Why are LED lights the go-to lighting solution of the world?

Image Credits: Sunriu

With technological advancement in the lighting industry, LED lights or light-emitting diodes are driving a lighting revolution and promising a bright future. LED lights are available in smaller sizes, have improved brightness, illuminate a larger area, and have enhanced qualities. In an LED light, when an electric current passes through a semiconductor material, energy is released in photons and transformed into visible light.

Image Credits: Sunriu

Advantages of LED lights

LED lights are becoming a popular substitute for conventional systems like incandescent and compact fluorescent lamps or CFLs.
Discover why LED lights are a smarter lighting option.

1. Long Lasting

As per studies, the average lifespan of LED lights ranges between 50,000 hours to 100,000 hours. These lights can offer 12 years of continuous lighting and even more if they are occasionally lit. Hence, one LED can nearly replace 25 incandescent lights, which is a great way to reduce the carbon footprint. This results in low maintenance and reduces the hassle of frequently replacing bulbs and tubes.

2. Consumes Less Electricity

LED lights use nearly fifty percent less energy than conventional lighting systems. These lights efficiently operate on low voltage and are, therefore, a perfect solution for solar-enabled outdoor lighting systems. LED lights consume less power and offer substantial savings in recurring electricity bills.

Image Credits: Michal Kantor

3. Available in Numerous Colors

LED lights are primarily available in warm light for warm lighting and cool white for ambient or general lighting ranging between 6000K to 3000K. They are also available in a vast range of colors like red, yellow, green, and amber. Make a note that when LED lights age, they may change their color over a period of time.

4. Energy-efficient

The energy efficiency of LED lights is measured in luminous efficacy or useful lumens or the amount of light that the fixture emits for each unit of power or watt. LED lights are energy-efficient as they convert 80% of electrical energy into light and produce less waste light. On the other hand, incandescent light bulbs are only 20% efficient as 80% of energy gets lost as heat, resulting in higher electricity costs.

5. Cost-effective

From soft lighting to bright lighting, LED lights can be dimmed and provide flexibility in the lighting design. The micro-controllers can dim or brighten the LEDs for light, color and intensity of light. In addition, the lights can be dimmed with hardware made specifically for LED light technology.

Image Credits: Sparkle Lights

6. Ensures Safety

LED lights are safe as they radiate very little heat and are not hot to the touch compared to CFL and incandescent lights. It does not contain hazardous materials like mercury. These lights offer an excellent surface temperature that reduces the risk of burns and does not emit harmful UV or infrared rays.

7. Directional Lighting

As LED lights release a single beam of light, it offers concentrated lighting and does not emit light in all directions. Conventional lights emit light at 360 degrees around the light source, while LEDs emit light at an angle of 180 degrees. Hence, LED lights emit light in a specific direction, do not require reflectors or diffusers to trap rays, and are perfect for recessed downlights and track lights. Also, fewer LED lights are required compared to incandescent lights to achieve the same brightness level. In addition, directional optics reduces light pollution and wasted energy that is usually used to illuminate areas that are not required.

Image Credits: Eureka Lights

8. Instantaneous light

Regular CFL and incandescent lights tend to flicker before they get turned, but LED lights do not require warm-up time. LED lights do not require starters or chokes, as these lights can brighten up immediately when switched on. Frequent switching does not affect its lifespan.

Image Credits: Koncept

Image Credits: Koncept

9. High Color Rendering Index (CRI)

Color Rendering Index (CRI) measures the ability of the light fixture to reveal the natural color of whatever it illuminates under a white light source when compared to sunlight. LED lights have a high color rendering index. When purchasing white LED lights, it is highly recommended to go for a CRI value that is more than 90 as all colors are easily distinguishable.

Image Credits: Aberno

10. Dimmable

From soft lighting to bright lighting, LED lights can be dimmed and provide flexibility in the lighting design. The micro-controllers can dim or brighten the LED’s for light, color and the intensity of light. The lights can be dimmed with hardware made specifically for LED light technology.

