Tencent take Siri on with their own voice assistant

Watch out Siri, you may be about to launch in China in the shape of Apple’s smart speaker but Tencent are looming with their own artificial intelligence on the way.

As Apple build up to the launch of their HomePod speaker in China this week on the 18th, native tech giant’s Tencent have announced the readying of their very own powerful artificial intelligence. China’s most notorious tech company Tencent have revealed that they are preparing the launch of their own smart-assistant called Xiaowei which will debut in their popular messaging app WeChat, the biggest social media platform in China, and will be used to control Tencent’s services like QQ Music.

The Western world, and in particular the US, has quickly adopted voice assistants and made them part of the home in recent years with AI’s like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri aiding people through their smartphones and smart speakers. China however has not seen the same level of uptake and they remain a novelty in China, making this potentially the first big digital assistant from a native Chinese company to have an impact across China.

Tencent sell smart speakers in China as well as other local internet companies like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Baidu Inc. which use voice assistants to accompany them. Integrating this into further tech products like their apps could mark a shift in China’s adoption of the new technology that sees them catch up with the popularity voice assistants have seen in the US and other Western countries.

WeChat is a massive platform in China with over 1.08 billion monthly active users at the end of September 2018. On Wednesday Tencent said they are also focusing on expanding the monetisation of their Mini Programs. Mini Programs is a platform for external apps that can be integrated into WeChat to provide extra features such as e-commerce, task management, coupons, and more.

Tencent haven’t announced when Xiaowei might go live for it’s apps.

Bose’s new car system takes noise-cancelling on the road

Noise-cancelling technology is so popular it’s almost standard in any decent pair of new headphones now but Bose want to take that technology to entirely new dimensions.

Gone are the days of having to actually listen to and acknowledge the things happening around you and most importantly, the people – bleurgh! With any of the plethora of noise cancelling headphones available today we can slip on our music and shut out the world, using tech to actively cancel out noise beyond your cans. Bose are taking this privilege to cars to get rid of all of that annoying ambient rumbling so you can listen to your music on the road with no distractions.

Bose are evolving their acclaimed noise-cancelling technology, QuietComfort, to bring it to change our listening experiences when we’re in our cars and driving on the road. Their new Bose QuietComfort Road Noise Control (RNC) technology is now available to global car manufacturers to cancel out the noise of the road beneath your tyres and the shudders of your vehicle’s frame.

The RNC technology works using accelerometers on the vehicle’s body to measure vibrations coming through the car that cause noise. They use the information from the sensors to create an acoustic cancellation signal which they can then output through the vehicle’s speakers to cancel out as much of the targeted noise as possible. The technology listens and adapts as it travels over different services as well as apparently adjusting it’s process as the vehicle ages as well for the best results.

Bose Automotive’s manager for Active Sound Management Solutions, John Feng said: “For years, we’ve been asked why we can’t simply adapt our noise cancelling headphone technology to vehicle cabins for a quieter driving experience. But we know it’s much more difficult to control noise in a large space like a car cabin compared to the relatively small area around your ears. However, through research advances and our relentless efforts to solve tough problems, we’ve achieved a level of road noise reduction that sets Bose apart from competitive offerings.”

At first it seems like it could be a risky move as being aware of your surroundings is rule number 1 when you’re driving. But the sensors are built into the vehicles frame to sense vibrations running through the vehicle but aren’t able to cancel any sounds that aren’t specifically travelling through the vehicle. So car horns, sirens, and even the sound of wind as a lorry passes will still be just as audible.

Bose will collaborate with manufacturers during the vehicle development process to custom-engineer QuietComfort RNC into the car. Tuning adjustments can be made quickly and easily throughout the development cycle, and the solution is available for vehicles with or without Bose premium sound systems. QuietComfort RNC is planned to be in production models by the end of 2021.

Let’s put a Bluetooth speaker in concrete, said no one ever

Except someone actually did say that and then they made it and now you can own your very own concrete Bluetooth speaker AND it’s surprisingly pretty decent.

