Home Automation

Amazon Alexa finally gets a male voice and an additional name

Amazon Alexa finally gets a male voice and an additional name

Voice-controlled AI-powered assistants are pretty smart these days, but they didn't exactly start out that way. They weren't particularly smart about the way they sounded, at least not in the beginning. Almost all of these smart assistants, regardless of company or name, started out with a female voice before finally allowing users to pick from a variety of voices. The lone holdout among the major AI assistants is Alexa, but Amazon is finally letting users pick a male-sounding voice, eight years after the assistant debuted.

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Samsung SmartThings Energy can monitor your power consumption

Samsung SmartThings Energy can monitor your power consumption

Global conditions seem to be conspiring to make us use up more energy these days. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to stay at home, consuming more electricity to while away the days. Unusual and extreme weather conditions are also forcing many to fire up their heating or air conditioning more often than usual. In addition to increasing power consumption and carbon footprint, these scenarios also result increased electricity bills. In light of that, Samsung's new SmartThings Energy service wants to help customers reduce their expenses, and it starts by simply knowing how much energy you're using in the first place.

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Nest Hello Quiet Time and Quick Responses are coming to Google Home

Nest Hello Quiet Time and Quick Responses are coming to Google Home

Google's acquisition of Nest and eventual migration of brands and accounts unsurprisingly met with some pushback. In addition to privacy concerns, there were some issues when moving from Nest's own platform to Google's. One pain point, in particular, revolved around features in the Nest app that haven't made their way yet to Google Home. Fortunately, it seems that Google is indeed working on resolving that problem, and an upcoming version of the Google Home app could see the arrival of two old Nest Hello features to the new app.

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HomePod audio OS 15 beta reportedly causes overheating and damage

HomePod audio OS 15 beta reportedly causes overheating and damage

Beta software is labeled "beta" for a reason. They are often distributed only to people willing to test software for bugs and are willing to take the risk using potentially unstable software. Of course, some beta versions are in a better state than others but that doesn't remove the chance of a bad release wreaking havoc on devices. That is the unfortunate reality that owners of some HomePods are now facing after what they claim to be a rather buggy HomePod Software 15 beta caused smart speakers to overheat and, in some cases, fry the logic board beyond repair.

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Google Nest products to get five years of security updates

Google Nest products to get five years of security updates

Smart home products are getting more common and more accessible, but, as recent events prove, they are far from being the completely reliable and trustworthy parts of our lives that ads and videos would have us believe. Part of that relies on companies and agents on the remote side acting more responsibly in their ability to control these devices from afar. Another part of that formula, however, also depends on manufacturers ensuring the security and privacy of their products and customers, something that Google's Nest is promising to do better.

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IoT has a long ways to go to be trustworthy

IoT has a long ways to go to be trustworthy

The smart homes and cities of the future are often painted as places full of transparent touch screens, voice-controlled assistants, and robots that can often predict what we need before we even ask. Unfortunately, what these advertisements and marketing materials don't always show is who is really in control of these future worlds.

Sure, most of these videos or images show regular people like you and me as the main actors, but it is really the companies that run the services and networks behind the scenes that are really in control, and it's going to take a long while before we can and should completely trust these systems with our safety and our lives.

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Wyze Lock Google Home integration is now rolling out

Wyze Lock Google Home integration is now rolling out

There has been an explosion in smart home appliances in the past years but the most common kind has been smart lighting and smart locks. The latter has sometimes proven to be a bit controversial, considering their security implications. Wyze's smart lock, however, has been criticized for a different flaw, one that prevented it from connecting to Google's nearly ubiquitous smart home platform. That has finally changed, however, and the Wyze Lock now finally speaks Google Home's language so that you can lock or unlock your door with the power of your voice.

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Level Lock offers doors a more affordable secret smart lock upgrade

Level Lock offers doors a more affordable secret smart lock upgrade

Super-surreptious smart lock company Level has revealed its third product, and the new Level Lock continues the tradition of hiding its connected security features. Unlike other smart locks, which typically have outsized control panels, battery enclosures, or other mechanisms, Level's system manages to squeeze all that into something which looks at first glance like a regular, mechanical lock.

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Apple HomePod is no longer available, but owners need not worry

Apple HomePod is no longer available, but owners need not worry

Devices come and go, no matter how popular or how loved. Sometimes older devices are replaced by newer models, but there are also times when they are completely retired instead. The latter is the case for the first Apple smart speaker, the much-delayed HomePod that the company announced would be discontinued. Supplies of the full-sized speaker have finally gone out of stock but, while it can no longer be purchased from direct channels, nothing really changes for those who already own one, at least not yet.

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SmartThings app gets an overhaul to better tame the smart home

SmartThings app gets an overhaul to better tame the smart home

Samsung has launched its latest generation of SmartThings, with the smart home and connected devices platform promising to make automations easier and actions more stable. The revamped SmartThings gets a new interface, too, following Samsung's release of a version of the app for Windows.

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Nest smart displays to get Google Duplex support, Guest Mode upgrade

Nest smart displays to get Google Duplex support, Guest Mode upgrade

Google Assistant has always revolved around voice interactions but Google was able to give it a face in the form of smart displays. Now falling under the Nest smart home brand, Google has provided some visual feedback to augment Google Assistant's capabilities in your house. Not all smart Assistant features are available yet on those smart displays, however, and one upcoming addition will make booking tables at restaurants a breeze. At least when Google Duplex does finally arrive on the Nest Hub Max and its kin.

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Philips Hue 4.0 app adds Automations and faster smart lighting control

Philips Hue 4.0 app adds Automations and faster smart lighting control

Philips Hue is getting a new app, and with the fourth-generation there's an increased focus on automation along with easier control to multiple bulbs, lamps, and bridges. It's been a long time since Hue first launched in 2012, and since then the range of lights has increased considerably - along with the expectations of how intelligently those lights act in the home.

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