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Gadget Ogling: A Homier Google, Flicking Lamps, and Busy Earbuds

Welcome to Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, where we gather up the latest gadget announcements, roll them in a burlap sack, and mosey on down to the beach for an afternoon. Yes, we’re excited summer is finally here.

In this week’s sunny ray of riches are Google’s voice-activated at-home assistant, a gesture-controlled lamp, and headphones that analyze your ears for optimal sound.

As always, these are not reviews, and the ratings are less an indicator of quality than of how eager I am to have these things in my hands or discover how well they can understand my Scottish brogue.

Google Breaks In

Not quite content with Nest controlling how warm your domicile is and Chromecast taking charge of what you watch, Google is moving further into your physical world with its connected home hub, the creatively named “Home.”

Taking a page or 10 out of Amazon Echo’s book, Home is a blend of a smart speaker and a personal assistant, which you control using your voice. It can handle the types of queries Google Now (and its successor, Google Assistant) can take on — from simple questions like what’s on your schedule for the day to more complex ones about the history of your favorite sports team. Home apparently can hold a conversation, as it is able to answer follow-up questions without additional context.

It can link up with other Home speakers to play music throughout your home and, naturally, take charge of your Nest, Chromecast and other connected devices. There’s limited third-party support for now, but it seems you can tap into your Spotify, Uber, OpenTable, and WhatsApp accounts, among others.

From a design perspective, Home is more cutesy and folksy than Echo and, according to reports, should have an advantage in the sound quality department.

I’m not completely certain I’m ready for a device like Home. It’s undeniably cool and useful, though some of us like getting up from the couch on occasion to change the thermostat and get a little blood pumping.

I actually enjoy browsing my Netflix options instead of playing what first springs to mind. Ask me tomorrow and I might have changed my mind, but for now I want more hands-on control of my immediate world.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Homes Are Where the Smart Is

Illuminating Roomes

We’re shifting from Home to Roome — pronounced “room-e” rather than the more natural “room” — which is a smart lamp controlled through gestures.

It detects motion and turns on or off depending on whether people are in the room. You can brighten or dim Roome when you move your hand toward or away from it, as though you were playing a theremin. There’s a pair of USB charger ports, if power outlets are at a premium, and you can, of course, control Roome with an app if you tire of waving around your hands.

What’s neat here is Roome’s ability to learn and adapt to your needs. It also can switch itself off if detects you’ve fallen asleep. It has an appealing, simple design, and I’d welcome it into my home. It’s far more tasteful than a clapper.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Brighter Days

Cochlea Check

Nura is a set of over-ear headphones with inner-ear buds built in. Their purpose is not to provide a snugger fit, but to examine the inside of your auditory canals to deliver the best-possible listening experience.

They seemingly can analyze the sound that reaches your cochlea and adjust the audio accordingly with a 30-second tuning process. The buds also play music, so you can, hopefully, get the most out of the higher ranges of the spectrum while the over-ear cups provide the bass tones.

Nura connects to your device through USB or a lightning port (which may be the direction in which all headphones connected to Apple devices are heading). You won’t be able to charge your phone while using them, but the final version of the Nura will resolve that.

There’s enough fancy words and science in Nura’s concept to sell me on the idea. I’m not entirely certain how useful they’d be for me, as I’m currently listening to podcasts far more often than music, though if it can help me pick out words I might otherwise miss on a noisy commute, I won’t complain.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Loud Follicles

Kris Holt is a writer and editor based in Montreal. He has written for the Daily Dot, The Daily Beast, and PolicyMic, among others. He's Scottish, so would prefer if no one used the word "soccer" in his company. You can connect with Kris on Google+.

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