It’s CES week, and neither Kevin nor I are physically there for the second year running. That makes it really tough to get a macro sense of cool tech and upcoming trends outside of press releases and product launches. Normally, we spend so much time trawling for the weird or futuristic in the demos and report on the stuff that isn’t pre-packaged in a release. Maybe we can return to that next year. In the meantime, there are a lot of stories, but the biggest trends in the smart home relate to the upcoming launch of the Matter interoperability standard for the smart home, a bunch of new products that will support HomeKit, and new products for Amazon Alexa and the Google ecosystems. We are also are excited about the newly launched Home Connectivity Alliance and what it might mean for future product features and energy consumption in the home.
After a quick break, we share our non-amazement of John Deere’s automated tractor. It’s cool, but it has also been half a decade in the works, so it’s not like it comes as a huge shock. We then discuss new products from Samsung (an energy harvesting remote and a tablet for the smart home), Schneider Electric’s update to its energy management software, a new assistive robot, and Arlo’s smart home security system with an all-in-one sensor. Outside of product news, the Wi-Fi Alliance has released an update to the Wi-Fi 6 standard with more uplink capacity and better power management. This will ensure that Wi-Fi 6 is more relevant for IoT devices and perhaps ensure those chips get used in more end devices, especially in cameras and video doorbells. Masonite also showed off its smart door at CES so we share our impressions. Finally, we answer a question from a listener about power consumption in IoT devices.
JD Roberts says
I was asking for years for a voice-operated microwave because since I’m quadriparetic, I literally can’t press the buttons. (I can’t press the buttons on an ATM, either.) I got the Amazon basics microwave with Alexa control as soon as it came out, and loved it. Then when we needed a bigger microwave, we added the Toshiba with Alexa control, which has been glitchier, but it still meets a very real need in our household.
I also have friends who are blind who use voice control microwaves and are really happy with them. Trying to find the right buttons to press on a conventional microwave can be a real challenge for them.
I realize all of this falls into the category of minority use cases, but it’s a welcome solution for that group. (It’s not an accident that most of the voice controlled microwaves have a real handle to open the door instead of pushing yet another button, by the way.)
The other thing that able-bodied people seem to really like voice control of microwaves for is cooking popcorn in different bag sizes. This is popular at our house with my two able-bodied roommates. They used our voice controlled smaller microwave to make popcorn for over a year when they normally used the bigger microwave that wasn’t voice control, because they can say “Alexa, microwave 3 ounces of popcorn“ or “Alexa, microwave 3.5 ounces of popcorn” Or whatever and the results were always great. It’s faster, easier, and more accurate than trying to use the button panel, which often leads to the kind of confusion that Stacey was describing.
So there you go: 3 different use cases. People who can’t physically press buttons, people who can’t easily find buttons to press, and a quicker easier way to handle different sizes of microwave popcorn bags.
Choice is good. 😎
JD Roberts says
As a wheelchair user with limited arm function, I’m really intrigued by the Labrador robot. I had to go to their website to confirm that they are planning on a method of having the robot itself get something off the shelf and bring it to you (looks like it will use special trays for that).
One of the reasons the Amazon robot is useless to me is that although it has a cup tray, someone has to put the cup on the tray before the robot can bring it to you. It doesn’t have any equivalent of hands or grippers or a loading mechanism like the Labrador. That one is basically a camera on wheels.
So… Yes, I’m really intrigued by the Labrador. But the price is high. I’m not saying it’s unjustified, but it’s high. The product itself is $1500 down and then $149 a month for 36 months, so a total of $6,864. if you want a refrigerator with those self-loading trays, that will be an extra cost they haven’t even calculated yet. Plus the system has to be professionally installed, and I’m sure that will be at least another $400, maybe more. And after you’ve paid it off in the first three years, there’s a monthly subscription cost, amount not yet specified, “to maintain warranty service, customer support and premium Cloud services…” So it’s not clear if that’s something you would need for daily functionality or not.
So it’s clever, I’m sure it would be useful for many people, but I think it’s going to be out of budget for most.
It reminds me of the “Obi robotic dining companion.” This is a really cool robot arm that can move food on a spoon from a bowl to a person’s mouth, Turning one of the most demeaning activities for a person with significant physical disabilities into an independent process. Appears to work well, it’s been available for several years, but at a cost of $7000 and up most of the people who could use it won’t be likely to fit it into their budgets.
But who knows? Maybe increasing demand will bring the price down on the Labrador, which does seem like it would have a much wider potential market.