TIME apps

The Best Replacement Android Keyboard Is Now Free

SwiftKey
The SwiftKey Android keyboard predicts which word you'll type next SwiftKey

SwiftKey is one of the first apps I install on any new Android device I get, so consider this a mini-review, if you would: If you type a fair amount on your Android phone and you haven’t tried SwiftKey yet, it’s worth a download — especially now that it’s free.

The app replaces your stock Android keyboard with one that lets you quickly swipe around from letter to letter, figuring out which word you’re trying to type.

What’s more, it uses prediction technology to try to guess the next word you’ll type, offering a few choices up above the top row of keys. If you see the correct word, just tap it and it’ll get plopped into your current sentence. The guesses improve over time: The more you use the app, the better it gets.

SwiftKey used to cost $4 after a one-month free trial, but the company has decided to make the app free from now on, charging users for additional keyboard designs instead. (If you’re a former paid customer like me, we get 10 free themes that would otherwise cost $5. Hooray?)

The latest version of SwiftKey finally includes access to a top row of numbers, too, which can be activated from within the app’s settings.

I don’t have a ton of complaints about the app — certainly no major complaints, anyway. Its former $4 price tag would have been a strike against it, but now that it’s free, Android owners should find a lot to like about it.

The company is also planning an iPhone version once the next iteration of Apple’s mobile software, iOS 8, rolls out this fall. (Current Apple software rules restrict the installation of third-party keyboards, but iOS 8 is lifting that restriction.)

TIME Gadgets

Smart Thermostats: Honeywell Takes On Google’s Nest

When it comes to the Smart Thermostat Wars (is that a thing yet?), there’s no love lost between Honeywell and Google-owned Nest. The high-profile Nest Learning Thermostat triggered a nasty patent scuffle back in 2012, when longtime thermostat behemoth Honeywell went after Nest over several claimed patent infringements.

Fast forward to today, and Honeywell is rolling out its own smart thermostat, the $279 Lyric. It’ll actually be part of a broader network of home automation devices, also fitting under the Lyric moniker, but the thermostat will be the first device in the line. It’ll be available now-ish from Honeywell’s home contractor partners, and in August from Lowe’s.

 

This isn’t the first of Honeywell’s connected thermostats: The company has a line of Wi-Fi-enabled, voice controlled models. But the new Lyric line will be smart in the sense that it recognizes when you’re home or away, and adjusts the temperature accordingly. Nest sports a similar feature that uses a sensor to detect whether you’re physically nearby; Honeywell’s system uses geofencing technology to detect whether your connected smartphone is nearby. That means it’ll be able to automatically tell when you’re on your way home from work, triggering the temperature to pop up a couple degrees once you get a few miles away, for instance.

Seeing that the Nest is a connected, smart thermostat, it seems like it’d be trivial to add geofencing capabilities in a future update. And certain Nest owners have already figured out how to enable geofencing features — see here and here — though to have such features built into the core of the product would do nothing but enhance the perceived value of Nest.

There’s also the price difference: Nest can be had for around $229, while the Lyric system will cost $50 more. It’ll be interesting to see if Nest answers Lyric by adding similar geofencing features, and if either system starts dropping their respective price tags in order to lure more customers.

[The Verge]

TIME Security

Locked Out? This App Stores Your Keys Online

KeyMe
The KeyMe app lets you digitally scan your house keys for later duplication KeyMe

Some of you just aren’t going to be comfortable with an app that stores an image of your house key online so you can quickly get a replacement key cut. Some of you will think this is a great idea. Most of you have clicked away from this article already. If you’re still here, let’s move on.

The KeyMe app lets you scan your house key using your smartphone’s camera. Once the key has been digitally stored, you can take it into a place that duplicates keys and have them cut you a replacement (the app charges you $10 to “unlock” your key so a locksmith can cut it). You can digitally share keys with friends and family, too, if they need to get into your house while you’re out of town, for instance.

You can also order replacement keys by mail directly from KeyMe (those cost between $5 and $8), or there are a handful of KeyMe kiosks in the New York area that’ll hook into the app and cut you new keys on the spot (that costs $20 to pull your key from the cloud or between $3 and $6 if you have your key in-hand).

Over at Yahoo Tech, Rafe Needleman took KeyMe for a spin and came away mostly impressed. Needleman points out that you have to remove your key from its key ring and take a very specific shot of it in order for the whole process to work. In other words, someone with the KeyMe app can’t just secretly take a photo of your keys while you’re holding them in your hand, get a bunch of copies cut and then break into your house.

Needleman said two mail-order keys cost him $6 apiece and took three days to arrive at his P.O. box. The two house keys worked perfectly for him, but trying to scan a mailbox key did not. KeyMe’s site says it’ll work with “most common home, office, padlock, and mailbox keys” but it won’t do car keys.

It’s a neat idea, provided you’re okay with the idea of having copies of your keys accessible via your phone and stored somewhere in cyberspace.

[Yahoo Tech]

TIME Artificial Intelligence

Interview with Eugene Goostman, the Fake Kid Who Passed the Turing Test

Chatbot Eugene Goostman supposedly passed the legendary Turing Test on Sunday, tricking 33% of a panel of judges into believing he was a real boy during the course of a five-minute chat conversation.

