Skype gets HoloLens support and help from Cortana

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Microsoft isn’t just content to work on a universal Skype app — it has much bigger plans in store. It’s developing a version of Skype for HoloLens that, as you’d expect, lets you chat and collaborate with friends using the augmented reality headset. Its exact functionality isn’t clear yet, but the allure is clear: you can hold a hands-free video chat while you’re walking around the room. Needless to say, that’s helpful if you’re working on a group project or have your hands full with other tasks. Don’t worry if you can’t drop $3,000 on a HoloLens unit to try it out, though, as there’s plenty coming for regular users.

The team is bringing artificial intelligence to Skype in a big way. You’ll have access to the Cortana personal assistant on Android, iOS and Windows, to begin with. It’s much like Facebook’s M and other conversational helpers: you can ask her to send directions, order food, or even connect to other bots (such as, say, customer service). Support for chat bots is being woven into Skype itself, on that note, so companies can serve you through AI messaging when it’s convenient. You should have access to bots in Skype today, and there’s a bot developer kit to help programmers get started.

Get all the news from today’s Microsoft Build keynote right here!

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Xiaomi’s ‘Mi Ecosystem’ starts with a smart rice cooker

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With its air purifiers, water purifiers, security sensors and other home appliances on the Chinese market, it’s no secret that Xiaomi has an ambition to not only own the smartphone space, but to also litter its brand around our living space. A bit like Ikea and Muji, for the latter part: Cheap, but with good design and quality. Hence the launch of the Mi Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker today, because what better way than to enter every Chinese household with an affordable yet high performance rice cooker, let alone one that works with an app? Priced at just 999 yuan or about $150, this rice cooker is scarily cheap — about four to five times cheaper than its Japanese rivals like Zojirushi, Toshiba and Tiger.

In general, pressure cooking has the advantage of preserving the foods’ vitamins due to the trapped steam, as well as speeding up the cooking process with a higher temperature. In Xiaomi’s case, its smart pressure rice cooker uses 1.2 atm to push the temperature up to 105 degrees Celsius or 221 degrees Fahrenheit. Then there’s the companion app that lets you scan the barcode on the rice packaging, and the device will know how to cook it just right, according to the rice type, brand, origin and your preferred softness. There’s no word on how many types of rice have been categorized by Xiaomi, but it did mention a portfolio of over 200 brands along with 2,450 combinations of cooking methods for this rice cooker.

Despite the price tag, Xiaomi claims that it didn’t cut any corners here: The rice cooker comes with a grey cast iron inner pot which apparently doesn’t come cheap, in order to achieve optimal regenerative heating and also to ensure the rice is evenly cooked. The pot’s non-stickiness is courtesy of Daikin’s Neoflon powder coating as opposed to similar chemicals from no-namers, so that’s also one less feature to worry about. The Chinese company went as far as hiring Naito Takeshi, a former Sanyo engineer and co-inventor of the IH pressure rice cooker, to lead the development of this project. At today’s launch event, Naito is quoted as saying that he wants to "make a better rice cooker, and then sell it back to Japan."

The other news here is that this rice cooker is actually the first of the many products to come out of Xiaomi’s new sub-brand, Mi Ecosystem (aka "Mijia" in China, which literally means "rice home"). But as with many Xiaomi products, we have a feeling that this device won’t be leaving China any time soon, but you can try hitting up a local friend when it becomes available on April 6th.

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Samsung’s Smart Motorcycle Windshield Is Super Simple and That’s Great

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Samsung's Smart Motorcycle Windshield Is Super Simple and That's Great

When it comes to smart new features, car drivers get most of the fun. But a new concept from Samsung and Yamaha promises a simple smart windshield for motorcyclists which could help them stay safe on the roads.

It’s not the first smart display to be proposed for a motorcycle—though many of them have appeared inside helmets rather than on the screen—but this collaboration between Samsung and Yamaha feels like a concept that could actually come to fruition. It’s really rather simple: It just uses a small projector beneath the windshield which pairs with a smartphone to provide some brains. That allows the rider to send automated responses to important calls or messages, as well as checking in on things like navigation details. Other than that, though, there’s little else to it: It’s just large text about a few important things on the windshield. And that simplicity makes it both useful and safe—which seems like a pretty great idea.

[Samsung via Engadget]

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