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Smart Speakers: Say the Word and Make It Happen
What is a smart speaker versus a smart display?
A smart speaker is a central hub for controlling smart lights, cameras, TVs, thermostats, and more, all by voice. They play music from your favourite streaming services, and are personal digital assistants, answering queries, reading the news and calendar updates, traffic and weather reports, setting timers, waking you up in the morning, and more.
A smart display performs these same functions as well, but adds a screen with visual responses. Like a tablet or smartphone, you can browse photos, play videos, and make video calls. With some models, you can also surf the web and take photos.
A smart display is ideal for a bedroom nightstand, kitchen counter, or living room side table where it remains on display, while a smart speaker can be tucked away just about anywhere then play audio and diligently listen for audible commands. Some smart speakers do have small displays showing things like the time.
What types of smart speakers are available?
Smart speakers come in all shapes and sizes, from small, hockey puck-sized ones like the Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini, to tall and cylindrical ones like the Amazon Echo, and large ones like the Google Home Max or Apple HomePod. There are a variety of finish and fabric options like charcoal, chalk, white/slate, space grey, heather grey, sandstone, black, and even bold colour choices like aqua, fig, and coral.
Depending on the brand, they work with Amazon Alexa home assistant, Google Assistant, or Apple’s Siri for voice commands; some third-party smart speakers, available from brands like Cavalier, Harman Kardon, iHome, JBL, Marshall, Sonos, Sony, and Ultimate Ears, work with more than one voice assistant.
Control hundreds of smart devices by voice, and listen to music from different streaming services, like Spotify, Google Music, and Apple Music. Compatibility varies depending on the smart speaker.
Most have buttons for muting the mic, and LED lights; some have touch panels for manually controlling the volume.
What are some of the unique features of a smart speaker?
Amazon Echo smart speakers work with thousands of “skills” for accomplishing different tasks and controlling different devices. A Drop In feature lets you send a message to another Echo device in the home, using them as intercoms. Google Home smart speakers include Chromecast so you can “cast” video to a compatible television using your voice; and they can distinguish among different voices in the home to provide personalized results, like your specific calendar or route to work. The Apple HomePod works seamlessly with Apple HomeKit-enabled devices and Apple Music, learning your tastes over time.
Larger smart speakers offer 360-degree, room-filling, immersive sound while smaller ones are great for background tunes, or connect them to other speakers. Far-field mics mean they hear your commands from afar, even across the room.
Set up multiple smart speakers throughout the home, then play the same music through all or different music in different rooms.