Lenovo Unleashes Smart Devices with Alexa and Google Assistants

Subject: General Tech | January 24, 2019 - 02:11 AM |
Tagged: tablet, snapdragon 450, Lenovo, google, Android, Alexa

While Lenovo’s desktop displays and mobile PCs got most of the attention at CES earlier this month, the company also took the wraps off a number of smart devices for the home in the form of a Google Assistant powered clock and a pair of Alexa powered tablets.

The Lenovo Smart Clock features a four-inch touchscreen using an IPS panel and 480x800 resolution wrapped in a soft touch fabric shell. Around back there is a single USB port, mute mic button, and volume controls. The Smart Clock uses a single 3-watt speaker (6W max) and there is support for Google’s multi-room audio and Chromecast support integrated. Measuring 113.88x79.2x79.8mm and weighing 328 grams (0.72 lbs), Lenovo’s smart clock is powered by a MediaTek 81675 clocked at 1.5 GHz paired with 1GB RAM and 8GB of internal eMMC storage. Wireless support includes 802.11ac (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and Bluetooth 5.0.

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On the tablet front, Lenovo launched the Smart Tab P10 and Smart Tab M10 which officially launched January 19th. Both models are 10-inch tablets that run Android Oreo and include a docking station (the Smart Dock) that enables Alexa Show Mode. The Lenovo M10 is the budget option and the P10 dials up the specifications a bit. Both tablets have a 10.1” 1920x1200 IPS display, front-facing Dolby Atmos speakers (the M10 has two, the P10 has four), front and rear cameras (the M10 uses a 2MP camera up front and a 5MP rear camera while the P10 has a 5MP front camera and an 8MP rear camera), and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 processor. The M10 features a soft touch finish, measures 8mm thick and weighs in at 1.05 pounds while the P10 uses a dual glass design and is slightly thinner and lighter at 7mm and 0.97 pounds respectively. The Lenovo M10 has 2GB or 3GB of RAM and 16GB or 32GB of internal storage depending on the specific SKU along with a 4850 mAh battery. Stepping things up slightly the P10 offers up to 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, and a 7,000 mAh battery. The P10 further adds a Fingerprint reader and extra sensors.

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When docked the tablet can take advantage of dual 3-watt speakers and three far-field microphones to listen for Alexa activation commands while also being charged via the dock connector. The Smart Dock itself weighs 1.76 lbs and measures 2.57” x 11.16” x 1.96”.

Lenovo’s Smart Tab tablets are available now starting at $199.99 for the Smart Tab M10 and $299.99 for the Smart Tab P10. The Google Assistant-powered Smart Clock has a MSRP of $79.99 and is slated for a spring 2019 release.

What are your thoughts on the Alexa integrated tablets? I think it’s a nice-to-have feature, but I’m not sure I like Alexa enough to buy a tablet because of it. With that said, I will say that I was resistant to the various assistants (Cortana, Alexa, Google), and I still don’t use it on my phone, but the Echo and Echo Dots at the house are useful and can do some cool stuff! A tablet that can dock and use Alexa controls to display stuff could be handy for looking up recipies or watching the PC Perspective podcast (#JoshTekk) while in the kitchen.

Source: Lenovo

Satya Nadella spotted heading into the woods with a shovel and dufflebag

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2019 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows phone, ios, Android, cortana, Alexa

It has been an interesting week to be Microsoft, as they have had to suggest to their user base that they might be better off moving to a competitor's product.  Sebastian has already informed you about the fact that Cortana and Windows Search are going through a somewhat amicable divorce, but today we find Satya Nadella suggesting that Cortana will become an optional skill which you can choose for Alexa or Google Assistant; if you don't see any better perks for that level.  Apparently they will also "be again completely consumer businesses" by offering consumers the same licensing scheme as they forced upon enterprise businesses, of which many have expressed strong feelings about since it was introduced.

