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Alexa Can Make Music Echo All Through the House
August 31, 2017
Alexa has a new musical talent, Amazon announced Tuesday. "Today, we're making Alexa even smarter with an all-new feature that lets you play music synchronized on multiple Echo devices to provide room-filling music throughout your home," said Amazon Alexa Vice President Toni Reid. Setting up the syncing is easy. Using the Alexa app, you give a group of devices a name, such as "first floor."
Walmart, Google Enter Voice-Shopping Fray
August 24, 2017
Walmart and Google, two of Amazon's biggest rivals, on Wednesday announced a partnership that will let customers use Google's Home speaker and a number of voice-assisted mobile devices to shop online at Walmart. Their mutual goal is to eat away at Amazon's dominant share in the e-commerce shopping space and the smart speaker space, in order to curb the growth of its giant ecosystem.
Google May Have Pixel Chromebook Showcase, Tiny Home in the Works
August 23, 2017
Google appears to be planning a Pixel-branded Chromebook and a downsized version of its Home smart speaker, following in the steps of Microsoft and Amazon respectively. Along with two expected new Pixel phones, Google this fall will unveil a Pixel-branded Chromebook and smaller, lower-priced version of its Home smart speaker, according to a report.
The Smart Home Appliance and You
August 22, 2017
The recent rumor that iRobot had engaged in talks with Apple, Amazon and Google parent Alphabet to sell the data its Roomba vacuum cleaner gathers caused widespread privacy concerns. Roomba maps homes -- the spatial dimensions of rooms and distances between furniture and other objects -- and the data it collects would be valuable to any of the major players battling to control the smart home.
Gadget Ogling: Trending Hot Plates, Toys for Future Coders, and a Ringy Dingy Ring
August 16, 2017
If you've looked at Facebook for more than a minute over the last few years, there's no question that you'll have encountered a top-down, perfectly filmed food video from BuzzFeed's Tasty channel. The cooking clips are enormously popular on the social network, racking up billions of views a month. Now BuzzFeed is trying to monetize its success in a new way. Enter the Tasty One Top, a hot plate that seeks to make cooking simpler.
It's a Whole New World With Alexa
August 7, 2017
Voice computing is replacing the graphical user interface, Shawn DuBravac, chief economist of the Consumer Technology Association, said early this year at CES. Digital assistants will be integrated into many household objects, he noted. About 5 million voice-activated digital voice products had been sold as of January, and Bravac estimated 5 million more would be sold this year.
The 5 Technologies We Need to Change the World
July 24, 2017
I just finished reading an interesting hard science fiction book called The Punch Escrow. The story takes place several decades in the future, and it revolves around the idea of quantum foam and teleportation. It points out why teleportation never may be practical, but it brings up the idea of human 3D printing, which could be used more effectively for space exploration.
Cortana Makes Smart Thermostat a Glas Act
July 22, 2017
Microsoft and Johnson Controls have unveiled Glas, a smart thermostat that runs on Microsoft's Windows 10 IoT Core, a special OS designed specifically for smaller devices. Glas also utilizes Microsoft's smart voice assistant Cortana and its Azure Cloud to help users save energy while monitoring air quality in the home. Heating and cooling account for around 48 percent of residential energy use.
Gadget Ogling: Show and Tell, Fidget Folly, and Connected Nightlights
July 12, 2017
The Echo Show is the first in Amazon's line of smart speakers to incorporate a screen, and it seems very much more "speaker with a display" than "tablet with better audio and microphones." It has all the functionality of Echo, including access to Alexa, Amazon's voice-operated assistant. The screen can, for example, provide a more detailed weather outlook than what Alexa spouts out.
Amazon Pushes Alexa, Highlights Small Sellers in Prime Day Deals
July 10, 2017
Amazon is ready to disrupt the retail landscape for the third consecutive year, as it launches its July 11 Prime Day sale. The company will offer thousands of discounted items and special promotions to reward its Prime customers and increase their numbers, while rivals scramble to compete. Starting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Amazon will offer special curated deals on some of its biggest-selling items.
