All posts in “Podcast”

Anki CEO: Consumer robots need personality to succeed

Anki's latest robot, Vector.
Anki’s latest robot, Vector.

Image: Jake Krol/Mashable

In case you missed it, the robots are here.

No, not the apocalyptic hordes of artificially intelligent machines that some believe are destined to enslave or eradicate us (hello, Boston Dynamics!), but the everyday devices and companions that are rapidly becoming commonplace. After decades of lofty sci-fi-inspired promises, robots like iRobot’s Roomba vacuums and the many iterations of the Sony Aibo robodog are slowly carving out their places in our domestic lives. Even Amazon’s Alexa is arguably a disembodied robot.

A new entry into the field is Anki’s Vector. Vector is a small tabletop robot with big features. First and foremost, unlike other “robots” like those from Sphero or even WowWee, Vector doesn’t need a smartphone to control it. It’s fully autonomous and loaded with sensors, enabling it to interact with and learn from its environment from the get-go.

Vector is another milestone for Anki, a company that’s had one of the most interesting stories in tech. Unknown to the world before its splash launch at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in 2013, the robotics company has come out with several products, including intelligent toy race cars and a previous, more limited robot, Cozmo.

Where does the robustly funded company go next? And when will it move its robotics business into something more capable (i.e. not a toy). Anki CEO Boris Sofman dropped by Mashable’s MashTalk podcast this week to give us the full story of his young company, why it’s so focused on the “personality” of its robots, and what he sees in the future for domestic robots and AI.

You can subscribe to MashTalk on iTunes or Google Play, and we’d appreciate it if you could leave a review. Feel free to hit us with questions and comments by tweeting to @mashtalk or attaching the #MashTalk hashtag. We welcome all feedback.

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Apple’s 2018 iPhones have a serious naming problem

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Image: Lili Sams/Mashable

Let me blow your mind with this rumor: Apple is going to unveil new iPhones in the fall.

Yes, that we know. But we also “know” a little more than that. Obviously Apple has so far not said a single word about its 2018 iPhone models, but the rumor mill has been chugging away, and the consensus is Apple will launch three different iPhones: a successor to the iPhone X, a large-screen version of that phone, and a new model that mostly mirrors the iPhone X design, but doesn’t have quite all the same features so Apple can sell it at a lower price.

There have been plenty of reports about the screen sizes, features, and technology the three phones will have, but there’s a big question about the phones that doesn’t have an obvious answer: What is Apple going to call these babies? 

We discussed the topic of the 2018 iPhone names at length in the most recent MashTalk podcast.

For the names of the new iPhones, Apple has really painted itself into a corner. In 2017, Apple debuted the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus alongside the iPhone “ten,” which it designated with the letter X. Apple’s rationale with the names was that the 8 was the obvious successor to the previous models, but the iPhone X would offer customers the opportunity to jump ahead to a phone that set the template for the next decade of the iPhone, according to CEO Tim Cook. The number 10 seemingly conveyed how advanced the phone was compared to the 8 models (and was also a play on the 10-year-anniversary), while the Roman numeral hinted that this was just slightly experimental — almost kind of a hardware beta.

That all made sense, but what do we do now, a year later? With the iPhone X going away — as has been rumored — the logical choice for its successor seems like 11 (or XI), but that sounds a little weird and it also exacerbates the problem of the “lower-end” model sounding less advanced, assuming Apple goes with the logical choice of “iPhone 9” for that one.

The gen-2 iPhone X, and its big brother, could get a letter or number designation to differentiate from the current model. iPhone X2 is possible (and will certainly generate a smirk from X-Men fans), though the most recent rumor suggests “iPhone XS” (or “Xs” if Apple keeps its normal lower-case S-designation).

Both of those have problems, however. iPhone “ten-two” is utterly meaningless and silly, and sounds a preschooler’s attempt to pronounce 12. That’s cute if a kid says it — not so much the most valuable company in the world. And even though Apple will call the iPhone XS “ten-ess,” you can bet everyone else will call it “ex-ess.” Does Apple really wants to invite a year of snarky headlines about “iPhone excess?”

