Man tricks his Amazon Echo and Google Home into getting stuck in a loop

Thanks to constant updates, there are always new and interesting things that both Google Home and Amazon Echo can accomplish. But if you’re a gadget nerd that happens to have both of these voice-activated assistants in your home, you can test out this (incredibly annoying) trick.

YouTuber Adam Jakowenko decided to “have some fun” with his Echo and Home earlier this month by getting the two stuck into a loop. Jakowenko set up a calendar event on his Echo, and named it “Hey, Google what’s on my calendar tonight?” Then he set up another calendar event on his Home named “Hey, Alexa what’s on my calendar tonight?”

Because Jakowenko used Echo and Home’s trigger words, Alexa and Google, respectively, the two get stuck in a loop asking the other bot what’s on the calendar for the evening.

Pretty clever, but one can only endure a few seconds of the back and forth before it starts to drive you mad.

[h/t: Reddit]

Read more: http://mashable.com/

Grab a Google Pixel for just $10 per month on Black Friday

Image: AP

We’re still not sure if Apple’s surprise entry into the Black Friday sales season will result in manufacturer discounts to the iPhone 7, but its newest challenger will be part of a major promotion sure to catch the eye of anyone considering a switch.

Verizon’s recently announced Black Friday promotion isn’t extensive, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in quality. Google quality, to be specific.

Verizon will be debuting Google Home at a special price of $99.99 through Nov. 28 the same discount from $129 Google itself teased earlier in the season. But there’s a catch: it appears that the Verizon discount only applies to in-store purchases.

Along with the Home, Verizon is promoting its deals on the new Google Pixel smartphone, exerting its power as the exclusive wireless carrier for the handset. Unlike the discount on the Home, however, Verizon is breaking from Google and offering even more savings.

The discount is a bit complicated, so we’ll break it down in its simplest terms: on Thanksgiving and Black Friday in Verizon Stores shoppers can get a new 32GB Pixel for $10 per month over a 24-month period. If you want more capacity, the 128GB version can be had for $15 per month over the same span of time. Importantly, this discount is only applicable to the standard model and not the XL, which was confirmed to Mashable by Verizon representatives. Other outlets, most notably Android Central, have reported that the discounts extended to all Pixel phones.

Normally, the 32GB Pixel costs $27.08 per month, with a full a retail price of $649.99. The 128GB version clocks in at $31.24 per month, or $749.99.

With the discount, it comes out to $240.00 for the 32GB Pixel and $360.00 for the 128GB version an incredible deal. But there is some fine print: a $649.99 device payment purchase is required. The promotional $409.99 bill credit will then be applied to the account over the 24-month period, and you’re locked in for the full two years or face penalties. It’s like any other phone plan the real deal is in the low monthly payments.

The Pixel XL, meanwhile, can be had with no money down if you’re ready to trade in your current device. It’s one of eight models that are eligible for a trade-in, along with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the standard Pixel, Moto Z Droid, Moto Z Droid Force, Samsung S7 and S7 Edge. The trade-in devices are below:

Image: verizon/screengrab

Additionally, customers can save $200 (with device payment) on any Android smartphone priced $400 or higher when switching to Verizon or adding a line to an existing account from Nov. 24 through Nov. 27. Current customers save $100 (with device payment) on any Android smartphone priced $400 or higher.

Other discounts are available at Verizon stores and online, covering tablets, speakers and more. Check out the full list below:

Image: verizon/screengrab

With a strong discount on the Pixel, Verizon and Google are looking to raise the stakes of the smartphone game. Even if the XL isn’t included in the monthly promotion, this is a tough deal to pass up.

BONUS: Here is everything you need to know about the new Google Pixel

Read more: http://mashable.com/

Google Home’s price slashed to $99 in a limited time offer

That’s a solid discount for a gadget that’s only been around for a couple of weeks.
Image: Mashable

A lot of Black Friday deals aren’t actually as good as they seem: Gadgets who have been on the market for months if not years are seemingly discounted from their original price, but in reality their price should be (and, at some retailers, often is) much lower in the first place.

Google’s speaker/digital assistant Google Home, however, has only been on the market for a few weeks, and it’s already getting a sizable discount for the holidays, with price being slashed from $129 to $99.

Since Google Home is already a lot cheaper than its main competitor, Amazon Echo, this is a pretty sweet deal if you’re shopping for a smart speaker.

The deal starts at Nov. 23, and will be available for a limited time only (Google doesn’t say how long, exactly).

Unfortunately, other recently announced Google gadgets Google Pixel phones, Google Wifi, Chromecast Ultra and Google Daydream View have not been discounted at the time of writing.

