Harman Kardon ‘Invoke’ Microsoft Cortana-Powered Speaker Officially Unveiled

After an early glimpse through a pre-release page, which was taken down soon after, Harman Kardon’s Cortana-powered Invoke speaker has now been officially launched by the company. While we already got to know that the speaker would be shipping in Fall this year, the company has still not shared the exact release date or the pricing.

As we mentioned in our earlier report, Harman Kardon’s Invoke speaker is powered by Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant, offers 360-degree sound, and has the ability to make and receive calls via Skype, and other things that you might expect from Cortana. The new Harman Kardon speaker is cylindrical in shape and has some resemblance to Amazon’s Echo speaker, thanks to a circular ring at the top.

“Invoke brings together Harman Kardon’s audio heritage with Cortana by Microsoft, resulting in a beautifully designed speaker for the home. Crafted from premium materials, Invoke’s striking metallic speaker cabinet delivers power and projects sound at full 360-degrees, revealing every beautiful detail in your music,” the company says on the product page on its website.

The Invoke speaker comes with 3 woofers and 3 tweeters that allow it to deliver 360-degree sound. “Invoke, with Cortana, is a voice-activated speaker that can play your favourite music, manage calendars and activities, set reminders, check traffic, deliver the latest news and much more,” the company said in its release. The Invoke speaker will be made available in Pearl Silver and Graphite colours.

The voice-activated Invoke speaker comes with Smart Home Control feature that allows it to adjust smart home devices including lights, thermostat, and more but the home automation will only be supported by select providers, as per Harman.

Harman Kardon 'Invoke' Microsoft Cortana-Powered Speaker Officially UnveiledApart from Cortana, the Invoke speaker comes with Harman’s “Sonique” far-field voice recognition technology. “It is a proprietary 360-degree adaptive technology (featuring 7 microphones) that recognizes all details of voice commands even in environments with high ambient noise,” the company said. If you are interested in the Cortana-powered Invoke speaker, you can register for the product from Harman Kardon’s website.

In a statement announcing the Harmon Kardon Invoke speaker, Microsoft said, “We want Cortana to be available wherever you may need assistance being more productive, and the Invoke speaker from Harman Kardon is our next step in getting there. With natural language recognition and deep integration with Microsoft’s suite of knowledge and productivity tools, Cortana is the most productive digital assistant and already used by more than 145 million people on PC and mobile devices. With Invoke, Cortana now becomes available in the home, making her even more valuable.”

The Redmond-based company is expected to share more information about the speakers at its Build conference that will start from Wednesday.

We will have to wait and see if Microsoft’s Cortana and Harman Kardon’s expertise in sound is able to make the Invoke speaker stand out from the ever-increasing crowd of artificial intelligence-powered speakers.

Windows Mixed Reality Development Kits Now Available for Pre-Orders; Microsoft Unveils Motion Controllers

In March this year, Microsoft announced that the company will start shipping development kits for Windows Mixed Reality (earlier called Windows Holographic) later in the month itself. However, the company seemed to have changed its mind later as it didn’t happen. Now the Redmond-based company has finally started taking pre-orders for the mixed reality development kits from HP and Acer. Microsoft also announced its own motion controllers for Windows 10 VR at its Build conference.

Notably, Microsoft has still not announced the release dates for these development kits but interested users can now pre-order the development kits from the company’s website. While the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset Developer Edition has been priced at $299 (roughly Rs. 19,200), the HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset Developer Edition is available for pre-orders at $329 (roughly Rs. 21,200). The option for pre-orders is currently available for users in the US and Canada.

Both HP and Acer’s Windows Mixed Reality headsets come with some common features including two high-resolution liquid crystal displays with a 1440×1440 pixels resolution, front hinged displays, 95-degree horizontal field-of-view, display refresh rate up to 90Hz (native), built-in audio out and microphone support through 3.5mm jack, single cable with HDMI 2.0 (display) and USB 3.0 (data) for connectivity, and inside-out tracking. Additionally, the HP headset comes with double-padded headband and easy adjustment knob, as per Microsoft.

Microsoft has further provided the list of recommended system specifications for developers on its blog. Needless to say, you will need a powerful configuration to support the mixed reality development kit from the company.

microsoft vr controller story Microsoft VR Motion Controllers

Moving to the motion controllers for Windows 10 VR, Microsoft says “a customer who pairs a Windows Mixed Reality headset with motion controllers will have a rich and immersive experience across creativity tools, productivity, games, and entertainment.”

Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers don’t require any external sensors and offer “precise and responsive” movement tracking, as per company’s claims. The company says that it plans to market and sell these controllers on retail shelves this holiday. The company has confirmed that these controllers will not work with HoloLens headset, as per a report by CNET.

Microsoft announced that Acer will sell its Windows Mixed Reality headset and motion controller bundle priced at $399 (roughly Rs. 25,700) this holiday season.

How to Stream PC Games With Windows 10’s Beam Feature

Microsoft now has built in live-streaming of video games via Beam with Windows 10 Creators Update, to allow you to broadcast your PC adventures to your Xbox friends.

Live-streaming can be a resource hog, so make sure you don’t have any heavy background processes running. Microsoft also advises you to keep Game DVR turned off, which continuously records your gameplay footage.

That also includes any third-party tool, such as Nvidia’s GeForce Experience, which also has background recording. Turn that off before you try out Beam on Windows 10, by following these steps.

How to turn on video game live-streaming on Windows 10
Broadcasting, as Microsoft calls it, is enabled by default on Windows 10 Creators Update. You can tweak the stream settings, though.

  1. Hit the Start key, and choose the Settings icon.
  2. Choose Gaming.
  3. Click on Broadcasting in the left panel.
  4. Play with the settings, as you see fit.

You can also change some of these settings before you start your stream. If you can’t find the above settings, your system doesn’t have the Creators Update installed. Check and install the latest updates.

How to Stream PC Games With Windows 10's Beam FeatureHow to stream PC games with Windows 10 Creators Update
You can begin and end live-streaming at any point while playing, thanks to the Game bar. You don’t have to leave the game ever. To start live-streaming with Windows 10′ Beam, follow these steps:

  1. Launch your game of choice. Windows 10 will prompt you to open Game bar using Windows key + G combination. If it doesn’t, the game doesn’t have support currently.
  2. Press Windows key + G, or hit the Xbox button on your gamepad.
  3. Click the Broadcast icon to the right on the Game bar. You can also press Windows key + Alt key + B.
  4. If this is the first time, click on Agree in the terms of use dialog box.
  5. On the broadcast setup screen, play with the settings as you see fit. You can change some on the fly while streaming, too.
  6. Click Start broadcast when you’re ready.

That’s all. Your stream will now be visible under your Xbox Live handle.

Do you have any questions regarding live-streaming via Beam on Windows 10? Leave them in the comments below.

How to Disable Cortana on Windows 10

Microsoft has made its digital personal assistant – Cortana – more integral to Windows 10 with every major update. Apart from searching your computer, it displays notifications, can send emails, set reminders, and do all of that using your voice. Some might find it too intrusive though, and would prefer to turn the helper off.

While you could turn off Cortana with a single toggle in the days before the Anniversary Update, that’s no longer possible. And with the recent Windows 10 Creators Update, disabling Cortana can entirely break search, according to reports, with the only way to fix it being a clean install.

If you’re still bent on plugging the plug on Cortana’s capabilities in Windows 10, there are ways to go about that. You can take away the tools it uses to learn about you, or you can completely switch it off.

Prevent Cortana from knowing you
First, let’s head into Cortana’s settings to cut off all the separate ways it monitors your computer habits. Here’s how:

  1. Click the search box or the Cortana icon next to the Start key.
  2. Open Cortana’s settings panel with the gear icon.
  3. In the settings screen, turn off every toggle from On to Off.
  4. Next, scroll to the very top of the settings panel, and click on Change what Cortana knows about me in the cloud.
  5. Microsoft will fetch a page from the Internet called Personal Information in the same Start panel.
  6. When it loads, scroll to the very bottom, and hit Clear.

To serve you better, Cortana collects data about your typing and talking, as well. If you’d like to turn that off, follow these steps:

  1. Hit the Start key.
  2. Click the Settings gear icon.
  3. Select Privacy.
  4. In the left panel, look for Speech, inking & typing.
  5. Click Stop getting to know me.

How to Disable Cortana on Windows 10Remember, turning this off will also disable dictation across Windows 10. If that’s a service you rely on, then you’ll have to put up with Windows ‘getting to know you’.

Turn off Cortana completely
Once you’ve gone through the steps above, Cortana won’t respond to your voice. But it’s still running in the background, waiting to be called upon.

To get rid of it completely, you need to do more. Depending on the version of Windows 10 you use – Home, Pro, or Enterprise – the steps will be slightly different.

