From Facebook’s latest Stories integration to Pandora’s new voice mode, here are this week’s top tech headlines:
Facebook Begins Testing New Events Feature For Stories
Facebook is moving full steam ahead with its initiative to make Stories the primary way their users share content in 2019. Most recently, Facebook revealed that Events will be the latest addition to its Stories product. This new feature will make it easier for users to share and coordinate with social events they are interested in attending, in real time. Events for Stories can be accessed when Facebook users land on a specific events page, just look for the option to ‘Share to Your Story.’ Once selected, a tappable sticker will appear in Facebook Stories that includes the event details. Friends who view Event Stories will be able to toggle themselves as “interested” or “going”, building a real-time guest list. To further enhance event coordination, Facebook has built in a way to start a group chat on Messenger with friends who also responded. The move to add Events to Stories is no surprise. Facebook Events are considered by many to be the top platform to organize a calendar of social events, birthdays, concerts, and other real-world meetups. By adding Events to Stories, Facebook hopes to attract a younger audience to its platform. Currently this product is being tested in limited markets including the US, Brazil, and Mexico, however, Facebook is looking to roll out this feature to all iOS and Android devices soon.
Pandora’s Voice Mode Adds A Smart Assistant To Its Mobile App
Hot off the heels of CES 2019, Pandora revealed they began testing a new ‘voice mode’ for mobile devices. Similar to Amazon’s Alexa, Pandora’s voice mode will act as a hands-free smart assistant feature that will help users navigate through its mobile application. Pandora’s voice mode will appear as a small microphone icon located at the top right corner of the app and can be activated by simply saying ‘Hey Pandora’ followed by a specific command. Pandora’s voice mode combines the power of natural language processing and machine learning with its own music genome data to respond to any request in a conversation-like manner. Users can give basic navigation commands (like changing stations, skipping songs, volume control, etc.) or more interactive ones (i.e. adding songs to playlists, asking song details, giving a ‘thumbs up,’ etc.) Pandora’s voice mode adds even more personalization by leveraging a user’s listening history to respond to more open-ended commands. For example, two different users ask Pandora the same command ‘play something for my workout’ and the smart assistant will play two completely different soundtracks, based on their specific listening behavior. Initially, Pandora’svoice mode will roll out to the platform’s 69 million monthly active users on mobile only. Pandora is testing different ways to incorporate similar functionality to 3rd party smart speakers.
Spotify Prepares To Launch Voice-Controlled In-Car Music Player
Spotify is making its first push into hardware with the launch of an in-car music player geared towards “non-smart” car owners. The device, expected to drop later this year, will deliver music directly to customers by syncing to car stereos via Bluetooth, instead of going through Apple Carplay or Google Android Auto platforms. To ensure users have safe driving experience, Spotify’s in-car music player will be handsfree including buttons that they can preset to include their favorite playlists in addition to supporting the company’s “Spotify Voice” system. This new hardware rollout is Spotify’s attempt to compete with Apple (Carplay), Google (Assistant and Android Auto), and Amazon (Alexa) for in-car dominance. While Apple Carplay and Google Android Auto platforms are built directly into car systems, they are limited to specific makes and models that incorporate Apple/Google technology. Spotify is seeking to combat this issue, by offering a hardware device sold separately from the car itself. It will leverage Bluetooth technology to reach a wider base of potential customers to guarantee support for all vehicles that support Bluetooth. Spotify has not revealed a specific release date yet, however, the streaming company did reveal the device will be priced at $100.
YouTube Rethinks Recommendation Format
YouTube is ready to revamp its recommendation format to offer creators more personalized and relevant suggested viewing content in 2019. The new format will use blue bubbles to suggest specific keywords, creators, and related topics to help users browse new videos. The idea behind these new blue bubbles is to help users better filter recommended videos and offer users more specific content than they videos that appear off to the side. As The Verge reveals, these new recommendation bubbles organize content into different categories including all, recommended for you, related videos by topic, and related videos by channels. For example, the channel title itself may appear as one of the blue recommendation bubbles and use highlight other similar videos that the channel may have produced in the past. Currently, this new recommendation format is being tested in a very limited beta.
For more of technology’s top news, make sure you check back next week!