It seems there’s a new Bluetooth speaker on the market every single day. You can get high quality speakers that could fill a stadium and cost over $2,000 or you can get a $15 stormtrooper head speaker that fits in the palm of your hand and can take selfies. It seems there’s no end to Bluetooth speaker manufacturing, but this concrete speaker brings something new to the table at last.

If you’re sick of tacky plastic Bluetooth speakers then French audio manufacturers Le Pavé Parisien have you covered with a speaker that wouldn’t look out of place built into the pavement. The speaker literally looks like a block of concrete with an industrial grate on the front for the audio to output but whether it’s aesthetic appeals to you or not, it has to be the sturdiest portable speaker on the market.

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Le Pavé Parisien promise high-end audio quality as well as a powerful sound though 60-20,000 Hz means it’s bass may lack – which is disappointing considering it’s sturdy looking design. The company say: “Its natural resistance and the density of the material make it possible to obtain a clear and precise sound. We diverted the latest generation concrete (UHPFRC), lighter and more resistant, to create a unique speaker: The Parisian Cobblestone.”

They also promise that it’s design lends itself to easy repair if anything goes wrong, though being made of concrete you’d assume the tech is safe inside it’s hefty shell. Believe it or not the speaker isn’t actually that heavy either, weighing only 1.5 Kg which is roughly the weight of a chihuahua puppy and much more suited to being carried around in a handbag.

The speaker is available to purchase now for €349 and you can even customise your speaker with an engraving of your choice in the concrete, whether it be a word, phrase, or symbol. They are planning to begin shipping the concrete speaker at the end of January.

Find out more here: www.lepaveparisien.com

Skullcandy’s earbuds go wireless for the first time

Infamous headphone makers Skullcandy are finally ready to catch up with their competitors with the reveal of their very first truly wireless music offering – look out Apple AirPods.

Skullcandy have carved out a notorious name in the low-to-mid range earphone and headphone market as a brand that people trust for quality that won’t dent your funds. The company has been producing headphones since 2003 and have now just announced that they’ll be launching their very first wireless earbuds.

The company have announced Skullcandy Push, truly wireless earbuds that slip into your ear with no entangling or excess involved. The earbuds have a simple design with their iconic logo and a single button which you can use to answer calls from the connected device, switch tracks when you’re listening to music, and control the volume with. The button can also activate your device’s AI assistant which you can talk to using the Push’s built-in microphone.

The Skullcandy Push boasts an impressive 12 hours of battery life with 6 hours of play in the earbuds and then an additional 6 hours in the charging case. When you store your Push buds in their case they will recharge any of the battery lost in use so they’re ready with a full battery for the next time you bust them out to listen. Their battery life also rivals Apple’s Airpods which last for 5 hours of listening time, however their charging case adds up to 24 hours of potential listening time.

As of their announcement the earbuds only come in one available colour; Psychotropical Teal. They look funky and compared to last month’s leak about Skullcandy’s wireless earbuds they look a lot more like something you might happily wear out and about. The earbuds feature a “gel ear hook” to clip them into your ear making it a smoother fit, something Apple’s Airpods have been criticised for. A simple rotation unhooks the Push from your ear.

As with Apple, if you lose an earbud or charging case they offer a replacement at a reduced price of $49 under their ‘Fearless Use Promise’. Apple offer a similar scheme however at a higher price of $69 per replacement.

Skullcandy plan to sell the Push exclusively from Target for $129.99 until the 15th January, after which they’ll be available at select retailers.

Apple’s next AirPods might scan and shape themselves to your ear

As Apple build up to the launch of the next generation of AirPods a new patent suggests that their updated earbuds will come with a lot more sophisticated tech.

Apple’s AirPods have received mixed reviews in the 2 years they’ve been available with praise for their quality and wireless functionality but drawing criticism for their size/wireless design making these $160 earbuds very easy to lose. Some listeners complained that the AirPods weren’t comfortable, either not fitting into their ears or being uncomfortable when pushed firmly into their ears. A new patent suggests this might be in some way solved with their first upgrade to their AirPods since they launched.