How to disable Cortana on Windows 10 Pro

  1. Hit the Start key, search for Edit group policy, and open it.
  2. Navigate to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Search.
  3. Find Allow Cortana, and double-click to open it.
  4. Click Disabled, and then hit OK.

How to disable Cortana on Windows 10 Home
The process is slightly trickier, and involves editing the Windows Registry. If you’re not comfortable with this process, we suggest taking a backup, or setting a restore point.

  1. Hit the Start Key, search for regedit, and open it.
  2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SOFTWARE > Policies > Microsoft > Windows.
  3. Right-click the Windows directory, and choose New > Key. Type in Windows Search, and hit enter.
  4. Select Windows Search. In the right-hand side pane, right-click in the empty area and choose New > DWORD (32-bit) Value. Type in AllowCortana, and hit enter.
  5. Double-click AllowCortana, and type in 0 under Value Data.

Restart your computer, and Cortana should now be gone. Instead of “Ask me anything”, the new search box will only say “Search Windows”.

Did you have any trouble following any of the above steps? Let us know via the comments below.

Microsoft Accidentally Releases Internal Windows 10 Builds, Apologises

Microsoft has apologised for accidentally releasing builds from some of its internal branches for PC and mobile that were rolled out due to the “inadvertent deployment” to the engineering system that controls the release of builds to the Windows Insiders.

Microsoft was forced to apologise late on Friday night after some confidential and internal Windows 10 builds were leaked and it has now rectified the issue to ensure these development builds do not reach more people, Dona Sarkar, Microsoft’s head of its Windows Insiders programme, wrote in a blog post.

“We apologise for this inconvenience and thank you for being a Windows Insider,” Sarkar added, saying Microsoft will not release any new builds this week.

The Windows Insider by Microsoft is a programme that allows users who own a valid Windows 10 license to sign up for early builds of the operating system previously only accessible to developers.

The term build refers to the process by which source code is converted into a stand-alone form that can be run on a computer.

Microsoft Accidentally Releases Internal Windows 10 Builds, ApologisesMicrosoft said although it has put blocks in place to check the dissemination of the build, a “small portion” of Windows 10 users still received them.

What is worrisome is that Windows 10 testers who installed the mobile build, had their phones into a reboot loop which led the devices to crash.

To come out of this problem, testers will have to recover and wipe the device using the Windows Device Recovery Tool.

Meanwhile, Windows 10 testers who installed the PC build will have to wait for Microsoft to publish a newer build or roll back using the recovery option in Windows 10 settings.

Microsoft’s Beam Is Now Mixer; Gains New Features to Take on Twitch, YouTube Gaming

Microsoft’s live streaming service Beam for Windows 10 and Xbox One has been renamed to Mixer. The Twitch rival is also receiving a host of new features. These include co-streaming for multiple users to broadcast a single channel. What this means is, viewers can watch a single game from different perspectives or watch from all of them at once.

“Co-streaming is available now for everyone. And in the coming weeks, Xbox One users will be able to invite friends to join a co-stream directly from the Guide,” writes Mixer co-founder Matt Salsamendi. “Co-streaming doesn’t require streamers to play the same game or even do the same activity, and you can join a co-stream with friends who are streaming from different types of devices.”

Another addition is mobile support to stream when on the move through an app called Mixer Create.

Microsoft’s Beam Is Now Mixer; Gains New Features to Take on Twitch, YouTube Gaming“Mixer Create is a new mobile app that enables self-broadcasting, and we’re kicking off the beta today. Soon thereafter, we’ll add the ability to stream live gameplay from your mobile device as well. Once mobile gameplay streaming launches, you’ll be able to join a co-stream with friends who are broadcasting on PC, console or other mobile devices,” Salsamendi’s post reads.

Plus there’s a dedicated Mixer page on the Xbox One dashboard for those in the Xbox Insider program to check out. It aims to feature some of the more popular and diverse content on the platform.

Finally, there’s Channel One – an always-on, moderated channel showing what’s happening across Mixer. Salsamendi says it would host a wide variety of content, including “big title releases, livestream events, tips and tricks, esports updates, and more.”

We wonder if Mixer has what it takes to compete with YouTube and Twitch, two giants in the space that are present on all platforms, including the PS4 — which is this generation’s best-selling console. Would Sony even allow a Mixer app on the PS4? Nonetheless, more competition is always welcome.

