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Apple acquires speech tech startup VocalIQ

Apple has acquired VocalIQ, a UK-based startup company specializing in natural speech algorithms, The Financial Times reports. The company builds virtual assistants using machine learning technology, focused on providing a natural, conversational dialogue experience, and while such technology could conceivably be used to improve Siri, the report notes that VocalIQ was specifically focused on automotive applications, including a collaboration with General Motors.

VocalIQ had written a blog post earlier this year describing a “conversational voice-dialog system” that could be incorporated into a vehicle navigation system to reduce driver distraction from having to look at a screen. The company claims to have developed the world’s first “self-learning API” to “allow real conversation between human and the Internet of Things.” In another post, VocalIQ has noted that most of the big tech companies have produced vocal assistants that have fallen “well short of consumer expectations,” noting that solutions like Siri have “ended being used only as toys.” For its part, Apple confirmed the deal but made only its usual statement that “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” VocalIQ’s team, however, is expected to remain in the U.K. rather than being moved to Apple’s U.S. headquarters.

Apps: 80 Days, Microgee, Tweetbot 4, Burstio, Evernote, Google Photos

80 Days ($5) — All of the new content from Inkle’s 80 Days for Mac comes to a free update to the iOS version, with 30 new cities in the United States, Canada, and South America, along with notable places like Pitcairn Island, Meteora Valley, Dubrovnik, Zurich, and new side quests that take you from the Old West to the lost city of Atlantis and even possibly to the moon. Best of all, the update is entirely free — there are no in-app purchases required to unlock anything.

Microgee (free) — This new endless floater challenges you to chart your path in micro-gravity, and while it may seem simple, it’s deceptively so — you’ll quickly realize you can’t quickly change your path in micro-gravity so you have to plan your trajectory wisely. The controls are simple to use but difficult to master, and the game also includes a nice chill space soundtrack to keep you calm.

Tweetbot 4 for Twitter ($5) — The next major update to Tapbots’ popular Twitter client provides universal iPad support, landscape orientation on both the iPad and iPhone, with a column landscape view on larger-screened devices like the iPad and iPhone 6 Plus, and a new statistics and activity view, along with many other under-the-hood improvements.

Review: Spigen Perfect Armor for iPhone 6s, Slim/Tough Armor for iPhone 6s Plus

Spigen has introduced new versions of its Armor series of cases for iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. We'll take a look at Perfect Armor ($40) for iPhone 6s, and Slim Armor ($30) and Tough Armor ($35) for iPhone 6s Plus. All of the TPU/polycarbonate cases have a small, thin, built-in kickstand on the back, and full button coverage. Perfect Armor is the lone three-piece case — a thin screen protector fits on the front of the iPhone 6s.

iPhone 6s more water-resistant than previous models

Photo: iFixit

Apple appears to have improved water resistance in the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, according to an analysis and teardown by iFixit. While the iPhone still isn’t certified as even water-resistant, much less waterproof, iFixit reports that Apple appears to have taken steps to prevent water damage, such as adding a new gasket where the casing fits together and surrounding the logic board and its components with a new silicon seal to prevent shorting and corrosion if water gets into the casing; this new silicon seal design was revealed earlier this year in an Apple patent filing related to waterproofing that was reported by Apple Insider, although the iFixit report notes that the seal is only one part of the overall patent.

Apple CEO Tim Cook talks privacy to NPR

In a recent interview with NPR’s Robert Siegel, Apple CEO Tim Cook emphasized how he feels that “privacy is a fundamental human right” and discussed how Apple and its products and services work to protect the privacy of its users. Cook stated that the government does contact Apple “from time to time”, and of course Apple will supply any requested information if the government asks “in a way that is correct” and have followed proper legal proceedings through the courts. However, he also noted that Apple can only provide information on its users “to the degree that we have information” and noted that Apple’s products are designed in such a way that most of users’ personal information remains on their own devices — in an encrypted form — rather than being stored on Apple’s servers. Cook also discussed the allegations that the government may ask for back doors into the systems of Apple and other companies, stating that any back doors can just as easily allow access to “bad guys as well as good guys” and stated emphatically that for that reason, “I don’t support a back door for any government, ever.”

Daily Deal: Lyrix Axis Levitating Wireless-Charging Speaker

Today in iLounge Deals we have the Lyrix Axis Levitating Wireless-Charging Speaker for only $139.95. The cool floating speaker also charges wirelessly will hovering above its base for a cool aesthetic effect, while also providing multiple LED color settings and a handy USB output for recharging any USB compatible device from the base.

Get the Lyrix Axis Levitating Wireless-Charging Speaker now for only $139.95

Tip of the Day: Engaging Low Power Mode in iOS 9

The new “Low Power Mode” in iOS 9 is a pretty handy way to extend your battery life when you’re on the go; by throttling down your device’s CPU and suspending all background activity it lets you gain two to three extra hours in a pinch. You can turn it on manually by going into Settings, Battery or your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch will offer you the option to turn it on as part of the warnings you get when your battery drains to 20 percent, and again when it hits 10 percent (assuming it’s not already on). When Low Power Mode is engaged, the standard battery icon will turn yellow to remind you that you’re in this mode.

You can also leave your device in Low Power Mode when charging it back up, however it gets shut off automatically once you reach an 80 percent charge. You’ll get a lock screen notification when this happens, and if you like, you can re-engage Low Power Mode right from the lock screen by swiping right to left and tapping “Enable Again.” This can be useful if you’re in a hurry for your iPhone to charge up, as leaving it in Low Power Mode will let your device charge faster by consuming less power while it’s charging.…

Mac: Inkle 80 Days

We’re big fans of Inkle’s 80 Days game on the iOS platform, and in fact it made our list of the Top Apps of 2014, so naturally we’re pretty excited to see it come to the Mac. Available on Steam, GOG, and Humble Store, 80 Days ($10) brings all of the fun of the iOS experience to the larger Mac screen, and more.

Amazon to ban sale of Apple TV

In a move intended to promote its own Prime Video service, Amazon is banning the sale of competing video streaming devices on its online store, Bloomberg reports. An email recently sent to its marketplace sellers noted that it will no longer be selling Apple TV and Google Chromecast devices; no new listings will be permitted and existing listings will be removed on October 29. In the email, Amazon stated that “It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion.” Prime Video is not supported on the Apple TV and Google Chromecast, although of course Amazon’s own Fire TV supports the service, as do other platforms by Roku, Microsoft, and Sony, which will continue to be permitted for sale on Amazon. With the new Apple TV supporting third-party apps, it’s unclear whether Amazon may opt to build a Prime Video app for Apple’s new set-top box platform. Apple’s new Apple TV is set for release this month, but no firm release date has been announced yet.

Review: Spigen Neo Hybrid / Carbon / EX + Ultra Hybrid for iPhone 6s/6s Plus

Spigen has redesigned a number of its cases to fit Apple's new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. We'll first take a look at the company's updated "Hybrid" cases — Neo Hybrid ($35), Neo Hybrid Carbon ($35), Neo Hybrid EX ($35), and Ultra Hybrid ($25). Neo Hybrid and its variations are basically a soft TPU case surrounded by a hard plastic bumper which keeps everything together. Ultra Hybrid is a simple, clear TPU case.

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