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07.20.16 | 7:58 am

Macy’s has launched an in-store AI assistant powered by IBM’s Watson

The new assistant is called "Macy's On Call" and comes in the form of a mobile web app users can access on their smartphone. The assistant, which is powered by IBM's Watson AI, allows shoppers in specific Macy's stores to input natural language questions regarding the store's product assortment, services, and facilities and get customized responses, according to a company press release. The Watson-powered assistant, in other words, can field queries shoppers would normally need to flag down a man Macy's employee for. In a prepared statement, David Kenny, general manager of IBM Watson said:

"Bringing Watson into a retail store setting presents an opportunity to engage with the consumer on a variety of levels. This particular use case takes Watson beyond helping consumers evaluate purchasing decisions, and influences another, equally important aspect of the in-store experience – ease of use in locating products, facilities and services."

Right now "Macy's On Call" is being tested in 10 locations, including stores in Bethesda, Miami, Portland, and Atlanta.

[Image: Macy's]

10.27.16 | 29 minutes ago

Amazon shares tumble as Q3 earnings miss expectations

Amazon's Q3 earnings results just went live, and the picture is not as rosy as analysts had expected. While quarterly revenue hit $32.71 billion, which beat expectations, the company missed on earnings per share. EPS was $0.52 compared to estimates of $0.78. Amazon shares are dropping in after-hours trading. 

Here's a rundown of the key numbers:

10.27.16 | 29 minutes ago

Alphabet shares soar on better-than-expected earnings as mobile video strategy pays off

Much to the delight of investors, Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc., reported earnings of $9.06 per share on revenue of $22.45 billion. Analysts were expecting EPS of $8.64 on revenue of $22.05 billion. 

"Mobile search and video are powering our core advertising business and we're excited about the progress of newer businesses in Google and Other Bets," writes CFO Ruth Porat in the third-quarter earnings statement.  

Operating expenses as a percentage of revenue were down 1% compared with Q3 2015. The company also appears to be mitigating expenses within its experimental catchall segment, succinctly titled "other bets." Revenue for its "other" category was up 39% year-over-year. Meanwhile, losses shrunk from $980 million in Q3 of last year to $865 million for Q3 2016. Alphabet's stock shot up 2% in after-hours trading before coming back down to this afternoon's closing price.  

10.27.16 | an hour ago

Today we got the touch-screen Mac that Apple wants to build

How long have people been wondering if Apple would ever build a Mac with a touch screen? Well, the question has been on some folks' minds for at least eight years. (I know because that's when Steve Jobs told me that adding touch to Macs didn't make sense.) And it currently provides fodder for Microsoft's Surface Book ads.

But the best way to think about Apple's new 13" and 15" MacBook Pro models, which dump function keys in favor of the Touch Bar, is that they're the company's first touch-screen Macs. It's just that the touch screen in question is supplementary to the main display and positioned where your fingers already spend most of their time.

In 2010, Jobs said that using conventional touch screens is "ergonomically terrible" and that "your arm wants to fall off" after extended use of one. The Touch Bar integrates touch input into Macs without requiring Apple to backtrack on that stance. Which means it's classic Apple—a new feature that's both unique and a response to an industry trend. 

10.27.16 | 2 hours ago

Check out Apple’s sizzle videos for the new MacBook Pros

And here featuring the soothing tones of Sir Jony Ive:

10.27.16 | 2 hours ago

This is what fossilized dinosaur brains look like

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have identified what they say is the first known example of fossilized brain tissue in a dinosaur. And it turns out, the tissue is a lot like those found in modern-day birds and crocodiles. 

The specimen comes from a fossil discovered a decade ago in Sussex, in Southeast England, and likely belonged to a dinosaur species related to the Iguanodon. 

It's a good day for dino-nerds. And zombies, for that matter. The video below has all the details. Or read more about the research here

10.27.16 | 2 hours ago

Three new MacBook Pros: Here’s how much they cost

13" without Touch Bar — $1499

13" with Touch Bar/Touch ID —$1799

15" with Touch Bar/Touch ID—$2399

10.27.16 | 3 hours ago

Apple teases new LG 5K display that connects to MacBook Pro with single power/data cable

Apple discontinued its own Thunderbolt Display earlier this year, and has been rumored to be working on a new display with LG. We didn't expect a launch of the new display today, but Apple teased the device at its press event in Cupertino. 