What must really burn is their admit that Windows 10 Mobile is indeed as dead as the proverbial parrot, which has forced them to suggest that current users move to a different device as Microsoft will no longer even offer token support for that OS after the end of the year.  People paying attention to this may remember that the last major update to the OS was pushed in 2017.

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"Microsoft's guidance for customers is to "move to a supported Android or iOS device" and use the range of Microsoft applications on one of those platforms instead."

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Source: Ars Technica

Why won't anyone believe there really are subliminal messages corrupting young digital assistants?

Subject: General Tech | January 31, 2018 - 01:04 PM |
Tagged: siri, security, google, Alexa

Some of us are old enough to remember when certain parties were convinced there were subliminal messages in the music which kids listened to which they creatively blamed for a wide variety of behaviour.  This belief turned out to be as ridiculous as it sounds, though that doesn't stop it from recurring every couple of generations.  There is a somewhat similar and very real issue which The Register talks about here; using a deep neural net they were able to modify songs in such a way that digital assistants such as Echo, Siri and others would hear and execute a command while the humans in the room would only hear a slight distortion in the audio.  This particular method is much harder to protect against than the previously discovered vulnerability which was ultrasonic commands which a microphone could pick up but was well beyond the range of human hearing. 

You do need to reverse engineer the audio processing software of the digital assistant before you will be able to craft your hidden commands, however once that is done this is a very effective attack.

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"The researchers tested a variety of in-song commands delivered directly to Kaldi as audio recordings, such as: "Okay Google, read mail" and "Echo, open the front door." The success rate of these was 100 per cent."

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Source: The Register

Play nicely children; Google and Amazon having trouble with that sharing thing

Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2017 - 12:58 PM |
Tagged: amazon, google, Alexa, youtube

Google has decided that YouTube should not work as advertised on any Amazon devices, in retaliation to Amazon refusing to stream Amazon Prime Video over Google Cast nor sell Google devices online.  Currently you will just be redirected to YouTube.com when you launch your app but Google is planning on blocking all access from Echo or Fire TV in the near future.  None of us particularly care about Google and Amazon's relationship problems but sadly, similar to children whose parents are going through a divorce, we are the ones who suffer.  These two companies have been at it for a while, The Register covers some of the highlights of their disfunctional relationship here.

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"Google is trying to stop Amazon Echo Show devices from streaming YouTube videos – and from January, it will block Amazon’s Fire TVs from accessing the vid service, too."

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Source: The Register

CES 2017: First 4K TVs Powered by Amazon Fire TV Announced

Subject: Displays | January 5, 2017 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: Westinghouse, Ultra HD, UHD, tv, television, seiki, FireTV, Element, CES 2017, CES, amazon, Alexa, 4k

In a market packed with UHD TVs, a trio of budget television manufacturers have introduced new Amazon Fire TV-powered 4K televisions at CES, with new models announced from Seiki, Westinghouse, and Element. These TVs are "the world’s first 4K Ultra HD Smart TVs with Amazon Fire TV built in", with remotes supporting Alexa voice commands.

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Quoting the press release, the new models from Seiki, Westinghouse, and Element will all offer the following features:

  • Sizes: 43", 50", 55" and 65"
  • 4K Ultra HD 3,840 by 2,160 panel resolution on all models
  • The latest Amazon Fire TV user interface, including easy access to over-the-air TV programming (separate HD antenna required), simple TV input setup, and component switching
  • Through the included voice remote with Alexa, customers can search for content and programming, control TV inputs and settings, and access Alexa skills to play music, get the news, check weather, sports scores, and more
  • Voice remote with Alexa enabled control of smart home devices from multiple brands, including Belkin WeMo, Philips Hue, Wink, Insteon, Samsung SmartThings, Nest, TP-Link, Ecobee and more
  • Access to more than 7,000 channels, games, apps and Alexa skills, including over 300,000 TV episodes and movies from Amazon Video, HBO NOW, Hulu and more
  • Amazon Prime customers get unlimited access to Prime Video, featuring thousands of movies and TV episodes at no additional cost to their membership. Plus, with Amazon Channels, Prime members can now get HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, PBS KIDS, and over 100 more services. They only pay for the channels they want—no cable required, no additional apps to download, and easy online cancellation.
  • 3 GB memory and 16 GB internal storage
  • Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet connectivity
  • Streaming resolution at 4K Ultra HD (2160p), 1080p, 720p up to 60 fps
  • One-year limited warranty and great customer support