Microsoft, Qualcomm Partner to Bring Windows 10 to Snapdragon-Powered Laptops

Qualcomm and Microsoft at Computex 2017 have announced that HP, Lenovo, and Asus will be the first three companies to launch new devices based on the upcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC Platform. The first wave of devices will all be slim, fanless portables along the lines of laptops and 2-in-1s. No specific time models, prices or time frames have been disclosed, but the companies have previously stated that they will ship products later this year. The companies describe the products as “always-connected”, and say that this move brings “the best of smartphones to the PC”.

The new Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC Platform uses a slightly modified version of the same ARM-based Snapdragon 835 SoC being used for flagship smartphones beginning in 2017, as well as the X16 LTE modem. Both Qualcomm and Microsoft promise that such devices can be constantly connected and deliver more than a day of battery life. Devices can be slim and fanless, allowing for a variety of shapes and sizes including foldable and detachable 2-in-1s. They will Windows 10 exactly as it is on traditional PCs, and most existing software will work seamlessly. Qualcomm has shown off a motherboard which is physically smaller than that required by its competition.

Software compiled for Microsoft’s Universal App platform will run natively on Windows 10, while most other programs can still run seamlessly using emulation for the traditional x86 PC architecture. Both Microsoft and Qualcomm say that there will be a slight performance penalty when using emulation, but that will vary depending on the specific software and usage scenario. Also according to both companies, there should be no need for end users to do anything differently.

Image result for Microsoft, Qualcomm Partner to Bring Windows 10 to Snapdragon-Powered LaptopsPerformance is expected to be equivalent to that of Intel’s ultra-low-power Y-series Core CPUs which are also designed for fanless devices. While other ARM-based processors might show up in devices over time, Microsoft and Qualcomm have described a tight partnership, with focus specifically on the Snapdragon 835 SoC. The companies describe such products as the next class of devices, designed for a world in which people expect to have constant cellular data connectivity just like they expect to breathe air. Snapdragon-powered PCs don’t have to wake from sleep to receive notifications and messages, and the Cortana voice assistant can listen for instructions, much like how current-day smartphones behave.

Many of the benefits of the platform require a constant cellular Internet connection. Microsoft and Qualcomm both point to the fact that 4G data is becoming cheaper around the world, and that data caps are being increased. While all products will have a SIM card slot, the companies are also pushing the emerging eSIM standard which would allow users to choose a cellular service provider and even top up prepaid accounts using an app on the device rather than swapping SIM cards.

While no specific pricing is known yet, both Qualcomm and Microsoft indicated that pricing would be lower than that of a premium laptop, and more along the lines of today’s flagship smartphones, which would peg them at roughly $700-800.

Microsoft Reportedly Working on Mobile Reboot With New Software and Hardware

Microsoft’s Windows 10 Mobile effort could be very well declared dead and outdated with no update on the software and no roadmap for future. However, a new report claims that Microsoft may be working on its mobile reboot with all-new software and hardware.

Brad Sams of Thurrott.com in a report has claimed that Microsoft is testing out a new hardware internally which will run a “separate branch of Windows Mobile”.

Sams cites two independent sources inside the company and adds that the new hardware is targeted to provide “new experiences” with the device. The report also claims that the interface will be slightly different from what we have seen in Windows 10 Mobile. This also corroborates Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s statement recently, when he said the company hadn’t given up on phones just yet.

Microsoft Reportedly Working on Mobile Reboot With New Software and HardwareThe report adds that Microsoft may drop support for older apps with the focus on new mobile experience. It also suggests that the new mobile experience may not support Microsoft’s Silverlight apps. Sams, however, adds that the plan for new hardware is still in early development, and things could see drastic change in the coming months. There’s no fixed timeline for the new Windows Mobile reboot but Sams predicts that it should not take over a year for the entire plan to materialise. We wonder how these reports tie-in with the company’s partnership with Qualcomm to develop Windows 10 for ARM chips.

Microsoft’s end of smartphone manufacturing news came last year with the company’s announcement of streamlining the smartphone hardware business. The move last year impacted roughly 1,850 jobs in the company. The Redmond giant had announced that the streamlining process would be completed by end of the calendar year while will be fully completed by July 2017.

The Redmond giant has been lately focusing on its Surface products, and recently introduced Surface Pro 2-in-1 at an event in Shanghai.

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Rolls Out World’s Largest Aeroplane, the Stratolaunch

The initial construction on the massive aeroplane Paul Allen has been quietly building in the California desert is complete, and the vehicle, which would be the world’s largest aeroplane with a wingspan wider than Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose, was wheeled out of its hangar for the first time on Wednesday.

Called Stratolaunch, the plane has some impressive stats: a wingspan of 385 feet, or longer than a football field, a height of 50 feet. Unfueled, it weighs 500,000 pounds. But it can carry 250,000 pounds of fuel, and its total weight can reach as high as 1.3 million pounds.

