Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

THE SAMSUNG GALAXY S8 AND S8+ are finally official, and are exactly what you expected given the huge number of leaks and rumours building up to the launch.

We’ve rounded up everything you need to know about the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, and will update this article as soon as we hear more. You can also check out our Galaxy S8 hands-on review.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

– 5.8in / 6.2in QHD+ Super AMOLED curved display (570ppi / 529ppi)
– 149x 68x8mm, 155g / 160x73x8.1 mm, 173g
– Android 7.0 Nougat with Samsung Experience
– IP68 certification
– Fingerprint sensor (on rear) and iris scanner (on front)
– Integrated heart rate sensor
– Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip (US), Exynos 9 (international)
– 4GB RAM (6GB in China and Korea)
– 3,000mAh / 3,500mAh battery
– 12MP main camera / 8MP front-facing camera
– Bixby AI assistant with dedicated button
– 3.5mm headphone jack
– USB-C charging
– 64GB storage with microSD (up to 256GB)
– Optional Samsung DeX HDMI dock for desktop mode
– Bluetooth 5.0, NFC
– Black Sky, Orchid Grey and Arctic Silver colour options.

Release date
The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are both available to pre-order from Wednesday 29 March, with early buyers set to receive their handset on 20 April. The smartphones will be available to all from 28 April.

However, only the Midnight Black and Orchid Grey models will be up for grabs initially, with the availability of the Arctic Silver yet to be announced.

Samsung has slapped the Galaxy S8 with a £689 SIM-free price tag, making it just £10 cheaper than the iPhone 7 with 128GB storage. Unsurprisingly, the Galaxy S8+ is even more expensive at £779 SIM-free.

However, UK retailer Unlocked-Mobiles is offering both smartphones cheaper than Samsung. The Galaxy S8 can be picked up for £674.99 SIM-free, and the Galaxy S8+ for £764.99.

Carphone Warehouse, naturally, has been quick to start taking pre-orders and is offering the S8 and S8+ on tariffs with EE, iD, O2 and Vodafone. The best Galaxy S8 deal appears to be a £42 Vodafone tariff that comes with 24GB data and a £100 upfront cost, while the best S8+ offer is a £45.99 EE contract that comes with 5GB data and a £149.99 upfront cost.

EE is also taking pre-orders on its own website and is recommending its £55.99 tariff that bags you a Galaxy S8 for £29.99 with 5GB monthly data. For the bigger Galaxy S8+, it’s pointing to its £60.99 tariff, which comes with the same £29.99 upfront cost and 10GB bundled data.


Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 9

Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 9

Fujifilm has announced its latest instant camera, the Instax Mini 9. Looking set to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors and be a hit at parties, festivals and weddings, the new instant shooter will boast features including a selfie mirror and a lens attachment for shooting close-up photos. It will also come in a new range of colors.

The Instax Mini 9 from Fujifilm produces credit card-sized photos The Instax Mini 9 from Fujifilm will be available in five colors when it goes on sale in May The Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 features a small selfie mirror on the front to help line up shots The Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 is due to sell for US$70

Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 9
While it looks like we’ll be waiting a little bit longer to see the new Instax Square format which was teased at Photokina, Fujifilm is continuing to release devices using its popular Instax Mini film, which gives rectangular credit card sized photos. This means the Mini 9 will have the same film choices as its predecessors, including a recently-released monochrome offering.

However, colors are important to a lot of Instax buyers, not just when it comes to selecting film, but also when choosing their camera. As such, the Instax Mini 9 will be available in five colors; Flamingo Pink, Ice Blue, Lime Green, Cobalt Blue and Smoky White. It measures 116 x 118 x 68 mm (4.6 x 4.6 x 2.7 inch) and weighs 307 g (11 oz) before adding batteries and film.

The Mini 9 uses a 60-mm lens with a maximum aperture of F12.7 which gives the equivalent of a 34-mm lens on a full-frame camera, and focuses from 60 cm (24 in). However, it will also come with a new close-up lens attachment which can be clipped onto the lens and lets you focus on subjects from 35 to 50 cm (14 – 20 in) away. If you’re after a wider-angle instant camera, you might want to check out the Lomography Lomo’Instant Automat Glass Magellan we recently tried.

