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Author: Andy Slye (page 1 of 13)

KitSound Voice One Smart Speaker Review!

Meet the KitSound Voice One. This is a smart speaker that looks great, has high quality audio, and is about half the cost of an Apple HomePod.

KitSound is a British audio brand, and they recently launched the Voice One speaker in the US. When they asked to sponsor this video I quickly agreed because I wanted to see if there was a true affordable competitor to the new Apple HomePod. Watch the review video above to find out.

The KitSound Voice One starts at $179.99. It is a powerful smart speaker with built-in Amazon Alexa voice service. In the box, which I love the way this box opens by the way, you’ll find the Voice One speaker,  3 different power cords (one each for USA, EU, and UK), along with a 3.5mm aux cable, a remote control, and the quick start guide.

The Voice One speaker is 11” tall by 5” wide and deep and weighs just under 4 lbs. It’s sporting a retro style design with a charcoal colored stain-resistant Nano coated woven grill that gives it a very pleasing look. If you’ve seen some of my previous videos you’ll know that I love gray products. There’s just something attractive about gray and this speaker is no different.

On the front you’ll find a mute & unmute mic button, a volume ring with a tap to talk button in the center, the ring will change colors depending on the current function, below the ring is the input button to change between Bluetooth Aux or Wifi mode, an action button below that, and a KS light that will light up with the beat when the speaker is playing loud music.

On the top there are two far field microphones which work very well for picking up your voice from far away or even during music playback. On the back you’ll find a subwoofer port, along with a very convenient USB port to charge USB devices, and a 3.5mm line-in port for wired inputs.

This is a smart speaker that works with Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, and many other Internet Radio services including Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. The setup is super easy, just download the free KitSound app and follow the instructions to connect it to your Wifi network and to your Amazon Alexa account to enable voice commands. The KitSound app is not the most intuitive app in the world, but it does do its job fairly well and I have not experienced any bugs or glitches so that’s always a good thing. From the app you can control playback, change various settings including the bass and treble, set a sleep timer, configure presets, and more. So the app does give you a nice variety of controls.

Speaking of controls, the remote control is an added bonus. It contains the same controls that are on the front of the speaker which is nice, and its most functional use is when the speaker is playing loud music, so instead of trying to scream Alexa, you can just use the remote’s button to enable Alexa. The Voice One also has multi-room technology so you can actually pair up to 8 speakers wirelessly and have them play the same audio across all the speakers at the same time. Great for parties or yeah, parties.

The smart aspect is one of the best features of the Voice One. I love its integration with Amazon Alexa and I also love that it has Spotify Voice Control and Spotify Connect. I’m a big Spotify Premium user so I’m constantly listening to music on Spotify and the Voice One speaker shows up as an available device right in the Spotify app so that’s how I play all my music on this speaker, even though the speaker does have Bluetooth as an option as well. It’s great because when you use a Spotify Connect device like the Voice One, the music streams directly to that device so you’re getting high quality audio plus it saves your phone battery from draining so quickly and it also lets you use your phone for voice calls without interrupting the music.

Using the Amazon Alexa voice service is a very nice touch as well. You can ask it general questions, you can ask it to play certain artists or songs from any of your connected music streaming services, and if you have other Amazon Alexa compatible smart devices in your home, such as my Nest Thermostat, you can control them from the speaker using voice commands.

So we know how smart it is, but what about the audio quality? Well, the other best feature about the Voice One is its 360 degree room-filling sound, which is a result of the two side-facing drivers at 10 watts each paired with the strong bass reflex. So there’s no front-facing speaker which caught me off guard at first, but the side facing drivers really do give it a true stereo-quality sound, and they are very satisfying to listen to. From the highs to the mids to the lows, it’s just a very clean and rich audio output even at very loud volumes. I’m a hip hop head so the majority of what I listen to feels like it was made for this speaker. It definitely shines with rap music and hard hitting beats, but really any genre of music that I’ve played have all sounded very good.

