Well, just in case you need a refresher, Amazon created a physical representation of their digital “buy” button in an effort to make buying items from Amazon easier, especially related to items most frequently purchased (like laundry pods and toilet paper). The goal was to provide customers a way to put a sort of reminder next to their frequently purchased items, and press it when they realize they need to order more.
At first, everyone thought this was a great idea… until the price tag and the product’s limitations were shown.
These “buttons” were made of inexpensive plastic and sold for a whopping $4.99 a piece. Not only that, but each button was specific to a certain item, so you couldn’t just buy one Dash – you had to buy one for every item you bought regularly.
That means, depending on what you bought on a regular basis, a single person could have hundreds of these Dash buttons all around their house, making this strategy very unsophisticated and inefficient.
Amazon hasn’t completely abandoned their Dash buttons, as I’m sure they have users here and there, but they definitely have moved on through their Amazon speakers, guided by Alexa, an AI, and they’re not alone. However, for the remainder of this story, given their general popularity and “household name” status, I’ll use Amazon as my prime example.
Now, don’t get me wrong, smart speakers like the Echo are usually satisfactory, at least from a musical perspective, and Alexa does listen pretty well and has some pretty nifty tricks up her preverbal sleeve, but “she” does have her shortcomings.
Let me start by saying that Alexa-based devices, to me, have negatives that far outweigh the positives.
My main reason for opting out of owning an Echo or another smart speaker is the fact that Alexa is always listening. It’s creepy to me, and to many others, but Amazon lives and dies by this strategy when it comes to its Alexa products.
They’re so invested in this feature because they had high hopes that people would use Alexa for far more than obtaining recipes, setting a timer, or reading the news to you (here’s a quick list of what Alexa can currently do, as reported by The Daily Sound). One of these said features is the ability to purchase items through their voice-activated, Alexa-based devices.
Well, I can officially say from a consumer’s perspective that they failed. According to eMarketer, “while some US consumers are warming to the idea of making voice-based purchases via smart speakers, the number of those doing so is smaller than initially estimated.”
But,why? Well, the answer makes perfect sense!
No one wants to buy what they can’t see. If you’ve ever worked in telemarketing or phone-based sales in any way, you know this is true. Having worked in retail in my early professional years, I can say with complete confidence that most consumers prefer to buy what they can see and feel, and if they can’t feel it (ie: eCommerce), they sure as heck want lots of photos and videos showing it off. It’s a fact that people would much prefer a tiny screen with some visuals than something with zero visuals.
In fact, eMarketer goes on to say: “The absence of screens on many smart speaker models is an added aspect of this problem – people often want to see products before a purchase. As a result, some voice buyers are instead opting to make purchases with other voice-controlled devices that have screens, such as smartphones and tablets.”
So what did Amazon really think would happen when they completely stomped on the normal buying process (ie: seeing is believing) by removing all visuals, and instead replacing it with something akin to ordering burgers in a drive through without a menu present? Could this just be a mass experiment, using consumers as guinea pigs while they try to find a new outlet for sales?
It’s possible! After all, Amazon is a marketing machine and if you work in marketing, you know you must perform tests to find out what yielded the best results.
But as both a marketer and a consumer, I digress.
In addition, consumers are also concerned about payment and privacy via a total voice-based transaction. But that doesn’t stop everyone from using the system completely. That said, the privacy concern is real: there’s even a bracelet you can buy to jam Alexa’s microphones.
Of course, there are still reasons to get an Alexa device, but for the time being, people really just don’t trust an audio-based ordering system with no visuals.
New device stops your smart speaker from listening without a safe word
(TECH GADGETS) Don’t like your smart devices spying on you? There might just be a solution. Paranoid is a device that stands between you and companies listening to you.
Okay, I’m the first to admit I do not trust smart home devices. Between the threat of corporations, hackers and the government all potentially tapping into private information, there’s a lot to be worried about. There’s something disquieting about random Amazon employees listening to my conversations, y’know?
That said…I still sometimes wish for voice activated devices. What can I say, they’re convenient. It would be nice to command my speaker to change the song when my hands are covered in flour or something.
Turns out, I’m not the only one who wishes for a smart speaker that wasn’t always listening in.
Paranoid, which hails from major security company Pleasant Solutions, will serve as a way for you to have your cake and eat it too. Or, in this case, have your smart device and cut down on its ability to spy.
How does it work? Essentially, Paranoid keeps a device from listening in until you say the safe word – “paranoid” – in which case it allows your smart device to listen to your command. For most devices, Paranoid will provide you with a device that easily attaches to your speaker and either jams the speaker or engages the mute button until you want to use the device. More complicated devices can be sent to Paranoid for internal alterations that will provide something similar.
For the moment, Paranoid only services specific models of Amazon and Google speakers, though they hope to expand to tackle any smart speaker on the market.
Of course, if you’re as wary as me, you’re probably aware that this just means Paranoid will be spying on you instead. (My first thought was seriously “out of the frying pan into the fire” when I learned about Paranoid’s technology.) I was relieved to learn, though, that unlike the smart devices, Paranoid doesn’t connect to the cloud. It doesn’t even connect to the internet, which means you don’t have to worry about anyone hacking into the system.
The initial devices will cost $49 USD each. Sure, this could double the price of a cheap smart home speaker, but when the alternative is potentially allowing almost anyone to listen in to your private conversations? I’d say it’s worth it.
