smart home

I’ve given smart speakers as gifts before – I won’t do it again

I’ve given smart speakers as gifts before – I won’t do it again

Black Friday is coming but the holiday shopping season isn't waiting for its traditional kick-off, though while tech deals may be everywhere you look, there are some gadgets I won't be putting into my cart. Smart speakers and, more recently, smart displays have become a go-to gift for many over the past few years, but in 2019 they may not be quite so warmly received.

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Nest Hub, Nest Hub Max ultrasonic sensor changes the UI as you get closer

Nest Hub, Nest Hub Max ultrasonic sensor changes the UI as you get closer

The Google Hub, along with the Amazon Echo Show, kicked off a new breed of smart home devices that basically combined a smart speaker and a tablet. These smart displays offered visual information and controls but, by nature, really only worked when you touch them or speak to them. It seems that Google is now mixing it up a bit by giving the Nest Hub and the Nest Hub Max some very basic presence detection thanks to the ultrasonic sensors in the devices.

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August View video doorbell back up for sale after beleaguered launch

August View video doorbell back up for sale after beleaguered launch

It's been a strange year for the August View video doorbell. It launched early on in the year, at the beginning of April, but then a few weeks later August decided to halt sales of the device and start issuing refunds. At the time, the company blamed "performance challenges" in some environments, saying that it would have the doorbell back on sale once it smoothed out the issues.

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Nest Wifi Review – Mesh network with a side of Google Assistant

Nest Wifi Review – Mesh network with a side of Google Assistant

Google's Nest Wifi arrives as mesh networking is firmly embedding itself in the mainstream. Three years ago, Google Wifi surfed into homes at the bleeding edge of mesh, promising whole-home coverage with multiple interconnected routers filling in any dead spots. Now, Nest Wifi promises the same, only with fewer units and the addition of Google Assistant smart speaker functionality.

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IKEA smart home shortcut button spotted in FCC filing

IKEA smart home shortcut button spotted in FCC filing

IKEA is both famous and infamous in the way it has changed the furniture market or at least the expectations of some homeowners. But while some credit it for taking a more modern spin on furniture, it only recently started making some of its products smarter by jumping on the IoT bandwagon. But now that it has a few such smart home products under its belt, the company is looking into making sure they work well together. It's next step, apparently, is to make a smart shortcut button whose sole use is to start a custom-made scene.

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Galaxy Home Mini makes an appearance, bigger Galaxy Home still MIA

Galaxy Home Mini makes an appearance, bigger Galaxy Home still MIA

There have always been doubts about Bixby's long-term viability but Samsung seems pretty convinced it will always be part of its future. But while the AI-powered assistant continues to be present in some Samsung phones, those are the only places you'd find Bixby. These days, a smart assistant is almost always in need of a smart speaker and, once upon a time, Samsung promised one as well. That could still happen but the unexpected and silent presence of the Galaxy Home Mini might be a reminder not to hold our breaths for it.

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Samsung SmartThings is getting offline Rules support

Samsung SmartThings is getting offline Rules support

Samsung is hoping to give SmartThings, its connected home platform, a boost, adding new rules support and coaxing device-makers into adding compatibility. Announced at the Samsung Developer Conference 2019 today, the company's annual developer event, SmartThings' new Rules API promises to better link together multiple devices acting on a single command or trigger.

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IKEA Fyrtur smart blinds are finally and truly available in the US

IKEA Fyrtur smart blinds are finally and truly available in the US

IKEA is either popular or unpopular depending on who you ask. To some, it's overpriced while, for others, it is actually cheaper than equivalent products from other furniture makers. At least for some smart home enthusiasts, IKEA actually offers the only affordable alternative for a very specific and niche product: smart blinds. The IKEA SmartShades, specifically the Fyrtur, has been keeping fans and hopeful buyers in the US on the edge but, finally it seems that their long wait is finally over.

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Smaller NVIDIA SHIELD leaks: Which one is the better buy?

Smaller NVIDIA SHIELD leaks: Which one is the better buy?

Another leak today, on the exact same day as the leak as the first, we're seeing another NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV device on Newegg. The first leak was on Amazon, and now both leaks are plugged. The odds of this happening on the same day are a little too much to swallow... but here we are. Now we get to decide how likely it is that NVIDIA will release an Android TV device with little to no focus on its ability to play video games.

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Nest Aware subscription prices rebooted with new Google Home app

Nest Aware subscription prices rebooted with new Google Home app

Today the Nest Aware and Nest Aware Plus system was revealed - or re-revealed, depending on how you look at it - for smart home systems. This is Google's full home security system coverage subscription service for Google Home / Google Nest products. Google also revealed the Nest Mini today for $49 USD - making it pretty much a new Google Home Mini with a slightly different hardware package - just a TINY bit different.

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Amazon employees allegedly watch Cloud Cam clips to help train AI

Amazon employees allegedly watch Cloud Cam clips to help train AI

Amazon was the first reported to have been listening in on Alexa recorded speech for the sake of auditing them and improving the company's AI for the service. It turns out, it isn't just audio that the company is distributing to employees for that same purpose. Also fair game, it seems, are video recordings from the company's Cloud Cam and, given the visual nature of the content, is easily more identifiable and more problematic as far as keeping owners' identities private.

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Google Assistant can sound more fly with Issa Rae voice

Google Assistant can sound more fly with Issa Rae voice

Smart assistants have arguably become the centerpiece, figuratively and literally, of some people's modern lives but the way we've approached them causally belies the complexity of behind the voice technology they employ. That goes not only for voice and speech recognition but even for the voices that talk back to us in different tones and genders. Those voices have come a long from the robotic tones of their ancestors but some users would probably still prefer if these voices had some personality. And when it comes to personality, few are probably more qualified than celebrities like actress and writer Issa Rae who, surprise surprise, is making a cameo as a Google Assistant voice.

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