Image Credits: White Teak

11. Resists Extreme Temperatures

LEDs are sturdy and can withstand extreme summer heat and cold freezing temperatures. This makes LED lights suitable for cold temperatures, like refrigerators, cold storage and the outdoors.

12. Recyclable

LED lights are made of recyclable glass and aluminum. Unlike conventional incandescent and CFL lights, it does not contain toxic materials like mercury. Each LED light has a heat sink or a heat exchanger that absorbs the thermal energy generated by the LED light and dissipates the energy into the air. Aluminum is the most commonly used material for the heat sink of LED lights.

Image Credit: Huan-Rou Chang

Image Credit: Huan-Rou Chang

Application of LED lights

LED lights fit a wider range of functional and aesthetic applications than what they emit. They are available in various shapes, sizes and types too. These LED lights can be used as light fixtures or spaced out in a linear method. Alongside, LED bulbs are easy to install and can go into existing fittings of light fixtures of incandescent lights.

Industrial and Commercial lights

LED lights make a perfect fit for industrial uses and commercial applications like street lights, garage lights, walkways, outdoor lights and signage.

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting is the primary source of light for any space. LED lights in the form of recessed downlights, ceiling-mounted LED lights, pendant lights can be used for the ambient lighting or the overall lighting of the space. Small solar LED lights can be used outdoors and in gardens to provide ambient lighting for pathways.

Image Credit: Curio

Task Lighting

Task lighting is a form of direct lighting that increases the light for specific tasks like reading, cooking, writing, etc. For example, consider table lamps and floor lamps with LED lights for reading, while small and directional strip lights are ideal for undercabinet lighting on kitchen countertops.

Accent Light

Accent lights draw attention to interesting design features like artwork and architectural details. One can incorporate accent lights in the stairs, recessed niches, and accent walls. As LED lights offer focused light dispersal or directional lighting, they function as accent lights that channel brightness to a restricted zone. One can also consider colorful LED lights to accentuate some spaces.
Decorate the outdoors for holidays and festivals with string LED lights, as they consume less electricity and are cooler than incandescent bulbs. Led rope lighting is perfect for outdoor fountains.

Decorative LED Lights

Decorative lighting forms the fourth layer of interior illumination as it doubly functions as a design element. Ceiling fixtures like chandeliers, wall sconces and table lamps offer functional aesthetics.

Smart LED Lights

A Smart bulb is an internet-enabled LED light that can be customized and controlled remotely. In addition, smart LED bulbs eliminate the need for traditional wall switches, as it contains software that connects to an app, home assistant, or another similar accessory.

Image Credit: Postigo Design

Image Credit: Postigo Design

The post Why are LED lights the go-to lighting solution of the world? first appeared on Yanko Design.

SpaceX astronauts will receive the Congressional Space Medal of Honor

Vice President Kamala Harris will today award the Congressional Space Medal of Honor for the first time since 2006. The recipients are Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, who became the first astronauts to fly to space on a crewed SpaceX mission in 2020. The pair, who traveled to the International Space Station and stayed there for almost two months, will receive the honor for their bravery.

Hurley and Behnken were part of the first crewed spaceflight from US soil since the last Space Shuttle mission in 2011. They both also flew on the Space Shuttle, and Hurley was on the program's final flight.

Hurley and Behnken's Demo-2 mission was the first crewed flight under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Five other SpaceX crews have since flown to the ISS.

The Congressional Space Medal of Honor is typically given to mark a first in space travel, as The Washington Post notes. Previous recipients include Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard (the first American to travel to space), John Glenn (the first American in orbit) and Frank Borman (commander of Apollo 8, the first lunar orbit mission). The award was also granted posthumously to the crew of Apollo 1 and those who died aboard the Challenger and Columbia shuttles.

