Google has finally joined the doorbell camera fray with the Nest Hello. First introduced way back in September, they’ve met their first quarter target as the $229 units are now available at a variety of retailers, including select Home Depot and Fry’s… although the official street date is supposedly tomorrow, March 15th. I find Nest camera hardware and service pricey, compared to much of the competition and for similar functionality (with continuous recording something of a deficit in my estimation), so I’m awaiting Adam’s thoughts when he (temporarily?) swaps his Ring Pro, as I have no intention of making a purchase.

While core FiOS TV visuals have languished, amidst at least one possibly jettisoned reboot, they’ve continued to expand functionality … and introduced an Alexa skill just a few weeks back to enable DVR voice control.

With Fios TV and Amazon Alexa, you can enjoy easy, hands-free voice control over your TV.You can tell Alexa what you want to watch, search for TV shows, movies, and actors from the guide and Video On Demand catalog. Use your voice to pause, play, fast-forward, or rewind.

Alexa integration requires internet-connected Fios Multi-Room DVR Enhanced or Premium service and is compatible with all Echo devices including: Echo Plus, Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Spot, or Echo Show.

Verizon may be new to Alexa, but they first implemented app-based voice control nearly two years ago – which isn’t as convenient as a somewhat ubiquitous and always-listening device. Initial FiOS skill reviews are mixed, as they often are at launch, but will hopefully improve over time. And, hey, at least they beat TiVo to market?

Sure enough, as leaked back in January, AirTV OTA DVR capabilities have been enabled to record antenna network television shows – think. The feature is currently available, in beta form, to original AirTV Player hardware … vs AirTV placeshifting hardware, which may receive support in the near future.

AirTV began rolling out a free open beta test of its new “Local Channels DVR” for AirTV Player customers. The Local Channels DVR requires an external storage device to record free over-the-air (OTA) channels (like ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC) received via an OTA antenna and AirTV Adapter. The new feature joins Sling TV’s in-app Cloud DVR and gives users access to recorded OTA programming alongside recorded OTT content.

AirTV, a sister subsidiary of Sling TV under satellite television provider DISH, lays out all sorts of beta caveats here – along with several USB drive recommendations, ranging from 64GB to 1TB of storage. So the good news is the clever service is free, at least for the moment, and the hardware is affordable at about $100. However, it is early days here and I don’t imagine the DVR functionality compares to Tablo and TiVo’s years of experience and (tuner counts).

According to Buzzfeed, tomorrow YouTube TV will expand it’s over-the-top television service to include Turner channels — and, beyond the requisite CNN, basketball fans can now call YouTube TV home with the addition of TBS and TNT. But, wait, there’s more — NBA League Pass will be available as an add-on. Less interesting, to me anyway, is the inclusion of original YouTube Red content. I get YouTube needs to pump their own stuff, but hopefully they’re continuing to work top-shelf programming deals and will be able to soon offer Scripps channels of HGTV, Food, and Travel. Given the incoming $5 price hike from $35 to $40, let’s hope so. In any event, YouTube TV remains one of the more interesting and compelling OTT aggregators given a generous 6 accounts and unlimited DVR capacity.

While we often ignore or outright bypass commercial interruption, TiVo recognizes the Super Bowl is different and has flipped the script by inverting its ad-skipping technology:

Everyone knows that this Sunday’s commercials are some of the best, highest quality commercials of the year. So, we’re going to tag the game backwards, with the commercials and the halftime show marked as if it were the program, and the game marked as if it was the commercial. As usual, the SKIP function will not show up until after the game has finished. But, once the green SKIP icon shows up next to your recording of the game, you can watch the recording and use the SKIP or D button to jump to the commercial segments quickly. […] This “GameSkip” functionality should work for all TiVo boxes that have SKIP enabled today.

So this is a pretty cool “experiment” (that’s sure to confuse many who didn’t get the inversion memo), but not without technical challenges given potential inaccuracy in closed captioning and other meta data, along with potential trip-ups due to regional advertising spots. Fortunately, all the best Super Bowl commercials ultimately wind up on YouTube (often saddled with additional advertising, yay). What time is the Super Bowl?

As the regulars know, I’ve been a huge proponent of Arlo wire-free cameras. And, since hopping on early, Netgear’s continued to expand the ecosystem by incorporating indoor cameras, cellular cameras, a variety of accessories, and home automation integrations… including Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit. So it wasn’t a huge surprise last fall when the company signaled full-on smart home hardware intentions by announcing the Arlo Security Light.

At the time, there wasn’t a lot of the detail. Now, from the recently published Amazon pre-order page, we learn an Arlo light two-pack will set you back $250 and a variety of product performance elements were reiterated: Continue Reading…

Sonos Takes On Apple Homepod

Dave Zatz —  January 26, 2018 — 8 Comments

The delayed and seemingly incomplete, or at least limited and locked-in, Apple HomePod has arrived… for pre-order, anyway.

Digital Trends reports that the new $349 connected speaker’s sound really shines, besting all comers in fact. But, to fully appreciate Siri’s soundtrack, one must also subscribe to Apple Music. On the flip side, connected speaker pioneer Sonos recently integrated Amazon’s more adept Alexa voice control with Google Assistant waiting in the wings. Further, given 80 linked services, Sonos natively streams just about everything… including the aforementioned Apple Music. So while a single Homepod may sound better, Sonos is generating some well deserved publicity by offering up two Play One speakers (in black or white) for the price of a single Apple speaker (also in black, err space grey, or white) – essentially a limited time $50 discount.

Personally, having cycled through a number of Sonos and Bose devices, I’ve concluded my hearing is about as good as my vision and I’d probably be content with a few $99 refreshed Amazon Echoes for music playback and even more extensive Alexa interaction. Although our single remaining Sonos Play:1 has stayed strong, playing nature sounds and lullabies remotely, on command each and every day in our daughter’s room.

Tablo, the headless OTA DVR pioneer, treats customers to a nice update this week in the form of performance enhancements and “advanced” recording features. Specifically, scheduled recordings now offer pre- and post-show padding — to add 10 minutes to that awards show or an hour to the Super Bowl to account for incessant instant replays or overtime. Further, subscribers can specify the number of season pass recordings to keep and which channel to record a given show from. Sure, these features aren’t exactly new to us TiVo owners… but it’s not like TiVo owners can watch television on our Rokus. And, with up to 8TB of storage, introducing recording count probably wasn’t such a high priority.

Beyond the DVR scheduling enhancements, the other headliner here is a new technical implementation that enables somewhat faster live television startup. Unlike a typical HDMI-connected device, Tablo ingests the live OTA signal, transcodes the video, and then streams it out on the fly (somewhat similar to Slingbox or the transcoding HDHomeRun hardware, minus the WiFi). So while it’s a more versatile solution, it’ll always be a step or two slower than channel surfing a traditional set-top or antenna-connected television. And anything they can do to speed it up is appreciated.