Audio News for October 11, 2016

Basics of the New Roku Express – It is cheap ($30), easy to use and loaded with streaming apps for your music, but it is slower, especially with Netflix, than alternatives like Comcast. But it may be worth spending a bit extra on a faster streamer for your music.

Facebook is Gonna Make VR Social – Facebook is leading the charge of taking over VR by social networks. Onstage at the Oculus Connect 3 Conference, Mark Zuckerberg showed off live VR chat using emotion options which make avatars show facial expressions, to let you look surprised, happy or confused in VR. You can change the backgrounds to live locations such as your home. Zuckerberg said “Virtual reality is the perfect platform to put people first because of presence.” Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014 for one billion dollars.

Two Competing Smart Plugs – You do need a smart phone to download the app that runs the smart plug. You can schedule them, track energy useage, control them and speak to them. c|net has a whole page comparing the two. Such a plug can make any pluggable device “smart”:  “If you prefer Apple HomeKit as a platform, then the iDevices Switch might be a fit for you. But if you’re open to other options like Amazon Echo, the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch is the better overall product. It’s more feature rich, in large part thanks to IFTTT [If This Then That] compatibility, and it’s more affordable.” And only $45.

Google Challenges Apple in Consumer Electronics – They have a new hardware division set to make a splash with new Pixel smartphones and Daydream VR headsets. They want to build a personal Google for each and every user. Google supplies the Android operating system, which 82% of smartphone and tablet makers use, while Apple’s iOS system only has 16%. Apple’s Oculus Rift VR headset is leading the market now (Apple took over Oculus in 2014). But Google’s Daydream View will differ in having a companion motion controller plus compatibility with a wide range of phones, including their new Pixel phones. Daydream is a more sophisticated system than the Oculus VR, and more than Google’s own Cardboard glasses.  (Google scrapped that after it became apparent what massive invasions of privacy this gadget would enable.) Google services such as YouTube, photos and Street View maps will also come to Daydream. Another new Google device is their Home gadget, which works with entertainment systems and allows them control by voice commands. And a new Chromecast Ultra will support UHD and will allow Netflix and other online video on big screens. They will also improve Wi-Fi in the home by creating their own router and the Google Wi-Fi system will be modular. You just add new components based on how your home and rooms are shaped, with the software managing the various access points as you move around.

 

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