But, really . . .. How big is it? It’s so big that it has 28 wheels and six 747 jet engines. It’s so big that it has 60 miles of wire coursing through it. It’s so big that the county had to issue special construction permits just for the construction scaffolding.

It’s so big that to truly get a sense of it, you have to see it from a distance – like a mountain.

But why is Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft and owner of the Seattle Seahawks, building such a massive plane?

It’s not to carry passengers, but rather rockets. The bigger the plane, the larger the rockets, or the greater the number.

Allen’s Stratolaunch company has partnered with Orbital ATK to “air launch” the company’s Pegasus XL, a rocket capable of delivering small satellites, weighing as much as 1,000 pounds, to orbit. The rockets would be tethered to the belly of the giant plane, which would fly them aloft, and once at an altitude of 35,000 feet or so, the rockets would drop and “air launch” to space.

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Rolls Out World's Largest Aeroplane, the Stratolaunch“With airport-style operations and quick turn-around capabilities,” the company said it believes “air launch” is a cheaper and more efficient way to get satellites into space than rockets that launch vertically and can be extraordinarily expensive.

For Allen, it’s all about LEO, or low-Earth orbit. He, and others, such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, are betting that they can reduce the cost of launching small satellites to space. And that, in turn, will lead to new ways to beam the internet all across the globe, provide better Earth sensing capabilities, better communication, and open up all sorts of avenues.

“When such access to space is routine, innovation will accelerate in ways beyond what we can currently imagine,” Allen said in a statement a year ago. “That’s the thing about new platforms: when they become easily available, convenient and affordable, they attract and enable other visionaries and entrepreneurs to realize more new concepts.”

More than a decade ago, Allen had hoped to spark a revolution in space travel when he funded SpaceShipOne, which became the first commercial vehicle to cross the threshold of space. The project ultimately won the Ansari X Prize, and a $10 million (roughly Rs. 64.5 crores) award. He then licensed the technology to Branson and moved on to other pursuits. But with Stratolaunch, he is back in the space business.

“Thirty years ago, the PC revolution put computing power into the hands of millions and unlocked incalculable human potential,” he wrote. “Twenty years ago, the advent of the Web and the subsequent proliferation of smartphones combined to enable billions of people to surmount the traditional limitations of geography and commerce. Today, expanding access to LEO holds similar revolutionary potential.”

In a statement Wednesday, Jean Floyd, Stratolaunch’s chief executive, said the company would be “actively exploring a broad spectrum of launch vehicles that will enable us to provide more flexibility to customers.”

He added: “Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be actively conducting ground and flightline testing at the Mojave Air and Space Port. This is a first-of-its-kind aircraft, so we’re going to be diligent throughout testing and continue to prioritize the safety of our pilots, crew and staff. Stratolaunch is on track to perform its first launch demonstration as early as 2019.”

Shadow Brokers Says Will Release More Data in July to Paying Customers

A group that published hacking tools that security experts believe were stolen from the US National Security Agency said on Tuesday it plans to sell a new batch of stolen code in July to customers willing to pay more than $22,000 (roughly Rs. 14.2 lakhs) for it.

The Shadow Brokers group said in an announcement on the Internet that it has not yet determined what files will be in the collection. It has previously said it has access to tools for hacking into web mobile handsets and Microsoft Corp’s Windows 10 operating system, web browsers and network routers.

It is not clear whether the group actually possesses those tools, or would make good on its promise to release them.

Security researchers have urged taking the threat seriously after the Shadow Brokers released a group of NSA hacking tools in April, including one that was used to launch this month’s massive “WannaCry” cyber-attack.

Shadow Brokers Says Will Release More Data in July to Paying CustomersWannaCry crippled some 300,000 computers worldwide, causing disruptions at hospitals, post offices, auto plants and government offices.

“This is potentially disastrous,” said Matt Suiche, founder of cyber-security firm Comae Technologies, who closely follows the Shadow Brokers.

It is not clear who is behind the Shadow Brokers, though some security experts have said they believe the group is tied to the Russian government and working to embarrass the United States.

NSA officials could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. The agency has declined to say if it built the hacking tools released by Shadow Brokers, or discuss the group’s activities.

A Microsoft representative said she had no immediate comment.

The company said on May 16 that it was aware of Shadow Broker’s claims that it had tools for hacking Windows 10, adding that its staff were actively monitoring emerging cyber threats.