EU vows to get tougher on Big Tech privacy violations

The European Union is eager to crack down on Big Tech's alleged privacy abuses, but the reliance on individual countries to enforce General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules has led to lengthy cases with punishments that are frequently modest. There will soon be pressure to act decisively, however. The European Commission will now require that EU nations share overviews of "large-scale" GDPR investigations every two months. This includes "key procedural steps" and actions taken — national regulators will have to show they're moving forward.

The tougher approach comes after the EU Ombudsman recommended closer monitoring of Big Tech cases that fall under the Irish Data Protection Commission, which regulates Meta and other industry giants. The rights group Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) made a complaint to the Ombudsman accusing Ireland's commission of being too slow and lenient against privacy violations. Just weeks ago, Europe's Data Protection Board forced Ireland to raise a data processing fine against Meta from €28 million to €390 million ($30.4 million to $423.3 million).

As Bloombergobserves, the European Commission is already issuing reports every two years on the overall status of GDPR enforcement. However, it hasn't conducted thorough, frequent reviews of individual countries' privacy regulators. This new requirement will theoretically hold all EU member states accountable if they delay investigations or don't apply the law when necessary. This could include legal repercussions at the European Court of Justice.

Critics might not be happy with the transparency. Ireland and other nations will share their progress on a "strictly confidential basis," according to the Commission. The public might not know if a regulator is mishandling a case unless the EU takes visible action in response. Nonetheless, this may encourage Meta, Amazon, Google and other tech heavyweights to take European privacy laws more seriously — they may see quicker investigations and stiffer fines.

Marshall’s Middleton Bluetooth speaker is the company’s new weatherproof flagship

Marshall already launched a few rugged, weatherproof portable Bluetooth speakers, but so far they’ve been relatively small. That changes today with the launch of the Middleton. It’s still portable enough to chuck into a backpack, but has an IP67 rating, 20+ hours runtime at mid-volume, dual woofers and tweeters pushing out 50-watts of 360-degree sound and moves into the bassier 50hz to 20kHz frequency range. It’s available in black starting today and priced at $300.

The Middleton is being pitched as the new flagship for Marshall’s portable Bluetooth speaker line and rightly so. Aside from the Tufton, which isn’t all that rugged and is significantly bigger, the Middleton is now one of the more powerful portables in the company’s stable. It’s the largest IP67 rated speaker they have on offer, measuring 4.3 x 9 x 3.75 inches, and one of the first to pump out sound from all four sides. It also ditches the rubber port stopper seen on other models, since the company has already waterproofed the components.

As mentioned, the Middleton is rated for more than 20 hours of playtime on a single charge, at low to mid volume of course. I haven't had the chance to test this on full blast for long periods of time, but the charge does seem to hold up well. The speaker has three battery cells totaling 9,600mAh, and you can use the speaker as a USB-C power bank if needed. Also, if your charge is running low while you're jamming out, you can always use it while its charging.

The 360-degree sound is driven by two 15-watt woofers, two 10-watt tweeters and a pair of passive radiators that serve to pump music out of the smaller ends of this chunky rectangle. The output from this four-pound device is respectable and it handles low frequencies well. You also get the trademark Marshall sound that gives you a good dynamic range and provides significant depth to whatever sounds you're vibing on.

Just like the Emberton and Willen, the Middleton has a soft-touch exterior composed of 55-percent post-consumer recycled plastic and is 100-percent PVC free. It also has a carry strap you can easily fit your hand through. On the top, you’ll find onboard controls that provide more hands-on adjustment than its siblings. There’s a Bluetooth button (which doubles as the Stack Mode control) and a multi-use joystick for power on/off, volume control and track selection (forward or back). You also get bass and treble controls, which are a welcome addition and a first for one Marshall’s speakers without physical knobs. The level indicator works in conjunction with most of the above. It displays battery level, but also indicates volume, bass and treble levels all with backlit red lighting.

