If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
It's difficult to think of 2018 as a year with anything worth celebrating. But despite all the bad news the year dealt us, there were successes -- if you know where to look. In all corners of tech, we saw wins big and small. There were advances in obvious categories like laptops, smartphones and the connected home, but we also looked outside the mainstream for some of the more surprising gems. Think mini synthesizers for music nerds, retro emulators for nostalgic gamers and e-readers for modern book snobs. Humanity also collectively triumphed, as our space exploration programs broke new frontiers this year and we began to confront the increasingly real question: Should we all just move to Mars? We're just two weeks away from what is hopefully a much better 12 months, and the Engadget team took some time to commemorate our favorite gadgets and trends in tech.
It's Cyber Monday, but many of the deals you're seeing today started on Black Friday. We've been adding and removing items from our categorized lists all weekend, and you should really check them out if you want to see all of the best tech deals today. We'll keep updating them till the bitter end. But below we wanted to highlight a few of the deals that are really impressing us. Whether you're treating yourself, or hunting for gifts, we think these devices will make anyone happy, and they're all on deep discount through the end of the day.
With the popularity of the Amazon Echo Show and the Google Lenovo Smart Display, Facebook decided to launch their own video calling system with the Facebook Portal, which is now on sale for $149.99 -- a $30 savings -- at Best Buy for Black Friday. Normally retailing for $199.99, the all-new Facebook smart display features a smart camera that can track and follow your movements without moving or shifting the display unit itself. You can now move around your home without worrying if the person on the other end can see you or not. Since the Portal is from Facebook, the device seamlessly integrates with your friends and family on the social network for video calling and messaging. The Facebook Portal even works with the Amazon Alexa, so now you have the best of Facebook and Amazon in one sleek and futuristic touchscreen display.
Need another smart speaker to consider for your holiday gift-giving? The LG smart display we spotted at CES is finally ready to go on sale complete with its 8-inch touch screen, Android Things platform with apps for Google Maps, Photos and YouTube plus Google Assistant-powered AI features. LG is touting the speakers and their Meridian Audio technology, which it hopes will make the $300 MSRP easier to swallow among all of that competition. That's more than the $200 8-inch Lenovo Smart Display that also runs Android Things and Google's own $150 Home Hub which does not, not to mention the various other options with Alexa, Siri, Facebook or Cortana onboard. It's even more than the $250 JBL Link View which similarly focuses on audio quality.
Google has unveiled its plan to put a smart device in every room of the home as part of its digital'ecosystem' that could be manipulated to eavesdrop on users. The tech giant's smart home concept, unveiled at a one-off event in San Francisco, showcased Google Assistant at its full potential. It combined speakers, smart plugs, voice controlled vacuums, smart displays and cameras throughout the house. Its digital ecosystem is designed to enable communication between rooms and family members - even if they are not at home. But experts are wary of the technology and have warned the gadgets have the potential to eavesdrop on confidential conversations in order to sell users new products.
Google on Wednesday announced a series of updates to Google Assistant, including an improvement to broadcast, one of the AI-powered assistant's most popular features. The new updates come ahead of the holiday shopping season, when Google's Assistant-enabled devices -- like the Google Home Hub -- will go toe-to-toe with Amazon Alexa-enabled devices. The broadcast feature lets you send a message from your phone to smart speakers and smart displays in your home. Now, the recipients of those messages can reply from a smart display or smart speaker, delivering a message back to your phone. The reply will trigger a notification on your phone, and the message will be transcribed.
As a "smart display" speaker, the Google Home Hub is essentially a Google Home Mini mashed together with a 7-inch touchscreen. It does all of the smart speaker stuff you expect from a Google Assistant-powered connected home device with voice (play music, control your smart home devices, tell you the news and weather, etc.) with the added bonus of having a screen to display information like maps and lyrics just like Lenovo's Smart Display. The Home Hub is a fine smart speaker, but it really shines most as a digital photo frame. It's 2018 and Google has not only revived one of the worst-conceived product categories ever with the $149 Home Hub, but made it so darn good, you'll want one badly. SEE ALSO: Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL review: Android's finest The ever-escalating game of cat and mouse between Google and Amazon for domination of your home continues to intensify.
New to the smart display fray: Google's Home Hub, which marries a small voice-activated Google Assistant speaker with a 7-inch display that you can tap and swipe. Unlike other smart displays, there is no front-facing camera on the Home Hub--a signal from Google that the Home Hub is safe and private enough to put in your bedroom or your bathroom. When you're not using it to watch YouTube or follow step-by-step recipes, the Home Hub will show a photo slideshow of curated artistic images, or photos from your Google Photos library. But if Google Assistant is already running your house like an invisible AI butler, then this is the best way to give the thing a face.
For one, it has all the smarts of the Google Assistant built into its interface, so you can ask it questions, play games, set reminders, broadcast messages, and access smart home controls with your voice. And with a 7-inch display, it's also much smaller than some of the other smart displays that have come out in recent months, so it fits into tight corners or on narrow countertops much better than its 8- or 10-inch counterparts. But it's the Home Hub's abilities as a digital photo frame that makes it so appealing to me. Digital photo frames were all the rage a decade ago, though they were often fussy to set up and maintain. You'd have to either tether it to your computer with a USB cable to transfer over files or load up an SD Card whenever you wanted to add or change the images on display.
Google isn't being stingy about its recently announced Home Hub features -- it's going to be available on all Assistant smart displays, regardless of manufacturer. But we assumed it would be awhile before we actually saw these features. However, the folks at 9to5Google noticed that Lenovo is rolling out multi-room audio, Live Albums from Google Photos, Nest Hello Doorbell, Home View and more to its Smart Display over the next few weeks. Multi-room audio adds your display to a speaker group and allows you to play music throughout your home, while Live Albums will automatically pick your best photos and display them. You can see who's at the door without having to ask thanks to Nest Hello Doorbell, and the handy Home View allows you to see all your smart home devices at once.