It's January 17, 2020-- the world has yet to change; Wuhan locks down six days later -- and Emil Jimenez is on a train from Vienna to Prague. "She's like, 'Daddy,' y'know, 'what is this?'" Jimenez tells me on a video call from the Czech Republic. Jimenez tells her it's Siri, and encourages her to talk to the digital assistant. Her first question is if Siri has a mother. From there, she peppers the artificial intelligence with the kinds of questions kids ask -- do you like ice cream?
Robots are taking over the world. Sure, you've heard that before. You even remember the Twilight Zone episode that warned us about it 60 years ago. One android recently published a novel. At Café X, in San Francisco, robot baristas make and serve coffee, and another California restaurant chain, Caliburger, is trying out a robot that can flip 2,000 burgers a day.
SAVE $20 WHEN YOU PRE-ORDER: Amazon will give you $20 off its new second-gen Echo Buds until May 12 (the day before their official release) -- get a pair with a USB-C charging case for just $99.99, or upgrade to the wireless charging version for just $119.99. Need some new earbuds, but not willing to wait for the new AirPods (which may or may not be coming later this year)? Amazon will basically pay you to take a chance on its freshly redesigned Echo Buds. Now until May 12 -- the day before they officially hit the market -- you'll get $20 off when you pre-order a pair of the second-gen Buds in either Black or the new Glacier White colorway. According to math, that brings the price of the version with a USB-C charging case down to just $99.99 and makes the wireless charging model only $119.99.
Voice control, using either Alexa or Google Assistant, is the U by Moen smart faucet's star attraction, but after testing this kitchen tool for several months, I've concluded that its gesture control feature is far more useful. Voice control is no gimmick, as you'll see when I dig all the things you can do with voice commands. But the tasks for which I use a faucet most often--washing my hands, rinsing dishes, filling a watering can for my houseplants, and the like--waving my hand over the faucet to start the flow of water, and again to stop it is all the technology I need. I love my handmade farmhouse sink, but it seriously complicates changing out the faucet. But that could be because I live in a rural area and draw my water from a well.
Google on Wednesday launched some new skills for Google Assistant, the AI-powered assistant found across devices. It's also encouraging Google Assistant users to set up "routines," which perform multiple actions with a single command. The most notable new Google Assistant skill is the ability to find your iPhone, even when the device is on silent or Do Not Disturb is enabled. The "find my phone" feature is already one of the most popular Google Assistant features. It works on Nest smart speakers and other smart displays. To use it to find your iPhone, you have to opt in to receiving notifications and critical alerts from the Google Home app.
Google is continuing to roll out new features for Assistant whenever a set of them becomes ready and today it's announcing a bunch of updates for Spring 2021. Given how much more we're ordering takeout and staying home, these revolve around simplifying the restaurant checkout process and making it easier to automate your smart home. Google's been using its Duplex AI technology to help it update restaurant business information in Maps, and back when we went out more, it also helped users make reservations over the phone. This week, Duplex will help you complete your payments when you're ordering via a restaurant's website. You'll need to first search for the eatery on the Google App on Android, tap "Order Online" and select your items.
Amazon's Echo Buds were successful in offering an AirPods alternative to people who prefer Alexa to Siri. Hands-free access to the assistant worked well, the earbuds were affordable at $130 and the company offered a decent amount of customization. However, the first-gen model didn't sound great, battery life was short and Bose-powered Active Noise Reduction (ANR) wasn't as powerful as true active noise cancellation (ANC). Today, Amazon is introducing a redesigned second-gen version of the Echo Buds that are cheaper, smaller and address all the key flaws from the initial release. The main feature of the all-new Echo Buds is still hands-free access to Alexa.
While this week was peppered with limited-time sales, there remain a number of discounted gadgets available today. Apple's MacBook Pro M1 returned to its all-time-low price of $950 and the new, swiveling Echo Show 10 received its first discount since debuting in February. Amazon knocked down the prices of its Fire tablets, too, including the Fire HD 10, which is still $55 off. Here are the best tech deals from this week that you can still get today. This is the base model with the new M1 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
Now's a good time to buy the Echo Show 10 if its usual asking price is off-putting. Amazon is selling its unique rotating smart display for $210, or $40 below the official sticker. This is the first discount we've seen for the new Echo Show 10, and substantial enough that it could be worthwhile if you like to have video calls in the kitchen or living room. If you don't need an expansive screen, you can also buy the alarm clock-oriented Echo Show 5 at a sale price of $50. The basic Echo Dot is down to $35, and the standard Echo has dropped to $80.
It was a good week to grab the latest Amazon Echo devices as many of them were discounted to near-record lows. The sale that started over the weekend continued and saw prices slashed on the latest Echo, Echo Show 5 and Echo Dot, among others. Apple's MacBook Pro M1 fell to its lowest price yet thanks to coupons that accompanied sale prices, and the Apple Watch SE remains on sale for $259. And through Sunday, Best Buy has a limited-time sale on a bunch of gear, including the latest Samsung smartphones, Surface tablets and OLED TVs. Here are the best tech deals from this week that you can still get today.