The February 2018 Main Meeting and AGM
Tonight, Alex demonstrated the new speakers that Google and Apple have brought to the market.
That was after we had our Annual General Meeting.
Our newly elected office bearers are President Alexander Zaharov-Reutt, Vice- President Ronald Ferguson and Secretary/Treasurer Josephine Wiseman.
We have two new Committee members, Tim Kelly & Stephen South who join John Rose and Anthony Robinson. Unfortunately, former Committee member Michael Smith was unable to continue due to work commitments.
At the end of the formal procedures Stephen South was made a life member.
Photo courtesy of Tony Zaglas
He received three badges, a committee badge, a sig leader badge and a lifetime member badge.
We had a short break and Alex started the demonstration of the new speakers that Google and Apple have brought to the market.
Alex had just received all three from Google and Apple so we had a real “out of the box” test.
To demonstrate the gear Alex setup his phone to display on the screen.
First up we looked at the Apple HomePod.
Here Alex has just turned on the HomePod.
HomePod works with iPhones from 5s to X and iPads from mini 2 onwards.
The HomePod is easy to setup and Alex sped through the setup routine,
The HomePod setup asks where the speaker is positioned.
Once the details have been entered the HomePod completes the setup.
And when you connect you will hear an audio password.
HomePod will only connect to your iPad.
Setup took about two minutes and then we had some fun seeing how the HomePod worked. Here Siri came into play and Alex started making requests of Siri like “Siri play sixty’s music” at which point we heard the HomePod start playing a sixty’s radio station. We turned the volume up and down, set it at thirty percent and then asked for details of the song currently being played. We requested a new song “Siri play mist”. If Siri hears more than one voice it can get confused.
Alex then showed us how you can use the controls on the HomePod. There are plus and minus controls. If you don’t like it listening you can turn off the mic at any time.
While we saw how you can change the music Siri will also create play lists or whole radio stations based on the artists and music genres you like. First Alex asked for Nat King Cole and we heard a song from Nat. Then Alex asked for Nat King Cole radio and Siri said “I have created a station inspired by Nat King Cole”.
This was a mixture of songs performed by Nat and covers by other artists. We then heard the news from the ABC or we could choose from 7, 9 or other major services. In the news we heard about a coming trial and Alex asked who the person on trail was. We got a short biography and Siri asked if we would like more detail. We asked if the person did it, but Siri failed to hear as it didn’t answer. We asked who the deputy prime minister was and Siri came up with two answers, asked which one it was Siri said “I can’t get that answer on HomePod.”
To make it work, you preference your request with “Hey Siri” and to get music action you need to have Apple music. At this time, it only works “one on one” so it won’t connect to any other iPad etc in the house. If you connect HomePod to your phone it will act as a robot secretary, giving you notice of appointments and meetings.
One of the last things Alex mentioned was that you can use HomePod to run your “HomeKit” compatible devise like the security system.
There are smart power plugs available, such as this one from Officeworks.
Run by an A8 chip, it has six microphones, seven tweeters (speakers) and a woofer. It is however, quite heavy at 2.5 kg (5.5 pounds).
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After the break we unboxed the Google Home speakers.
Google has a range of speakers and entertainment devices, all of which connect to the Google Home app.
Once the Home speaker was ready to go Alex opened the Home app on his phone and it found the speaker.
Now was ready to setup. We clicked setup and there was a message from Google regarding the Google Assistant. Google Assistant is the interface between apps like your calender or Google maps. It allows you to aske Google questions about your day, questions like “Hey Google what appointments do I have today?”. The setup told Alex that as he had switched Google Assistant off, the speaker would not be able to answer questions regarding his day. Not wishing to have Google know too much, we moved on.
The speakers connect using Wi-Fi and during the setup it connects and disconnects to test the connection.
You can see the lights on the speaker and once the connection is established the App asked if you heard the speaker bleep. If you did, the speaker is connected. Like the HomePod you identify the speaker by a name or location. Google asked if you would like to use the Wi-Fi network to connect other devices. Alex also noted that you can mute the mic. The speaker tells you “the mic is muted” This means that if you don’t want Google to listen it can’t.
Next up Google sets up the voice match ;so it can understand what you are saying and so it recognises you. It can distinguish between different voices so others can use the speaker as well. However the app notes that it’s not perfect and “a similar voice may be able to access (your) data too”. You can turn the voice assistant off if you wish.
When the setup has finished the app displays the words “Get started”, followed by a short video on what the speaker can do.
We had fun putting the speaker through its paces. We listened to the news. Asked how far is the moon?, What was the weather like? Here Google told us it was going to be cloudy in Melbourne. That was good but we are in Sydney. We re-defined the question and it was going to be sunny in Sydney. Alex set up a reminder to watch a show at 7 pm tomorrow. We tried making a phone call but Google can’t do that yet. We listened to a few jokes from google. Asked to turn off the lights Google noted that the lights hadn’t been set up. Using Google Home, you can control a whole range of items in your home, including the lights. This is where the internet of things comes in. If you buy equipment with smart connections you can have the assistant control them. Here’s a list of Google Assisted devices.
We had two other devices to look at, the Home mini and the chrome cast.
This is a mini version of the Google Home, if you had a power pack you could even go portable with the mini.
Alex setup the mini on the other side of the room.
The setup for the mini was the same, the app found the devise and Alex gave it a location. In testing, the mini behaved just like its larger brother the Home speaker. In fact it was rather loud as we could hear both speakers, normally one would have been in a separate room. Alex predicted that the Home system with microphones in every room combined with the assistant software is pathing the way for the robot assistants of the future. In the setup you are offered all kinds of deals like signing up for Spotify music streaming and Googles YouTube red service.
One thing Alex was keen to demonstrate was Broadcast, where you can message someone in the house via the speaker located in the persons room. Unfortunately, out of the box demos don’t always go to plan. The assistant still thought we were in Melbourne and despite having added the mini to the network the assistant couldn’t find the mini? To show it’s possible here are the instructions.
To finish we setup the Chrome cast into the projector.
The Chromecast allows you to stream audio and video to your TV.
You can connect the Chromecast to the assistant, which we did. The assistant found the Chromecast and then gave Alex a code for the device.
The assistant accepted the code and connected the Chromecast to the network.
And we were ready to go, unfortunately, we run out of time to watch the movie.
We had some interesting prizes this month.
And here are some of our winners