Google Takes on Apple and Amazon with New Gadgets and AI Software

Not to be outdone by Amazon and Apple, Google revealed the second generation of its existing devices along with some new gadgets at its press event last week. Attendees were introduced to two new versions of the Pixel smartphone, a new Pixelbook premium laptop, a smaller version of the Home speaker, and larger version specifically for music. These gadgets all include features and functionality that make them direct competitors of recent new releases by Apple and Amazon, including voice-assistance and AR. Google’s line of smartphones and gadgets also utilize Google’s AI software, with an “AI-first” design that will provide information contextually and naturally. As always, Google’s products center heavily on how to best use Google’s services, especially its digital assistant. Google is the leader in AI research, so it will be fascinating to watch the interplay of its AI software with these new gadgets.

Read more about Google, AI and its new devices and gadgets at Bloomberg

Need Bank Account Information? Just Ask Alexa

Soon, you may be able to ask Alexa for your bank account information. NCR and Town & Country Federal Credit Union are working together on a pilot to create a new skill for Alexa. This new skill will enable customers of Maine’s Town & Country Federal Credit Union to ask Alexa for their account balance using simple voice commands. Although Town & Country is the first credit union to partner with NCR, the pilot is open to all NCR Digital Insight solutions customers in the U.S. NCR hopes its banking partners will join to provide valuable feedback from end-users to develop this new program.

Read more about NCR and Town & Country’s pilot program using Alexa at Finextra

Shake Shack to Offer a Cash-Free Location in NYC

The next time that you are in NYC and are craving Shake Shack’s burgers and shakes, you may want to head over to the chain’s NYC Astor Place location. Shake Shack is currently undergoing a trial of a cash-free location, where customers will order via touchscreen kiosks. The design of these kiosks is based on the user experience of the Shake Shack mobile app. When customers’ orders are ready, they will receive a text message to their device making it necessary to have a smartphone in this location. Despite the presence of kiosks, there will be a human staff at this location, including ‘Hospitality Champs’ to help customers use the kiosks. Although several other restaurants have utilized the kiosk system for placing orders, Shake Shack is the first to go cashless.

Read more about Shake Shack’s cash-free location in NYC at TechCrunch

Facebook Testing Face Scanning Technology for Account Recovery

Facebook has joined the ranks of tech platforms that are testing facial recognition for their services. In Facebook’s version of facial recognition, a user’s face can be scanned to verify identity to enable users to log back into his or her Facebook account. Currently, this feature is optional and only available on devices that Facebook users have already used to login to Facebook. Facial recognition will be an additional way to validate identity if users cannot utilize two-factor authentication when locked out of Facebook. Therefore, if you are locked out of Facebook and cannot get the code by SMS, facial scanning could enable you to login back in to Facebook. Per Facebook, facial scanning would only be utilized during account recovery.

Read more about Facebook and facial recognition at The Verge

Goodbye to Starbucks’ Online Store: Starbucks Shuts Down its e-Commerce Website

The next time you want to buy Starbucks branded mugs, tumblers or coffee beans, you will have to visit a Starbucks brick-and-mortar store. Starbucks has decided to stop selling merchandise online, in favor of offering these branded goodies in stores. According to Starbucks, they are shutting down the e-Commerce platform for these products in favor of simplifying its sales channels. The coffee powerhouse hopes to drive customers to its physical locations to make these purchases through its mobile app. Customers will still be able to order and pay for beverages via the Starbucks mobile app to be picked up in-store. By shutting down the e-Commerce functionality of its website, Starbucks will be focusing more on its mobile app as a driver of customers to its brick-and-mortar locations.

Read more about Starbucks shutting down its e-Commerce site at Retail Dive