Another addition to the cutely-styled camera is a little mirror on the front, so you know where you are in your selfies. This mirror is similar to that on the Instax Mini 70 (and early cameraphones) so not as good as a flip-up monitor on a digital camera, but better than nothing, especially when every click costs money in terms of used film.

The upcoming camera promises to be as simple-to-use as its predecessor with no ISO to set, and a constant shutter speed of 1/60 second. This means users only have to turn it on, select aperture using an icon-based brightness dial (Indoors F12.7, Cloudy F16, Sun and cloud F22, and Sunny F32) and then hit the shutter button to get an instant photo.

The Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 is due to be available in May priced at US$70.

You can check out a promo video for the Instax Mini 9 below, which also shows the close-up lens attachment.


Samsung’s New iPad Pro Is Just Fantastic

Samsung's New iPad Pro Is Just Fantastic

Coming a year after the launch of Apple’s first 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the new iteration from Samsung feels daring. While it has the same sleek lines, is just as light, and possesses the magnetic connection on one side for easy keyboard cover attachment, Samsung’s iPad Pro for 2017 is, inexplicably called the Galaxy Tab S3, and unlike previous iPads this one runs on Android.
Technically, if you want to be “accurate” this is not an iPad Pro, but Samsung’s first premium Android tablet in over a year. In 2015 Android sort of lost the tablet war it had waged against iOS. While Google’s mobile OS rules the budget roost thanks to the cheap Kindle Fire , no one has really expressed a desire for a $600 media consumption machine running little green droid brains. Heck, at this point people don’t even buy iPads any more . The people who want tablets have them already.

Samsung's New iPad Pro Is Just Fantastic
The difference is size is very…small.
Samsung’s hoping it can change people’s minds with a shiny new device that just happens to bare a remarkable resemblance to the current bestselling premium tablet, the iPad. It’s only a hundredth of a pound lighter than the comparable iPad, less than a tenth of an inch shorter, and both devices are just .24 inches thick. They’re both also $600 for a 32GB version, and they handle everything from drawing to quickly written screeds on Facebook with zero lag. Maybe Samsung considers the remarkable similarities between its new product and last year’s iPad Pro to be a compliment to Apple, rather than a naked bid for a share of a dwindling market. Though Apple, and courts , tend to disagree.

Some things are different about the two tablets. Besides running Android Nougat instead of iOS 10, the Tab S3 has a Qualcomm 820 processor (which is theoretically slower than the 835 reportedly planned for the Galaxy S8 phone), comes in only a 32GB version, and includes a nice little pen for drawing on it’s admittedly vibrant AMOLED display. As an Apple Pencil costs an additional $100, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 feels like a bargain.

The VERY different magnetic connectors for the iPad and Tabs S3 keyboard covers. The iPad is the one on the bottom.
Neither device includes the keyboard cover. Apple charges $150 for a cover and keyboard that feels like your typing on canvas layered of bubble wrap. Samsung charges $130 for a keyboard and cover with chiclet style keys that are much more satisfying to type on. Though each key is just small enough and placed just oddly enough that I had to double triple quadruple spell check this review while using it.
I was a little surprised at how handy the Tab S3 was as a productivity device. Android as an operating system really doesn’t work in a tablet form. Only a smattering of apps are actually optimized for the landscape mode we use tablets in. The OS has long been for phones first, and tablets a distant, distant second. So being able to write up this review or tweak photos on the tablet was a pleasant surprise. Yet if you want an actual laptop-like experience from Android you’re better off going with a Chromebook instead -as those are at least crafted with productivity as a focus instead of as a convenient bonus.


Sony launching the Xperia XZs in India

Sony launching the Xperia XZs

The Sony Xperia XZs was launched by the company at the MWC in February. The company isn’t wasting any time to bring the device to India if a new report is anything to go by. It is said that the device will break cover on the 4th of April, which is less than a week from now. The handset comes with a pretty exciting hardware specs sheet under the hood, although it seems like an incremental upgrade over the Xperia XZ from last year.

Sony launching the Xperia XZs

Featuring the same display, the Xperia XZs comes with a smaller 19MP sensor on the back. So one can say that the handset is slightly downgraded compared to the predecessor. However, a smaller camera sensor doesn’t necessarily mean its worse. The similarities are so striking that Sony has essentially used the same casing as with the Xperia XZ, which is evidenced by the dimensions and the weight of the new flagship.