This article was first published on February 05, 2020.
COVID-19 killing robots are on the loose
(TECH GADGETS) Robots are helping disinfect hospitals and airplanes and reduce contact between healthcare workers and infected people to slow down the COVID-19 spread.
Don’t fear the robot takeover! What if the robots are here to save us instead? Xenex germicidal UV-light radiating robots may help save us from the COVID-19 pandemic. These no-touch disinfecting robots are already in use in hundreds of hospitals, and have been helping reduce healthcare associated infections (HAIs) for years.
Xenex LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots can disinfect various spaces, including hospital rooms, aircrafts or larger public areas, such as schools or malls–and quickly. In fact, these Germ-Zapping Robots have been leading the way in fighting HAIs since the prototype was launched in 2010. They help reduce MERS and staph infections, and helped hospitals disinfect rooms and equipment during the most recent Ebola outbreak.
Two infectious disease epidemiologists, Dr. Julie Stachowiak and Dr. Mark Stibich, who earned their doctorates at Johns Hopkins University, came up with the idea for these no-touch disinfecting robots. The robots work by emitting pulsed xenon UV light that can disinfect a hospital room in minutes.
In an ideal scenario, the robots disinfect a room after a manual cleaning. However, with the high rate of infection to healthcare workers dealing with COVID-19, Xenex Germ-Zapping Robots can disinfect an area both before and after manual cleaning. They usually cost around $100,00 each, though in the long term they save hospitals money due to reduced HAI occurrences.
The company reportedly is offering to lend the robots for free to select, high risk areas. CEO Morris Miller offered to lend one to disinfect San Antonio’s North Star Mall after a confirmed coronavirus patient was released, before having another test come back positive. She had gone to the mall in the meantime. San Antonio is not only the company’s home base, but also where Lackland Air Force Base is testing, quarantining, and treating patients with confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Xenex and public health officials are also discussing how to get them to China and other places where the need is greatest. More than 500 hospitals already had these robots in use before COVID-19 reared its ugly, crowned head.
Another company with a similar concept, specifically targeted at disinfecting airplanes between flights, is Dimer UVC Innovations, with the GermFalcon robots. Dimer has offered their robots for free to at least one airline running international flights in its home base, Los Angeles.
Now that the virus has spread to several other countries, with new hotspots appearing weekly, both Xenex and Dimer are hopefully expanding these offers to help in the interest of public health. Imagine being able to disinfect schools, libraries, and office buildings as well as hospitals, clinics, and airplanes.
More traditionally-conceived service robots are serving to bring food and medical supplies to COVID-19 patients in China to minimize person-to-person contact. Vici is another robot, a telehealth device on wheels. Vici allows healthcare providers to communicate with and observe patients without being in personal contact. Reducing interaction with infected people is crucial. The tragically high rate of healthcare workers, especially in Wuhan, who contracted COVID-19 after caring for patients has made that clear.
COVID-19 has led experts to strongly encourage social isolation as the safest, smartest way to avoid catching the novel coronavirus. Social isolation should also help flatten the curve, or slow down the spread enough for medical resources to keep up with need.
Bring on the robots, y’all. Modern problems require modern solutions, after all. So you’d better learn to speak robot – it’s time. BEEP BOOP BLORP – ZARRP.
Has Samsung learned from their Galaxy Fold bendy mistakes?
(TECH GADGETS) Samsung’s back with round two of the folding glass phone, but is it worth it? Has Samsung fixed the kinks from the Galaxy Fold with the new Z Flip?
Talk to any woman and you’ll know that most pants pockets are too small to fit the average cell-phone. Seriously, I can’t even fit my phone into my back pockets. This is a problem that has persisted since the dawn of time (or at least the dawn of smart phones) and an unlikely company is stepping up to present a solution: Samsung.
Sure, Samsung can’t make pockets bigger – though that would be the obvious solution to this problem – but it can make phones smaller. And if that makes you worried you’ll have to sacrifice screen space, never fear! Samsung’s newest model, the Galaxy Z Flip combines the smartphone of the future with the flip phone of the past. In other words: a smart phone with foldable glass.
After all those jokes we made about the inferiority of flip phones, companies are racing back to the general design. In fact, Apple just patented some foldable tech a few days ago.
This isn’t the first time Samsung has tried to release a flip-phone/smartphone hybrid. Last year, they released the Galaxy Fold, which was the size of a normal phone but could unfold to become a tablet. Unfortunately, problems manifested immediately. People reported the phone breaking in under 48 hours, many mistook an integral part of the phone for a screen protector, and others soon had a crease down the middle of the screen.
The release was…underwhelming, to put it nicely.
Now Samsung argues things are different. The Galaxy Z Flip will be about the size of your average smartphone when it’s unfolded, for one, and Samsung assures potential customers that the folding problems from the last device have been fixed. The phone also boasts 5G compatibility and improved cameras that are only made better by the unique angles the flip phone can provide.
Will this release usher in a new era of flip phones? We’ll have to wait and see, though if it’s anything like their last release…probably not. Even if the device works without a hitch, it still comes with a high price tag – $1,380 to be exact. That’s no small sum to lay down on a phone that is still not guaranteed to last, but hey, that’s what it takes to be a trendsetter.
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