Thursday, November 21, 2019

Top 5 Voices I Want for Google Assistant

Recently, Google added Issa Rae as a cameo voice users could assign for their Google Assistant. Before her, it was John Legend. Now, don’t get me wrong, both of those people I do enjoy and I think they have great voices. However, if I was in charge of everything, I could think of a few voices I wouldn’t mind having for my Google Assistant.

To show you exactly where my mind is at, here are five voices I’d like to see come to Google Assistant.

1. Morgan Freeman

This is cliche, but I don’t care. Freeman has a voice that everyone knows and loves. It’d be silly not to tap him for Google Assistant.

2. Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid)

*In Palpatine Voice* “Setting room temperature to 66 degrees.” I mean, what Star Wars nerd wouldn’t want to have that in their home? And if you want the opposite, we’ll need to have a Yoda voice added, too! “To 70 degrees, you’ve had room temperature set.”

3. Papa Emeritus III (Ghost)

This is a completely personal choice, but for those not in the know, Papa Emeritus was the frontman/vocalist for a rock band called Ghost. The character, who is an Italian satanic pope, is played by a Swedish musician named Tobias Forge. What makes the voice notable is you have a Swede attempting to give off an old school Italian mob voice. It’s very intriguing.

4. Betty White

I can’t make any type of list that concerns voices I love without adding Betty White. There’s something about her voice that sets my mind at ease. Knowing that Betty’s voice is in charge of my smart home sounds like a dream come true to me.

5. Tie – Keanu Reeves and Liam Neeson

When I say I want either Keanu or Liam to lend their voice for Google Assistant, I’m more so talking about characters they’ve played in movies. For Keanu, give me either the Bill & Ted voice or the John Wick voice. I’d be happy with either. For Liam, there’s only one voice I want and it’s the Taken voice. And if Google could make it sound like he’s talking through a phone the entire time, that’d be much appreciated.

Honorable Mentions

Thinking about voices I’d like to hear come from my Google Home has proven difficult. Here’s an honorable mentions list that I could easily swap in and out of my top five. From it, you’ll likely gather that I’m a 30 year old white male whose babysitter was the television.
  • Robin Williams (RIP)
  • Gilbert Gottfried
  • Steve Buscemi
  • Darth Vader (James Earl Jones)
  • Homer Simpson (Dan Castellaneta)
  • Eric Cartman from South Park (Trey Parker)
It’s your turn now! Let me know a couple voices you wouldn’t mind hearing come from your smartphone or Google Home speaker.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The best TVs for 2019

The Best TV: Sony Master Series A9G

Why you should buy this: It doesn’t get better than this, folks.

Who it’s for: Absolutely anyone who can afford it.

Why we picked the Sony Master Series A9G 4K TV:

We can’t fault the Sony Master Series A9G. It’s a breath of fresh air in what feels like a stagnant market. Sony didn’t reinvent the wheel with this television, though: It’s a minor improvement to the Sony Master Series A9F. But that’s not a bad thing. The A9G is still one of the finest 4K TVs we’ve ever gazed at, so any refinement can only inch it closer to perfection — and that’s exactly what happened with the A9G.

Not only does the Master Series A9G feature the best 4K Ultra HD OLED screen we’ve ever had the pleasure of reviewing, it is also decked out with an innovative approach to audio that’s nothing short of fantastic. It’s called Acoustic Surface, and it works by sending sound waves through the display itself. This makes for a unique effect of voices and sound effects seemingly coming from their respective locations on the screen (left, right, or center).

“The LG Z9 88-inch 8K OLED may be the most impressive TV I’ve ever reviewed, but the Sony Master Series A9G has the best picture quality you can/should buy this year,” concluded our own Caleb Denison in our full review. Consider this testament to our claim that the A9G delivers the best viewing experience money can buy, with Sony’s incredible picture processing and impeccable HDR delivery inching it ahead of the fierce competition.

Plus, there’s Android TV running the show for instant access to a myriad of both on-demand and live streaming services, like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. It’s also home to Google Assistant, which can be used to control both the television and other smart-connected devices, as well as Google Chromecast, which introduces the option to cast content from a computer, smartphone, or tablet directly to the television — no cables needed.

Here’s a look at some of the commands Assistant can execute:
  • “Play Orange Is the New Black on Netflix.”
  • “Switch over to HDMI 2.”
  • “Set the Nest Thermostat to 72 degrees.”
  • “Tell the Roomba to vacuum the living room.”
  • “Turn off after this episode of Friends.”

You can even ask it a slew of contextual questions, like:
  • “Who is Roger Moore?”
  • “What’s the weather like?
  • “Do I have any appointments tomorrow?”
  • “What time is sunset on Saturday?”

There’s no doubt you’ll pay a premium for the Sony Master Series A9G, but for those who absolutely must have the whoa of OLED and the brains of Google’s brilliant Android TV system, it’s a match made in TV heaven.

