The Electronic Frontier Foundation responded to today’s vote with a statement that “If the bill is signed into law, companies like Cox, Comcast, Time Warner, ATT, and Verizon will have free rein to hijack your searches, sell your data, and hammer you with unwanted advertisements. Worst yet, consumers will now have to pay a privacy tax by relying on VPNs to safeguard their information.”
New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is in support of rolling back the rules, claiming that “the FCC will work with the FTC to ensure that consumers’ online privacy is protected through a consistent and comprehensive framework.” Once this is signed by the president, it will be up to them just how creepy internet service providers can get.
The Google Home is at last starting to fulfill its potential in the smart home. With nearly a dozen new companies announcing integrations with its platform, the search giant has dramatically increased what its smart speaker can do.
Starting today, for most of these new additions, you’ll be able to give a voice command to the Google Assistant built into the Google Home smart speaker and control devices from these 11 companies:
It’s the first major update to Google’s smart speaker since it launched last November. Back then, the Home worked with four platforms: Nest, Philips Hue, SmartThings and IFTTT. As a result, the Home was well behind its chief competitor — the Amazon Echo — when it came to controlling the smart home. Since then, Google’s new partner announcements have included a few at CES in January, as well as Belkin WeMo lighting products and Honeywell connected thermostats a few weeks after that.
This announcement doesn’t quite even the playing field with Amazon, since Amazon’s assistant Alexa now has more than 10,000 “skills” — essentially third-party apps for voice control. Still, it’s a big push in the right direction that includes many popular smart home products.
It also expands Google Home’s abilities into new territory. Previously, the Google Assistant only worked with lights, plugs, switches, thermostats and recently robot vacuums. Today’s announcement includes locks, sprinklers, an air conditioner, a sous vide cooker and even a professionally installed smart home system. It comes hot on the heels of the news that the Home is coming to the UK and Europe in April.
Google promised a push of this sort back in December of last year, when the company announced it’d be expanding Weave — the language Google’s devices use to speak to each other. Now, that promise is coming to fruition.
What we know about these new integrations
This is the first lock to work with Google Home. You’ll be able to ask the Google assistant to lock your door or check on the status of the lock. Unlike with Alexa, you won’t be able to ask Google to unlock your door. August has promised that feature for Google later this year. With Alexa, unlocking the door requires you to say a PIN code. We’ll see what extra security measures August puts into place for the Google Home when the time comes.
For now, you can control both the first- and second-generation August locks with the Google Assistant as long as you also have the August Connect Wi-Fi Bridge. August now works with Alexa, Apple’s HomeKit and Google Home.
Just like with Philips Hue bulbs, you’ll now be able to turn your Lifx bulbs on or off, adjust their brightness and change their color with a voice command to the Home. Unlike Philips Hue, Lifx bulbs don’t require a hub to connect to the internet. Install your bulbs, link your account in the Google Home app and give your command. Lifx bulbs also work with Alexa, and will soon work with HomeKit.
All Wink compatible lighting products and thermostats will now work with Google Home. Wink’s lighting products include bulbs, switches, dimmers and outlets. Wink joins SmartThings as the second major smart home platform to work with Google. Wink currently works with Alexa as well, but not HomeKit.
Another new trick for Google Home, you’ll now be able to turn on your garden sprinklers with your voice. The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller connects to your home’s Wi-Fi and monitors the weather to help you water more efficiently. Rachio can control up to 16 zones of in-ground sprinklers, and now you’ll be able to command Google to turn those sprinklers on or off or set a weather delay. Rachio works with Alexa as well.
Expanding Google’s repertoire of bulbs and switches, you’ll be able to control any of TP-Link’s lighting products with your voice as well. With TP-Link’s bulbs, you can change the color, dim the bulbs and turn the lights on and off with your voice. TP-Link even specified the colors you can pick with a voice command: yellow, red, blue, purple, orange, green and pink. Like the rest of these partners so far, TP-Link works with Alexa.
Unlike the rest of the items on the list, you won’t be able to take advantage of Vivint’s new integration with Google Home today — it’s due to launch in April. Vivint’s also the only item on the list that is a professionally installed, whole-home smart system as opposed to individual do-it-yourself options.
Thanks to Vivint’s customized setups, Google Home will be able to control types of gadgets not yet available on the DIY front — including cameras, security systems and garage doors. Pick your package of choice for professional installation, and you’ll be able to do the basics with Google’s smart speaker as well — such as controlling lights, locks and thermostats. Vivint offers similar capabilities through packages that include an Amazon Echo.
Perhaps making use of Google’s existing ability to control the temp via a thermostat, the Frigidaire Cool Connect will let Google Home keep your place cool. Using your voice, you’ll be able to control the temperature settings on Frigidaire’s smart air conditioner. You’ll also be able to set the fan speed and ask Google about the Cool Connect’s current settings. Frigidaire does have a skill enabling similar controls with Amazon’s assistant Alexa.
With the Anova Precision Cooker Bluetooth + Wi-Fi, you can make your sous vide cooking even more high tech with Google Home. Just like with Anova’s Alexa skill, you can use your voice to set the temperature, check the status of your cooker and even search for recipes. Anova expects its Google Home integration to be ready by early next week.
We haven’t heard anything concrete on the integration with First Alert yet. Based the Alexa skill, we can predict how First Alert will work with Google Home. With First Alert’s Environment Monitor, you can use Alexa to check on the temperature, humidity or carbon monoxide levels in a room.
