June 25, 2019
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CES 2019 - page 20

Netatmo announces HomeKit doorbell that doesn’t require a subscription

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Netatmo is announcing its first new product following its acquisition by Legrand — and it’s a connected doorbell. The company says that it is the first Apple HomeKit compatible doorbell but other companies could still beat Netatmo by releasing their product sooner.

If you’ve been thinking about getting a connected doorbell, the main issue is that Ring, August and other brands require a subscription to store video footage and more advanced feature. Netatmo doesn’t want to get in the subscription business and lets you access all features without a subscription.

The doorbell is called the Netatmo Smart Video Doorbell — a very descriptive name that is going to work well in search engines. It requires a standard doorbell wire and connects to your Wi-Fi network. When somebody presses the button, you receive a notification on your phone and can view the video feed. You can press a button and talk to the person if you’re not home.

It also acts as an outdoor security camera by alerting you if somebody is in front of your house. You receive a “person detected” notification and can talk to the intruder. It also works in the dark using infrared. In other words, it can replace your Netatmo Presence security camera.

Video footage is stored on a microSD card on the device. The company never stores video on its servers, which is a big advantage if you care about privacy. You can optionally configure the device to automatically upload videos to your Dropbox account or a standard FTP server.

The doorbell is compatible with IFTTT and HomeKit. This way, you can view your camera from the Home app on your iPhone or Mac and you can create chained events. For instance, you can turn on your Philips Hue lights if somebody is detected outside your home.

The device will be available at some point during the second half of 2019. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet.

Sphero’s Specdrums music kit ships January 15

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Over the summer, Sphero acquired Colorado-educational music startup, Specdrums. The news arrived at a transitional time for the company, which was undergoing substantial growing pains as its line of licensed Disney products failed to catch fire.

Today at CES, the Boulder-based company is finally ready to share the first fruits of that acqusition. After debuting tonight in Vegas, the relaunched Specdrums will be available from Sphero’s site, starting tomorrow.

The kit is designed to teach kids how to play the drums and pick up some STEM learning in the process. It ships with one or two silicon rings ($65 or $100, respectively), with utilize motion and color sensors to create different sounds on various surfaces. They communicate with an app via Bluetooth and can also be interface with MIDI systems.

As for how the music toy/tool teaches STEM/STEAM, here’s Sphero,

“Educators can build a fully integrated tech- to-classroom experience through both STEM and fine arts fundamentals. Research has shown that students who have access to the arts in school have better attendance and improved academic outcomes. Meanwhile, arts and music education has experienced severe budget cuts in schools across the nation. With Specdrums, Sphero will be able to reach even more classrooms across the world to help teachers engage students effectively through hands-on music and STEAM tools.”

The system starts shipping January 19. It will be interesting to see how it ultimately plays into the company’s broader pivot from Star Wats robots to an all education focus.

LG’s capsule-based beer maker will test your patience

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LG unveiled the LG HomeBrew a few weeks ahead of CES. I’ve seen the device today, and it looks like a gigantic, inconvenient machine.

It’s hard to grasp the size of the device based on photos, but it’s as big as a full-size espresso machine. You’ll need a big counter in your kitchen. But that’s not the issue.

The system uses a set of capsules. There’s a big tube-shaped malt capsule and three tiny Nespresso-shaped capsules for yeast, hop oil and flavoring. All these capsules come in a single box every time you want to start a new batch. But the capsules are not the issue either.

The main issue is that it takes two weeks to brew your beer once you’ve started the process. At the end, you get 5 liters of beer, or around 10 pints. Once you’re done, you need to replace the capsules and wait another two weeks.

Unlike traditional home brewing methods, you can’t start another batch while the machine is still brewing. So you’ll be out of beer quite regularly. Sure, you can buy two machines. Maybe LG should have designed a rackable system so that you can stack them up. But that defeats the purpose of an all-in-once, self-cleaning machine.

It’s unclear how much the machine and capsules are going to cost and if beer tastes any good. We couldn’t try the beer. There will be five different tastes — American IPA, American Pale Ale, English Stout, Belgian-style Witbier and Czech Pilsner.

ASUS drops a combo Alexa router/smart speaker for $220

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ASUS just announced the first — but surely not the last — combination router/Alexa smart speaker of the show. The Lyra Voice is a pretty decent looking thing — covered in the sort of fabric design that’s become all rage with smart speakers like the Google Home and the latest iteration of the Echo.

In fact, the product looks a lot more like a speaker than router, with cones one opposite ends of the oblong device. There’s a pair of eight-watt speakers, which can be used to play music via bluetooth or for your standard Alexa commands.

The device features the company’s proprietary AiMesh technology, meaning you can pair it with other ASUS Lyra devices to take care of dead spots in your home. Of course, at $220, it’s a bit more than other systems mesh systems — though this one’s doing double duty.

It’s an interesting emerging category. ASUS certainly isn’t the first company to bring a combo router/smart speaker to the market — Netgear beat the company to it by a couple of months with the Orbi. But it’s a hybrid product that makes sense for those who want an Alexa product in every room of the home.

The Lyra Voice hits retail later this month.

Samsung’s Space Monitor is practical and minimal

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Samsung always has a huge presence at CES, but it isn’t the giant TVs and flashy next-generation gadgets that have my attention this year; it’s this simple, flexible monitor that looks like it would be right at home in any workspace. It’s called the Space Monitor, presumably because it gives you space, not because it’s meant for use in space. I don’t see why you couldn’t, though.

What the Space Monitor does is very simple: it clamps to your desk and sits straight up from the edge — up against the wall if there is one — and takes up about as little space as it’s possible for a display to.

When you want to bring something closer, or lower, or just need to adjust the angle or whatever, the neck of the monitor lets you bring it down all the way to the level of your desk and tilt it up or down as well (though not side to side). Cables go up through the stand so you won’t see them at all.

Combined with very thin bezels on the sides (there’s a thicker, but still very reasonable one on the bottom) this makes for quite a minimal presence, and it could allow someone (like me) to shrink their workspace in some dimension or other. I like my Dell Ultrasharps, but if I was putting together a new desk situation, I’d probably look very hard at these Samsungs.

Sure, you could do a wall mount, but this is much easier and you don’t have to fiddle around with tools or load calculations. Just clamp it on there.

There are two models, a 27-inch QHD (2560×1440) model and a 32-inch 4K one (3840×2160); the latter costs $500, so the former will probably be a bit less. They use VA panels, which hopefully will be about as good as IPS, though of course not quite so good as OLED (though for that tech you’d have to add another zero to the price).

Only downside: 60 Hz maximum refresh rate. That’s a possible dealbreaker for some. But the specs also list a 4 ms response time, without explaining further. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood, but I asked Samsung to explain the discrepancy. The specs for the 27-inch display could also differ.

It feels nice to have a reason to visit the actual CES main halls this year. And of course, for the maximalists out there, I’ll also be sure to check out the mammoth new ultrawide:

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