In any case, the Xperia XZs has the potential to go a long way provided Sony markets it in the right way with a price tag of not more than Rs 35,000. Given the kind of competition it faces in the mobile industry, a steep price tag could prove to be fatal for the smartphone and the company. There’s no word on how much the handset will cost when it hits the country next week.

Sony Xperia XZs hardware specifications:

  • Display: 5.2-inch Full HD (1920×1080) panel
  • Dimensions: 146 x 72 x 8.1mm, 161 grams
  • Processor: Quad-core Snapdragon 820
  • Camera: 19MP rear camera, 13MP front camera
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 32/64GB (expandable via microSD)
  • OS: Android 7.0 Nougat
  • Battery: 2,900mAh
  • Connectivity: 4G LTE


Top 5 Travel Apps in 2017

Top 5 Travel Apps

Cab aggregators like Uber and Lyft dominated much of 2016, as ride-sharing became a mainstream concept. It became abundantly clear that people prefer to go cashless when it comes to travel. 2017 promises to be equally unique as new and existing travel apps offer a plethora of new services to excite and entertain the modern-day traveller.

While there os no shortage of apps that make travel easier, these are the top 5 travel apps in 2017 that can help you cover each and every aspect of your travel experience:Top 5 Travel Apps

Google Trips

Google has become a household name in the travel sector with Google Flights, and it seems to have truly upped the ante with Google Trips. If you’re interested in controlling just about every aspect of your travel itinerary, Google Trips is perfect for you. It makes it easy to gather all related travel information from your inbox and automatically organizes your itinerary. To make things as seamless as possible, it also offers full-day or half-day itineraries and customized suggestions of places of interest.

“We’re doing a great job on the planning stages, but we really need to help consumers when they’re actually at their destination,” says Richard Holden, a vice president of product management at Google.
What makes Google Trips so special is that it works while you’re offline, so you can spend less time hunting for free WiFi spots and more time actually enjoying the place you’re going to. The variety of suggestions offered for more authentic and less ‘touristy’ places is truly commendable.

Having dominated the holiday rental market for years, AirBnb recently turned its attention to experiences that allows locals to host experiences such as cooking classes, hiking tours, or just local experiences within their own community.

These ‘experiences’ allows travelers to meet and interact with knowledgeable hosts and enjoy highly personalized and unique travel experiences throughout the world. It’s a great way to quickly connect with a local destination through local knowledge and expertise. The hosts are all rated and reviewed allowing travelers to quickly identify the best local experiences.

Active in more than 120 countries, boasting of over 1 million tour departures, and partnering with global heavyweights such as G Adventures, Trafalgar, Intrepid Travel and TopDeck, Bookmundi has quickly emerged as the premier holiday aggregator of 2016, primarily due to its seamless and simplistic booking features. In an age where holiday packages become more complex by the day, Bookmundi offers ease of booking and the site’s real time chat helps customers get completely customized travel offers from reputed travel providers around the world.

“The online tour booking segment will continue to evolve fast, among others, allowing for easier, faster and more dynamic contact between customers and qualified local tour companies or travel experts around the world,” says Rasmus Juul-Olsen, managing director at Bookmundi.
One of Bookmundi’s standout features is its Get Travel Quotes feature that presents the customer with completely customized holiday packages from three to five tour companies in real time. These quotes are aggregated in one place for easy comparison, following which customers can book the best offer directly or engage with a chosen travel company using a real time chat feature.

Already present in more than 100 cities (and adding more each week), Sidekix is a popular city exploration app that presents downloadable city guides which feature recommended museums, shops, bars, coffee shops and more in any neighborhood of your choice. The app uses GPS technology and recommends nearby theaters, parks, stores, restaurants, museums, and bars as you walk around the area. If a particular destination sounds interesting, you can simply click on it to read customer experiences or curated content from local bloggers.

Features of interest include special guides for certain cities such as Tea Time in London or Christmas in New York that present recommendations revolving around a specific theme and season.