IoT Fuels Growth of Linux Malware
July 5, 2017
Malware targeting Linux systems is growing, largely due to a proliferation of devices created to connect to the Internet of Things. That is one of the findings in a report WatchGuard Technologies released last week. The report, which analyzes data gathered from more than 26,000 appliances worldwide, found three Linux malware programs in the top 10 for the first quarter of the year.
VA Gives Thumbs Up to Commercial IT Software
June 30, 2017
A Veterans Affairs decision to pursue a new direction in processing health records has created a highly visible endorsement of the use of COTS information technology by federal agencies. President Trump cited the VA's action as an example of the administration's commitment to vastly improve federal IT management. The sheer size of the VA makes the decision to use an outside contractor noteworthy.
What's Next in the Volatile Pay-TV Services Market?
June 26, 2017
There recently has been an erosion in penetration of pay-TV subscriptions in the United States. They have fallen from a high of 86 percent in 2014 to 83 percent in early 2017, based on Parks Associates recent consumer research. Despite signs in late 2015 and early 2016 that the U.S. cable TV industry finally had reversed years of subscriber losses, the numbers declined again.
The Art of Manipulation and Misdirection
June 19, 2017
Last week, I listened to an economist talk about Apple's complaints that Qualcomm had charged Apple too much for access to patents. What was fascinating was that Apple had folks focused on the 5 percent Qualcomm had charged it instead of on the massive profit that Apple made on each phone. The price of the iPhone 8 likely will be well over $1,000 -- but it could cost well under $500 to build.
Gadget Ogling: Apple at Home
June 12, 2017
The battle for your home just got a little more intense as Apple pulled back the curtain on HomePod, its smart speaker that seeks to hold dominion over your home empire and all the gadgets that reside within. HomePod holds a 4-inch woofer and seven tweeters, and it has six microphones to pick up your voice commands for Siri, wherever you happen to be in the room.
Apple's Risky Gambit to Redefine the Smart Speaker
June 7, 2017
Before Apple launched its long-awaited HomePod smart speaker earlier this week, the expectation was that it would unveil a sophisticated Echo killer that would redefine the landscape that Amazon has dominated, with Google playing catch-up. "Just like iPod reinvented music in our pockets, HomePod is going to reinvent music in our homes," Apple SVP Phil Schiller told WWDC attendees.
Rumored Apple Plans Hint at Smart Speaker Battle Ahead
June 2, 2017
Apple reportedly has begun production of a high-end speaker with Siri-based digital assistant technology to compete directly with Amazon's Alexa-based Echo speakers and the Google Assistant-powered Home speaker. Production is in the early stages, but the device could be unveiled as early as next week at WWDC. That would position the company to begin shipping in time for the winter holiday season.
Gadget Ogling: Amazon Gives Fashion Advice, Snacks Get Musical, and Coffee Tables Get Smart
May 11, 2017
Amazon's Echo system, which brought the company's Alexa assistant to tables and countertops as a hub for your home, now has evolved into something a little more visually minded. I don't mean the brand new Echo Show -- it's the Echo Look that has caught my eye. The Echo Look has a built-in camera that captures both audio and video. Amazon wants you to use it to help you choose your outfits.
Amazon Adds Show to Echo's Tell
May 10, 2017
Echo isn't just for sound anymore. Amazon on Tuesday announced Echo Show, a new version of its popular smart speaker that comes with a 7-inch color touchscreen, 5-inch front-facing camera and dual 2-inch Dolby speakers. With its screen, it can show YouTube videos, access home security cameras, display photos and scroll lyrics as you listen to songs from streaming services.
Apple May Be Prepping Siri for Smart Home Duty
May 3, 2017
Odds appear good that Apple will be joining Amazon and Google in the smart speaker competition with a Siri-powered device it plans to introduce at WWDC next month. The new home-AI product reportedly will have excellent acoustics with one woofer and seven tweeters, and the processing power of an iPhone 6. Its price tag likely will be higher than Amazon's Echo, which sells for $179.
