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[Update: Beta now live] Google Voice recruiting testers for new Wi-Fi (or mobile data) calling feature

For mobile users juggling a bunch of different devices, Google Voice can be something of a godsend. Not only does it let you share a single point of contact through which people can reach you no matter which phone or tablet you're carrying at the moment, but it does so without requiring the party on the other end to install a specific app — everything travels over regular voice calls and text messages.

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Google Voice v5.9 prepares voicemail greetings to be recorded in-app [APK Teardown]

Good things are happening with Google Voice. While the app normally stays fairly quiet, the last few months have shown a lot of positive attention is going into the service. The surface-level changes in this update aren't too major, but a teardown shows that users will soon get a vastly improved voicemail system that features on-device recording and support for multiple messages.

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Waze adds new Chinese voices to celebrate the Chinese New Year

Waze is a pretty popular navigation app, even among Google diehards. In fact, Google actually bought Waze way back in 2013 for a little over one billion dollars and uses some of the data sourced by Waze in Google Maps. For many people who drive for a living or just happen to be on the road a lot, Waze's extra features when compared to Google Maps are something they just can't live without.

Today, in celebration of the Chinese New Year, Waze has announced that it's bringing improved Mandarin (both in Simplified and Traditional Chinese) voices to its app.

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[Update: Official changelog] Google Voice v5.7 prepares to enable VoIP directly within the app [APK Teardown]

Google has been dabbling in the realm of Internet-based calling for years. First it was Gmail, then Hangouts got in on the action. While there were ways (and even third-party products) to use the Google Voice service for VoIP, it was probably the least enjoyable calling experience we've seen that didn't involve MacGyver-style shorting of exposed wires to dial a number. Now an update to the Google Voice app reveals that it's finally going to make its VoIP capabilities an official feature, and it'll be usable directly from your phone without any hacky workarounds.

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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