Amazon’s popular smart assistant Alexa just got a new job: concierge. The e-commerce giant this week unveiled the Alexa for Hospitality program, which is aimed at bringing its voice-activated digital technology to hotels around the world. The idea is to help customers with ordering room service, housekeeping and concierge services. The devices will even allow guests to control room temperature and lighting. In fact, Amazon hopes to eliminate the need to call the front desk all together by replacing hotel room phones with Alexa itself. The Marriott is the first hotel chain to adopt the program, with roll-outs expected to begin later this summer.
French startup Feed is trying to take everyday meals into the future with its sci-fi-esque artificial food replacement products. The company has created a variety of alternative meal options, from energy-packed cereal bars to a powdered mixture that combines with water. Every item is vegan, lactose-free, GMO-free and gluten-free, and designed to contain all the nutrients a normal human would need to survive. Right now, these futuristic foods are only sold online and in French stores, but with the news this week that Feed snagged $17.4 million in fresh funding, a global expansion could be on the horizon.
Upstart filmmakers got an exciting new avenue to share their work this week with the news that social media outlet Instagram is launching a video service. Dubbed IGTV, it will allow users to upload videos as long as 60 minutes to the platform, 10 times longer than the current limit. The roll-out features a special, stand-alone IGTV app, but videos will be viewable in the traditional Instagram app as well. The content will be specifically catered to mobile users, which means vertically-oriented videos and interactive recommendations. There will even be channels that allow people to follow specific accounts. “Instagram has always been a place to connect with the people who inspire, educate and entertain you every day,” said co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom.
IBM brought together the human mind and artificial intelligence closer than ever before at this week’s unique event in San Francisco. The computer giant’s AI-driven Project Debater system faced off on stage with a champion debater to argue over the idea of subsidizing space exploration. IBM said the event featured AI’s “first ever live, public debates with humans.” The sleek black computer said that “subsidizing space exploration is like investing in really good tires,” and was even more important than roads, schools or health care. It used a vast database of newspapers and other media to formulate its arguments, and also rebutted the professional debater’s counterargument. IBM said the debate showcased multiple features of AI all at once, from voice recognition to analysis and human rhetoric.
Avocados are easily one of the most frustrating foods you can buy. They’re delicious when ripe, but that window of perfection can pass by in an instant, leaving you with mushy, wasted fruit. One California startup is trying to solve that seemingly small problem, but it's the kind of innovation that could change food consumption as we know it. This week Apeel Sciences is rolling out its long-lasting avocados in select US stores, which feature an invisible plant-based film that can double the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. Food waste is a major problem around the world, particularly in the US, where produce accounts for 40 percent of it. “Avocados are just the starting point in our mission to fight food waste and bring fresher, better quality fruits and vegetables to more people everywhere,” Apeel said when announcing the news.