The approved patent application, which 9to5Mac discovered, shows an earbud design that “can be worn interchangeably in either a left or a right ear of a user”. The patent describes that the earbuds would use biometric sensors to sense it’s position in the ear to “alter operation of the earbud in accordance to which ear the earbud is determined to be sitting in”.

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The patent fuels the fire that we could be seeing new AirPods releasing soon. A new Ming-Chi Kuo report just days earlier suggested that updated AirPods could be releasing as soon as the first quarter of 2019 and will include wireless charging technology. However details in the patent imply that their biometric sensor technology might not feature in their earbuds until 2020.

Despite the concerns with certain aspects of Apple’s earbuds they have become the most popular Apple accessory in years – and not just because people keep losing them down the side of the sofa. According to people surveyed many users said that they plan on buying AirPods before they would buy a new iPhone. We will probably find out more about the future of Apple’s AirPods in the coming months and what we can expect in the next generation.

Bose’s new sunglasses bring augmented reality to your ears

Augmented reality technology is becoming more advanced by the second and Bose are delving into new worlds with their new ‘Frames’ putting audio into your sunglasses. 

World-class audio manufacturers Bose could be making the hottest pair of shades people are rocking in 2019 with their ‘Frames’. This isn’t a completely new direction for the company though as their priority won’t be blocking your eyes from the sun but providing high quality audio in exciting new ways.

The Frames go over your ears so that you’re left uncovered to hear and experience the world around you whilst providing audio to your ears that is, at least for the most part, unhearable to people around you. It works at it’s best with apps using Bose’s augmented reality technology providing digital audio experiences that enhance and expand on the reality around you.

Frames are able to use GPS to gain location data on you and feature a built-in nine-axis motion sensor to perceive your surroundings. It then combines this information with voice commands to AI assistants and it’s multi-function button to provide information through the speakers in each of it’s arms. Beyond it’s tech the sunglasses will feature tinted, UV-blocking glass so that they are actually useful in the sun too.

Bose will release two models of Frames when they launch in January, one version with round frames and the other with square frames so you can pick the look you like best. They promise 3 and a half hours of battery life when listening to music and 12 hours of life when on standby.

Bose Frames can be pre-ordered now for $199 and will ship next month in January 2019. You can find out more about the intriguing Frames and assure yourself a pair from Bose’s site: www.bose.com/en_us/products/wearables/bose-frames-alto.html

Get Shure’s quality microphones & bundles at great prices this week

Shure make some of the best affordable microphones around whether you’re looking for microphones for the studio or to take on to the stage. With some great deals on their mics this week we’ve collected the best ones just for you.

Shure SM58-LC Cardioid Vocal Microphone – $89 (10% off)

The legendary Shure SM58 vocal microphone is designed for professional vocal use in live performance, sound reinforcement, and studio recording. Its tailored vocal response for sound is a world standard for singing or speech. A highly effective, built-in spherical filter minimizes wind and breath “pop” noise. A unidirectional (cardioid) pickup pattern isolates the main sound source while minimizing unwanted background noise.

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Shure BLX24/PG58 Handheld Wireless System with PG58 Vocal Microphone – $249 (17% off)

Shure BLX Wireless Systems combine professional-quality sound with simple setup and an intuitive interface for legendary audio performance right out of the box. Precision-built and available in a variety of configurations, it’s the most accessible way to own the stage. The bundle comes with a PG58 microphone. The PG58 is a professional quality vocal microphone with an updated industrial design that features a black metallic finish offering an unobtrusive visual presence.

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Shure BLX288/PG58 Dual Channel Handheld Wireless System with 2 PG58 Vocal Microphones – $499 (9% off)

The Shure BLX 288PG58 Dual Handheld Wireless Microphone System features two PG58 handheld vocal miss for superb audio clarity for singing and speaking applications. The receiver features a one-touch Quick Scan frequency selection that automatically locates the clearest channel to operate in. XLR and 1/4 inch output connectors allow you to easily incorporate the Shure BLX wireless mic system into any setup.