Image: Lili Sams/Mashable

Apple could, of course, just go with another letter (iPhone “ten-A” has a certain ring to it). But a better solution might to ditch the numbers altogether, or at least mostly. Apple could keep the iPhone X branding for the X’s successor, and simply add an iPhone X Plus model. That will create a little confusion about which “iPhone X” anyone owns, but since Apple appears to be discontinuing the current iPhone X then that won’t matter as much.

This kind of approach tends to work for Apple’s other products, including the iPad and MacBooks. The iPad number became more or less unofficial years ago (remember the “new iPad?”) and MacBooks are usually differentiated by year (“late 2018 MacBook Pro,” etc.).

That still leaves the issue of what to call the lower-end phone. If not iPhone 9, why not just iPhone? Apple hasn’t officially had a phone simply called the “iPhone” since 2007, but, really, paying attention to the numbers — and even knowing exactly what number you have — is the purview of tech geeks and the press. By dividing its line into simply “iPhone” and “iPhone X,” and keeping it for the foreseeable future, Apple would simultaneously end all the hand-wringing and make its bifurcated product strategy crystal-clear. Techies might fret, but the public would love it.

Whatever Apple ends up doing, it’s important to remember that product names rarely matter. The Nintendo Wii was one of the most lampooned product names in history, and that device ended up conquering the console market. The iPad had a similar trajectory.

The iPhone, of course, has already made its conquests. There’s a good chance the 2018 models will have the most confusing names to date, but now, with Apple recently becoming the first company in history to pass $1 trillion in value thanks to its iconic invention, the word “iPhone” has never stood for so much.

You can subscribe to MashTalk on iTunes or Google Play, and we’d appreciate it if you could leave a review. Feel free to hit us with questions and comments by tweeting to @mashtalk or attaching the #MashTalk hashtag. We welcome all feedback.

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Wilson is like Longreads for podcasts

Meet Wilson, a new iPhone app that plans to change the way you discover and listen to podcasts. The company describes the app as a podcast magazine. It has the same vibe as Longreads, the curated selection of longform articles.

With its minimalistic design and opinionated typography, Wilson looks like no other podcasting app. On an iPhone X, the black background looks perfectly black thanks to the OLED display. It feels like an intimate experience.

Every week, the team selects a handful of podcast episodes all tied together by the same topic. Those topics can be the Supreme Court, the LGBTQ community, loneliness, dads, the World Cup…

Each issue has a cover art and a short description. And the team also tells you why each specific podcast episode is interesting. In other words, Wilson isn’t just an audio experience. You can listen to episodes in the app or open them in Apple Podcasts.

Navigating in the app is all based on swipes. You can scroll through past editions by swiping left and right. You can open an edition by swiping up, and go back to the list by swiping down. This feels much more natural than putting buttons everywhere.

Wilson also feels like tuning in to the radio. Podcasts are great because they let you learn everything there’s to learn about any interest you can have. But it also narrows your interests in a way. Podcast apps are too focused on top lists and “you might also like” recommendations.

Gone are the days when you would switch on the radio and listen to a few people talk about something you didn’t know you cared about. Human editors can change that. That’s why Wilson can be a nice addition to your podcasting routine.

There is no more gun emoji. Is that a good thing?

Emoji have conquered the world, no doubt, but what happens after the conquest?

The answer: Things change. Emoji are constantly evolving, not only with new symbols that arrive on our smartphone keyboards year after year, but also the symbols themselves. A couple of years ago, your standard emoji keyboard usually had a gun on it, but today that symbol has been almost universally replaced with a water pistol.

The gun’s transformation may be the most dramatic of changes, but emoji are changing in subtler ways, too. Apple recently announced a new set of emoji coming in iOS 12, and it includes a eye-like symbol, the nazar amulet, that’s very popular in Turkey and other parts of the world, but not the U.S. With the emoji keyboard now pretty much filled out with “universal” symbols, expect more niche or regional characters to appear.

There’s also the question: what to do about unpopular emoji? Some emoji, like “crying with tears of joy,” are everywhere, but others don’t get as much day-to-day use. Case in point: the aerial tram emoji is apparently the least-popular emoji in use, according to Emojitracker.

Image: Messenger, Apple, Google, EmojiOne, HTC

Should there be an effort to boost unpopular emoji, and what responsibilities do the main shapers of emoji — Apple and Samsung, mostly — have here? And just who gave them so much influence over our new visual language anyway?