Finally gaining ground
Since all of Google’s new partnerships are already tied to Alexa, Google’s obviously still playing catch up. Today, though, Google took a sizeable chunk out of Alexa’s lead.
The Google Assistant built into the Home also responds to more flexible language than Amazon’s Alexa. Because of that, and thanks to all of these new integrations, Google is already nipping at Amazon’s heels in the smart home, despite the Echo’s two-year head start.
Smart Home Matrix: Want to know what will work best with your smart home? Start here.
To make sure Ford GT owners get the most from the supercar in every condition possible, the automaker says, it packs five different modes.
For your average driver going about a somewhat standard routine, Normal is the mode to select. In Normal mode, the GT has about 4.7 inches of ground clearance, which should keep the car from eating itself alive on bumpy roads. Traction and stability control cannot be adjusted, and the rear wing comes out at 90 mph.
If you take your expensive supercar out in the rain, Wet mode is the way to go. It gives you the same steering calibration as Normal, but it dials back the throttle response to cut down on wheel slip. The ride height is the same, and like Normal mode, the traction and stability control systems can’t be adjusted. Safety first!
Both Normal and Wet modes also feature a comfort setting for the suspension, which ratchets up the damping to help make even the worst roads (many of which are located in the GT’s home state of Michigan) somewhat palatable.
Head on over to Sport mode if you want a sprightlier on-road demeanor. The throttle and transmission calibrations are sharper, the comfort suspension option is removed, and the traction and stability control finally become adjustable. It can permit additional oversteer, although drifting on public roads is very much frowned upon. Sport mode also activates the GT’s antilag feature, which keeps the turbochargers spooled for more immediate response. The active rear wing now engages at 70 mph, as well.
That’s it for the modes you can use on the street. Ford is adamant that the two following modes are only for track use.
Track mode takes the changes in Sport and turns the dial up to 11. The ride height drops to just under 2 inches, and the spring and damper rates are cranked to the maximum. The rear wing is permanently deployed for better aerodynamics, and as before, traction and stability control can be tweaked for a bit more slippage.
If you don’t care about turns, or you happen to own a very long runway, you’ll want V-Max mode, which is concerned with top speed and top speed alone. In order to minimize drag, the wing stays stowed, with most other settings similar to Track mode. However, it removes the adjustability from the traction and stability control systems, in order to keep the car pointed in the right direction under all that power.
With 647 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque coming from its 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V6, the GT is ready to party, no matter what sort of party you’re after.
With the weather beginning to brighten up, Amazon’s introducing a new perk for Prime members that aims to get you to down your Kindle, drag yourself off your comfy sofa and venture out to see some live gigs and events. Starting this Thursday, Amazon Tickets — the UK-only service (for now) we’d also kinda forgotten about — will begin offering Prime members early dibs on gig and theatre tickets at least 24 hours before they go on general sale, starting with the upcoming tours of acts including Art Garfunkel and The Darkness. And if you really want to make a night of it, Prime subscribers can also splash their cash to get on the list for Amazon’s premium seating and luxury lounges at various London venues.
April the Giraffe may be getting a little tired of waiting for baby to arrive, but no, she didn’t successfully kick her veterinarian, “Dr. Tim,” who came to check on her on Monday.
Pregnant April has been in the spotlight since a live webcam in her pen at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York, started up on Feb. 22. Since then, fans have watched her eat, play, poop and interact — mostly patiently — with the human keepers and doctors who pop in to check on baby.
And while fans may be getting impatient for a baby to arrive, imagine how April — and her human companions — must feel, as giraffes are pregnant for 15 months “plus or minus 60 days,” Dr. Tim said in a video published March 25.
“Keepers, vet, and Jordan (Patch, the park’s owner) agree — we are getting there!” the park’s Facebook update continues.
And for those who really want to know what biological variations to watch for, here you go.
“Her mammary development has continued to slowly increase,” the update continues. “Photo in comments. This is good! We do not expect any additional back-end swell, so all judging is now done based on udder changes. You will notice keepers continuing to snap photos of the underside to document changes.”
She’s not alone. At various times during Monday evening, more than 100,000 viewers were watching the livestream, and when zookeepers held a chat, comments were being posted so fast the stream flew by at an almost unreadable pace. The almost-kick at the vet was a topic of conversation, as was how the park knew April was pregnant (“she stopped cycling, we confirmed with a poo sample sent to a lab”) and how the keepers will know it’s go time (“hooves showing means active labor”).
The live feed and accompanying additional videos now have a sponsor in Toys R Us, whose cartoon mascot, Geoffrey, is a giraffe.
On Monday, the park posted a video of zoologist and head giraffe keeper Allysa Swilley, who’s familiar to live-feed watchers, discussing her bond with April. Swilley has known the giraffe since she arrived at the park in September 2016 and worked with her “almost every day since then.”
Giraffes, Swilley says in the video, only sleep about 20 minutes a day. “She doesn’t really go to bed, she takes quick short cat naps,” Swilley says of April. She also says the giraffes can eat about 50 pounds of food per day.
April, age 15, is expecting her fourth calf, and it’ll be the first for daddy Oliver, who’s 5. The calf will weigh around 150 pounds (68 kilograms) and will be about 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall at birth.
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