Sure it’s not the first app that you’d think of while traveling, and certainly not the most conventional way of meeting new people either. But as it turns out, with 50 million registered users and 12 million matches per day, the popular dating app is truly emerging as a great way to meet new people in a new city. It makes the concept of setting up dates in a new city less intimidating and experiential travel far more enjoyable.

“We’ve always been about connecting people,” said a spokesperson for Tinder. “Tinder Social is another great way to get out tonight and connect with other people going out — with the same network, the same power and the same scalability that Tinder brought to dating.”
Tinder truly ups the social game with its new Social feature that lets entire groups connect with other groups using the app. It takes the pressure off of searching for locals and makes it feel less like a date, and more like a modern-age way to meet like-minded people.

Planning a vacation is one of the most exciting aspects of any holiday and these apps go a long way in making traveling easier and more enjoyable.


Samsung’s new digital assistant – Bixby


Using voice commands with a smartphone is nothing new, but Samsung’s new digital assistant, Bixby, goes beyond voice recognition, to incorporate deep learning and expanded visual search to make it feel more like a real digital assistant living in your device.

Bixby draws immediate comparisons to Apple’s Siri, and Google’s Assistant, but while we often think about those as simply voices, Samsung describes Bixby has its own card-based visual interface to convey information. Voice is just one part of the equation. The other aspects are vision (like using the camera to scan a QR code, find out the cost of a book based on its cover, or translate text), reminders, and recommendations. Bixby is the umbrella term for those four smart functions.
Sriram Thodla, a senior director at Samsung focusing on intelligence and the internet of things, introduced Bixby to the public during the Galaxy S8 and S8+ announcement event on Wednesday. “Bixby understands context,” he said. “It knows what’s happening on your screen.”

For example, you can ask it to take a screenshot of what you’re doing, then send that image to a contact. This kind of complex request spanning multiple apps and services has proved problematic for digital assistants in the past.
Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus

Samsung’s new flagship phones, the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. The Bixby button is on the left side of the device.

“We say Bixby is an intelligent user interface,” Mok Oh, a vice president for services strategy at Samsung, said in an interview at a press event on Monday.
Oh touted Bixby’s completeness, meaning that if an app is Bixby-enabled, anything you can do with touch could also be done through voice. For example, you could ask Bixby to switch the display language on your phone to another language, and Bixby should make it so. The assistant is also “cognitively forgiving,” Oh said, so it should cope with ambiguity in requests.
Oh went on to highlight the phone’s photo app, called Gallery, and the thousands of different combinations of tasks a user could do within it. There are countless varied ways a user could command an image be cropped or edited, and Bixby should be able handle that.
“In many ways we apply deep learning technology,” to Bixby, Oh said. One aspect of that is that Bixby will give users a thumbs-up or thumbs-down option after it has handled a request, to let Bixby know how it did, and help it learn. “Actually, we apply learning in many, many different aspects of our whole technology stack for this,” he added.

That thumbs-up or thumbs-down function is critical for virtual agents like Bixby, Alex Rudnicky, a research professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University who focuses on speech, said. “You need some kind of a reinforcement that basically allows the system to learn—basically understand the connection between what the user wants, and what actually happens,” he said. “Realistically, the agent’s going to make a lot of mistakes.”
Amazon’s Alexa app has a similar function, asking the user if it did what they wanted.
In addition to its listening abilities, Bixby can also see into the real world. Using the S8’s built-in camera, Bixby can detect objects in a scene and search for information about that product as well as related products. Of course, it will also allow you to buy them from Samsung’s partners. This is a feature Siri doesn’t currently offer, and Google Assistant does, often to mixed results, but this type of augmented reality-style interaction is a logical step for AI as a personal assistant.
For the visual search, Samsung has tapped a variety of partner companies like Amazon for shopping, Foursquare for location-specific functions (Thodla used an example in which he took a picture of New York’s iconic Flatiron building and got information about it, as well as good food options in the area), and Google Translate for interpreting signs in different languages.


Does Samsung Galaxy S8 bungle biometrics with insecure facial recognition?

Samsung Galaxy S8

On the Galaxy S8 and S8+, Samsung included not one, not two, but three biometric ways to unlock your phone: the fingerprint sensor, iris scanner and face recognition. Of these, Samsung touted the latter – face recognition – as a faster and more convenient alternative to iris scanning. What did it fail to mention? How easy it is to trick.