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Shure KSM8/N Dualdyne Vocal Microphone – $449 (10% off)

As the first-ever dual-diaphragm dynamic handheld microphone, the premium KSM8 Dualdyne Cardioid Vocal Dynamic Microphone is a groundbreaking feat of engineering design. Meticulously crafted for revolutionary vocal reproduction and sound-reinforcement control for world-class live performance in top-tier professional venues. The patented Dualdyne cartridge of the KSM8 virtually eliminates proximity effect and masters off-axis rejection while providing sound professionals the signal clarity typical of condenser microphones without processing, along with the reliability of dynamic microphone feedback control.

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Get massive discounts on Shure’s best headphones this week

We’ve seen loads of great deals and discounts since Black Friday with Cyber Deals Week lasting all week on Amazon. We’ve found loads of amazing deals on Shure’s high quality microphones, headphones, wireless systems for guitars and mics and more.

Shure SRH440 Professional Studio Headphones – $79 (20% off)

The SRH440 Professional Studio Headphones from Shure provide exceptional sound reproduction and comfort. Optimized for home and studio recording, SRH440 headphones reproduce accurate audio across an extended range. Impedance, power handling and sensitivity are all calibrated for professional audio devices such as DJ mixers, mixing consoles, and headphone amplifier. Includes carrying bag and threaded 1/4″ (6.3mm) gold plated adapter.

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Shure SRH840 Professional Monitoring Headphones – $149 (25% off)

SRH840 Professional Monitoring Headphones feature a precisely tailored frequency response that delivers rich bass, clear mid-range and extended highs. Optimized for studio recording and critical listening with a closed-back, circumaural collapsible design and a detachable, coiled cable. Includes SRH840, threaded 1/4″ gold-plated adapter, carrying bag, replacement ear pads, and user guide.

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Shure SE215SPE-B-BT1 Wireless Sound Isolating Earphones – $129 (13% off)

SE215 Sound Isolating Earphones provide award-winning sound in a secure, over–the-ear design for long-lasting comfort and immersive audio. Single Dynamic Driver produces clear sound with deep bass in a convenient and portable package. Sound isolation technology prevents outside noise from interfering with your listening experience, whether onstage or on-the-go.

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Shure SE425-CL Sound Isolating Earphones with Dual High Definition MicroDrivers – $239 (11% off)

The SE425 Sound Isolating Earphones feature dual high-definition drivers for accurate, natural sound in a secure, over–the-ear design with innovative detachable cable system. Dual high-definition drivers (dedicated tweeter and woofer) deliver accurate and natural sound in a convenient and portable package. Comfortable sound isolating sleeves block up to 37 dB of ambient noise.

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Save BIG on ROLI’s amazing Seaboard and their innovative Blocks

ROLI make some of the most innovative instruments to come out in recent years. It all began with their ‘Seaboard’ keyboards featuring an entirely pressure sensitive board with responsiveness between keys and plays to every touch and shape. It transformed the traditional keyboard into a flowing, modular, instrument full of capability and redefining the way keys can be played.

With Amazon’s Cyber Deals week in full swing you can nab yourself some of ROLI’s amazing instruments at an unbeatable price.

ROLI Seaboard Block – $229 (31% off)

Create astonishingly expressive music on a next-generation keyboard. Seaboard Block replaces a traditional keyboard with a soft, pressure-responsive surface that lets you touch and shape your sound. Play a powerful standalone instrument – and extend its power by connecting to other Blocks. Access your sounds on either mobile or desktop through included software, and add to your collection by purchasing soundpacks.

Seaboard Block is the newest, smallest, most portable Seaboard, an award-winning family of instruments hailed as ‘the future of the keyboard.’

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ROLI Lightpad Block M Wireless Controller – $159.95 (20% off)

Reach for the ultimate music-making surface that fits in the palm of your hand. The next-generation Lightpad Block features a redesigned surface that offers an even more tactile, responsive, and precise playing experience.