To help guide us through the ever-evolving world of emoji, we turned to Jeremy Burge, the founder of Emojipedia and creator of World Emoji Day, which took place earlier this week on July 17. Burge sat down with MashTalk host Pete Pachal to talk about the new emoji coming this fall, review the  Emojiland musical on Broadway (it’s good!), and revealed his true thoughts about Apple’s Memoji avatars.

You can subscribe to MashTalk on iTunes or Google Play, and we’d appreciate it if you could leave a review. Feel free to hit us with questions and comments by tweeting to @mashtalk or attaching the #MashTalk hashtag. We welcome all feedback.

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Skype will soon let you record your calls

Get ready, podcasters. Skype will let you record your calls soon. 

It’s been almost 15 years since Skype, the over-the-internet audio call and video chat app, first launched. Since then, it’s been acquired by eBay for $2.5 billion, then Microsoft for $8.5 billion. Skype is also now available on a multitude of desktop and mobile operating systems.

But somehow, through all these years, Skype has been missing a basic feature: call recording. Users have constantly sought out workarounds after their requests for this feature to be baked into the software have seemingly gone ignored. But now, for the first time, Skype’s finally getting a built-in recording feature.

In a blog update Monday, Microsoft’s Skype team detailed the latest version of the app and announced they’ll soon be launching a completely cloud-based recording option built right into Skype itself. Once choosing to record the call, any audio, video, and shared screens will be picked up by the Skype recording feature. Everyone on the call will be informed that the call is being recorded. When the recording is completed, it will be available via a single downloadable file from Skype.

From the Skype blog:

Call recording—Take call snapshots to the next level with call recording. Capture a special Skype calls with loved ones or record important meetings with colleagues. Call recording is completely cloud-based, and as soon as you start recording, everyone in the call is notified that the call is being recorded—so there are no surprises. Call recordings combine everyone’s video as well as any screens shared during the call.

Skype’s built-in call recording may be late, but late is better than never as everyone looks to get into the podcasting game. The lack of an out of the box solution in Skype may have been a barrier to those new podcasters.

Despite its lack of a built-in recording option, Skype has remained popular with podcasters and reporters thanks to its ease of use, freemium model (Skype to Skype calls are 100% free), and broad adoption over the many years it’s been around. A simple Google search shows that since the rise of the podcast, Skype has been the recommended go-to service when podcast hosts are looking to interview their remote guests. Many of these content creators used third-party applications to get around the missing feature. Third-party Skype recording applications like the Mac app Ecamm Call Recorder for Skype and the Windows app Evaer have become very popular. These apps have successfully managed to fill a glaring hole where an obvious feature should be, but issues have risen whenever Microsoft would push out a Skype update.

Back in April, Microsoft began rolling out Skype for Content Creators, which for the first time gave Skype users an official avenue to record and publicly stream their audio calls and video interviews. Using the “Content Creators” mode, users are able to connect third-party software, like Wirecast, to record or stream the audio/visual Skype output directly. However, the Skype for Content Creators feature has yet to launch for most users and still requires additional software in order to function.

While Skype’s embrace of call recording is very much a welcome development, newer services like Discord, which already have built-in recording options, have been pulling in content creators looking for an easier way to record. 

Even with Skype’s newly announced recording option, some content creators won’t be wooed by cloud recording. Call recording services like Zencastr have been appealing to the podcasting market thanks to its local recording feature. That means that each person on the call records their end of the conversation right on their computer. Zencastr then automatically uploads the guest(s) feed directly to Dropbox so the podcast host has access to each recording. This provides the podcast producer with more control over the mix of the episode, as each caller is on their own separate track. Additionally, with local recording, any issues related to the quality of the call due to a bad internet connection are minimized.

In a statement to Mashable, a Skype spokesperson confirmed that Skype’s built-in call recorder will output a simple cloud-based recording, with all audio and video as a single file. It was also confirmed that even with Skype for Content Creators, the audio coming in from Skype is mixed.

Mashable has reached out to Microsoft for additional comment regarding consent to being recorded using Skype’s upcoming built-in call recorder. We’ll update when we hear back.

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