Overall, I’m very impressed with the Voice One. Just the fact that it’s a smart speaker with built-in WiFi & Amazon Alexa makes it desirable. But when you combine that with its high quality immersive audio, the slick looking design, and all the other features like wireless multi-speaker synchronization, the free app, the remote control, the convenient ports, all for less than $180. That’s what makes it a must-have especially if you’re considering an Apple HomePod or any other smart speaker for that matter. For the price, you’re getting a fantastic speaker that I’m sure you’ll love.

I hope you enjoyed my review of the KitSound Voice One smart speaker. Thanks to KitSound for sponsoring this video, and thank you for watching.

Best Smart Light Switch? ecobee Switch+ Review!

Buy Switch+ on Amazon

Video Transcript:

I’ve recently begun to transform my house into a smart house, starting with my wireless security system all the way to my thermostat, and when I was researching the best smart thermostats I saw a particular brand called ecobee that was mentioned quite frequently. So when they reached out and asked if I wanted to do a sponsored video of their latest smart home product called the Switch+ I thought it looked like something you guys would be interested in so I agreed.

The ecobee Switch+ is a smart light switch with far-field voice technology and built-in Amazon Alexa which is the name of Amazon’s virtual assistant and it’s one of the main features of the ecobee Switch+. According to Amazon “The Alexa Voice Service is an intelligent voice recognition and natural language understanding service that allows you to voice-enable any connected device that has a microphone and speaker.” And that’s exactly what the ecobee switch+ is equipped with.

The Switch+ is like a smart personal assistant and simple light switch wrapped into one. With the built-in microphone and speaker for Amazon Alexa, the Switch+ enables invisible voice control in any room it’s installed in. It also provides smart light control by detecting occupancy and daylight. Also, a software update coming this summer will enable the Switch+ to function as a sensor to manage hot or cold spots in a room when the switch is paired with an ecobee thermostat. Like all ecobee products, the Switch+ integrates with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, SmartThings, and IFTTT. The Switch+ is $99 in the U.S. and $119 in Canada and it’s available for pre-order starting March 13 and will start shipping on March 26. I’ll leave the link in the description below for you to check out.

First, let’s go over what’s in the box. Inside, you’ll find the main attraction itself the Switch+, along with a wall plate, 4 wire nuts, 2 mounting screws, and the setup guide. The install is fairly simple and only takes about 45 minutes. Even though you can follow the setup guide that comes in the box, it’s probably easier to download the free ecobee app because the app will actually walk you through the entire process and it has helpful videos along the way. The app will also tell you what tools you need and it will do a compatibility check to verify your light switch will work with the Switch+.

Once you’ve verified compatibility, you’ll need to turn off the breaker for the switch you’re installing. After confirming the power is off, remove the old switch from the wall and disconnect the wires. Next, identify and connect the necessary wires to the Switch+. This part took the longest for me so be patient. Once that is done, push the wires back into the wall and screw the Switch+ to the wall. Turn the breaker back on and test out the Switch+ by pressing the button to turn your light on and off. If it works, then the final step is to snap on the wall plate.

Next, you can use the ecobee app to finish setting up the Switch+ by creating your free ecobee account, giving your Switch+ a name & location, and connecting it to your WiFi network. Keep in mind that even though it has built-in WiFi, it does not have Bluetooth enabled at this time. Once it’s fully set up you can control your Switch+ from anywhere using the ecobee app as long as you’re connected to the internet.

On the app home screen you can quickly turn the light on or off using the main button or you can tap the middle icon at the bottom to bring up more controls. the Smart On feature will automatically turn on the lights when someone enters the room. If you enable daylight detection, Smart On will only activate when the room is dark. Smart Off will turn the lights off when no one is in the room, and you can set the off timer to different intervals based on your preference. Another awesome feature is the built-in night light which will automatically glow when the room is dark. And if you have your Switch+ set up as an outdoor light, you can set it to automatically turn on at sunset which is nice.

As I mentioned before, Amazon Alexa is a big part of the Switch+ because it allows you to perform voice commands like asking it to set a timer, read the news, give you the weather forecast, and more. This is all part of ecobee’s “Whole Home Voice” vision to deliver effortless hands-free voice control in every room without dealing with hubs or wires.

