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Consumers spend big on smart speakers, but small through them

(TECH GADGETS) Smart speaker manufacturers expected results from the purchase of goods via audio. The consumers results speak for themselves, people want to see products

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Remember when Amazon came out with their “innovative” new idea – – the Dash button? We reported on it a few years ago.

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.

Rachael Olan is a Texas-based Staff Writer at The American Genius and jack-of-many-trades. She's well known for her abilities in Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service, with a focus on SaaS and eCommerce businesses. Outside of writing, Rachael spends much of her time with her swarm of pets, including a 70 lb tortoise named Frankie.

Tech Gadgets

Google Glass didn’t succeed, but Apple’s AR glasses might

(TECH GADGETS) Apple Glass: Are AR glasses gimmicky, or can Apple improve where Google failed? The potential is enormous, but can Apple meet the expectations?

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Apple AR glasses

Apple may announce a new addition to the iFamily this year: Apple Glass, a set of AR glasses to complement existing Apple products. Even though we’ve seen this story before, here’s why Apple’s rumored eyewear might deserve your attention–if not your money.

This certainly isn’t the first time a technology company has taken their brand name and slotted the word “Glass” after it to create hype. In 2015, Google Glass was discontinued–quite publicly, in fact–due to a variety of issues, chief among which were privacy concerns, and an untenable price tag of around $1500. Lacking a clear market and suitable demand, the shades were put to rest, though it should be noted that a rebranded version is available now (for $999).

Apple is a company that has, in the past, showed a propensity for iteration rather than innovation; the Apple Watch, while a stylish and functional improvement on existing wearable technology, wasn’t even close to the first of its kin, and early versions of the iPad were scrutinized against similarly sized, lower-priced counterparts. This isn’t to say that Apple doesn’t do tech better–just that they are, often enough, pretty late to the party.

In the case of AR glasses, this is a habit that may suit Apple well.

Put bluntly, there isn’t a clearly established need for smart glasses, and while critics of the Apple Watch were quick to say the same thing about that implement, anyone who has worn one for a few hours can recognize (if not fully appreciate) the handiness–no pun intended. It seems fair to afford Apple some grace with this in mind, but the fact remains that the demand for a set of AR glasses simply isn’t there for now.

On the other hand (again, no pun intended), Apple is the master of creating demand and hype where previously there was naught but slumber. For this reason, it behooves us to keep an eye on Apple’s unveiled tech this year–if for no other reason than to know for sure how the company plans to address the sticky issue of AR wearables.

After all, there are numerous medical, exploratory, and generally functional applications for which one could feasibly use AR in a beneficial (not gimmicky) manner, and if Apple is able to expedite that process, far be it from us to criticize. Yet.

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Tech Gadgets

The Apple Watch isn’t just a way to ignore calls, it could save your life

(TECH GADGETS) A lot of people balked at the idea of an Apple Watch, and even though many of its features seem superfluous, it has actually saved lives.

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Apple products are known for invasive yet convenient features–Face ID, Keychain, and AirDrop being some of the more notable ones–but the Apple Watch emergency dial feature might be the most useful one of them all.

If you’ve had the pleasure of setting up an Apple Watch from scratch, you know that the Healthcare app asks some invasive questions. This app, among other things, is responsible for curating a list of emergency contacts (something you can also populate via the Contacts app on your iPhone)–and this list might save your life if you take an unexpected tumble, at least if you have a Series 4 or 5 watch.

The way the feature works is relatively simple: If the watch senses that a user has rapidly or heavily fallen, it will initiate a haptic pulse along with a message asking the user to confirm that they are okay. Should the user fail to address this notification, the watch will call emergency services–and the user’s emergency contact list–with details including the user’s GPS coordinates.

The fall detection feature has reportedly worked for a few Apple Watch owners, one of whom passed out and didn’t wake up until emergency services arrived.

It is worth noting that the Apple Watch has another potentially life-saving feature: an ECG attached to the Heart Rate app. In theory, the Heart Rate app can detect abnormalities in one’s heartbeat and warn the user of an impending issue such as a stroke or a heart attack. Anyone who owns an Apple Watch knows that the Heart Rate app can be finicky, but Apple seems likely to continue tweaking this app as the watch ages.

While several owners have publicly attested to the effectiveness of these features, this shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement of the Apple Watch’s ability to save a life. An Apple Watch is still, first and foremost, a novelty–one that won’t always perform the way it’s meant to.

Future iterations of the watch–starting with the Series 6–are expected to expand on these medical features by adding monitoring for blood oxygen levels as well as improvements on existing features.

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Tech Gadgets

Samsung shines a new light on indoor health with artificial sunlight

(TECH GADGETS) Samsung’s C-Lab venture creates windows that simulate natural sunlight, so now you can stay healthy while being stuck inside!

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The light therapy market just leveled up. C-Lab Inside, an in-house idea incubation program to develop innovative ideas from Samsung employees, unveiled a window-shaped artificial sunlight device called the SunnyFive window. According the Samsung Newsroom, it enables the user to enjoy sunlight that changes by the hour by copying the full spectrum of the actual sunlight.

Light therapy lamps have been around for decades as a way for sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and some skin issues to get the benefits of sunlight all year long, without the risk of sunburn. In a time when many people are spending more time indoors than before as they shelter in place during the CoVID-19 pandemic, the audience for more accessible in-home sunlight may be greater than ever.

A device like the SunnyFive window promises a full spectrum of natural light that can simulate a real window through a changing light angle which adjusts throughout the day, including sunrises and sunsets. For SAD sufferers and others who can benefit from exposure to light, it can helps users synthesize vitamin D while indoors or in low-light places as they would in natural sunlight, according to the Samsung Newsroom.

samsung sunnyside

And because it is 2020, of course there is an app with that. It is set for easy integration with Samsung’s SmartThings smart home system, so users can personalize their light by adjusting brightness and color temperature from their phone, and set a schedule to wake up with a simulated sunrise. It can be mounted on the wall like a picture frame, and is designed to look like a window with diffused light, instead of the light box design used by many current light therapy lamps on the market.

This seems like an interesting product with a lot of upsides, but there are still a number of question marks around the technology and safety of this device. If UVB lighting is what is being emitted, what type of health consequences might users be exposed to? Did SunnyFive integrate any health safeguards or mitigating elements to address UVB exposure? Though Samsung showcased the SunnyFive window at the 2020 CES, the product, pricing, and details have yet to be released.

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