Inside Amazon’s Painstaking Pursuit to Teach Alexa French

Moving to a new country can be hard. You don’t know the language. Cultural differences create conversational landmines. And you just can’t be sure that everyone will like you. As it turns out, that as true for people as it is for Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, which officially sets up residence in France today.

Amazon announced its expansion into France last week. The first wave of Echo devices ships today. But the task of prepping Alexa for its debut there began much longer ago. And how it learned not just a new language but an entirely new set of perspectives and priorities can tell you a lot about how Amazon will translate its homegrown voice assistant into a global success.

We Come From France

Alexa already spoke English, German, and Japanese before the France launch. But Google Home’s Google Assistant spoke all of those as well, along with French and Italian. It’s a global linguistic arms race. Winning hinges on getting it perfect, fastest.

When you think about what read more

Best Amazon Device Deals: Sale on Echos, Kindles, Fires (June 2018)

Fire tablets and Kindle e-readers are rarely expensive (unless you opt for the luxe Kindle Oasis). They’re built to be affordable, and this week they’re on sale for Father’s Day. We’ve compiled every decent deal on Amazon-branded devices going on right now, which also include Cloud Cams and Fire TVs. Some are more than 30 percent off, others less than 20 percent, but nearly every Amazon device is on sale in some way until June 16.

You’ll need Amazon Prime to get most of these deals. It costs $10 per month with an annual subscription and has a free trial. Most of you probably already have it, though.

Echo & Alexa Speakers

Amazon

Read our WIRED Best Echo & Alexa Speakers guide for recommendations on which Amazon Echos to buy. Our Best Smart Speakers guide has some Google speaker recommendations, as well.

Echo Deals

Fire HD Tablets

Amazon

We’re fans of some of Amazon’s Fire Tablets. The Fire HD 8 and Fire read more

A New Era of Frankensoftware Is Upon Us

Last week’s announcement that Apple intends to make it easy for developers to create Mac variants of iPhone apps became something of a matter of semantics. Would it ever merge the two operating systems? Are the apps being ported to macOS? They’re certainly not being emulated.

But Apple’s move signals a larger trend in consumer tech. Big-name device makers are looking closely at the technologies running on their most successful hardware offerings and finding ways to incorporate that magic into the rest of their products. The shift is driven partly by the popularity of mobile apps and touchscreens, industry insiders say, but also by emerging technologies like voice assistants. Apple is not the only company doing this; Google and Microsoft have stirred their pots. Even Amazon’s new Fire TV Cube borrows elements of its interface from the Amazon Echo Show to create a product with a strange (but maybe useful) read more

Apple Macs vs Windows PCs: Our Favorite Alternatives

Another WWDC has come and gone, and even though Tim Cook and company showed off the future of Apple software, the company’s Mac hardware has been left untouched. The Mac faithful, those devoted members of the community that kept the company afloat in the dark days, cling to every shred of hope that Apple throws their favorite Mac a little love.

Unfortunately, many Macs have been left behind by cheaper, better options on the Windows PC side of the fence. Consider for a moment that Apple still sells the 2013-era Mac Pro for $3,000—highway robbery from a pure performance perspective. Would you buy a car at its original MSRP even though it’s been sitting on the lot for five years? I don’t think so.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of excellent Windows alternatives to the most popular Mac models. Especially if you rely on your computers for your livelihood, there’s no reason to wait on Apple to finally cater to your needs. From the read more

E3 Game Deals: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (2018)

While you’re ogling all the new games at the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) this week, you might want to take a look at these old ones, too. Rivals Sony and Microsoft are each holding massive game and console sales this week, presumably in a bid to outdo each other and gain momentum. There are even a few Nintendo game deals going on. Details on each E3 week game and console deal are below, along with a few particularly good game deals we found.

PS4 E3 Sale (Ends June 18)

To celebrate E3, Sony is having what it calls a Days of Play Sale with deals on PlayStation 4 consoles and games on a bunch of retailers. The sale ends June 18.