Samsung Galaxy S8

According to reports in the Korea Herald and a livestream from the launch event (via 9to5Google), the S8 and S8+’s facial recognition function can be tricked with the face of a sleeping person or even just a photo: A Periscope user at the NYC launch published a video showing the S8 being unlocked with his picture displayed on another phone. So at least based on demo models from the event, it appears the facial recognition mechanism can be bypassed by anyone with easily-obtained means and the desire to do so.

This apparent lack of security may come as a surprise to those with previous experience with the facial recognition features made possible with Windows Hello and devices like the Microsoft Surface Book. In those applications, facial recognition can’t even be bypassed by identical twins; the Windows method uses near infrared imaging and a four-step software algorithm to curb errors. It sounds like Samsung took a more rudimentary and less secure approach.

However, for those who remember Android’s Face Unlock feature, these problems sound familiar. The Face Unlock option was introduced with Android 4.0 back in 2011, and was found to have similar issues as those reported with the new Samsung devices. Incremental improvements have been made since then, but the current “Trusted Face” option in Android Nougat’s Smart Lock feature is billed as a convenience rather than a protective measure: “This facial recognition is less secure than a PIN, pattern, or password,” cautions Google.

Security-minded consumers may be scratching their heads as to why Samsung allowed these concessions. Biometrics expert Samir Nanavati, author of the book Biometrics: Identity Verification in a Networked World, provides some insight. For one there’s a trade-off between lightning-quick convenience and security against false submissions. “How many anti-spoofing capabilities do you want to put in? When you put in more security measures, you run into other risks. It takes more time, more processing power, and it increases the likelihood of more false rejections.”

So, in general, the more security measures are implemented, the less convenient it will be for the end user. But in the world of mobile technology, convenience is a key driving force behind consumer demand. In recent years, Nanavati explains, biometric measures like fingerprint sensors have become exceedingly fast – because that’s what makes the public want them. “When a feature set becomes something that the public really wants, then more money can go into the actual security and performance of the feature.” Presumably, after the promise of unrivaled convenience drives sales, “time, money and development efforts can go into improving it.”

If this is Samsung’s strategy, it could prove to be a divisive one. After all, it has effectively cluttered its gorgeous S8 series with three imperfect biometric tools. Apart from face recognition, its iris scanning is harder to spoof, but it is slower to use (though the experience has improved since our first encounter with it on the Note 7) and requires holding the phone at a precise angle. The fingerprint sensor, although relatively secure as well, has been moved to a less convenient location: Instead of being embedded in the home button, as with previous Galaxy devices, it’s been placed off-center on the back of the phone.

We don’t criticize Samsung for offering options, but it seems to be willfully oblique about the deficiencies of each. At its launch event and in marketing materials, face recognition is touted as a major convenience, in the same breath as security – and that’s after making Note 7-fueled promises that customer safety (which goes hand-in-hand with security) is one of its utmost priorities. Since facial recognition can’t be used for Samsung Pay, it appears the company is aware of its insufficiencies, but chooses to gloss over them.

Nor do we see the real value in three different options that in our view, fail to improve over a lightning-quick front-mounted fingerprint sensor. The biometric approach on the S8 series seems to be another example of high-end phone features that don’t translate into an improved user experience. If you want to avoid getting price gouged for flashy features like these, it might make sense to avoid a premium flagship altogether.

Of course, there are other selling points and features on the Galaxy S8 and S8+, such as a striking display, impressive internals and an all-new virtual assistant. We’re certainly not condemning the phones entirely before performing a full-length review.

In addition, it’s not impossible that facial recognition could be fine-tuned before the official April 21 release date. We’re not sure if the shortcomings in the demo units are due to hardware, software or both, but Nanavati points out that “in a consumer-based transactional system, where only a few users are on the system, it’s less likely you’ll run into hardware insufficiencies.” It’s more likely that problems are software-based, which will likely be continually refined.

Nevertheless, it’s wise to keep a discerning eye on heavily-marketed “innovations” like facial recognition – they’re not always what they seem.