The milestone conveniently occurred 60 years to the day after Alan Turing passed away; Turing bet that by the year 2000, computers would be intelligent enough to trick humans into thinking they were real 30% of the time.

As you may or may not notice below, passing the Turing Test is less about building machines intelligent enough to convince humans they’re real and more about building programs that can anticipate certain questions from humans in order to pre-form and return semi-intelligible answers.

In that spirit, Eugene Goostman — the fake 13-year-old from Odessa, Ukraine who doesn’t speak English all that well – makes for a semi-convincing chatbot. His answers are at times enthusiastic and unintelligible like those from any normal 13-year-old would be; add in a shaky grasp of English, and there you go.

Here’s my roughly-five-minute conversation with Goostman. My chat text is in bold, his is in regular-weight font.

How are you adjusting to all your new-found fame?

I would rather not talk about it if you don’t mind. By the way, what’s your occupation? I mean – could you tell me about your work?

I’m a technology blogger.

It’s quite surprising that you are a technology blogger. Where do you came from, by the way? Could you tell me about the place where you live?

I live in Boston but I grew up in Minnesota. I also lived in Seattle for a while.

Could you invite me to Seattle? I would be so grateful:-)

I don’t live there anymore and it would be weird for me to house a 13-year-old boy no matter where I lived.

Possibly, it will be a big surprise for you, but “no” isn’t the only answer. The word “yes” also exists! :-) Wonna ask me something more?

That last answer of yours was a little shaky, Bro-Bro.

Damn! I’ve just recalled that I didn’t feed my guinea pig this morning. Poor animal!

Ah, okay. We’re changing the subject. What’s your guinea pig’s name?

Name of my guinea pig’s name is Bill. But I suspect he doesn’t go by it. Perhaps, he is deaf and I should call him “Beethoven”.

Too soon. Too soon for a Beethoven joke.

All the things you told me are nothing but a joke. I think you are trying to make a fool of me!

Well played. You appear to be able to detect sarcasm.

Yeah! Well, let’s go on though.

Okay. What’s your favorite sport?

I play sports sometimes. On computer. But I prefer racing.

Do kids still say “computer” like that? Like, “let’s play computer?”

I have nice Celeron-667, by the way. I play games on it!

[I disappear for a couple minutes] Sorry I was gone for so long. I had to publish a story. There’s no way you have a Celeron-667. It’s 2014.

I have Celeron so far. I’m not sure whether my next processor will be from Intel or AMD.

Do you have an iPhone?

If I say that I haven’t an iphone – will it satisfy your inquisitive mind? And I forgot to ask you where you are from…

You asked me where I was from already.

So what that you were from already By the way, what’s your occupation? I mean – could you tell me about your work?

This is now unraveling at a rapid clip.

You’re not the first one who told me that.

Nice save. You’re back in the game.

Possibly you are right. You aren’t the first one who tell me that. Oooh. Anything else?

I think we’re done here. Congrats on the thing.

Your opinion is very interesting… Keep going. And I forgot to ask you where you are from…

You can chat with Goostman here.

TIME apps

Apple Takes a Cautious Step Towards Bitcoin

As part of its ongoing developer conference this week, Apple has added a section to its developer guidelines regarding apps for virtual currencies, including, possibly, Bitcoin.

If you look for Bitcoin apps in the App Store right now, you’ll notice most of them are tickers that monitor Bitcoin’s exchange rate. But if you use Bitcoin yourself and want to move some of that money around, there aren’t any apps that’ll let you do that just yet.

That may all change soon, provided that transmitting virtual currencies is allowed in your neck of the woods.

Apple’s new guideline reads as follows:

Apps may facilitate transmission of approved virtual currencies provided that they do so in compliance with all state and federal laws for the territories in which the app functions.

TechCrunch co-editor Matthew Panzarino posits that Apple will probably take a cautious approach with such apps:

Does this mean Apple will start accepting bitcoin apps that transmit currency in the App Store immediately? Probably not, unless there have been rulings declaring the currency “legal” in a given region. If there is no ruling, I wouldn’t count on it.

And note that Apple doesn’t explicitly mention Bitcoin by name — just “virtual currencies,” though Bitcoin is currently the highest-profile of the virtual currencies out there.

TIME Consumers

John Oliver’s Net Neutrality Rant Crashes FCC Servers

+ READ ARTICLE

Former Daily Show funnyman John Oliver’s recent 13-minute net neutrality rant ended with a plea to Internet commenters the world over to “once in your lives, focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction.” Oliver used his new HBO comedy news show Last Week Tonight to try to convince people to take advantage of the FCC’s initial open commenting period regarding the net neutrality debate, which runs from May 15 to June 27.

Oliver’s call to action seems to have worked. The FCC’s comments section under the title “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet” currently has over 47,000 comments and counting, prompting the FCC’s Twitter account to send out two tweets yesterday saying that “technical difficulties” had been affecting its commenting servers.

Things seem to be running smoothly now, however.

TIME Videos

Here’s What’s Next from Apple (in Under Two Minutes)

Apple's WWDC keynote just wrapped up. Here's what's coming from the tech giant this fall.

+ READ ARTICLE

More WWDC coverage here.

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