PS4 Hardware on Sale

Sony

PS4 Game Sale Highlights

Xbox E3 Sale (Ends June 23)

Microsoft

Not to be outdone by Sony, Microsoft is holding an even bigger and longer game and hardware sale on Xbox One consoles and games during E3 and after. It includes the first decent deal price we’ve seen on the Xbox One X (which earned our WIRED Recommends seal of approval) since it’s debut. The sale ends June 23.

Xbox One Hardware on Sale

Xbox Subscriptions on Sale

Xbox Game Sale Highlights

Nintendo E3 Sales

Nintendo

There aren’t yet many E3 deals on Nintendo products, but Best Buy does have a few 3DS games on sale. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is also on sale this week on Amazon and other retailers. Be sure to check out our Best Switch Bundle Deals and Best Switch Accessories to scan for any other discounts going on this week.

When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we earn a small affiliate commission. Read more about how this works.

social experiment by Livio read more

At Festival of the Impossible, Artists Augment Reality to Tell Fresh Stories

Walking into the new art exhibit centered around augmented reality and virtual reality storytelling, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the alternate dimensions that had been built.

The exhibit, Festival of the Impossible, is showing at Minnesota Street Project galleries in San Francisco, California, through this weekend. The show features new works by artists breaking boundaries in these relatively new digital mediums.

Learning that the artists were given these VR and AR platforms to stage their concepts made me believe the creations were meant to show off the hardware and software innovations, and to demonstrate the potential of the new tech. After experiencing each artists’ work, however, I realized the creations were not just technology demos, but that they gave the artists a chance to express their own ingenuity with technology in a way that’s never been this easy, nor this real.

Step Inside

Each artist in the exhibit gets their own open space where the audience read more

How to Watch the 2018 FIFA World Cup

The FIFA World Cup is the biggest event for the most popular sport in the entire world. According to FIFA and Kantar Media, almost half of all people who are alive tuned in at home to watch at least a minute of one match of 2014’s World Cup in Brazil. Over one billion people watched the final game.

The 2018 World Cup will take place in Russia, and many of the matches will be easy to watch in the United States (if you live on the east coast, at least). Here’s our guide to catching as many of the beautiful games as possible.

What Is It, Anyway?

The World Cup is a soccer tournament where national teams compete for the world title. Each country that qualifies to participate is organized into different groups, which ascend through brackets by winning matches. This starts on June 14 and goes for a month, with the final on Sunday, July 15. This year, the United States failed to qualify, as did Italy, the Netherlands, and Chile.

But don’t worry, there will still be plenty of drama. read more

Behind the Scenes With the Stanford Laptop Orchestra

Ten days before the big concert, the members of the Stanford Laptop Orchestra are performing technology triage. Rehearsal has only just started, but already, things seemed to be falling apart. First there was trouble with the network that connects the laptops to one another. Then one of the laptops crashed; its human component, a graduate student named Juan Sierra, groans loudly. One of the hemispherical speakers emits a low, crunchy noise, like a fart.

The orchestra members have gathered at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics to rehearse a new kind of musical composition. Together, sitting on meditation pillows in front of MacBooks, they create songs that stretch the definition of music. The orchestra plays laptops like accordions, turns video games into musical scores, and harnesses face-tracking software to turn webcams into instruments. But at this rehearsal, the Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk) looks less like the symphony of the future and more like an overworked IT department.

“Slorkians! Lend me your ears,” shouts Ge Wang, the SLOrk’s founder and director. He wears a grey T-shirt and black pants, as he does every day, his black hair down to his shoulders. Wang gives the group five more minutes to troubleshoot and then, he says, it’s time for rehearsal to begin.

SLOrk’s Mark Hertensteiner conducts a piece.

Ge Wang

Fixing a broken network isn’t as simple as a replacing a snapped string on a violin. But in a laptop read more