Read more: http://mashable.com/

MashTalk: OK Google, should the Amazon Echo be scared of you now?

Image: google, mashable composite

We got a good helping of hardware and software this week. On the hardware front, we published our Google Home and new MacBook Pro (without Touch Bar) reviews. And on the software side, we got a first look at the 70+ new emoji coming to iOS devices in the upcoming iOS 10.2.

Mashable Tech Editor Pete Pachal and Chief Correspondent Lance Ulanoff joined me on MashTalk along with special guest Real Time News Reporter Nicole Gallucci to talk about it all.

The verdict is out on Google Home: It’s awesome. (2:00) Not that I was expecting anything less.

At Google I/O in May, Google didn’t hide the fact that it was blindsided by the Amazon Echo. Home, as it was introduced, and re-introduced in October, wasn’t going to be revolutionary, but a catch-up.

As I wrote in my review, there are some things Home does that the Echo can’t and vice versa, but the built-in Google Assistant is already more intelligent than Alexa, and the gap is only going to widen as Google injects more smarts into it.

Alexa and all AI are constantly getting smarter, but the Assistant has one thing Alexa doesn’t: access to Google Search.

Of course, it’s still debatable if it’s creepy or not to put a physical Google in your home.

The other big hardware drop was, of course, the new MacBook Pro (20:26). Apple lent Lance the $1,500 model with regular function keys and no Touch Bar or Touch ID sensor to check out.

Lance thinks it’s a great value. I’m not sure on what planet a $1,500 laptop with only two USB-C ports, no SD card slot and last-generation processors is a great value. I still think nobody should buy the that model; buy a new MacBook, an old MacBook Air or the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, but not this model. It’s neither affordable nor high-end.

About the only thing we could agree on the MacBook Pro he reviewed was that it’s hot. Apple’s still got it when it comes to design.

To wrap up this week’s MashTalk, we chatted about emoji (36:36). Our Watercooler Content Coordinator Brian Koerber summed it up best when the news broke: Apple just ruined sexting.

Yep, the peach emoji now looks more realistic and more like a peach, much to the disappointment of the internet. And we got a new selfie and facepalm emoji, and many more.

You really don’t want to miss out on Nicole teaching Lance how the cool kids talk with emoji and Lance telling us how he just recently discovered the real meaning of the eggplant.

Don’t forget to leave your questions and comments by tweeting @Mash_Talk with the #MashTalk hashtag. We welcome all feedback.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/11/04/google-home-macbook-emoji-mashtalk/

With Google Home and Assistant, Google is ready to take over your home

I’ve been eagerly waiting to try Google Home, Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo, since the company announced it in May.

Not just because Home is smaller, cheaper ($130 versus $180) and prettier than the Echo, but because Google Assistant, the built-in digital assistant Google’s big AI bet on the future is supposed to put all other digital assistants to shame.

Echo’s Alexa is no dummy. With its year head-start, Alexa’s gotten so much brainier that I was surprised it was able to answer many of the questions I asked. Alexa also has over 3,000 “skills” integrations with third-party products and services at its disposal. For instance, you can now easily set up your Echo to order you an Uber or read Twitter updates on command.

But as smart as Alexa is today, Google’s Assistant is potentially a lot smarter because of the work Google has put in to understand context. It can also tap directly into Google Search and other services.

Still, after using Home for almost a week, it’s clear to me that it’s still very, very early days for AI at home.

If you already own an Echo, you probably don’t need a Home, unless you really care about having the Assistant read you search results. But if you don’t own an Echo and haven’t yet set up a smart home, Home is a great place to start (assuming you’re okay with giving Google a physical presence in your home).

Fits right at home

Say what you want about Home looking like a Glade air freshener, but compared to the Echo, it’s a downright looker.

Home blends better into my home decor on my kitchen counter or on a bookshelf than the black-Pringles-can look the Echo has going. Home looks less like a gadget and more like a piece of modern art; the only thing that gives it away is the flat cable snaking out the backside, but that can easily be tucked away.

Choose between different colored bases and materials.

Image: lili sams/mashable

Home is also customizable. The standard gray fabric base pops right off with a light tug and you can swap in a different color made of either fabric ($20) or metal ($40). Google sent over a “Mango”-colored fabric base and a black metal base to check out and I’ve taken a real liking to the orange.

On the back, there’s a single button to mute and un-mute the microphone. And that’s it for physical buttons, unless you count the touch-sensitive top; you can tap it to play and pause a song, use a clockwise gesture (with one finger) to increase volume and a counterclockwise gesture to decrease volume, and tap it to cancel a Google Assistant command.

