Amazon’s voice assistant will get smarter. These new Alexa Prize teams will help – CNET

Amazon unveils the latest class of Alexa Prize competitors, who will set out to make conversational bots.

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Disney Plus streaming service: Release date, price, shows and movies to expect – CNET

Disney is crafting is own rival to Netflix, where you’ll be able to stream all things Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel and more. Here’s everything we know about Disney Plus.

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Watch: Pokemon Sword and Shield Direct to reveal more about Nintendo Switch games – CNET

Wednesday’s 15-minute livestream will take us back to Galar, and maybe give us a release date, as we count down to E3 2019.

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Amazon launches physical kiosks in UK train stations, a local extension of its Treasure Trucks

After announcing a year-long pilot of pop-up shops in the UK earlier this week to sell items from smaller marketplace merchants, Amazon has added another development to its brick-and-mortar efforts in the country. Starting today, the company is setting up physical kiosks, initially in train stations, to sell passers-by a rotating range of items at discounted prices.

The first of these will be in London, where Amazon is situating them in rail stations — Charing Cross, King’s Cross, Paddington, Liverpool Street and my local station London Bridge — and will start off by selling Boodles Mulberry Gin for £14.99 a bottle (a 40% discount on the normal price, Amazon notes).

The kiosks, Amazon says, are an extension of the company’s Treasure Truck concept, which sees a large vehicle doing the rounds across various towns — currently London, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, York, Birmingham, Coventry, Portsmouth, Southampton, Nottingham, Leicester, Windsor, Maidenhead, Reading and Slough (for US readers: the original site of The Office) — offering a rotating selection of items at discounted prices. These have been operating in the UK for a couple of years now.

With Treasure Truck in the UK, you sign up for the service (by texting “truck” to 87377) and Amazon texts you to let you know when the truck is coming your way. Users can pre-order and pay for items to collect them from the truck. It looks like the same format will apply to the kiosks, which will also become pick-up points. To incentivise more signups, Amazon said that new users will get an additional introductory discount of £5 per bottle.

Kiosks are a practical adaptation of the Treasure Truck concept for Amazon: as with other cities in Europe, the locations Amazon visits in the UK have narrow streets sometimes clogged with traffic and generally not designed for speedy arrivals of giant vehicles, and the population is more dense.

Also, situating kiosks in rail stations to catch people during their commutes means more may buy knowing they are on their way home or to an office so will not have to carry items around all day.

“Kiosks are a natural extension of the exciting shopping experience of Amazon’s Treasure Truck. Whether you’re on the way to work or heading home for the day, Amazon customers and passersby will have a fun and convenient way to shop for an amazing deal, get their hands on a trending product or take part in a fun event. Kiosks will help turn an ordinary day into something a bit more special,” said Suruchi Saxena Bansal, Country Leader, Amazon Treasure Truck, in a statement.

More generally, Amazon has been slowly increasing the different channels that it uses to connect with potential customers beyond its basic website and mobile app.

This is because “omnichannel” is the order of the day in commerce: in markets that are especially competitive and mature, we’ve seen a big shift among retailers to cater to a wider variety of audiences and sell to them in whichever channel where they are spending time and discovering things.

That’s included selling on social media (Instagram for one is making a big push with this), through email (see: Mailchimp’s efforts here), and of course doing things the old-fashioned way, by selling in person (something that efforts from the likes of Square and PayPal have also helped to grow).

That in-person experience is something that Amazon — born in the virtual world of cyberspace — has been doubling down on for years to reach a wider set of shoppers.

Its efforts have included bookstores near college campuses, cashier-free Amazon Go stores, the whopping acquisition of Whole Foods, and — as of earlier this week — setting up pop-up shops.

The latter are particularly ironic, given that the Amazon name is regularly invoked when people discuss how brick-and-mortar shops — and in the UK, “high street” shopping precincts — have died a death.

A year ago, there was a rumor that Amazon was negotiating in the UK to acquire a selection of large retail locations that were being vacated by the bankrupt hardware and DIY chain Homebase.

These sprawling locations, situated often in town outskirts among other large stores with huge parking lots, are a far cry from little kiosks in crowded train stations. And indeed, the Homebase deal, if it was every really on the cards, never came to pass.

But the report and Amazon’s wider track record are sure signs that the commerce is only going to get more physical, not less. It’s not a question of “if”, but rather of how and when.

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7.7 million LabCorp records stolen in same hack affecting Quest

LabCorp is the latest laboratory testing giant this week to confirm it’s affected by the same third-party data breach.

The Burlington, North Carolina-based medical giant said 7.7 million patients had their personal and financial data stolen by hackers, which hit the payment pages of the American Medical Collection Agency, a third-party vendor that processes payments for LabCorp and other companies.

The admission comes a day after Quest Diagnostics around 11.9 million patients had their data stolen.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, LabCorp said the stolen data includes a patient’s name, date of birth, address, phone number, date of service, provider, and balance information.

“AMCA’s affected system also included credit card or bank account information that was provided by the consumer to AMCA,” said the filing. Some 200,000 patients will receive more detailed notices that their financial information was taken.

But LabCorp said no medical data or lab and diagnostic results data was taken.

Like the Quest breach, LabCorp’s data incident dated back to August 1, 2018 until March 30, 2019.

The total number of patients affected by the AMCA payments page breach stands at just shy of 20 million. Given the company provides payment and bill collection services to a broad range of businesses, we may see similar notices dropping in the near future.

Quest Diagnostics says 11.9 million patients affected by data breach

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