Samsung buys up synthetic voice tech firm, may send Bixby back to school

Samsung Bixby
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Samsung has acquired Innoetics, a company specializing in speech technology, which it may use to improve its Bixby virtual assistant, or use in its rumored smart home speaker system. Innoetics works primarily in text-to-speech, using incredibly natural sounding digital voices, but also develops voices for artificial intelligence, and even digital characters for use in talking books. Its technology has seen the creation of 29 different “synthetic voices,” which can speak 15 different languages.

It’s obvious how Samsung could benefit from Innoetics technology and expertise, but the company hasn’t talked about what its intentions are yet. Samsung has confirmed the acquisition, and said only that Innoetics technologies, “present an opportunity to strengthen Samsung’s capabilities,” in a statement to Techcrunch.

Innoetics, which is based in Greece, hasn’t worked on apps or consumer projects before, and has instead collaborated with local carriers and companies such as Duolingo. Following the acquisition it will end its current services and “focus on further developing the technology it has planned and developed so far,” according to co-founder Emilios Halamandaris, speaking to local newspaper Ekathimerini. The same publication quotes anonymous sources saying the voice technology will be used by Samsung to challenge Apple and Google, further suggesting it will become part of the Bixby virtual assistant.

We can see a hint of Innoetics ambitions in this area from a blog post the company published at the end of 2016, saying it was working on the most advanced synthetic voices it had ever designed, which were ideal for digital assistants due to the human-like tone, and ability to give the assistant a unique character. Apple and Amazon have already achieved this, with recognizable voices and mannerisms for Siri and Alexa. Samsung will want to do the same with Bixby.

Bixby had a difficult start in life, despite Samsung acquiring AI experts — and the firm behind Siri — Viv Labs to help out with development, and the assistant wasn’t ready for international use when the Galaxy S8 launched. It’s still having problems, and is likely to get even more exposure soon. It’s almost certainly going to be a feature on the Galaxy Note 8, a very high-profile release expected in the next few months, and may be part of a future smart home speaker to take on Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, and Apple’s HomePod. Making Bixby sound, read, and interact more naturally is logically a high priority for Samsung. However, it’s unlikely Innoetics technology will ever be directly highlighted by the company, but news of the acquisition gives us an interesting insight into Samsung’s future plans.

Product Review

Chris is the virtual co-pilot phone-obsessives need in their car

Driving while using your phone is dangerous, and often illegal. Meet Chris, the digital assistant for your car that wants to help keep your hands off your phone, and your eyes on the road.

Wring the most out of iOS with the best commands for Siri

You may not know all the things you can say to Siri -- after all, Apple never released an official list of commands for its virtual assistant. Thankfully, we've compiled a list of the best Siri commands to help you out.
Product Review

With the S10e and S10 Plus, do we really need the Samsung Galaxy S10?

The Galaxy S10 is the middle child in this year’s Galaxy S10 range, between the Galaxy S10e, and the Galaxy S10 Plus. There’s no striking reason to buy it, but it’s still an excellent phone you’ll be happy with.
Home Theater

Smart speakers are about to get an IQ bump thanks to new Qualcomm chips

Qualcomm announced a new chipset that is designed to make the next generation of smart speakers sound, listen, and connect better than ever before, and it could soon be in your living room.

HMD Global admits Nokia 7 Plus handsets sent user data to China

Nokia could be in some hot water. According to recent reports, Nokia 7 models may be secretly sending data to China without the user knowing about it. Nokia says that the issue was a software bug and that it has been fixed.

Here are the best iPad Pro keyboard cases to pick up with your new tablet

The iPad Pro range can double as laptops, but they do need proper keyboards to fill in effectively. Thankfully, there are loads to choose from and we rounded up the best iPad Pro keyboard cases right here.
Product Review

The new iPad Mini isn’t a beauty, but it performs like a beast

Apple’s new iPad Mini has beastly performance, fluid iOS 12 software, and good battery life. It also looks like it came straight out of 2015, because the design hasn’t been changed. Here's our review of Apple’s 7.9-inch tablet.

24 must-have apps for rooted Android phones and tablets

Rooting your Android device opens up a world of possibilities, along with a few apps. Here are 24 of our favorites, so you can make the most of your rooted device and unleash the true power of Android.

Breeze through security with these checkpoint-friendly laptop bags

Getting through airport security is a drag, but your laptop bag shouldn’t be. Thankfully, these checkpoint-friendly laptop bags will get you and your gear to your destination with ease.

Flex your thumbs (and your brain) with these fun texting games

Gaming consoles keep getting more advanced, but you can still have fun with the good old Latin alphabet. Here are our picks for the best texting games, so you can make the most fun out of that limited data plan or basic cell phone.

Alpina makes its AlpinerX smartwatch even more attractive with new colors

Alpina has introduced four new colors to its AlpinerX smartwatch range, breaking the usually sporty watch out into a more everyday casual design, and given the tech a slight makeover too.

New gold finish makes Frederique Constant’s hybrid smartwatch flashier than ever

Frederique Constant has found considerable success with its luxury hybrid smartwatch, the Hybrid Manufacture, and has launched several new color schemes to help bring it even more attention.

Tag Heuer’s Golf Edition smartwatch is a lot more than just a flash of new color

Tag Heuer's Golf Edition Connected Modular 45 smartwatch has a lot more going for it than just a flashy new color scheme. From the titanium body and black PVD coating to the new Golf app, this is a true special edition.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robotic companions and computer-aided karaoke

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!