On Lightpad M’s unique surface you shape sounds and make music with Five Dimensions of Touch (5D Touch), while LED illuminated grids guide you as you play. Expression is at your fingertips, so you can bring any musical idea to life in an instant.

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ROLI Live Block – $79.95 (20% off)

Live Block is one part of the modular making music system: Blocks. Connect Live Block wirelessly to a Seaboard Block or Lightpad Block to use as a shortcut to the functions you use most to make music.

Live Block helps you perform faster. Switch scales and octaves, trigger chords and arpeggios, and sustain notes by clicking its control buttons. All these functions for live performance can be modified through included software, but Live Block puts them right at your fingertips — so you can fine-tune your performance in real time.

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Get singing this Cyber Deals Week with the best microphone discounts

Amazon are keeping the discounts coming all through the week with Cyber Monday Deals Week. Whether you’re looking for performance microphones to take to the stage, a quality microphone for your home studio, or a professional vocal microphone for podcasting/vlogging – We’ve found their best deals on microphones for you to snatch up and get recording with.

Electro-Voice ND76 Dynamic Cardioid Vocal Microphone – $79 (39% off)

The ND76 is a robust, high-performance, large-diaphragm dynamic cardioid vocal microphone. Designed to be a workhorse for excellent all-around voice applications, the ND76 capsule is precisely tuned to deliver crisp, clear, and balanced vocal presence, as well as superior isolation from sound on the stage.

Get yours here: https://amzn.to/2E1LxQP

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Behringer Ultravoice Xm8500 Dynamic Vocal Microphone – $19.99 (33% off)

The XM8500 dynamic microphone is a performer’s and home recording enthusiast’s dream come true! This professional-quality microphone is designed to capture your sounds with outstanding sensitivity and accuracy. With a cardiod pickup pattern for excellent sound source separation and feedback rejection, this ultra-wide frequency response mics is an excellent choice for any performing or recording scenario.

Get yours here: https://amzn.to/2KCTqwaBehringer Ultravoice dynamic cardioid vocal microphone deals cyber monday

Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio XLR Microphone – $99 (41% off)

Audio-Technica’s stringent quality and consistency standards set the AT2020 apart from other mics in its class. Its low-mass diaphragm is custom-engineered for extended frequency response and superior transient response. With rugged construction for durable performance, the microphone offers a wide dynamic range and handles high SPLs with ease. The AT2020: the new standard for affordable side-address studio condensers.

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Rode NT1A Anniversary Vocal Condenser Microphone Package – $228.98 (38%)

The RODE NT1A raises the bar for value-priced mics! From the new nickel plated body to the state of the art surface mount electronic circuitry, the NT1A will leave you asking ‘how can RODE offer a microphone that sounds this good, for so little money’? The RØDE NT1A, Winner of the Electronic Musician 2004 Editor’s Choice Award and the world’s quietest studio condenser microphone. This redesigned version of RØDE’s classic NT1 has only 5 dBA of self-noise.

Get yours here: https://amzn.to/2KAlTms

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Once you’ve picked out the microphone for you, get yourself a good deal on a microphone stand.

Samson MK-10 Microphone Boom Stand – $14.69 (25% off)

The MK10 Microphone Boom Stand combines the crucial elements of lightweight durability with an attractive and functional design. It comes a very small package that folds up easily for transport anywhere you need it.

Get yours here: https://amzn.to/2TQwZb2

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RockJam Scissor Arm Microphone Stand RJMS050 – $7.69 (30% off)

The RockJam microphone stand is a strong, sturdy and supple piece of kit that has been designed to work universally across a range of microphones and environments. So if you’re a Twitch streamer, a Podcast recorder, a YouTube streamer, a radio broadcaster, a live performer or a recording artist then give your microphone the security deserves and your audience, the benefit of a boom arm that will contort to your needs, no matter on the environment, to keep you sounding crisp.

Get yours here: https://amzn.to/2DZ6nQv

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