The Week in Mobile: May 8-14, 2016


Google to announce standalone VR headset, Next-gen AI assistant Viv debuts, Slack releases sign-in API and more

Each week we round up the top news stories, think pieces and other content that centers on the fast-paced, quickly changing world of mobile technology. We tell you which companies are employing clever mobile strategies, illuminate new ways of thinking about mobile and offer a peek at meaningful trends in the industry. This content is designed to inspire you and your company to take advantage of the many benefits mobile can offer.

Google Expected to Double Down on VR

Google is expected to announce its first standalone virtual reality headset at this week’s I/O conference. Sources say the new device will be “less powerful than HTC’s Vive or the Oculus Rift,” which could allow Google to price the device competitively. The company has seen significant success with its smartphone powered Cardboard viewer, with over 5 million shipped since launch in November 2014. Many are also speculating we will see VR-related features appear as part of Andriod N.

Meanwhile, Facebook announced users will soon be able to upload their own 360-degree photos. The VR experience will allow you to navigate around an image by tilting your smartphone’s screen or tapping and swiping. Users will also be able to use the Oculus Rift or Gear VR to experience 360-degree images in their newsfeed.

Google Brings Tap to Translate to Android Apps

Google introduced a new update called Tap to Translate, which allows Android users to translate text directly within third-party apps. Previously, a user would have to copy text and navigate outside the app they were using each time they need to decipher a foreign phrase. Now, if a user copies text written in a different language, a translation button will pop up in the corner of the screen. Additionally, Google rolled out offline translation capabilities for iOS, which allows iPhone users to translate pre-downloaded libraries without an internet connection.

AI Assistant Viv Debuts at Disrupt NYC

As mentioned last week’s news, the new AI assistant Viv made its debut at Disrupt NYC. The creators demonstrated Viv for the first time after four years of development in stealth mode. The AI assistant took on complex requests like “Was it raining in Seattle three Thursdays ago?” and personalized requests like “Send Adam 20 bucks”. Since Viv has advanced natural language comprehension and is able to connect to a myriad of outside services, the assistant can answer more complex questions and perform advanced tasks. Ultimately, the creators want Viv to become the platform that powers AI and connects devices and services together.

Facebook Reports More Than 10k Developers Tinkering with Bots

According to Facebook, more than 10,000 developers are building chatbots for Messenger. While early Facebook bot attempts have left users unimpressed, devs don’t appear discouraged. Some have even seen significant engagement. For example, Activision’s Call of Duty Messenger bot reported 6 million user exchanges within the first week of launch. Given the number of developers already creating bots for Messenger, Facebook confirmed it will soon release a bot analytics system.

“Sign-In with Slack” API Opens to Developers

Last week, Slack released a new sign-in API for third-party developers. The integration allows users to verify their identity and sign-in to supporting apps using their Slack account, just as you might sign-in to your YouTube app using Gmail. Users that sign-in to third-party apps with Slack will be able to automatically connect with Slack team members within the third-party app — a feature billed as making collaboration across platforms and apps easier. Developers interested in the new API can find more information here.

Echo Now Helps Users Track Packages

Amazon updated its Alexa voice assistant with new package tracking capabilities so users can ask Alexa-enabled devices when their packages will arrive. The update is one of several updates Amazon has rolled out for Alexa since the launch of Echo. Earlier this year, Amazon added thermostat controls and shopping capabilities. Next up? Amazon recently acquired TrackR, a company that manufactures a bluetooth-enabled tracker device. Reports suggest that Amazon will use TrackR technology to help users locate lost items. That means Echo will be able to help users find things like lost car keys.