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We have seen a similar idea with Roku TVs from Hisense, TCL, and others, as budget TV makers look to differentiate themselves; and the integration of the popular Amazon Fire TV for the OS may help position Seiki and company more favorably. Hopefully improvements in backlighting tech and UHD panel production cost reductions will result in a "trickle-down" effect for better picture quality for TVs selected on cost alone, but for now improved user interface design can go a long way in making these budget TVs pleasant to use.

Coverage of CES 2017 is brought to you by NVIDIA!

PC Perspective's CES 2017 coverage is sponsored by NVIDIA.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at https://pcper.com/ces!

Source: PR Newswire

CES 2017: Lenovo's Smart Assistant, Smart Storage, and Multimedia Controller

Subject: General Tech, Networking | January 3, 2017 - 03:01 AM |
Tagged: wireless keyboard, Smart Storage, smart home, Smart Assistant, Lenovo, connected, CES 2017, CES, Alexa, 500 Multimedia Controller

Lenovo is announcing a trio of new connected devices beginning with the Amazon Alexa-powered Smart Assistant.

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“The Lenovo Smart Assistant with Amazon Alexa is like having your own digital assistant at home. Featuring Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service, this voice-controlled high-definition speaker with far field microphones, is there to lend a hand whenever you need it. Want to know what the morning traffic is like? Forgot to order that book from Amazon? Longing to hear your favorite playlist? Simply ask Alexa. She has all the answers to help simplify your life. What’s more, she can even help remotely with the Amazon Alexa App, which is free to download for Android and iOS.”

The Smart Assistant offers high definition sound with a speaker system that combines a 5W treble and 10W bass speaker,  and the Harman Kardon Edition takes this further with a ported design for enhanced sound.

Next we have Lenovo’s Smart Storage, which provides up to 6 TB of connected storage over a wireless (or wired) home network.

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“Despite this remote storage center’s compact size, the Lenovo Smart Storage comes with a big challenge: How will you and your family fill it? Capable of storing up to 6 TB of photos, movies, and other digital files, this dual-band WiFi storage system can connect wirelessly to almost any smart device you own, worldwide. You’ll maintain absolute administrative control, ensuring your data and content are secure and safe—and with Auto Sync enabled, your data will back-up automatically when within WiFi range. DLNA support also ensures you’ll be able to enjoy your movies and music on any device, anytime.”

Finally we have the Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller, which combines a compact keyboard and touchpad in a small wireless control device for the living room.

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“Want to browse the web from your couch? Or turn on your favorite playlist from the dining table? We’ve got you covered with the Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller. It’s not only a mouse and keyboard in one, it’s also a remote control optimized for your Windows operating system. With an ergonomic design and up to 8 months battery life, the versatile Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller will make your life easier.”

The controller is designed for Windows PCs (support for Windows 7 through 10), and uses a nano USB dongle for its 2.4 GHz wireless connection. The touchpad DPI is adjustable for user preference, and the unit offers up to 8 months of battery life from a pair of AAA batteries. At 5.71 x 3.37 x 0.74 inches (and 141 grams) this is a pretty small device, but certainly larger than some of the smart TV remote keyboards certain models have shipped with.

Coverage of CES 2017 is brought to you by NVIDIA!

PC Perspective's CES 2017 coverage is sponsored by NVIDIA.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at https://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Lenovo