To start using Amazon Alexa, first link your Amazon account within the ecobee app. Then download the free Amazon Alexa app and sign in with your Amazon account. Next, add the ecobee skill and authorize Amazon Alexa with your Switch+. Then you can ask Alexa to discover devices, and Alexa should respond with the name of your Switch+.

What’s really cool is the built-in speaker that I mentioned earlier, and if you’re in the US and have Amazon Prime you can tell it to play any song that’s available on Amazon Prime Music and it will play it out of the speaker. Now don’t expect to use this as a high fidelity party speaker for loud music but honestly if you just want to listen to low-level background music while you’re working or studying, this little speaker does the job. You can also listen to iHeartRadio and use Tune-In Radio for audiobooks & podcasts, with support for SiriusXM & Pandora coming soon.

However, the Switch+ does not currently have Spotify integration and as a heavy Spotify Premium user I was a little let down by this. But if you have an Amazon Alexa-enabled Sonos speaker, you can ask Alexa to play music on Spotify that way. I don’t have a Sonos speaker but I was able to add a skill in the Amazon Alexa app that lets me control the playback of Spotify on my iMac which is pretty cool. And that is the key, search the Amazon Alexa app for any skill that you’re interested in and if it’s available you can add that skill to the ecobee Switch+. And you can also control other smart lights in your home if they’re connected to your Amazon Alexa account. I was also surprised at how well the Switch+ picked up my voice from across the room and even when I was playing music pretty loudly it heard me most of the time.

Overall, for $99 I think this is a pretty neat smart device that is perfect for people who want voice-control in their home without adding bulky hubs or wired speakers since this is just a small light switch basically hidden on the wall. The ecobee app is very intuitive and it’s nice that you can use the same app for the Switch+ and ecobee thermostat if you have one. The Switch+ itself is nicely designed and has worked as expected so far. Again if you want to pick this up, the link is in the description below.

Thanks to ecobee for sponsoring this video, and thank you for watching. Be sure to hit the thumbs up if you enjoyed this video and subscribe if you haven’t already to see more tech videos in the future. I will talk to you in the next video.

Driving the Tesla Model 3 – My Experience!

Save $25 when you rent a Tesla

So I rented a Tesla Model 3 on Turo and had it for 24 hours. These are my first impressions and thoughts on the car. Can’t wait to get mine!

How Self-Driving Cars Will Save The World (& Destroy It Too)

Self driving cars are coming (some are even already here) and they will have a huge impact on the way we all live, work and travel. But are they out to harm us or help us? Let’s find out.

Through the years, technology has always improved our ways of transportation, whether it meant getting somewhere faster, safer, or more efficiently.

Way back in the day, we humans just had our legs to rely on for traveling. Then we found out we could jump on the back of horses to go faster.

Then some genius invented the wheel which led to bicycles and wagons, improving the efficiency of travel.

Finally, trains, planes, and automobiles revolutionized the transportation industry. The car quickly replaced the horse & carriage because people wanted to get to places faster & faster, and it was obvious the automobile was superior to the horse in almost every single way. (They’re cuter)

Now, humans (who are constantly prone to distractions and mistakes) are controlling these heavy machines at extremely fast speeds with many other human-controlled heavy machines zipping past one another in the opposite direction with only a couple of yellow paint lines separating total disaster.

Which brings us to the next transportation revolution: self-driving vehicles.

Also referred to as fully-autonomous, a self driving vehicle is one that does not need human intervention of any kind and is completely controlled by some combination of computer software, hardware, radars, sensors, and cameras.

It’s estimated that by the year 2030, there will be approximately 380 million partially or fully autonomous vehicles on the roads. Elon Musk claims that within a decade, self driving cars will be as common as elevators. That’s pretty much expected coming from a guy who likes to take things to the next level. (bad joke)

To fully understand how self driving vehicles will eventually take over all the roadways, let’s briefly go over the 6 different autonomy levels of vehicles.

Level 0 is No Automation. This is when a human driver is solely responsible for operating the vehicle at all times. Most cars up to this point in time are Level 0.

