New hardware from Amazon, maps from Facebook, and games from Apple
My latest Techspotting segment for KITV, where Maleko McDonnell and I recap Amazon’s hardware announcements (including Echo Frames and Echo Smart Ring), Facebook’s augmented reality news (Oculus Live Maps), and the launch of Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass, both for $5 a month.
Q: Amazon announced a ton of new hardware, and it looks like they want their Alexa intelligent assistant to be everywhere, right?
A: Right. They’re putting their voice activated tech into everything from ear buds to a ring on your finger to glasses frames on your face. The Echo Buds are interesting, because they’re cheaper than AirPods, they give you Alexa in addition to music and phone calls, but you can also use Siri or Google Assistant as well.
The Echo Smart Ring and Echo Frames are more prototypes than real products, and don’t look particularly practical. Talking to a ring or glasses frames might be a step too far, but Amazon is demonstrating that its intelligent tech can be plugged in almost anywhere.
They also updated and expanded their Echo smart speaker line up. Their entry level model, the Echo Dot, now has a clock, which makes it more useful on your desk or nightstand. The Echo Studio is their high end performance smart speaker, aimed at the Apple HomePod or Google Nest Max. There’s an Echo Glow, that’s basically a colorful nightlight. And finally there’s the barebones Echo Flex, at $25, which has a small speaker and no camera, which Amazon suggests means it would go great in your bathroom.
There’s more, of course, like the Amazon Smart Oven, which you can talk to, and Amazon’s Ring line, adding a new security camera and a dog collar.
Q: Facebook also announced new tech, coming out of Oculus, which they acquired for its Virtual Reality headsets. What are they working on?
Q: What’s interesting about Facebook’s latest announcement is that they weren’t about Virtual Reality, which is a fully-rendered, immersive virtual environment, but instead Augmented Reality, which mixes the real world with augmented information, kind of like a heads-up display for the world.
If you’re as bad at remembering faces and names as I am, you’ve always dreamed of a system that could put people’s names above their heads when they come over to talk to you. Well, Facebook says the best way to get there is to map, identify, and label everything first.
Facebook Reality Labs is building LiveMaps, and wants to completely recreate the planet in a 3D map. And it’s going to get there faster than anyone, because they’ve already got 2.4 billion users uploading millions of photos per day all around the world. What this does is free up the computational power that would have been needed to scan and identify everything while you’re walking around, instead referencing this pre-drawn map of the world. That lets it augment reality much faster.
Q: Finally, let’s talk about games. Apple Arcade finally launched after the new iPhones. But now Google has announced a competing service?
A: If you’re a casual gamer — that is, not a hardcore gamer with a gaming PC or dedicated console — you’re in luck. Apple users now have access to dozens of original, exclusive games. It’s $5 a month, and you can play all you like, no in-game purchases or anything. And a lot of the games are pretty impressive. They look great, with fun controls, and you can play it on your iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV.
Not to be outdone, Google just announced Play Pass, which is also $5 a month. With Play Pass, Android smartphone users get unlimited access to a library of Android games. They’re games from independent publishers, not Google, and they’re all on the Play Store as separate purchases. But now you can play them all for free.