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Home Tech

Is Packaged Entertainment Media Really on the Way Out?

As home video viewing patterns continue to evolve, one common prediction is that packaged media is on its last legs. Streaming services have been gaining market share. In fact, streaming media sales eclipsed sales of DVDs and Blu-ray discs for the first time in Q4 2016 — with discs accounting for $5.4 billion in annual U.S. sales compared to the $6.2 billion haul for SVOD providers.

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Home Tech

Alexa, Cortana Become New BFFs

Microsoft and Amazon this week announced a deal that will let their voice-controlled digital assistants, Cortana and Alexa, engage in cross-platform communications. Microsoft customers will be able to access Alexa voice commands by saying “Cortana, open Alexa” on any device that supports Cortana, which is available on millions of desktops, laptops, tablets and other devices.

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Home Tech

The Smart Home Appliance and You

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.

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Home Tech

Amazon Adds Show to Echo’s Tell

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.

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Home Tech

Crowd Forms on Alexa Bandwagon

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.

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Home Tech

Google: There’s No Hub Like Home

Google on Tuesday officially launched Google Home, its long-awaited wireless hub. Google Home is an interactive personal assistant and entertainment center that takes full advantage of the company’s deep advantages in Web search, AI and machine learning. Google’s vision is to place a customized version of its Google Assistant technology into the hands of every customer.

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Home Tech

Netgear’s Orbi WiFi Promises Strong Signal All Through the House

Netgear on Monday announced the Orbi WiFi System, designed to eliminate dead spots in smart homes. Orbi’s system “is similar to using a network extender, but Netgear has improved on this approach with a dedicated band for communication with the satellite devices,” explained Bill Ablondi, a research director at Strategy Analytics. The initial Orbi system will be available in September for $400.

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Home Tech

Nest Cam Braves the Great Outdoors

Nest has introduced an outdoor surveillance camera to complement its indoor Nest Cam. The Nest Cam Outdoor will go on sale this fall for $199. It is easy to mount on any outdoor surface, according to the company, and even has a magnetic base for attaching to gutters. The camera, which resembles a unit of track lighting, can capture 1080p video and has live-streaming and two-way audio capabilities.

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Home Tech

Plume Podifies Home WiFi

Plume last week introduced its eponymous self-optimizing WiFi system for the home.
Plume adapts in real life to the different network demands made by various devices and ensures that each gets the fastest speeds possible, according to the company.
The recommended setup is one pod per room and connecting space, such as a hallway, plus any cable or DSL modem or any modem/router combination.

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Home Tech

Devs Light Up for Alexa

Amazon last week announced the availability of more than 1,000 different skills for its Alexa voice assistant technology. Third-party developers have created the vast array of new capabilities for the highly popular line of consumer products that use Alexa, including the Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap and Amazon Fire. The announcement comes less than a year after Amazon released the Alexa Skills Kit.

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Home Tech

Zenbo Home Robot Pours on the Charm

Asus recently unveiled a family robot that can serve as a home healthcare assistant, control connected devices in the smart home, monitor security, perform various online tasks, and function as a playmate, among other things. Asus’ Zenbo made its debut at last month’s Computex computer show. At the same time, Asus launched a program that provides devs with access to the Zenbo SDK.

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Home Tech

Google Plots Home Invasion

Google CEO Sundar Pichai kicked off the company’s annual I/O developers conference on Wednesday with a keynote address that included previews of a batch of new products. Among those showcased were Google Assistant, a tool that can understand and respond to complex questions in real time; and Home, Google’s highly anticipated response to Amazon’s Echo speaker.

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Home Tech

Alexa Takes Up Residence in a Really Smart Fridge Magnet

Invoxia on Thursday announced that Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service has been integrated with its Triby digital assistants. The voice-activated unit is the first non-Amazon product to be Alexa-enabled. Triby, which has a magnetic frame, features a built-in speaker and microphone that can be used to listen to Internet radio or as a hands-free speakerphone, but its main function is to act as a digital assistant.

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Home Tech

Home Alone? Now Nest Can Tell

Nest on Thursday announced two new features, Family Accounts and Home/Away Assist. Family Accounts would let up to 10 people access the Nest products in a connected home from their Android or iOS devices. Home/Away Assist was designed to track the patterns of household members, utilizing learning algorithms and activity sensors that are built into products such as the Nest Learning Thermostat.

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Home Tech

Sony Builds Smart Home Hub Into Ceiling Light

Sony this week announced its Multifunctional Light, a ceiling lamp that’s kitted out with sensors to talk to smart things. It includes sensors for motion, illumination, temperature and humidity. There’s also WiFi radio, a memory card slot, a condenser microphone, and an infrared controller for air conditioners. The lamp form factor offers convenient placement, said a Sony Electronics spokesperson.

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Home Tech

New Smart Cam Can Distinguish Between Cats, Cat Burglars and Cars

Netatmo on Monday announced a smart security camera and floodlight combo at CES 2016. The Presence camera is designed for outdoor use and can identify objects such as people, animals and vehicles. The camera, which connects to a rectangular floodlight, can be customized to send alerts to a smartphone app or desktop browser based on what it sees and where it sees it.

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