Amazon’s Echo seems great, but what does it hear? | John Naughton

The voice-controlled home assistant works well, but on the other hand it is a networked listening device, with wider implicationsA few weeks ago, I bought Amazon’s latest gizmo – the Echo. It’s a voice-activated, networked device equipped with a seven-piece microphone array, which means that it can pick up one’s voice from anywhere in its vicinity with impressive accuracy. It comes in two versions, one a 9

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution review – adapt to new technology or perish

In this slim volume by Klaus Schwab, founder of the organisation behind Davos, corporate-speak disguises a harsh realityMuch mirth ensued recently when Jeremy Corbyn’s crack publicity team issued a photograph of the dear leader with a compressed quote from his speech: “We now face the task of creating a New Britain from the fourth industrial revolution – powered by the internet of things and big data to develop cyber physical systems and smart factories.” Wait, what?One may be forgiven for suspecting that Corbyn had not a clue what he was uttering, but the “fourth industrial revolution” is an actual thing, at least according to some analysts. The first was steam-powered; the second electrical; the third the birth of the computer age; and the fourth – which some argue is just a continuation of the third – is the era of wearable gadgets, 3D printing, gene editing, machine intelligence and networked devices such as street lights full of electronic sensors, or smart fridges that order eggs when you’ve run out

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From Amazon Echo to Oculus Touch: the best tech of 2016

In a bad year for many things, technology actually had a good time – but what are the products and services really worth buying? 2016 may have been a bad year for most things, but it was actually a pretty good year for technology, with plenty of new products and services released that were worth the digital ink used to describe them. Continue reading

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Alexa, lights! How I turned my home into a sci-fi dream

For decades, sci-fi has told us voice operation is the way forward. Now AI butlers are here – and you don’t have to be Mark Zuckerberg do build your ownThe Internet of Things is here, they cried. Great, but do I really have to pull out my smartphone to do everything? Pushing a button was so much easier

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Will the internet of things sacrifice or save the environment?

Some devices will power themselves but the more complex will contribute to the world’s huge data storage energy bill The internet of things (IoT) – that ever-expanding ecosystem of digital sensors, home appliances and wearable smart devices – attracts its fair share of attention. Speculation is rife on how the 23bn-odd (and counting) “things” will improve quality of life, streamline business operations and ultimately fuel economic benefits to the tune of up to $11tn per year by 2025.Less often considered is the cost to the environment of such a vast network of devices

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Amazon Echo Dot review: as good as the Echo for one-third of the price

Small gadget brings voice control to almost any smart device in the home, while playing music, answering questions and telling you the weatherThe Amazon Echo Dot is essentially all the bits of an Amazon Echo that make it interesting, but without the speaker beneath it – and so it costs just one-third of the price.The Dot is one of three Alexa-enabled products from Amazon that puts the company’s voice assistant front and centre. Only two, the Echo Dot and the Echo are available in the UK: the third, the portable Bluetooth speaker called Amazon Tap, is only available in the US

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Genevieve Bell: ‘Humanity’s greatest fear is about being irrelevant’

The anthropologist explains why being scared about AI has more to do with our fear of each other than killer robotsGenevieve Bell is an Australian anthropologist who has been working at tech company Intel for 18 years, where she is currently head of sensing and insights. She has given numerous TED talks and in 2012 was inducted into the Women in Technology hall of fame. Between 2008 and 2010, she was also South Australia’s thinker in residence

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Internet of things set to change the face of dementia care

From digital assistants to ‘smart’ medicine bottles, a new wave of connected devices could help people live independently for longerSmart bottles that dispense the correct dose of medication at the correct time, digital assistants, and chairs that know how long you’ve sat in them are among the devices set to change the face of care for those living with dementia.Dementia is now the leading cause of death in England and Wales, and is thought to affect more than 850,000 people in the UK. But a new wave of connected devices, dubbed “the internet of things”, could offer new ways to help people live independently for longer

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Amazon Echo: the first 13 things to try

Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant, is in more than 3m US homes via the Echo speaker. Now it’s available in Britain – but what’s the attraction?The very first thing you’ll want to do with your new Amazon Echo is learn a few basic voice commands. Saying “Alexa: stop!” will immediately cancel whatever activity is going on; to make music louder or quieter, say “Alexa: volume up” or “Alexa: volume down”

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