According to a UN study published last year, smart assistants with female voices are often programmed with contrite and demure responses to verbal abuse or harassment, entrenching harmful gender biases. In the second of two episodes, Alex Hern takes a look at the sexualisation of female AI and robots, what this means for how we treat them, and asks how we can give them a feminist rebootContinue reading...
From Rosie the Robot in the 1960s animated sitcom The Jetsons to Siri and Alexa today, technologies that perform the roles of housekeeper and secretary are often presented as female. What does the gendering of these machines say about our expectations of who should be doing this kind of work? In the first of two episodes exploring the world of fembots and female AI assistants, the Guardian’s UK technology editor, Alex Hern, examines whether smart assistants are reinforcing harmful gender stereotypesContinue reading...
If software is not kept up-to-date, items can lose functionality and become a security risk
Smart appliances that can be controlled remotely and will let you know if there is a fault or other problem may not be worth paying extra for unless manufacturers commit to keeping software updated, Which? has warned.
The consumer group said that smart fridges, dishwashers and tumble dryers cost hundreds of pounds more than their conventional counterparts, but in some cases could be rendered obsolete after as little as two years.Continue reading...
From energy-saving bulbs to leak detectors, smart tech offers many benefits at the touch of a button
Almost everything in your home, from lights and thermostats to door locks and security cameras, can now be connected to the internet. With a few taps on an app or a voice command you can turn down your heating, let visitors into your home or check for leaks.
But while many of these gadgets appear to be simply a way to impress visitors (“Hey Google, dim the lights and play some romantic music”), others can save you money. And at a time when many of us are working from home and running up bills during the day, this is likely to be their biggest selling point.Continue reading...
Everything in your smart home, from the lightbulbs to the thermostat, could be recording you or collecting data about you. What can you do to curb this intrusion?
During an interview with the BBC last year, Google’s senior vice-president for devices and services, Rick Osterloh, pondered whether a homeowner should disclose the presence of smart home devices to guests. “I would, and do, when someone enters into my home,” he said.
When your central heating thermostat asks for your phone number, your TV knows what you like to watch and hackers can install spyware in your home through a lightbulb security flaw, perhaps it’s time we all started taking smart home privacy issues more seriously. Just this week the National Cyber Security Centre issued a warning to owners of smart cameras and baby monitors to review their security settings.
When hackers can get spyware into your home via a lightbulb, maybe it’s time to take smart home privacy issues seriouslyContinue reading...
Upgrade keeps what is good and improves sound for Google’s smallest, cheapest smart speaker
The second generation of Google’s smallest smart speaker gets a new name, more eco-friendly, a little smarter and more bass.
The £49 Nest Mini replaces the Google Home Mini as part of a revamped and renamed line of Google smart home products under the Nest brand, pushing its predecessor to a clearance price of only £19.
Dimensions: 98mm x 42mm
Connectivity: Wifi ac, Bluetooth 5.0, Chromecast
Speakers: one 40mm driver
Pros: good sound for the money, wall mount, made of recycled plastic, Google Assistant, Bluetooth 5.0, native BBC radio playback
Cons: No 3.5mm input, privacy concerns of a smart speaker, not quite room-filling sound
Google Home review: the smart speaker that answers almost any question
Google Home Max review: bigger and smarter sound
Google Nest Hub review: the smart display to buy
Google Nest Hub Max review: bigger, better and smarter display
Sonos One review: the best smart speaker for audiophiles
Amazon Echo Dot (3rd gen) review: better all round
Amazon Echo second-generation review: smaller, cheaper and betterContinue reading...
With ever more tech in our lives, our data is vulnerable. Here are our six top tips to keep it safe in the new year
Technology is changing our lives for the better; yet it’s also exposing us to organised crime, online scammers and hackers – and whole industries built around monetising our personal data. But you don’t have to be resigned to cyber-victimhood. Give yourself, and your devices, a security update for 2020 and start fighting back.
Hackers don’t like a liar – especially if the fibs are about the questions sites ask you as a means of identificationContinue reading...
Top-end smart TV box can’t quite live up to the promise of the voice-controlled TV commander
The Fire TV Cube is Amazon’s attempt to combine a smart TV streaming box with an Alexa-powered smart speaker, producing a small black box that doubles as an Echo device.
The Cube doesn’t look like anything else. The combination of shiny and matt black plastic makes it stand out at first, but the 86mm-wide and 77mm-tall cube is small enough not to be distracting sitting next to your TV.
The blue LED strip pulses from side to side when Alexa is turning things on or off
Volume control via Alexa caused wild jumps until I manually adjusted the IR controls through the settings on the Cube
Alexa mutes your TV when it hears its wake word
“Alexa, go home” takes you back to the Fire TV interface even if you were watching Sky or Virgin
You can turn off the mics on the Cube and still use the button on the remote to talk to Alexa
Pros: fast, comprehensive audio and video support, most streaming services including YouTube and Apple TV, Alexa remote, voice control of Fire TV interface
Cons: no BT Sport, variable volume output bad as a smart speaker, device control more trouble than it’s worth, more than twice...
DIY wireless home security system is a great alarm that’s smart enough without trying to do too much
Amazon’s new Ring Alarm smartens up the traditional home security system without radically changing how it works, combining the best of both worlds into a DIY-friendly wireless alarm arrangement that just works.
It’s been a 16-month wait in the UK since the Ring Alarm line of products launched in the US in July 2018, but it has been worth it.
By default, the sensors trigger a little chirp from the base station when activated, meaning there’s a tone every time a door is opened – it felt like living in a corner shop, so I turned it off
If you have an Alexa device such as an Echo Dot, you can set the alarm via voice
You can bypass a sensor if you want to temporarily deactivate one of them when you arm the system
You can change the arming or alert delay
The siren produces 104 decibels at 30 metres, which is louder than a jackhammer and similar to a rock concert
Pros: wireless, effective, simple to install, rental-friendly, smart but not complicated, works as well as a traditional alarm, expandable, dependable, good app, individual pins, temporary pins, integrates with other smart devices...