This speaker is also the biggest model to support Marshall’s Stack Mode feature. You can start a session using the Marshall Bluetooth app and pair with any other Middleton, Emberton II or Willen speakers using a double press of their Bluetooth buttons to join. It helps if you aren’t already paired with speakers joining the session. Like most Bluetooth portables, two (or more) sound much better than one and a double dose of the Middleton sound is a pleasure. The company claims you can pair a good deal of compatible speakers together, having tested up to 60 at one time. I've "stacked" two Middletons, an Emberton II and a Willen which worked well — once I unpaired all but the main speaker from my phone, that is.

For reference, the UE Megaboom 3 ($200) and JBL Charge 5 ($180) are good models for comparison in terms of scale, although they all have unique sound profiles. As usual, this puts the Middleton in a slightly higher price bracket than some others out there in its size, but Marshall products have usually been priced at a slight premium. The excellent sound quality and decent low-end capability definitely makes this model worth checking out.

You can order the Marshall Middleton in black from the company’s website starting today for $300. If you prefer the cream-colored option, you’ll have to wait until around Spring this year.

Specifications

  • Frequency Range: 50Hz-20kHz

  • Drivers: Two 15-watt woofers, two 3/5-inch tweeters, two passive radiators

  • Amplifiers: Two 20-watt class D amps for the woofers, Two 10-watt class D amps for the tweeters

  • Battery Type: Built-in rechargeable Li-ion 

  • Power Bank: Charge devices from the speaker with USB-C

  • Play Time: 20+ hours

  • Quick Charging: 20 minutes gives you two hours of play

  • Charging Time: 4.5 hours for a complete charge

  • Weatherproof: IP67

  • Aux: 3.5mm input

  • Bluetooth Version: 5.1

  • Range: 30 feet

  • Size: 4.29 x 9.06 x 3.74 inches

  • Weight: 4LBs

Aimi’s mobile app lets you remix its endless AI-generated beats

Ever found yourself turning down the radio so you can focus on finding a parking spot? Music didn’t stop you seeing, but it was taking up some tangible mental resources. But what if you had a way to immediately make the music more calming? Or to change that distracting string section? That, effectively, is the promise of Aimi’s interactive music player app. It won’t help you find a parking spot, though, you’re on your own with that.

If the name Aimi sounds familiar, that’s because its self-described “generative music platform” has been available online for a while. What’s new is the mobile app, launching in beta today with 5,000 slots open globally. The mobile experience takes the endless mood-based music feeds from the Aimi website and adds the option to tweak them to your heart’s content. It’s not a full-bore music making app, more of a tailored soundtrack for when you want a certain vibe, or as Aimi calls them: Experiences. The basic app will be free, but unlocking the majority of those controls will cost $10 a month.

The app offers experiences with names such as Serenity, Flow, Electronica and Push. Each gives a clear hint at what the vibe is and there are 10 of them at launch. The slowest, Serenity, starts at 64 BPM and they ratchet up to Push’s time-honored throb of 128 BPM.

As a listener, you could just open one of the experiences, tap play and go about your business. The idea being that if what the app serves you up isn’t quite what you wanted, you can mash the shuffle button and it’ll reconfigure the track with new sounds and energy. Or maybe you liked it, so there’s a thumbs-up option to tell it “more of this please.” That’s the most basic use case, which is also the extent of the free tier – but you can take it a few steps further with a subscription.

For premium users, once you have an experience playing, swiping left will give much more detailed control. The first screen shows a cluster of circles, each one labeled after a musical part (Beats, FX, Bass and so on). Hold down one of these circles and, as long as it’s active, it’ll solo just that part. If you tap a circle, you’ll enter a sub menu where you can adjust the volume of that part along with a shuffle option for just that element and more thumbs up/down.

