Welcome to the smart speaker power war

Popular Science

By now, we've become accustomed to smart speakers shaped vaguely like cans. The original Google Home, the upcoming Apple HomePod, the Amazon Echo and Echo Plus, the UE Blast, the Harmon Kardon Invoke, and a whole pile of others all opt for life as a cylinder. The Google Home Max, however, looks like a traditional speaker, and that leaves lots of room inside for sonic power. The $400 Google Home Max does everything you'd expect a typical Google Home device to do, like tell you the weather, play trivia games, control smart home devices, and of course, sync up to music services like Spotify and Pandora. The Max is roughly the size of a large bread--not the wimpy Wonder Bread from the super market, but a hearty loaf from the farmer's market.

10 fun things you didn't know the Amazon Echo Show could do


The Echo Show is the first of Amazon's Alexa-enabled devices to feature a screen, and to be honest, it's pretty darn cool. While the Show may be the most expensive* of the Echo lineup, ringing in at $229.99, it includes a slew of features and skills you can't get from the other Echo devices, thanks to the 7-inch touchscreen and camera. So why would you want to choose the more expensive Show over the new Echo ($99.99) or the more affordable Dot (on sale for $29.99)? There are several Show-specific skills that are both fun and functional. From watching HD movie trailers to making video calls, these are our picks for the top 10 skills you definitely need to try with your Amazon Echo Show.

Learn how to program for machine learning with Amazon's new Deeplens camera


It may look like a mild-mannered home security camera, but Amazon's AWS DeepLens is anything but. Announced today at the AWS re:Invent 2017 conference, the $249 (£185/AU$330 converted) DeepLens video camera is designed to help train developers in deep learning programming techniques. April 14, 2018, is the projected date of availability on, Deep learning has become a catch-all term for the AI smarts that dominate today's smart home. It's what fuels Amazon's Alexa-enabled speakers, what makes them able to differentiate among various voices, and what makes facial recognition cameras able to distinguish you from your neighbor.

LG, Naver team up for ThinQ Hub AI speaker


LG Electronics' AI speaker, ThinQ Hub, will be powered by Naver's Clova AI platform, the companies have said. ThinQ Hub comes with LG's own AI platform but owners can get Clova through a firmware update. The speaker, makes up part of LG's SmartThinQ smart home line-up, was designed to control and monitor LG-made home appliances. LG opened up the platform's API to developers last month. Despite having its own AI installed, LG likely teamed up with Naver to get the latter's streaming music service, which is the most popular service for AI speaker owners.

Kakao AI speaker begins official sales


Kakao has begun official sales of its Kakao Mini AI speaker, the company said. The speaker goes up for sale on Kakao's gift market, available on its chat app KakaoTalk. The speaker costs 119,000 won ($107), but subscribers to Kakao's music streaming service Melon can get it for 49,000 won ($44). Kakao said Kakao Mini will understand the context to answer queries and will sync with Melon's database to suggest music. The compnay will add other services to the speaker at a later date, including translations, ordering food, and calling cabs -- all of which are all services Kakao provides on mobile.

Interactive fiction for smart speakers is the BBC's latest experiment


Smart home speakers have quickly become the hot gadget people didn't know they wanted. They can answer your movie trivia questions, call a cab, turn your heating on and do your shopping for you. They're gaining new features every day, but are more than just a utility product. These speakers are a ripe platform for all kinds of screen-free entertainment, and I'm not just talking about streaming a Spotify playlist. Earplay is a popular Alexa skill that tells interactive stories, for example, and never one to be late to a fledgling medium, the BBC has taken note.

IoT weekly round-up: Thursday 21st September 2017


This week, the connected world brings artificial intelligence and augmented reality to medicine, robots have a go at music making and Matternet's autonomous drones ditch their human minders and successfully refuel themselves. Autonomous drone delivery service Matternet has developed an automated base station where drones can refuel and swap payloads by themselves. There's no human involvement at all – instead, packages ready for pick-up carry a QR code detailing their destinations, and are collected from a drawer on the Matternet Station by the drones. The startup has been transporting blood and pathology samples to labs in an effort to start commercializing its technology. Computer-assisted surgery has a new player in town: an augmented reality headset specifically designed for surgeons performing spinal surgery.

Sonos One smart speaker review: Sonos and Alexa, a match made in heaven


Sonos has multi-room audio down to a science, but it desperately needed a speaker capable of voice recognition if it was to fend off the veritable flood of smart speakers coming to market. The Sonos One is that speaker. It sounds better than the last entry-level Sonos speaker, it's compatible with Amazon's Alexa digital assistant, and it will be compatible with Google Assistant soon. It's a great speaker for the price, and it's a must-have component for music lovers living in modern smart homes. If you already have Sonos speakers in other rooms, you can control all of them with voice commands with the addition of a single Sonos One to your network.

The Google Home Max takes aim at Sonos speakers with big sound and dynamic AI smarts


It also pulled the Mini's antithesis out of its sleeve: the Google Home Max, a bigger, louder smart home speaker that takes direct aim at Sonos's popular audio gear on the very same day that Sonos revealed a smart speaker of its own. The Google Home Max includes a new feature dubbed Smart Sound, which taps into Google's machine learning expertise to tailor the audio experience to your tastes--and even your physical surroundings. Smart Sound will dynamically adjust the Google Home Max's audio output based on its physical surroundings; if you move it from a crowded corner spot to an open kitchen counter, the speaker will automatically change how it sounds for optimal audio quality. Over time, Google's AI will learn context about your home and adjust sound based on that, too.

Last week in tech: Alexa, tell me about all the gadget news I missed

Popular Science

Amazon gave the Echo smart speaker lineup a near-total refresh last week. Taking the place of the old $179 Echo are two new devices: an adorably small $99 Echo speaker, and a $150 Echo Plus--which has bigger speakers and more advanced smart home controls. The $129 Echo Spot comes with a small, round screen and a camera for making video calls. You don't need to buy a new Echo to get the speaker's best new feature, though.