By way of the New York Times, we learn GE and Quirky have expanded their collaboration on “Wink” – the brand under which they’ll tie together their existing (and downright bizarre) product line and tap into other home automation solutions via the FCC-revealed Wink Hub. The $79 Hub bridges networks, like Z-Wave, and will be displayed at nearly 2,000 Home Depot retail outposts when it launches July 7th. (Take that Lowe’s Iris?) Of course, these guys aren’t the only players in town with the very fine Staples Connect and SmartThings out to early leads with the Apple behemoth now taking interest via HomeKit and healthy Apple TV hub speculation. Not to mention, after like a decade of stagnation, Harmony finally woke up ready to fulfill their home control destiny. The next 12-18 months are going to be huge in this space as the tech expands beyond the affluent digerati and into the mainstream. As for me, my needs are simple… Continue Reading…
Roku’s gone ahead and pulled a TiVo, having crossed that ill-defined advertising obnoxiousness line. Whereas TiVo pause menu ads layer spam atop your television content, Roku now overrides the box “theme” for full screen sponsorship like the Lego Movie or AMEX concerts (shown above). I only recently noticed this, but it’s been in play since at least late last year. To Roku’s credit, while default box behavior will swap out even a theme that you specified, they allow you to suppress the takeover. Within the Theme options area you’ll find Custom Settings that house a Featured Theme On/Off toggle.
At a press event earlier this week, Tom’s Guide learned that Roku will be rolling out software updates beginning June 24th. And the key improvement appears to be support for a faster-loading Netflix channel. The firmware and Netflix updates are earmarked for the Roku 3 and Streaming Stick, with vague references to potential support of other models down the line. While we’re obviously not opposed to a speed increase, I’d say the Roku 3 already provides the fastest Netflix STB experience and is my go-to streamer. For reference, my Roku 3 currently runs version 5.4 build 3340, with the demo-ed model sitting at 5.5 319 – we’ll keep our ears to the ground regarding any additional changes.
We’re big fans of Vizio’s original 5.1 soundbar, which delivers true surround sound from an extremely compact and tasteful form – including a wireless sub that powers the rear channel speakers. As announced at CES, Vizio has doubled down on this form factor with a larger model that overcomes the original’s connectivity limitations by adding two HDMI inputs. And their $500 home theater solution is now available for purchase. CNET is quite positive with their praise of the 2014 model… other than price point, as it clocks in at nearly twice the cost of the original, and soundbar size. While the elongated 54″ bar enhances front channel separation, your TV stand may not be able to attractively contain it. Further, the soundbar is nearly half an inch taller than the original at 4.18″ — which could be a deal breaker for me as the 2013 variant already does a pretty good job of blocking my Panasonic HDTV’s IR sensor. Hm.
By way of the US Patent & Trademark Office, as the Apple iWatch crescendo rises, we learn that Fitbit has much grander intentions than merely producing a refreshed hypoallergenic Force activity tracker. Also in the pipeline, should these marks pan out, are Fitbit PurePulse, Surge, and Charge. Trademark applications such as these are attached to extremely broad category descriptions and it’s not clear which of the three are services (PurePulse?) versus hardware (Surge, Charge?) nor is there any guarantee any will ultimately ship. But, hey, the speculation game is fun and I’ve taken the liberty of bolding a few interesting tidbits from the wearable pioneer and market leader. Stay tuned!
Heart rate monitors; optical heart rate sensors; wrist-based sensors; multifunctional electronic devices for displaying, measuring, and uploading to the Internet information including time, date, heart rate, calories burned, activity, intensity, exertion; computer software for wireless data communication for receiving, processing, transmitting and displaying information relating to fitness, heart rate, calories burned, activity levels, intensity, exertion; computer software for managing information regarding tracking, compliance and motivation with a health and fitness program
While we’re still an hour away from Amazon’s smartphone reveal, what I believe to be their Android-powered handset just passed thru the FCC. We don’t have much to go on other than a shell company and my successful track record in turning up Lab126 products ahead of launch. Beyond the label, identifying the unnamed smartphone as the SD4930UR, documents indicate it features a variety of wireless frequencies (as you’d expect) - including multiple LTE and WiFi bands, along with Bluetooth. Amidst rumors of AT&T exclusivity, the device will supposedly possess a number of front-facing detectors to work in conjunction with an accelerometer for new methods of interaction and perhaps 3D viewing. We’ll find out shortly…