If you’re smart, your home’s getting smarter. That’s a good thing. Resisting the web-centric, seamless assistance enabled by
our new machine learning overlords technologies is futile silly.
Everyone should have a staple of smart devices in their homes by now. If you’re still lagging behind, start with these as a foundation.
The Smart Assistant
You know what this is but in case you need me to put it simply: Whether you go with Google Assistant (really, the Google Home) or Amazon Alexa (really, the Amazon Echo), the only real players left on the smart device playing field, a smart assistant will change your life.
My apartment is a Google household. Our Google Home and two Google Home Minis play our morning routine of podcasts and then tell us about the Brooklyn and Manhattan weather, followed by just how long we can expect our commutes to be. They all connect to each other and play at the same time so as we stroll through the house getting ready for the day, the news comes with us. Otherwise, our Home companions routinely wake us up, keep multiples timers on our cooking food, answer our trivial questions, (“Hey Google, who’s the prettiest person in this house?”), control our TV and music devices, and turn on, dim, and turn off the lights. I haven’t made my way to bed in the dark in months. You don’t need to, either.
Similar in many respects but admittedly better aesthetically designed, in my opinion, the Amazon Echo family is vast and growing. It can handle the same demands and commands as the Google Home, more or less, and definitely operates more seamlessly with your Amazon Prime shopping and account at large. For the frequent shopper, it’s likely the obvious choice between the two but I’ve never found I needed an Alexa to shop often on Amazon. If you use a Fire TV stick, Amazon’s answer to Roku and other streaming devices, that’s another great reason to lean toward the Echo.
The Smart TV And Its Smart Streams
Your TV is likely smart by now, either by its own merit or because you’ve attached a streaming device to it. Both TVs and streaming devices are advancing their capabilities every few months or so — if you haven’t seen what’s on the market in a while, chances are there’s something new that could better fit your needs (or wants).
TVs integrated with brains smart enough to stream your favorite shows and keep your place in the middle of a nail-biting thriller are rampant.
Options include anything from the moderate 43-inch Toshiba 4K LED TV outfitted with Fire TV for $280 to the currently discounted $1,000 VIZIO 65-inch 4K LED TV with a built-in Chromecast. Both will stream your shows and both will answer voice commands. Notably, both have sharp looking screens (the VIZIO beats the Toshiba but that’s expected with the price increase). And importantly, both have chosen a side in the smart assistant war, siding with one of the players.
Smart Streaming Devices
If your TV is... not smart, you don’t have to replace it with a smart TV (though I highly recommend doing so) — you can outfit it with a streaming device that will, well, teach it a few things.
Most notably, a streaming device easily attaches to your TV and connects it to the Internet so you can seamlessly use your phone to choose the shows, movies, podcasts, music, or any other media you want to consume. It’s easier to give this tip than to remember doing it, but I always try to travel with my Chromecast so I can bring home-style watching with me to any hotel room by easily snapping it into the back of the hotel room’s TV.
The Smart Peripheral Devices
There is a slew of smart devices that run the gamut from life-elevating to less fundamental and more fun. Almost all of them work better when you already have a smart assistant but your phone should be enough to get you going and headed toward living a smarter life.
Philips Hue Go, $80
The Philips Hue Go is both a lamp and not a lamp at the same time. It’s a portable, dimmable, programmable bowl-shaped LED smart light that integrates into the Philips Hue ecosystem and can be used basically anywhere.
MEATER+ is a thermometer that you put into your food while it’s in the oven and it transmits real-time data to your phone.
After syncing with the Philips Sonicare app on your phone — which takes about 20 seconds — your phone follows your brushing around your mouth, a progress bar tracing a representation of your teeth like a train on a track.
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