smart home

Amazon Alexa ramps up to 1,000 3rd-party skills

Amazon Alexa ramps up to 1,000 3rd-party skills

Amazon's line of Echo speakers and the virtual assistant Alexa are constantly getting updated with new features and connected services, but the company has now revealed that the number of third-party skills available has topped 1,000. That's a lot of new abilities for Alexa that developers have created, resulting in useful features like the ability to check bank accounts, make travel plans, and even order a pizza, all via voice commands.

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The best Amazon Alexa Skills to try (and why they’re a big deal)

The best Amazon Alexa Skills to try (and why they’re a big deal)

With more than 1,000 Skills under its belt, Amazon's Alexa leads the pack in voice-controlled smart home assistants, but which should you try first and why? Read on for our pick of some of the best third-party integrations with Alexa, including why they're important, and how you can try them out without splashing out any cash in the first place.

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Switchmate Review – The easiest IoT light upgrade ever

Switchmate Review – The easiest IoT light upgrade ever

If embracing the smart home has a common first step, it's often remotely-controlled lights, but that can be an expensive, time-consuming, or technical upgrade. Wireless bulbs switch out for their dumb cousins, but equipping every lamp can get expensive; swapping dumb wall switches for wireless versions looks clean but requires screwdrivers and dealing with mains electricity, not to mention potentially incurring landlord wrath. Step forward Switchmate, then, with an alternative that's up and running in mere minutes.

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Apple’s rumored Echo rival might be watching you, too

Apple’s rumored Echo rival might be watching you, too

Apple is rumored to be creating an Amazon Echo-like device that will go beyond recognizing your voice - it'll recognize your face, as well. The base device would not be unlike what Google just revealed at Google I/O this past week - save the ability to see you. It's been suggested by anonymous sources that Apple is testing this device's ability to recognize your face for a variety of functions - one of which would almost certainly be logging in to the system in the first place.

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A new Apple TV could be supercharged Siri’s attack on Alexa

A new Apple TV could be supercharged Siri’s attack on Alexa

Apple's answer to Amazon's Echo and Google Home may come in the form of an updated Apple TV, insiders claim, packaging a supercharged Siri in the set-top box. The project to upgrade Siri and turn the virtual assistant into a helper for the whole home had previously been tipped to come in an all-new piece of hardware, but new rumors say Apple has discounted that idea.

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Mi Cube is Xiaomi’s $10 smart wonder device

Mi Cube is Xiaomi’s $10 smart wonder device

Today Xiaomi have introduced a device by the name of Mi Cube Controller. This tiny cube device can be used for many things, and we want it. We want a bunch of them. This little thing is a 5cm square cube, right around the size of a Polaroid Cube, containing sensors that allow 6 different kinds of controls. These include 90-degree flip, 180-degree flip, "double knock", Rotate, Nudge, and Shake.

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iDevices Socket gives incandescent bulbs an IoT upgrade

iDevices Socket gives incandescent bulbs an IoT upgrade

Upgrading existing lights to connected versions usually means choosing between fancy LED bulbs and those you already have, but iDevices is pitching a way to keep both. The new iDevices Socket screws into a regular bayonet light socket - whether a ceiling fixture, standalone lamp, or wall sconce - and has a ring of multicolor LEDs for mood lighting; however, you can also add your choice of existing bulb.

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Gululu revives that Tamagotchi life in a smart water bottle

Gululu revives that Tamagotchi life in a smart water bottle

There's a virtual pet living inside the water bottle we've been using over the past week. Made for children, they say, and "playful adults", Gululu contains your water and encourages you to drink said water. You'll interact with a digital cartoon pet via two touch-sensitive strips on the bottle's sides while the bottle reports how much water is being consumed to whichever smartphone or tablet it's wirelessly attached to. This water bottle connects to the internet.

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Molekule purifier promises clean air Tesla would be jealous of

Molekule purifier promises clean air Tesla would be jealous of

Here's something shocking that you might not realize, just try not to gasp when I tell you: the air in your home or office can be up to five times as polluted than the air outside. Chemicals off-gassed from product manufacture, smog from cars and trucks, and bacteria and viruses all get trapped inside; ironically, better insulation means 21st century buildings are doing a fantastic job at keeping us surrounded by those pollutants whenever we're indoors.

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The Google Assistant is the natural language AI sci-fi promised us

The Google Assistant is the natural language AI sci-fi promised us

"We think of [The Google Assistant] as an ambient experience," said Google CEO Sundar Pichai. This is the link that makes Google's smart search brain attach to all of your devices, making your Google experience connected. The Google Assistant is not an app, it's an idea - it's a concept. It's what ties Google's smart experience together, on all devices. This is the brand that's attached to the experience that's basically already in place on the devices you've got in your pocket today.

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Alexa-powered Amazon “Knight” tablet said to be in the works

Alexa-powered Amazon “Knight” tablet said to be in the works

On the heels of news about Google's attempt to one up Amazon's Echo with a "Home" of its own, there is now word that Amazon is also preparing for war. Amazon might soon turn the tables on Google, who mostly reigns in the mobile market, by putting out a new kind of tablet. Codenamed "Knight", this tablet will differentiate itself from Amazon's existing Fire tablet line by being focused around its smart assistant, Alexa. While more portable than other Alexa devices, this tablet is pretty much part of Amazon's agenda to take over your entire, presumably smart, home.

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Sony’s Xperia AI reinvention puts Alexa in the crosshairs

Sony’s Xperia AI reinvention puts Alexa in the crosshairs

Sony has set its sights on the "evolution of communication", and it's not content to let Google, Amazon, and Apple hog the spotlight in AI. The company may have a patchy track-record with its Xperia range of phones and tablets over the past few years, but with the rebooting of its mobile business in 2016 and a more ambitious strategy centered on smart products with more unusual form-factors and functions, it could well be time to take Sony seriously again.

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