Archives For Alexa

I’ve got some very good news for owners of legacy TiVo hardware… and a smattering of bad news.

While I had assumed the TiVo Premiere was end-of-life, over 250,000 of you still on the platform recently received the Roamio and Bolt’s highly desirable SkipMode – which enables somewhat automated commercial skipping of most prime time television recordings. Additionally, these 8-year old DVRs have been treated to the recently released Alexa integration for voice control. It’s quite refreshing to see TiVo invest their finite resources in backporting a subset of folks on this older hardware (and I’m guessing those of you on monthly or annual service plans are to be thanked).

On the flip side, the less than 1% of TiVo owners still using dial-up for guide data are about to be cut off due to exorbitant fees: Continue Reading…

Amazon Fire TV Cube Reviews

Dave Zatz —  June 21, 2018

Amazon Fire TV Cube has arrived … and the reviews are in! The streamer essentially mates an Amazon Fire TV with an Echo Dot and some Logitech Harmony-esque IR blasting capabilities. When first announced, I was enticed (especially given the introductory pricing) – but Amazon’s increasingly cluttered presentation and conspicuously missing volume buttons gave me pause. Not to mention, I’m currently down on always-listening voice assistants — whereas the more economical, yet sufficiently powerful, Amazon Fire TV ships with a perfectly suitable Alexa-powered, push-to-talk voice remote. But let’s see what folks who’ve actually put the hardware through its paces have to say:

The Verge: Alexa turns out to be a good match for your living room

The speaker is not as powerful as a standard Echo, but it’s not designed for playing music — the Cube will route any music requests to your TV’s speakers or your soundbar. Most of the time, Alexa’s responses will also route through the TV’s speakers, but it will use the Cube’s speaker if the TV is off or set to another input. […] And in my experience of testing the Fire TV Cube over the past few days, its Alexa-based voice control system works more often than it doesn’t. But I’m not throwing my remotes in the garbage just yet.

Continue Reading…

As revealed back in April, Sonos is poised to announce a new entry in their home theater lineup. As described in the FCC filings:

The model S14 is a high-performance all-in-one home theater smart speaker and part of Sonos’ home sound system.

Given the newer hardware like the Sonos Playbase and Sonos One, we might reasonably expect on-device touch controls, unlike the somewhat long-in-the-tooth (stylistically) Playbar. But what exactly does the “smart” refer to? Is it onboard Alexa control as seen with the Sonos One? Or might it have something to do with the integrated Bluetooth Low Energy communication, which I don’t think we’ve seen from Sonos before.

In terms of connectivity, Sonos has shied away from HDMI. But that will no longer be an issue as also revealed by the regulatory documentation. Further, a supposed report by a former employee indicates the video market didn’t move exactly as the company had expected and so they have embraced the new HDMI 2.1 eARC specification enabling increased throughput for higher-fidelity:

HDMI 2.1 introduces so-called eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel), which increases bandwidth for audio to 38 Mb/s. This allows TVs to output lossless audio, including Dolby Atmos and the full range of DTS audio formats. […] The first product from Sonos to take advantage of this will be a mini soundbar due this year.

Beyond a new, smaller soundbar (perhaps similar in size to the Bose Solo 5 and supposedly pictured in the leaked render above), might Sonos also announce updates to the existing Playbase and Playbar? We’re gonna find out real, real soon…

As foreshadowed by yours truly and then announced at CES, Alexa has finally come to TiVo retail boxes. Well, sort of. Over the weekend, a placeholder app appeared – announcing the imminent arrival of Amazon’s voice assistant. Although TiVo has introduced their own native voice remote, it requires an additional purchase, vs those who already own Alexa gear, and is limited to units running the less desirable TiVo Experience 4 (Hydra) on a subset of TiVo hardware. By comparison, Alexa will be made available to a broad swath of devices, dating all the way back to the Premiere and running either Hydra or the HDUI Encore interface.

The TiVo Alexa skill isn’t live yet, but we know it’ll utilize Amazon’s beefed up media api. And, based on some of the documented commands that’ll be available to us, the delay will have been well worth the wait: Continue Reading…

While Best Buy often functions as an uncompensated showroom for online sales, given massive Alexa and Fire TV displays, the big box store is clearly a valued Amazon retailer. As such, the two companies have announced a significant partnership expansion that sees Best Buy replacing Roku on Insignia house-brand sets with the Fire TV experience. Also, interestingly, Best Buy will not only sell these televisions in-store but optionally through Amazon.com for the first time.

Continue Reading…

As with every CES, all sorts of sexy gadgetry parades about the various show venues. And, while I wasn’t in attendance this year, you can bet I was obsessively ingesting of the tech blog coverage and press release fire hose. While some swooned over recycled approaches that are unlikely to move markets and televisions only corporate entities could entertain, I found myself smitten with an inexpensive Anker accessory.

The Internet of Everything seemed to be the overarching theme this year, with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant garnering much attention through all sorts of integrations. Yeah, many of these are superfluous with a number of open questions regarding security, privacy, and reliability. But, but gadgets! As such, the $50 Anker Roav VIVA caught my eye. It’s cheap, fun, and … shipping next month — something you can’t say about so many CES unveilings. No, I don’t need Alexa in my car. But that didn’t stop me from driving around with an Echo Dot like Alan Wolk. In many ways, Alexa is largely inferior to the native Android or iPhone voice assistants as an automative communicator (think text messaging and navigation). Yet, Alexa is so much better with random queries and sports a humgo list of skills (and my daughter loves calling Elmo). Continue Reading…