AI-fueled app Natural aims to bring more benefits of AI and machine learning to machine learning to consumes more directly, starting with a range of streamlined transactions. A request using Natural’s “generative interface” begins similarly enough to those of other voice agents, with a verbal or typed command. With Natural, however, the query remains editable. Natural then instantly updates the options presented. There are no extended spoken exchanges. But the more meaningful difference is the degree to which Natural can handle the completion of the task. With other agents, ordering food or an airline ticket goes only so far before users need to transition to an app such as DoorDash or Expedia. That’s not the case with Natural. In fact, if users want to order from a restaurant that uses Grubhub for delivery and they don’t have an account, Natural will create one behind the scenes, optionally deleting it at the end of the transaction. That may make it sound as if Natural is trying to make apps obsolete, but the company plans to allow other apps to tap into Natural’s AI capabilities. A future version of Natural might be able to share a file via Dropbox and draft a range of emails, including a multi-paragraph cover letter that highlights certain skills in the background. All one has to do is fill in the blanks provided for certain details. Natural lives in the cloud and can be accessed from virtually anywhere after a voice verification.
Nationwide Building Society has begun issuing ‘dot and notch’ embossed and recycled bank cards that are certified by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). The cards are the first to carry the RNIB’s ‘Tried and Tested’ logo. The ‘dot’ feature will enable members to distinguish between credit and debit cards, while the ‘notch’ tells them which way around the card needs to be inserted into card machines and ATMs. The cards, which are made from 85% recycled plastic, will be issued to all members, making them the rule rather than the exception. Nationwide’s ATMs already have audio functionality that can read out the information on screen to help guide those with sight loss.
Amazon has brought Alexa to the iPhone Home Screen with a new widget enabling iOS users to ‘Ask Alexa’ with a single tap. The new version is the closest Alexa users will probably get to native implementation of the assistant on an iOS or iPad OS device. Previously, you’d need to delve into the app itself to talk to Alexa. Interestingly, there’s still no dedicated widget for Siri on the iPhone, aside from the Siri Suggestions functionality that suggests apps based on location and common activity. Siri is accessible by holding the power button and using the hands-free “Hey Siri” voice commands. Alexa, of course, still lacks and will continue to lack that functionality on Apple’s home soil.
- Spotify has introduced the “What’s New” feed, which will deliver an ongoing series of updates to mobile app users focused on new releases. According to the company, the What’s New feed will serve as another way for Spotify users to keep up with all the new music and podcasts that are released from the shows and artists that they follow on the service. In other words, it’s a personalized feed based on what users listen to, not a universal feed or one they more explicitly customize by making specific selections. The feed will be under the new “bell” icon at the top of the home tab alongside the recently played and settings icons on the top right. The feed will be also updated in real-time, Spotify says, and will display a blue dot when there are new songs and episodes that arrived since users last opened the app. While the feature may be useful because it gives a single place to look in the Spotify app for everything that’s new, the use of a “notifications” feature that leverages dots is also a psychological trick that can make apps more addictive. This seemingly minor addition to the Spotify app is actually a quite calculated one. Spotify, with the launch of a more attention-grabbing notifications feature, it wants to increase user engagement, even if it understands that it may be sacrificing some sense of user comfort and enjoyment in the process.