Burger King Ad Creates Whopper of a Mess for Google Home
April 13, 2017
Burger King in essence hijacked the voice-activated Google Home speakers in some consumers' homes. In a 15-second television ad, the camera zooms in on a young man wearing the company uniform who says, "OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?" The trigger phrase for Google's AI Assistant activated Home speakers situated nearby, prompting them to read Wikipedia's description of the Whopper.
IBM's Quantum Leap Could Redefine 'Magic'
March 6, 2017
No, I'm not talking about that Quantum Leap. IBM just made a really interesting announcement in that it is enhancing its online quantum computer systems with a new API and improving its simulator so it can handle 20 qubits. Listening to the prebriefing was a bit like pretending I was Penny trying to understand Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang Theory.
Can the TV Industry Sustain Falling Prices?
January 30, 2017
Every year in advance of the Super Bowl, there are big sales on TVs, and this year is no exception. It also could be a milestone, as TVs could be bottoming out. TV prices are near a record low, yet sales continue to slip. In the long run, that won't be good for the industry or consumers. There was an "abrupt weakening of global demand for TV sets," IHS Markit concluded last year.
Personalization, Simplicity Key to Smart Home Device Adoption
January 26, 2017
Continued innovation and messaging are crucial for smart safety and security device manufacturers that want to capitalize on new opportunities in the emerging Internet of Things. Early adopters of smart devices are often drawn to the innovative design and technological gadgetry. However, mass market adoption depends on clear and compelling value propositions that appeal to the masses.
Gadget Ogling: The CES Spectacular Edition
January 12, 2017
Trust Razer to come up with something completely ridiculous that I need in my life immediately. Project Ariana is a projector that incorporates Razer's full-spectrum lighting system, Chroma. It uses a wide-angle lens to project images. Its 3D depth-sensing cameras detect objects in a room and adjust for them accordingly so that it still projects a flat image.
CES 2017's Magic
January 9, 2017
CES was a fascinating show this year. One of the things that made it so fascinating was that everyone and their brother had cars demonstrating one form of technology or another. It kind of makes me wonder what we'll see at the next car show -- PCs, drones, tablets and smartphones? That wasn't the only surprise at the show, though. Nvidia, long thought of as living in Intel's shadow, broke out.
Nvidia Lays Out Bold Strategy at CES
January 6, 2017
Nvidia offered a bold new strategy at this week's International CES in Las Vegas. The company, which has been a leader in hardware graphics technology for decades, recently has expanded into the realms of artificial intelligence, deep learning and automotive tech. Graphical support and video delivery will however remain a key component of the company's strategy, according to Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang.
Gadget Ogling: Floating Speakers, Neckbrace Audio, and Charming Caffeine Fixes
January 6, 2017
LG features twice in this edition of the column with two very different but similarly strange speakers. The "Levitating Portable Speaker" has as descriptive and accurate a name as the "Small Transparent Speaker" from last month's edition of this column. You can call it "PJ9" if you prefer the duller moniker. Yes, through the magic of electromagnets and a base station, this speaker will levitate and pump out audio in every direction.
Crowd Forms on Alexa Bandwagon
January 5, 2017
New additions to Amazon's growing ecosystem of Alexa-based products are making a splash at CES this week. With a growing number of home appliance, computer and electronics makers announcing integrations with the company's digital assistant technology, the transformation to automated homes and home offices appears to be taking place before our eyes. Among the most notable integrations is Lenovo's Smart Assistant.
Lenovo Surprises With Home Tech Play
January 4, 2017
Lenovo watchers expected the company to announce a number of new laptops when CES rolled around, but the company surprised on Tuesday when it also unveiled new products aimed at the home technology market. "The Smart Assistant and Smart Storage line probably caught everyone off guard," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.
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Which form of smartphone security do you rely on most?
Face ID or Fingerprint
Strong Password
App Locks
Storage Encryption
VPN with Public WiFi
I don't use any smartphone security tech.