Amazon's E-Book Vision: "Kindle"

Today Amazon takes the wraps off the Amazon Kindle, an e-book reader they hope will transform publishing and reading. Offering an initial catalog of 80,000 titles, Amazon will sell bestsellers for $9.99 and "classics" for $1.99. The device itself has a strangely 80's-futuristic vibe to it, with a white molded plastic body featuring angular edges and a thumb-keyboard. Kindle does have some game-changing features: an EVDO wireless connection allows you to browse the web and buy books, and the battery life is estimated at 30 hours of "reading time." It holds roughly 200 books in internal memory (assuming you've bought them), and can subscribe (for a fee) to major newspapers and magazines, which are automatically delivered to the device (this may be the killer feature, in my humble opinion -- I've always wanted a "breakfast computer" to stand in for a newspaper while I'm eating).

It all sounds pretty neat, but the test will be in how good the screen is and how well-designed the device is -- will the screen compete in clarity with a printed page? Will the device be as portable as a paperback? Priced at $399, the Kindle will have to be pretty awesome to gain any marketshare. It feels deeply unlikely to me that any device will supplant traditional books any time soon, but then again, I was wrong about the Web, so I don't exactly have a technology track record to stand on.

Newsweek has a feature about the Kindle, including some details about its creation and the publishing industry's reaction. Have a read (online, of course!) and head over to Amazon.com if you've got $399 burning a hole in your pocket.

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A New App Interprets Sign Language for the Amazon Echo
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iStock

The convenience of the Amazon Echo smart speaker only goes so far. Without any sort of visual interface, the voice-activated home assistant isn't very useful for deaf people—Alexa only understands three languages, none of which are American Sign Language. But Fast Company reports that one programmer has invented an ingenious system that allows the Echo to communicate visually.

Abhishek Singh's new artificial intelligence app acts as an interpreter between deaf people and Alexa. For it to work, users must sign at a web cam that's connected to a computer. The app translates the ASL signs from the webcam into text and reads it aloud for Alexa to hear. When Alexa talks back, the app generates a text version of the response for the user to read.

Singh had to teach his system ASL himself by signing various words at his web cam repeatedly. Working within the machine-learning platform Tensorflow, the AI program eventually collected enough data to recognize the meaning of certain gestures automatically.

While Amazon does have two smart home devices with screens—the Echo Show and Echo Spot—for now, Singh's app is one of the best options out there for signers using voice assistants that don't have visual components. He plans to make the code open-source and share his full methodology in order to make it accessible to as many people as possible.

Watch his demo in the video below.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Ralph Gatti, AFP/Getty Images
The 'David Bowie Is' Exhibition Is Coming to Your Smartphone
 Ralph Gatti, AFP/Getty Images
Ralph Gatti, AFP/Getty Images

"David Bowie is," an exhibition dedicated to the life, work, and legacy of the pop icon, concluded its six-year world tour on July 15. If you didn't get a chance to see it in person at its final stop at New York City's Brooklyn Museum, you can still experience the exhibit at home. As engadget reports, the artifacts displayed in the collection will be recreated in virtual and augmented reality.

The Victoria and Albert Museum, the curator of the exhibit, and the David Bowie Archive are collaborating with Sony Music Entertainment and the sound and media studio Planeta on the new project, "David Bowie is Virtual." Like the physical exhibition, the digital experience will integrate visual scenes with the music of David Bowie: 3D scans will bring the musician's costumes and personal items into the virtual sphere, allowing viewers to examine them up close, and possibly in the case of the outfits, try them on.

"These new digital versions of ‘David Bowie is’ will add unprecedented depth and intimacy to the exhibition experience, allowing the viewer to engage with the work of one of the world’s most popular and influential artists as never before," the announcement of the project reads. "Both the visual richness of this show and the visionary nature of Bowie and his art makes this a particularly ideal candidate for a VR/AR adaptation."

"David Bowie is Virtual" will be released for smartphones and all major VR and AR platforms sometimes this fall. Like the museum exhibition, it will come with an admission price, with a portion of the proceeds going toward the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Brooklyn Museum.

[h/t engadget]

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