The new display is called the LG Ultra 5K display. It appeared to be around 27 inches, like the old Apple display. It has microphones, at least one camera, speakers. It features three USB-C Thunderbolt ports. And a single USB-C cable to the new MacBook Pro provides both data and power. 

We'll have more on this once we get more spec, pricing, and availability information on the new displays.

10.27.16 | 3 hours ago

Here are all the specs for the new MacBook Pros

Apple on Thursday announced its revamped MacBook Pro computers, and they have some pretty cool features—including a new Touch Bar and fatter trackpad. Here's a breakdown of both the 13" and 15" computers. 

Colors: Silver and Space Gray

13" MacBook Pro dimensions + weight: 14.9mm, 3 lbs

15" MacBook Pro dimensions + weight: 15.5mm, 4lbs

Processor: Core i5, Core i7

Display: Retina

Touch Bar: customizable mini screen with Touch ID

Trackpad: Force Touch; 2x larger than previous generation

Keyboard: features a 2nd gen. butterfly mechanism

Ports: (4) Thunderbolt

Battery life: 10 hours

Memory: 8GB, 16GB

OS: Sierra


$1,499 MacBook Pro 13" (no Touch Bar)

$1,799 MacBook Pro 13" 

$ 2,399 MacBook Pro 15"

*Apple is taking orders today. Computers with Touch Bar start shipping in 2-3 weeks. MacBook without Touch Bar ships today.

10.27.16 | 3 hours ago

The new MacBook Pro quadruples down on USB-C

Last year's new 12-inch MacBook was Apple's first computer with the reversible, versatile USB-C port—but it only had one of 'em, which meant you couldn't even connect a smartphone or camera while your Mac was plugged into power.

With the new MacBook Pros, Apple is including four USB-C ports—and it's ditching the old USB ports and Thunderbolt ones. Depending on what you want to do, you may need a sack full of dongles. But you'll be able to power your Mac, plug into one or more displays, and perform other feats without fear of running out of ports.

10.27.16 | 3 hours ago

Bye-bye function keys: The new MacBook Pro, with Touch Bar, is here

The big news (so far) at today's Apple event is the new MacBook Pro. And as expected, the big news about the new MacBook Pro, which comes in 13" and 15" versions, is its new Touch Bar.

The Touch Bar is a retina-resolution color display, located where every other computer has had function keys for decades. It's extremely context sensitive, showing everything from typing suggestions to playback controls to preview of photo filters, depending on what you're doing in which app. And you can even customize it by dragging icons off the main display onto the bar.

Apple's Phil Schiller began his pitch for the Touch Bar with a requiem for function keys, which date back decades to the era when people used terminals to access text-only mainframes. At first blush, I can't imagine anyone will miss them—and I'm curious to see whether the rest of the industry will mimic Apple's replacement.

10.27.16 | 3 hours ago

Apple’s TV guide is an app called … TV

The first major product announcement at Apple's press event is a new app for Apple TV, the iPhone, and the iPad called TV that aggregates content from multiple video providers. It's got a queue of movies and TV you have access to, access to live channel streams, curated selections chosen by Apple, search (with Siri support), and more. Start watching on one device, and you can pick up where you left off on another.

Pre-event scuttlebutt said that the app wouldn't support Netflix. And though Apple isn't saying that, Netflix is conspicuous by its absence in the demo. Other than that, the app looks cool–and seems like a sensible way for Apple to make TV better without launching a full-blown streaming TV service of its own.

10.27.16 | 4 hours ago

Twitter mourns Vine after killing it

Vine has been marked for death. Four years after buying the short-form video-sharing app, Twitter announced today that it's discontinuing Vine.

What this means for creators who built huge audiences (sometimes leading to TV careers and other success) and social media startups that piggybacked on those audiences isn't clear. But judging from the sentiment on Twitter, lots of people are pretty bummed. 

After a buzzworthy launch in 2012, Vine saw its usage ravaged by the launch of video-sharing on Instagram and the bleeding likely wasn't helped by the rise of apps like Snapchat and