-installed on every new device. While there's nothing you can do about the bloatware on your current smartphone, I do have some good news for you! Your next Android phone is going to come with fewer pre-loaded apps! Which means less bloatware!

The first showing of this was the Galaxy Note 5 from Samsung. As you may have heard, the Note 5 comes without Googl+ pre-installed. Some people see this as more proof that Google's social media platform is all but dead though it's really only one of several Google apps that are no longer required to be included by smartphone developers.

What a lot of people don't understand is that Google writes and updates Android itself, giving away the source code to anyone. Consumers are able to get their own copy from the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) repository and Google even offers detailed instructions to assist you in building a fully functioning version of Android.

In addition to that, smartphone developers also have access to the Android source code for free and they are also allowed to modify and change any parts of the code that they like. This is how things like Amazon FireOS come to fruition. It's a positive, trust me. Where things differ is when it comes to installing Google's proprietary apps and services.

If a developer wants to include the Google apps suite, which includes the Play Store and Gmail, they need to adhere to a couple of different rules. Once they have modified Android itself to their liking, it has to be tested for compatibility by Google. Once it is approved, the developer is given a package list of apps that they are required to install on the device.

There have been a ton of apps made by Google that a lot of us would rather not have on our devices. Smartphone developers include them because they are a part of that required list. In addition to that, these apps aren't Open Source and they aren't a part of the AOSP. Basically, if you want Gmail or the Play Store then you have to deal with all the other apps you don't want. In terms of business, this is smart and Google isn't the only company to do it. Apple bundles bloatware that a lot of users don't use or want and so does Microsoft. "You will get all the apps and you will like it!" seems to be their motto.

And now for the good news. Recent changes to the rules that smartphone developers are required to follow to get Google approval for their Android builds are allowing for certain apps to no longer be mandatory. Apps like Google Play Games, Google Play Books, Google+ and Google Newsstand join the likes of Google Earth and Google Keep as apps that are no longer mandatory. You can still get them in the Play Store if you truly want them and they will also receive regular updates, but not having them pre-installed is definitely a huge bonus for Android users.

Having pre-installed apps takes up valuable storage space on your device and the less of that we have the better. Unfortunately, we still have to deal with the bloatware that comes from the phone developers themselves. That means any Samsung app, HTC app, LG app, etc... will still be there, as will apps from carriers, like Verizon and Sprint. But while there doesn't seem to be any chance of us getting rid of things like Verizon Navigator or T-Mobile TV anytime soon, we can at least say a not-so-fond farewell to all those Google apps we care nothing about.

Content originally published here
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