Remembering Blake

Dave Zatz —  August 11, 2016 — 2 Comments

While others are better suited to pen a remembrance, I too have fond memories of Blake Krikorian – who most know as the guy behind the Slingbox.

We first connected the summer of 2005 on AVS Forum… which is an unusual place to find a company CEO geeking out (and taking on trolls). I had a bone to pick since Windows XP Slingbox support wasn’t sufficient, given what I assumed (wink wink) was a potential customer base of folks in corporate settings running Windows 2000.

In October of 2005, shortly after this blog got going and well before Sling Media hired me, Blake agreed to hop on a call for a recorded interview. Being the least productive blogger ever and given the poor audio quality, I never ran the conversation. Not to mention his handlers probably wouldn’t have appreciated me airing much of our fun, frank, and wide-ranging 60 minute chat. However, the prescient clip below highlights Blake’s focus on the consumer experience and foreshadows Sling’s ultimate acquisition by Echostar that led to the DISH Hopper with Slingbox — and the industry’s “TV Everywhere” trajectory as a whole.

 

gopro-hero5

Earlier this week the eagerly anticipated, yet somewhat overdue, GoPro Hero 5 made its first prelaunch appearance… packing a new touchscreen. And today, via the FCC, multiple “Hero5 Black” filings have surfaced indicating the presence of WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS capabilities for video location tagging – a first for the line. While you’d think these hardware updates might increase the action cam’s bulk, the GoPro Hero5 is somewhat slimmer the the GoPro Hero 4 Black and about 30 grams lighter. Of course, the downside to the redesign is you’ll be on the hook for new accessories should you upgrade to the incoming flagship GoPro camera later this year.

Continue Reading…

philips-hue-motion-sensor-hero

Good news, folks! Motion sensing triggers will soon be available to further trick out our Philips Hue lighting installations, without complicating matters with yet another hub and ecosystem — like Smartthings. From the FCC submission, we glean the Philips Hue Motion Sensor (with ambient light sensor) is both battery-powered and Zigbee-endowed. While we’d typically expect an accessory like this to be fueled by a watch battery, an overseas retailer Alza indicates a pair of common AAA batteries will be required — conceivably reinforcing what looks to be a 2×2″ profile. Further, the description indicates a 100 degree field of view over 5 meters. And, if we use their pricing as a guide, we should expect the Hue Motion Sensor to land somewhere in the $40-60 range when it hits within the next few weeks. Continue Reading…

dish-voice-remote

DISH Hopper and Joey owners can now pick up a voice-controlled remote for $30. While we’ve yet to test its capabilities, voice interaction appears to be a highly successful initiative for Comcast and it’s certainly something I’ve periodically appreciated on Roku or Fire TV (and something we continue to wait on with TiVo).

Roughly half the size of a traditional remote control, Voice Remote fits in the palm of the user’s hand, much like a smartphone. DISH designed the remote to interpret natural language, populating search results based on program title, actor or genre, and building contextual searches to narrow options, as desired. It also utilizes voice commands to control basic functions of the receiver, including recording and changing channels.

Beyond the spoken word, DISH also appears to take the historically limited and fussy remote touchpad to the next level by hiding optionally illuminated numbers under its clickable surface. The backlit remote also conveniently includes IR to control your television and provides a remote finder feature.

nest-cam-outdoorAfter months of corporate drama, Nest attempts to reboot the conversation with their latest innovation — a $200 weatherproof, outdoor camera that the company expects to ship this fall.

While it’s not entirely fair to pass judgement on a product that hasn’t yet been released, there’s no way I’ll be purchasing one. And, no, it’s not the $10 monthly fee for continuous recording and supposedly smart alerts. It’s the 25′ of power cable you need to screw into your siding. I do recognize Nest’s approach is designed to accommodate a large percent of households unwilling or unable to hardwire and their technical implementation isn’t exactly battery-friendly. Regardless, it just doesn’t work for me.

With that in mind, here are some similarly priced alternatives that solve this problem with a more sophisticated approach:

Kuna
Kuna replaces an entrance light (in three different styles) and cleverly integrates a positional camera into the casing.

Ring
Ring replaces or augments a doorbell and can be either hardwired or rely on a rechargable USB-powered battery.

Arlo
My personal favorite is Netgear’s battery-powered, magnetically mounted camera. Unlike Ring, there is an added expense in replacing the cells every few months. However, the generous free tier of service largely makes up for it.

prime-phones

After the debacle that was the Fire Phone, Amazon is back in the smartphone business with what appears to be a winning strategy. Instead of developing their own devices, at significant expense, Amazon is partnering with manufacturers to replicate their Kindle and Fire tablet ad-serving, subsidized-hardware approach in addition to pre-loading the companies commerce and consumption apps. So they end up with a similar sort of footprint in this space from a far smaller investment. And, on the flip side, their smartphone partners (initially Blu and Motorola) secure a new and potentially meaningful distribution channel. The only potential fly in the ointment is they’ve started with low- to mid-end devices and it’s unclear (to the casual observer) what the “Prime” demographic might prefer. Amazon’s intent is, likely, also to expand Prime’s reach by making these phones exclusive to the $99/yr program.

With Apple presenting Sling TV at WWDC this week, it’s safe to say their Apple TV television service remains on hold. Unfortunately, Sling TV still features a problematic interface and doesn’t provide access to “the locals” — like NBC and CBS. Further, while Sony’s PS Vue does include broadcast networks (in some regions) and a 28-day DVR, that service is currently limited to Playstation and Amazon Fire TV hardware. Well, today, Tablo has made good on their CES promise to deliver both live and recorded DVR television to Apple TV.

As a refresher, Tablo is something of a roll-your-own DVR. It’s a small headless box (starting at ~$200, plus service), featuring 2-4 tuners, that you attach a hard drive and an antenna to — with streamers like Roku, Fire TV, and Nvidia Shield delivering the video to your television. Of course, you can also view and manage Tablo from smartphones and tablets. Continue Reading…

logitech-alexa

Despite some hopeful announcements, Apple HomeKit continues to limp along. And many have turned to Amazon as the voice-controlled switchboard of their smart homes. Indeed, after originally unloading two Echoes as a novelty, I’m back on board with one Echo and an Amazon Dot — happily barking commands at Alexa. Amazon’s platform is far more inclusive, interoperating with just about anything, sometimes with help from IFTTT, without Apple’s onerous hardware encryption requirement — although endpoints aren’t vetted for security and Amazon is perhaps more ripe for (verbal) abuse, the possibilities seem endless and it’s oh-so-convenient. Next up to the mound is Logitech, who’s working on native Harmony support to start and stop Activities without picking up that remote control or smarthphone.

Logitech is beta testing Harmony remote control integration with Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Tap. With this integration, Harmony remote control users will be able to start and stop Harmony Activities using Alexa voice commands. If you own an Echo, we’re looking for people like you try out this new integration and provide feedback on their experience prior to full public release.