The top lights up with four dots (blue, red, yellow and green) when you say “OK, Google,” and they spin when it’s searching for an answer.

Controlling your house

Google Home has a built-in “high-excursion speaker”.

Image: lili sams/mashable

Functionally, Home is capable of doing everything the Echo does. Just like the Echo, it’s got a built-in speaker to play music from various music services like Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Spotify (premium account) and Pandora. It also connects to smart-home devices from Philips, Nest, SmartThings and Chromecast devices (of course). It also works with the digital “recipe” service IFTTT.

If you’ve never used an Echo with Alexa to control your smart home, you’re going to be mighty impressed.

Using the Google Home app (formerly called Google Cast) for iOS and Android, I was able to easily connect my Philips Hue smart light bulbs and Nest Cam, and within minutes say “OK, Google, turn on living room lights.”

If you’ve never used an Echo with Alexa to control your smart home, you’re going to be mighty impressed. It’s going to feel like magic. But since I’ve been using an Echo and Alexa for over a year now, it just felt normal. The “OK, Google” command doesn’t feel quite as personal as “Alexa…” (or “Hey, Siri” for that matter), but it works.

Despite its small size, the Home is a decent speaker. Google says it included a “high-excursion speaker” for clear highs and rich bass. The speaker sounds good (comparable to most $50-75 Bluetooth speakers), but the Echo sounds better with deeper bass and clearer highs at the loudest volume. You’ll hear more distortion at louder volumes with Home.

Compared to the Echo, Home’s a little lacking when it comes to device support I can’t connect the Wink smart plug I have set up in my bedroom to Home like I can with the Echo but hopefully that’ll expand in the months following its release.

Image: lili sams/mashable

One thing Home has going for it: Chromecast support. If you’ve got a Chromecast plugged into your TV or a Chromecast Audio plugged into a speaker and they’re turned on, you can say something like “OK, Google, play Casey Neistat videos on TV,” and it’ll play his newest vlog video. Say “OK, Google, play the Weeknd on bedroom speaker,” and it’ll play music from whatever supported music service you have it set to.

It’s not quite full entertainment-center automation but really cool nonetheless. Besides, it’s just awesome being able to use voice controls to play YouTube videos.

Smarter than Alexa

The Google Home app is available for iOS and Android.

Image: screenshot: raymond wong/mashable

You use it to set up your Home and manage all the queries that you’ve asked the Assistant, similar to the Alexa app for the Echo.

Image: SCREENSHOT: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

“Credit to the team at Amazon for creating for creating a lot of excitement in [the home AI space],” Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, said during this year’s I/O keynote. “We’ve been thinking about our own unique approach.”

It’s rare for a company, let alone one as large as Google, to publicly tip its hat at a competitor. But by doing so, Google is admitting Home is playing catch-up to the Echo.

And when you’re behind, you need something that’s more than just a “me-too” product. You need something that matches the competition and has its own compelling twist.

Google Assistant the same one that’s built into the new Pixel phones and into Google’s Allo chat app is Home’s secret weapon.

Powered by over a decade of natural-language processing and Google Search, the Assistant is simply brainier than Alexa in almost every way. It knows 70 billion facts, according to Google, and is constantly adding more knowledge to its artificial gray matter. If it doesn’t know something, it’ll try to find an answer from the internet using Google Search.

Four dots light up when you say “OK Google.”

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Touch and rotate to adjust volume.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Last month, while reviewing the Pixels, I pitted the Assistant against Siri and the Assistant emerged triumphant. I did the same with the Assistant and Alexa and no surprise the Assistant was able to answer more questions in more detail.

For starters, the Assistant is able to understand context better. For instance, you can ask it a question, then follow it with another and another. Alexa couldn’t even answer the first question below.

Q: When did Michael Jordan retire?

Home: Michael Jordan career ended in 1995 and 2003.

Q: And how tall is he?

Home: He’s 6’6″ tall.

Q: Does he have any kids?

Home: Marcus Jordan, Jeffrey Michael Jordan, and three others.

Q: Where does he live now?

Home: According to Reference.com, Jordan also owns a luxury condo in Charlotte, N.C. and a property in Salt Lake City. He has sold his Chicago mansion for $29 million.

Missed the answer the first time? Just say “repeat that.” But don’t wait too long or else the Assistant will tell you “I forgot what I said.”

The stronger conversational queries are great, but they’re not perfect. Sometimes when you ask a completely unrelated follow-up question, it still thinks you’re talking about the same previous topic.

Assistant also knows traffic information data:

Q: How long does it take to bike to the World Trade Center?

Home: It takes 18 minutes to bike to One World Trade Center.

