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Google's new text-to-speech system sounds convincingly human

Get ready for the little person living inside your phone and speaker to sound a lot more life-like. Google believes it has reached a new milestone in the quest to make computer-generated speech indistinguishable from human speech with Tacotron 2, a system that trains neural networks to generate eerily natural-sounding speech from text, and they have the samples to prove it.

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SMS support for Hangouts officially ends today, excluding Google Voice and Project Fi subscribers

Today is the day that Hangouts finally loses SMS support. We were warned by Google about it months ago when Hangouts started showing a warning that it would no longer support the feature. But, as of today, it's finally set to happen. For anyone who isn't on Project Fi or Google Voice — both of which will continue to support SMS in Hangouts — this is the end of an era.

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Ecobee announces the ecobee4 with Alexa, you can pre-order it now for $249.99

Lately, we've seen the Ecobee3 smart thermostat go on sale a few times, and now it seems obvious why. Ecobee has announced its new smart thermostat, fittingly named the ecobee4. This time around, the thermostat has Alexa built-in, so you can talk to it to change the temperature (or do anything else Alexa can do).

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Amazon will let third-parties use its microphone and speech processing tech to make Alexa devices

There have been a few Alexa-enabled devices from third-parties, but only Amazon's own hardware uses its fancy far-field microphones and speech processing technology. That's going to change soon, though. Amazon has announced the availability of the Amazon Alexa 7-Mic Far-Field Development Kit, which will let third-parties develop better Alexa devices.

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[Update: Google killed it] Burger King's stupid new ad triggers the Google Home to tell you about Whoppers

Always-listening voice assistants, like Google Now/Assistant or Alexa, can't really tell the difference between you talking and someone else (unless you have Trusted Voice enabled on Android). Maybe you've watched a few tech videos where someone said "Ok Google," and your phone started talking back.

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Microsoft Translator now supports Japanese voice translation


Telegram v3.18 adds new voice calls and video compression options

Users of the messaging app Telegram may have noticed an update waiting for them today. This new version, 3.18, adds in five compression options for videos and the much-requested voice calls. But before we get too carried away on that last one, let's look at the changelog.

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Hangouts on Android will remove SMS support on May 22

Once upon a time, I was able to get most of my communication done through Hangouts. Between its support for standard SMS, Google Voice, and normal Hangouts conversations, it was an incredibly useful tool. It could even merge SMS and Hangouts conversations into the same thread, much like iMessage on the iPhone.

Over the past year or so, Google has been separating all this functionality into standalone apps. Google started asking SMS users to switch to Messages, then removed merged conversations, and finally launched a new separate Google Voice app. The company has also been trying to move people off Hangouts itself, with its new Allo and Duo apps.

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Samsung makes Bixby voice assistant official, coming first to the Galaxy S8

Samsung's S Voice has been limping along for years in the shadow of Google Now (and more recently Assistant). Today is the day Samsung starts to move beyond that with the official unveiling of Bixby. Samsung says this isn't intended to be a better version of data driven assistants (or agents, as Samsung calls them). Instead, Bixby is geared toward making interactions with your device faster and easier.

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[Update: APK] Google resurrects Voice, gives the app and website a full makeover

Google Voice was a big deal when it launched back in 2009—there was a waiting list to get access, and the entire concept felt magical. However, Google seemed to give up on Voice some years ago, offering users the option to port some features of Voice into Hangouts and Project Fi. Now, Google Voice is back and completely revamped.

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