When traveling overseas or even across the country, we are forced to deal with long lines, disgruntled TSA agents, crying babies and hours of terrible movies. Airline travel has become such a hassle that this writer is more likely to embark on a multi-day road trip than hop on the next flight out of JFK. For years, TV shows and movies have imagined different and unique ways we might travel, but most of them are very far fetched in terms of currently-available technology. While various countries employ high-speed bullet trains, the airlines are still the fastest way to get from A to B for the time being. If one company’s technology manages to gain support, however, this might not be the case in the near future. More →
Researchers at Microsoft have created software that can translate a user’s voice into a foreign languages, a solution with the potential to revolutionize communications, MIT’s Technology Review reported on Monday. “We will be able to do quite a few scenario applications,” said Microsoft researcher Frank Soong. “For a monolingual speaker traveling in a foreign country, we’ll do speech recognition followed by translation, followed by the final text to speech output [in] a different language, but still in his own voice.” Read on for more. More →
Apple’s Siri represents the birth of a new breed of voice-controlled smartphone assistant services, and it is only a matter of time before other companies begin to expand their offerings as a result. While Microsoft and Google undoubtedly work to refine their own voice command services, a new third-party app hits the Android Market on Tuesday that could represent Siri’s first real competition. Cluzee, billed as your intelligent personal assistant, offers Android users a Siri-like service that includes capabilities even more impressive than Siri in some cases. As showcased in a video provided by Tronton, the company behind the app, asking Cluzee a simple question like “what does my schedule look like today?” will yield a spoken rundown of the user’s schedule. Beyond just listing events, however, the app also includes smart tidbits from a range of data it pulls from the web. In one example, Cluzee adds “to reach the doctor’s office on time, you should avoid Main Street because of construction” following the mention of a doctor’s appointment, using traffic data to ensure the user reaches his appointment on time. Read on for more. More →
Google’s plan to acquire ITA Software may result in an antitrust probe by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), two sources speaking to Bloomberg said Tuesday. The FTC is currently waiting for the Justice Department to render a decision on whether or not the acquisition will stifle competition among firms competing for clicks in the travel search engine market. Both the FTC and the Justice Department are capable of executing an antitrust investigation, and some pundits believe the scale of this probe could match that of the Justice Department’s antitrust investigation of Microsoft during the 1990′s. The search engine giant “could fight the FTC, but that’s going to cost a lot of money and time,” Keith Hylton, an antitrust law professor at Boston University School of Law told Bloomberg. Google also faces an antitrust probes abroad. On March 31st Microsoft filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission in regards to Google’s search operations and practices in the European Union, alleging that Google has made it harder for other firms to compete in the search market there. Google announced that it had plans to acquire ITA Software, a firm that helps airlines manage flight times and sell tickets at the best prices, in July of 2010. Google hopes to use the acquisition to create new flight search tools that will allow consumers to find better flight options and prices. More →
We met up with LG on Tuesday to check out its inductive Wireless Charging Pad, which it hopes will compete against competitors like Powermat. During our hands-on, we weren’t able to test the device — it seems someone forgot to charge the charger — but we were able to get a feel for its size, weight and some of its features. The Wireless Charging Pad has a power indicator that alerts you just how much power is left, and LG says it takes about two hours to charge itself up fully. All you have to do once it’s juiced up is pop a special back onto your smartphone and drop it onto the charging pad. In our eyes, the Wireless Charging Pad wasn’t a whole lot different than the Powermat; it’s light in the hand and can easily be packed in a briefcase, backpack or even a Florida tourist-friendly oversized fanny pack. LG hasn’t said which of its phones the Wireless Charging Pad will be compatible with just yet, but we think it’s a little counter intuitive for LG to make it only compatible with LG phones. Don’t forget to check out our photo gallery below!