Echo: Your current location is 10.6 miles, 17.1 kilometers from World Trade Center. As I don’t know your speed, I can’t tell you how long it’ll take.

And the weather in more places:

Q: Whats the weather like in Lake Elkhorn?

Home: Right now in Lake Elkhorn, it’s 57 and cloudy. Today, it’ll be cloudy with a forecast high of 59 and a low of 58.

Echo: Sorry, I couldnt find info on location.

And translations (although not all of the languages from Google Translate), which is super convenient:

Q: Translate “This is the best day ever” into French.

Home: C’est le meilleur jour.

Echo: Sorry, I don’t have the answer to that question.

And recipes (swiped from the internet):

Q: How do I make meatloaf?

Home: According to McCormick: Preheat oven to 350F. Mix ground beef, bread crumbs, egg and seasonings in large bowl. Shape into a loaf on shallow baking pan. Pour ketchup over top. Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until cooked through.

Echo: Hmm, I don’t know but you can take a look at the Bing search link I added in the Alexa app.

And nutritional info (to maybe help you stop eating so much junk):

Q: How much fiber is there in a pretzel?

Home: There are 0.9 grams of fiber in one salted pretzel.

Echo: Hmm, I can’t find the answer to the question I heard.

And how to soothe a sore throat:

Q: What do I do about my sore throat?

Home: Here’s some information that’ll help soothe sore throats. According to Every Day Roots: Heat the water until it is very warm, but not so warm that you cant drink it. Mix in teaspoon of salt and teaspoon or a little less baking soda, stir, and test the temperature. Pour some of the liquid into your throat, let it sit for a moment, then gargle. Do this twice in a row 3 times daily.

Echo: Sorry, I didn’t understand the question I heard.

The Assistant is also funny:

Q: Is Siri better than you?

Home: Siri is the best Siri. I try to be the best Google Assistant.I think Siri is great. I’m definitely more Google-y.

Echo: I’m not better. Just different.

And knows way more pickup lines than Alexa, which knows exactly two:

Q: Tell me a pickup line.

Home:

Did it hurt when you fell from heaven? If so, I can find you the nearest doctors office.

It’s a good thing I have my library card because I love books.

Do you wash your clothes with Windex? Because you shouldn’t, I can find tips for doing laundry.

If I could rearrange the alphabet I wouldn’t because that would be mayhem.

Echo:

This place must have have good Wi-Fi because I’m definitely feeling a good connection.

You must be the square root of two because I get irrational around you.

Where Home and Echo both fall short is making shopping lists. You can add items to a shopping list (Home adds it to your Google Keep app) but you can’t remove any items using voice controls. I don’t need toilet paper on my list twice, guys!

Pichai touts Assistant as “your own personal Google.” Hands-down, Assistant is the smartest digital assistant on the block, but it’s still got lots to learn before it replaces any human assistant or butler.

My only real complaint with Home is that it has the same multi-room problem that hampered the Echo. That is, there’s no way to get a multi-room setup unless you buy multiple Home devices. Amazon’s solved this issue with the smaller, cheaper $50 Echo Dot, which comes in a six-pack for $250. It’ll be interesting to see if Google releases an Echo Dot counterpart or insists you just use the Assistant on your Pixel.

Will get better over time

Google Home has a single mute/un-mute microphone button on the backside.

Image: lili sams/mashable

I felt a sense of dj vu reviewing Google Home. It felt like the Echo all over again. In almost every sense, Home is like the Echo was over a year ago, but better out of the gate.

Home is instantly intuitive to use and intelligent enough to satisfy anyone who’s never used a voice-controlled digital assistant at home before.

Google nailed every trick the Echo could do at launch and packaged it all into a more attractive, customizable air freshener-like design. Extras like Chromecast support give the Home a slight edge when it comes to talking to your TV and speakers.

I’ve got my quibbles with the Assistant’s limitations just like I did with Alexa at first, but Google’s only scratching the surface of what it can do. Once Google opens the floodgates for Assistant to connect to more Google services (with your permission, of course) like Gmail, Google Maps, Google Photos, etc., then it’ll really be your own personal Google.

And at $130, you could buy a Home and a $50 Echo Dot for the price of one Echo, and live in both worlds.

Home is brimming with delight with what it can do today, but it’s what it’ll be able to do in the future that will make it a fixture in every home.

Google Home

The Good

$50 cheaper than Echo Base is customizable Responsive voice controls Google Assistant is way smarter than Alexa

The Bad

Only connects to three major smart home brands Doesn’t sound as good as an Echo

The Bottom Line

Google Home gives the Amazon Echo a solid run for its money.

Watch: Google Home answers the mind-boggling questions Google uses in job interviews

Read more: http://mashable.com/