Apple’s iOS 10.3 update is freeing up gigabytes of storage

Apple's iOS 10.3

If you update your iPhone to iOS 10.3 today, you’ll likely find that you have an extra gigabyte or more of free storage space available on the phone’s internal memory. For that, you can thank Apple’s new file system, called APFS, which replaces the Hierarchical File System that has been used in one form or another for three decades.

Apple's iOS 10.3
The Apple File System (APFS for short) was originally announced at Apple’s 2016 Worldwide Developer’s Conference and will eventually spread across all of Apple’s product lines, from the high-end MacBook Pro all the way down to the Apple Watch, later this year. In addition to improved storage efficiency, APFS is also made with increased ability to maximize advantages offered by solid state media.
More importantly, the file system was engineered with modern security in mind. “It’s been built with encryption as a primary feature, from the very beginning, as we brought this idea to fruition,” Eric Tamura, a manager focusing on file systems at Apple, said at Apple’s WWDC event last summer.

The previous, decades-old system, is called HFS+. That old system “was designed in an era where floppies and hard drives where state of the art,” Tamura said. “Its original design is almost 30 years old at this point. And the world has changed since then.” Rather than focusing on the portability of large individual files, the emphasis is placed on quickly reading and writing smaller bits of data, which is required for the operation of smart devices.
“We wanted something that was designed and tuned specifically for Apple products,” he added.

Stan Horaczek
Tech editor Stan Horaczek saw a tangible jump in available space on his 128 GB iPhone 7 Plus after the update.
The Verge points out that the added storage has been noticed since the update was in beta form, and has carried over into the final release.
In addition to the new Apple File System, iOS 10.3 also includes other new features, like the ability to use the Find My iPhone app to locate an AirPod headphone that has gone missing. The CarPlay system also gets some updates, including some streamlining of the user interface during popular functions.
To update your iPhone or iPad, open the Settings app, then click General, then Software Update; you can check the local storage you have on your device also under that General menu, by either clicking on About or, further down, Storage & iCloud Usage.


The 3 Biggest Trends in Artificial Intelligence for Ecommerce in 2017

Artificial Intelligence for Ecommerce

By now we’ve realized the power of artificial intelligence is here to stay and has applications far more practical than the sci-fi robots we once envisioned a decade ago. While the robot space is indeed growing, so are the behind-the-scenes bots powering everyday life.

 Artificial Intelligence for Ecommerce

By 2020, Gartner predicts 85 percent of customer touch points will be managed without humans, and as soon as 2018, cross-channel bots will be able to recognize the voices and faces of customers.

While smart home devices are still considered a luxury, they are more commonplace than ever before. From Amazon’s AI assistant Alexa, which allows voice control of numerous devices, to LG’s Insta View refrigerator, the opportunities for AI have expanded from robotics to daily life.

One industry using artificial intelligence to continually evolve is e-commerce. Online retailers are leveraging AI to be competitive in a marketplace that is hard to survive in.

Conversational Commerce
For consumers, there are myriad touch points and influences that generate purchases. Online retailers are becoming increasingly sophisticated with their artificial intelligence capabilities in capturing the attention of buyers, and one of those approaches has become known as “conversational commerce.”

“Conversational commerce is the confluence of visual, vocal, written, and predictive capabilities,” says e-commerce AI expert Akash Bhatia, CEO of Infinite Analytics. “When these four pillars are in place, brands begin to unlock new potential for consumer interaction.”
Bhatia stresses that retailers must be quick in adopting technologies that foster conversational commerce, stating that consumers’ needs are evolving more quickly than retailers can keep up with and if brands want to survive, this is one of the top business strategies he recommends.

Natural Language
On-site search functions play a pivotal role in sales. When a search function does not lead the consumer to the product they’re looking for, the sale is almost certainly lost. From infancy, the entire genesis of e-commerce was founded on convenience. When it’s difficult for consumers to find what they’re looking for, conversions suffer.

One way brands are tackling this is combining artificial intelligence with natural language processing (NLP) to create a more humanized digital experience. The blending of AI and NLP means that when someone enters an item, and it is spelled incorrectly or not exactly as the desired item is labeled, the e-commerce site can now infer what the user may be seeking.

When you create a new email account, you have to enter a few options for people to make typos. An account for John Smith,, may need a few alternatives for a misspelling from the sender, for example. This is exactly what AI and NLP do for customers who misspell the item they are searching for. Instead of returning an ‘Item Not Found’ result, it will intuit what the shopper meant to type.