The Best Budget OLED TV: LG C9

Why you should buy this: It’s a cheaper all-rounder than the Sony Master Series A9G.

Who it’s for: Everyone wanting a Sony Master Series A9G, but can’t afford it.

Why we picked the LG C9:

Let’s start with the OLED screen. Its mix of vivid colors and obsidian-like black levels ensure it is second to only the Sony Master Series A9G in the contrast department. Fuse that with many of the latest HDR standards — including Dolby Vision, Hybrid Log-Gamma, and HDR10 — and the firm’s Alpha 9 Processor, which spins HD and Full HD content into a higher 4K Ultra HD resolution, and you have a 5-out-of-5-scoring 4K TV.

Powering the C9 is LG’s webOS smart software that’s home to several top-tier on-demand streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, DirecTV, HBO Go, Hulu, and Netflix. That translates to a near-endless catalog of content, available at the click of a button or a mumble of a voice command. That’s right — the C9 has a virtual assistant (or rather, two of them) on board for tracking down content.

You have the choice of either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, though the latter is the one you’re going to want to take advantage of. While both are more than capable of searching the internet for answers to questions, scanning through different streaming services to find material, and controlling various smart appliances, it’s Google’s offering that’s the smoother of the two on the LG C9.

If you missed the overview in our close-up of the Sony Master Series A9G, here’s a look at some of the commands Assistant can handle:
  • “Play Breaking Bad on Netflix.”
  • “Switch over to HDMI 3.”
  • “Set the Nest Thermostat to 64 degrees.”
  • “Tell the Roomba to vacuum the kitchen.”
  • “Turn off after this episode of Dexter.”

You can also ask contextual questions, such as:
  • “Who is Steve McQueen”
  • “What’s the weather like today?
  • “Do I have any appointments tomorrow?”
  • “What time is sunset on Wednesday?”

The Best Budget TV: TCL 6-Series

Why you should buy this: It has a fantastic 4K screen and can tap into Roku’s endless collection of on-demand content.

Who it’s for: Anyone looking for a big screen on a budget.

Why we picked the 65-inch TCL 6-Series 4K TV:

TCL may not be a brand that immediately comes to mind when you think of great TVs, but at this point, it really should be. Its reputation for churning out sub-par slop is dead and buried, and it is now producing phenomenal affordable TVs that rival that of LG and Samsung, especially when you factor in value. One major reason for its success? A long-standing partnership with Roku that sees Roku OS bundled on all its latest TVs.

With that in mind, the TCL 6-Series is a must-have if you’re after a 4K TV that won’t break the bank. It’s bundled with the aforementioned Roku OS, has a crisp, clear 4K screen, and multi-format HDR. The result is a television that screams accurate color, dazzling detail, and fantastic contrast — regardless of whether you’re watching in native or upscaled 4K.

You won’t find smart software that’s better suited to cord-cutting than Roku OS. It’s home to the largest collection of live and on-demand content we’ve ever seen, pulling material from a seemingly never-ending mixture of mainstream and niche sources, like Amazon Prime Video, Crunchyroll, DirectTV, Hulu, Netflix, Rakuten TV, and Sling TV.

The TCL 6-Series is also decked out with Roku’s own voice control feature. There’s no option to search the web or control smart-connected appliances, but it does bundle all the commands that count. You can ask it to adjust the volume level, swap outputs, and search for a particular movie or show across all the content services you’ve linked. Neat, right?

Monday, November 11, 2019

WhatsApp For Android Gets Fingerprint Lock Feature Amidst Revelations Of NSO-led Hack

Amidst the revelation of WhatsApp being exploited to spy on over 1,400 individuals by the Israeli-based surveillance firm NSO Group, WhatsApp has released a new security feature for Android users. Fingerprint lock for Android has been long due and is now finally available for users worldwide using the Facebook-owned instant messaging platform.

Fingerprint authentication for Android users was first made available to beta users in August this year. After a couple of months of being in beta, it’s now available for users who aren’t on the beta channel too. So even if someone knows the passcode or pattern to your phone, your WhatsApp chats will still sit behind the prints of your finger.

To enable WhatsApp Fingerprint Lock, head over to Settings > Account > Privacy > Fingerprint lock. You can also choose when the fingerprint lock will be activated. You can set it to automatically lock immediately upon closing, after 1 minute, or after 30 minutes. This is handy in case you don’t want to constantly keep unlocking the app every time you quit it. There’s no secondary method to unlock your WhatsApp account (like a pin or a pattern) along with the fingerprint method.

Fingerprint lock has existed for all iPhone users since February this year. In fact, WhatsApp on iOS also supports a secondary biometric method which is not available for Android users right now. iPhone users, from iPhone X onwards, who have access to Face ID can also use it to unlock WhatsApp.

If you haven’t received the option to unlock WhatsApp with your fingerprint, simply head over to the Google Play Store and update your application to receive it. But since the feature is currently being rolled out, you might not get the update immediately.

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