Level 1 is Driver Assistance meaning in certain driving modes, the car can either take control of the steering wheel or the pedals. However, the computer is never in control of both steering and acceleration. Some examples of level 1 are adaptive cruise control and parking assist.

Level 2 is Partial Automation which means the car can take over both the pedals AND the wheel, but only under certain conditions, and the driver must maintain ultimate control over the vehicle. A popular example of Level 2 is Tesla’s Autopilot.

Level 3 is Conditional Automation where the car can fully take over the driving responsibilities under certain conditions, but a driver is expected to retake control when the system asks for it. A Level 3 car can decide when to change lanes and how to respond to incidents on the road, but uses the human driver as the fallback system.

Level 4 is High Automation where the car can be driven by a human, but it doesn’t ever need to be. It can drive itself full time under the right circumstances, and if it encounters something it can’t handle, it can ask for human assistance, but will park itself and brings its passengers to safety if human help is not available. Level 4 is the first level that is truly self-driving. An example of this is Google’s Waymo self driving car, which is widely considered the leader in the fully autonomous car revolution.

Level 5 is Full Automation where a steering wheel is optional. At this level, the front seats might face backwards because the car doesn’t need any type of human intervention. The computer has full-time automation of all driving tasks on any road, under any conditions, whether there’s a human present or not.

This brings us to one of our big questions: How will self driving cars save the world?

First: Safety.

According to Waymo, each year over 1.2 million people die on roadways. In the US alone, traffic collisions result in over 35,000 deaths per year, and 94% of US crashes involve human error or choice. Mature digital systems in self-driving cars are designed and expected to be exponentially safer than human drivers. Self driving vehicles won’t make the typical human mistakes like falling asleep at the wheel, driving drunk, having road rage, or texting while driving.

With all the benefits from the software, hardware, sensors, and cameras, a self driving car will be able to make instant decisions based on not only calculations from its internal system, but all self driving cars will eventually be connected to each other sharing real-time data. Sorta like the internet. For example, right now you can buy a smart refrigerator that’s connected to the internet, it has a touch screen where you can order food right from the fridge itself. And soon it will be able to automatically order food when it detects that it’s running low on something.

Self driving cars will be similar with something called collective intelligence. All self driving cars will eventually be completely up-to-date with each other so if one car detects an object in the road, it will immediately share that alert with all other cars. If you use the Waze app, you know this is already happening except with autonomous vehicles it will be automatically done by computers instead of relying on humans.

This leads us into the other main benefits of self driving cars: Savings & Convenience.

According to a study, Americans spent an estimated 6.9 billion hours in traffic delays in 2014, cutting into time at work or with family, and increasing fuel costs. However when self driving cars are sharing real-time data about the traveling conditions and they are programmed to see and detect everything around them, that’s when there will be a huge decrease in traffic congestion and wasted time.

Self driving cars will give the elderly & disabled a huge amount of freedom to travel nearly anywhere at anytime. Today there are 49 million Americans over age 65 and 53 million people have some form of disability, and in many places, employment relies on the ability to drive. Self driving vehicles could be the solution. In fact, one study suggests that self driving vehicles could create new employment opportunities for approximately 2 million people with disabilities.

Autonomous vehicles can lead to saving money because owning your own vehicle won’t be necessary for many people when self driving cars will be constantly available for picking up and dropping off. This will also lead to less land needed for big parking lots since most of the cars won’t be parking without anyone in it for long periods of time. Fewer accidents will lead to saving on insurance costs. A study from the NHTSA showed motor vehicle crashes in 2010 cost $242 billion in economic activity, including $57 billion in lost workplace productivity, and $594 billion due to loss of life and decreased quality of life due to injuries. The major improvement in safety with self driving cars could drastically reduce these costs.

So with all those benefits it might seem like a no-brainer, right? Well, let’s talk about some of the negative aspects of self driving cars.

First, Job Loss.

According to a Goldman Sachs report, when autonomous vehicle saturation peaks, US drivers could see job losses at a rate of 300,000 per year. In 2014, there were 4 million driver jobs in the US. That represents 2 percent of total employment which could theoretically be erased when self driving cars become viable.