Online to Offline Purchases
According to research by eMarketer, 79 percent of consumers research purchases online before purchasing in person, making the tracking of online to offline conversions the golden tool for every retailer.

AI gives retailers the tools to connect the dots effectively. For example, when a consumer clicks on an ad, that website can send the information to the retailer (or the retailer’s third-party AI vendor) and then begin tracking the consumer’s online browsing activities. Should that patron visit the brick-and-mortar store to make the purchase, the clerk can then enter the buyer’s personal information to solidify the online browsing to offline purchasing transaction effectively.


This Video Conferencing Tech Is Quietly Revolutionizing the Web

video conference

From Jules Verne’s 19th century short story In the Year 2889 to Stanley Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, video chatting was nothing more than a fixture of science fiction for many year. However, in the technology age of today, almost everyone with access to a smartphone or computer has joined a video call at one point in their lives. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly the futuristic experience we were promised. Lag, poor resolution, and complete outages often plague the modern video conferencing experience.

Despite these shortcomings, the demand for video has never been higher. Apps like Snapchat and Facebook Live have skyrocketed in popularity, and even traditional media outlets are eschewing written copy in favor of video. Yet when it comes to real-time, peer-to-peer video chatting, the experience still leaves something to be desired.

Fortunately, there’s good news on the horizon. Over the past five years, the world’s tech giants — Google, Microsoft, Mozilla — have been working on a fix for this problem. You may not yet be familiar with it, but in 2017, WebRTC will disrupt the entire communications industry, with long-term effects for years to come.

A Standard for Cloud-Based Video
Why has video struggled for so long? Since their inception, video conferencing companies have relied upon custom backend engineering stacks and in-house code to function. And for many, this is their key differentiator. Platforms with the best backend software offer the best experience, giving them an edge in the market, while those without top-notch code suffer from poor user experiences, often spelling their demise. When it comes to video conferencing, it’s truly survival of the fittest, with each company in constant competition to outdo the others through their own unique software.

But while video conferencing platforms were busy one-upping each other, a number of the world’s largest software companies saw the opportunity to come together and create an industry standard. And in 2011, they set out on a mission to build an open-source video conferencing platform that could surpass all the rest. Throughout the years, companies like Google, Mozilla, and Microsoft have brought together engineers from across industries and companies to build WebRTC, a series of protocols and APIs that bring real-time communication capabilities to browsers and apps. And now, they’re in the final stages of fundamentally redefining video communications in 2017.

video conference

The New Face of Video Communications
After years of collaboration, we’ve reached a technological convergence that makes it possible for WebRTC to truly become the new standard for video conferencing applications everywhere. Today’s technological capabilities have enabled Google to announce the support of H.264, and VP9 — video codecs which power many of today’s video conferencing solutions — in their recent Chrome updates. With this update, WebRTC, which most frequently runs in combination with the dominant H.264 codec, will finally be available on a wide scale for all to use.

The immediate impact, of course, is that consumers will have a better video conferencing experience. Whether you’re streaming a live conference, watching a webinar, or joining a video call, you’ll be able to enjoy fluid, high-resolution audio and video, all without sapping your network of its bandwidth. And with the ability to launch from within your browser, it will actually be easy to use — a novelty for an industry where the promise has gone unrealized for decades. With this, video conferencing may finally become the default method of communication for everything from a quick catch-up between friends to a business meeting between enterprise offices on opposite sides of the globe.

The Floodgates Open
With great disruption, though, there are often casualties — in this case, traditional video conferencing platforms whose key proposition value is their custom, backend software. With WebRTC technology so readily available, any developer will be able to build a high-quality video platform. So while adoption will undoubtedly increase, competition is likely to as well.

In order to stand out, companies must rethink the way they differentiate themselves from the pack. Once solid backend software is a given, there will be an increasing focus on who makes the best use of it. Things like UX, hardware, price point, and customer support will be more critical than ever before. Companies who are unable to meet these demands may be forced to pivot, or even fold entirely.

Although it may not yet be clear who will dominate the industry, one thing is certain — now, more than ever, the video market is ripe for the picking.