Live-translated captions from Google Meet, Honda’s robot avatar, new features from Microsoft Teams

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Here’s our curated list of important tech news from this week in byte size.

Live-translated captions from Google Meet

Google said Monday that its video conferencing solution, Meet, supports live translated captions in beta. The feature is designed to help meeting participants communicate better. It translates a spoken language to subtitles in another language and will support English meetings translated into Spanish, French, Portuguese and German, the tech company said in a blog post. The feature is available in meetings hosted by users of Google Workspace Business Plus, Enterprise Standard, Enterprise Plus, Education Plus, and Teaching & Learning Upgrade. However, admins must sign up for the beta to access it, Google added. Once available, users can enable live translated captions during Meet video calls, from the “Closed Captions” option in settings. In another update, Google’s plan to block a popular web tracking tool called “cookies” is anti-competitive, a group of advertisers, publishers and tech companies said in a complaint filed with antitrust regulators in the EU.

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Honda avatar robot

Honda said it plans to develop an avatar robot to expand the range of human capabilities virtually without the constraints of time and place. An avatar robot, which can act as a user’s second self, can be used to perform tasks and experience things without being there in person, including the realistic sense of manipulating objects from a distance. It will be equipped with Honda’s multi-finger hand, which can gently pick up a small object with the fingertips and has the force to open a tight jar lid, at the level of the human hand. The company is also working on advancing its original AI-supported remote control function, which will be used in the robot. Honda intends to begin technology demonstration testing of the robot before the end of March 2024, with a goal of putting it into practice in the 2030s, he said. In a separate development, Amazon unveiled several devices this week, including an Alexa-powered home robot, a larger wall-mounted Echo display, a kids’ device, health tracker, and a bespoke Alexa assistant in collaboration with Disney.

New features in Microsoft Teams

Microsoft has added new features in Teams to improve the meeting experience. Users can now quickly start a presentation just by clicking the Present in Teams button in PowerPoint. They can also customize their video feed and content display with support for presenter mode in Teams rooms. Additionally, the platform brings a Teams (audio-only) meeting experience to CarPlay for Apple users. Dynamic View, which was introduced earlier this year, now supports single and dual screens. Additionally, users can now use the Spotlight feature to highlight multiple participants during a meeting, and they can also pin multiple participants to the front of a Teams room view. Finally, Teams Rooms users can lock a meeting and prevent other participants from joining once a meeting has started. This week, Microsoft also announced that it is revamping the Skype app with new calling features and colorful themes in an effort to breathe new life into its nearly two-decade-old app.

Spotify questions and answers, poll features

Spotify has introduced two new features, Q&A and Polls, to help creators and listeners engage more deeply on its platform. These enhancements will make it easier for listeners to interact with the people behind their favorite podcasts and for creators to hear their fans and listeners, right on the streaming platform. If a creator has chosen to post a question or poll for a specific episode, listeners will be able to find and answer the question at the bottom of the episode page from their Spotify mobile app. And, depending on whether the creator chose an open Q&A or a survey, listeners can follow the prompt to respond in the app. The features are available to all Anchor creators and Spotify listeners around the world, the company said. In a separate development, Netflix bought video game maker Night School Studio and launched five mobile game titles in select European markets, as it seeks to diversify its revenue streams amid intensifying competition in streaming space.

Microsoft is testing cloud gaming on consoles

Microsoft has started testing cloud gaming on consoles with some Xbox Insiders and plans to expand the feature to more Insiders and additional Rings over time, he said in a blog post. Randomly selected Alpha Skip-Aheads and Alpha Insiders can play Xbox Game Pass games on their consoles without installing them. The cloud gaming experience allows users to quickly jump into individual games as well as online multiplayer sessions using their consoles. The tech giant is also expanding Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) to four additional countries: Brazil, Mexico, Australia and Japan. Users in these countries will be able to play over 100 Game Pass titles on supported Windows PCs, as well as Android and iOS devices. In another update, Microsoft said it will allow Epic Games, Amazon and other companies to integrate their app stores into its marketplace, providing more options for third-party developers.

Increased application revenues worldwide; downloads fall

Global consumer spending on in-app purchases, premium apps and subscriptions grew 5.1% to $ 33.6 billion in the third quarter of 2021, from a year earlier, according to a report from the analytics company Sensor Tower. Consumer spending jumped 18.6% to $ 12.1 billion on Google Play and 13.2% to $ 21.5 billion on the App Store in the last quarter of September. However, first mobile app installs fell 1.9% to 35.7 billion, in both stores, in the third quarter. App Store installs fell 1.2% to 8.1 billion, and Google Play installs fell 2.1% to 27.6 billion, in the last quarter of September, according to the report. TikTok was the most lucrative and most downloaded app in both stores around the world in Q3 2021. In a separate development, smartphone shipments in H2 2021 are expected to grow by just 6% per year, compared to the previous forecast 9%, according to research firm Counterpoint.

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