However, with most technology breakthroughs, new jobs will come with it, for example: cyber security experts, which brings us to the next con: Security & Privacy.

Like with all computer systems, self driving cars will be susceptible to hacking. Autonomous vehicle security is something that will need to be taken very seriously because a successful cyber attack on one or more self driving cars could be detrimental to human safety and the transportation infrastructure.

Also the privacy concerns will be more significant when all cars will be tracked at all times with the data from the computers and cameras being collected and stored by multiple entities. Even though this might be extremely beneficial in situations like kidnappings and missing person cases, it also takes away certain privacy and freedoms from good law abiding citizens.

While most driving is repetitive and mundane, some people actually like operating a car and prefer to drive for relaxation or enjoyment. When the roadways are strictly taken over by self driving cars, it will most likely be against the law for a human driver to drive on public roadways. This is when there may be a boom in recreational driving businesses. They’ll probably be similar to golf courses. There will be a certain area of land that is dedicated to human driving only for those people who want to drive cars themselves.

The last negative is the initial cost of the self driving technology. While autonomous vehicles will eventually be worth it, the upfront cost of the engineering and implementation will be high.

Given all the pros and cons of self driving vehicles, what do you think? Are you for or against them? Let me know by leaving a comment in the description below!

12 Mac Hidden Features You NEED to Be Using

Quick Look

One of the simplest tricks on Mac is press Spacebar to preview files. It works on a surprisingly large variety of file formats: office docs, PDFs, audio files, video files, fonts, etc. Saves a lot of time.

Spotlight

Cmd + Spacebar is the shortcut to Spotlight search which you can use to quickly open apps or files. This is a very simple and well-known feature and one of my most used keyboard shortcuts on the Mac. Spotlight can also perform calculations and look up other useful info like current conversion rates for currencies, the weather and flight statuses.

Digitally Sign PDFs with Preview

Preview app can automatically create a digital signature to allow you to digitally sign PDFs. Go to Preview, Tools, Annotate, Signature, Manage Signatures. Then hold up a signed piece of paper to the webcam and it will automatically create and save that digital signature for you so you can use anytime you need to digitally sign a PDF in the future.

Emoji Keyboard

To bring up the emoji keyboard in Mac OS simply press ctrl+Cmd+space

Quickly hide or close apps

Hold Cmd while pressing tab to scroll through your open apps. When you reach the app you want to close or hide, press either Q to quit or H to hide the app.

Dictation

MacOS has a built-in speech to text feature called Dictation. Instead of typing, just press the fn key twice and a microphone icon will pop up and then you can start speaking into your microphone and it will type out what you’re talking and when you’re done you just click Done.

Screenshots

Cmd + shift + 4 = Capture dragged area & save to desktop
Cmd + shift + 3 = Capture entire screen & save to desktop
Cmd + ctrl + shift + 3 = Capture entire screen & copy to clipboard
Cmd + ctrl + shift + 4 = Capture dragged area & copy to clipboard
Cmd + shift + 4 + Space = Capture a window & save to desktop
Cmd + ctrl + shift + 4 + Space = Capture a window & copy to clipboard

Quickly create file from selected text

Select text then drag and drop to desktop or folder and it will automatically create a file with the selected text in it

Precise Volume/Brightness Control

Hold Shift + Option and change your brightness or volume to adjust in smaller increments for more precise control.

Summarize Text

Mac OS allows you to quickly summarize long pieces of text in just a few seconds. To summarize a text first select it, right click on the selection and click on “Summarize”. To enable the summary feature, click on the app name in the status bar, click Services, Services Preferences, scroll down and check “Summarize”.

More Space

If you own a Mac with a Retina display you can scale the screen to create more screen space. This feature also works if you have a second monitor connected to your main Retina device. Go to System preferences, Display, Click Scale, and choose More Space.

Quick Dictionary

If you have a Trackpad you can select a word and do a 3-finger tap to quickly bring up the definition of the selected word.

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