If you’re a traveling iOS or Android user out there, the new Orbitz mobile apps may help make your life a little easier. Orbitz just let us know that they have launched a dedicated app for not just Apple’s iOS platform, but for Android as well. You can search through flights, hotels, cars all from your device and even book full trips. That’s in addition to checking your flight status, finding deals, and more. Orbitz is the first major online travel agency to launch native apps to assist their customers, regardless of platform. More →
Google announced on Thursday that it is acquiring flight information software company ITA for $700 million in cash. Based in Cambridge, ITA mines flight data and presents it in a polished form suitable for online viewing. Google will add to its repertoire of services by integrating this flight data into its online search engine. Google also states that it will honor all service agreements with ITA’s current customers which include Kayak, Orbitz, and Bing. Despite this assurance of openness, Google now owns a big chunk of the online travel business, so expect the deal to get a close look from regulators. More →
Ok, so not everyone on your holiday shopping list warrants spending a fair amount of cash on something like the Epson Artisan 700 we showed you earlier this month. It’s never easy to figure out what to get for that friend, distant relative or coworker via secret santa that is cool, useful and isn’t going to cost an arm and a leg. Here at BGR we feel for you and seeing as time is running out, quickly, we thought we’d give you a cool idea that definitely won’t be duped at your office’s white elephant no matter how many people participate: The OnBoard Travel Keyboard by Atek.
We’re sure there are a few more handsets to come from T-Mobile this holiday season, but we just got word that the boys in pink have special promotion planned as well. Dubbed Free Companion Flight 2008, T-Mobile has a special treat in store for new and existing customers alike. Here’s how it works:
When someone activates, renews or migrates to a new 2-year service agreement between November 19th and December 24th, he or she will be eligible to receive a Free Companion Flight, ie one free round trip flight, when an additional ticket is purchased at the full fare price through a special T-Mobile website (www.FlyWithT-Mobile.com – not yet live). 112 origins and 110 destinations will be covered by the promotion and they will be spread throughout the cities detailed on the image seen above.
Of course there are some restrictions involved but nothing too crazy. Essentially everyone is eligible as long as they’re not on a business / corporate account. Postpaid, FlexPay Annual Contract, Take Control, SmartAccess and KidConnect accounts are all fair game and each account is eligible for up to five free companion flights. Sweet!
For better or for worse, the Australian Communications and Media Authority is proposing an amendment to the Mobile Phone Jammer Prohibition that would permit cell phone use on domestic and international flights. An 18-month long trial of the pico cell technology used for in-flight cellular communications was deemed successful with no reported complaints of interference to either the plane’s avionics system or ground cellular networks. Both Qantas and V Australia have each announced plans to offer in-flight SMS and GPRS services and are anxiously awaiting these rule changes so they can expand the technology from a single test airplane to fleet-wide deployment. Bravo to Australia for pushing this technology forward and kudos to Qantas and V Australia for offering only SMS and data services. We like getting SMS and GPRS but don’t fancy listening to the bloke next to us telling his mate how he was as full as a boot while watching some aerial ping pong and spent the whole night liquid laughing. What a dill!
Now is most definitely not a good time to run a US (or any) airline. People are traveling less, the economy is basically in the toilet and fuel is incredibly expensive which means that everything else is more expensive. On top of everything else we just entered a historically slow time of the year in terms of air travel as summer draws to a close and kids return to school. We’re not sure how far this tactic will go, but JetBlue is trying to ease the pain a bit by auctioning off a handful of flights on eBay. This doesn’t mark the first time an airline has turned to eBay but in the past, official eBay ticket auctions have been used to raise money for charity. JetBlue apparently isn’t quite concerned with humanitarianism at the moment as the airline has listed over 300 round-trip packages including single tickets, two-ticket packages and even a few mystery auctions that include hotel stays. All auctions were listed last night with varying durations and with opening prices of between 5¢ and 10¢. The auctions are expected to close between 85% and 90% of retail value, which means that travelers will indeed get a nice discount. To those interested, all flights depart on a Thursday or Friday and return on a Sunday or Monday. Travel resulting from the auctioned tickets must be completed by October 6th.
Welcome to the future that should have been here years ago. Why airlines haven’t been doing this for years is beyond us but kudos to those who have finally started to get moving. Delta is by no means the first airline to play with the idea of mobiles to be used as boarding passes, but it has caught on. Starting with domestic flights at LaGuardia, Delta’s handset boarding pass trial is already launched and we can only hope that the practice spreads sooner rather than later. Delta passengers can now go to the company’s website on their mobile devices and download a digital boarding pass directly. The TSA can then scan the digital bar codes contained within the passes and no physical printout is required. The concept is forward-thinking in several respects. First of all, it makes travel easier; there is no longer a need need to print anything out and no more frantic searching through carry ons to find misplaced documentation. Secondly, it’s good for the environment of course. Digital passes mean less paper being printed and wasted. Honestly, who recycles their boarding passes? Good stuff Delta, now if we can only work on those delays…