If you swipe left one more time, you’ll find a selection of sliders which can vary from experience to experience, but tend to include “Intensity,” “Progression,” “Vocals” and “Texture.” It’s here that you can tell the app to do things like add a little intensity, mix things up more often or deliver more/less vocals. The changes are usually quite subtle - it’s more re-adjusting than remixing. These settings are remembered, too, so the next time you fire up that experience it’ll be to your taste. Or, at least the taste you had the last time you listened to it.

All the music on offer here is of the electronic variety. And despite the relatively wide range of BPMs, there’s definitely a thread that runs through them. That’s to say, this isn’t genre-hopping in the sense that you might want a Hip Hop vibe before moving over to some Indie and back to EDM. It’s more like being at a large House club with different areas with different BPMs along with a few well-stocked chill out rooms.

According to the company, the musical loops in Aimi are created by a pool of over 150 artists including some big names like Carl Cox. Once the loops are fed into the platform, AI takes over to match the pitch, BPM and general vibe. Theoretically, you have an endless radio station of music you can interact with, and the library is set to keep growing over time. Let’s hope that includes some other genres. Hip Hop and anything with a breakbeat would instantly provide a shot of different energy here, for example. Likewise, something on the more acoustic side of things would at least provide an option for those less into electronic music.

Generative music has seen an increase of interest in recent years as technology has developed enough to make it more fluid than just burping up clips that are in time and key. Mostly this has been focused on the headspace area, meditative apps, concentration soundtracks and so on. Aimi’s main rivals here would include Endel ($15 a month) and Brain.fm ($7 a month).

While Aimi does occupy this space too, its emphasis on interactivity with its mood-based streams sets it apart. In fact, Aimi CEO, Edward Balassanian, sees it as a gateway for the musically curious. “One of the strengths of generative music is that we can use it to attract casual listeners with continuous music experiences and then introduce them to interactive music by letting them take ownership of their music experience.” he told Engadget.

Three screenshots of the Aimi music app side by side.
Aimi

This hints at a broader plan. Right now there’s the linear player on Aimi.fm and the new interactive app launching today. In the future, there will also be Aimi Studio, which Balassanian says will be released this summer. “Once we get you hooked on interacting with music through our player, we want you to feel inspired to try making music using Aimi studio. Aimi studio will be offered in both basic and pro editions for everyone from aspiring amateurs to professionals.” he added.

I’m uncertain if this will appeal to users that use something like Note by Ableton or Maschine by Native Instruments. The actual amount of impact you can have on the music in Aimi is very limited as your effectively just giving nudges to the AI rather than being directly hands on. Likewise, the section of the app where you can solo parts isn’t immediate, this means if you were hoping to remix on the fly DJ-style by cutting the bass and beats before dropping them back in on the next phrase, it’s not really designed for that.

Likewise, sometimes you can find yourself distracted by the thing that’s meant to help you focus. When I tried the “Flow” stream, the first “idea” it presented was actually a bit irritating to me, so it served the opposite purpose. Of course, I could shuffle it to something more agreeable, but the irony of being taken out of the moment, even if just temporarily, was not wasted on me.

To that end, it’s hard to see where the interactive arm of Aimi excels, at least at launch. The genres, while varied, do overlap quite a bit. The control you have over the music is quite gentle in the scheme of things and feels more like fine-tuning than an actual creator tool. The core experience of listening to chill vibes is a great alternative to your tired Spotify playlist, but that part is free and has been available in some form for a while.

Balassanian says that even more experiences from more artists will be coming after launch and once the Studio app is released anyone will be able to make loops and upload them to the platform for users to enjoy. In the meantime, you can sign up for early beta access here and start configuring your own soundtrack today.

Oppo Reno 8T launching February 8th

Oppo Reno 8T

Oppo has revealed that they will be launching their latest smartphone on the 8th of February 2023, the Oppo Reno 8T. The handset will come with a 6.7-inch OLED display and it will feature a Full HD+ resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels, the display will feature a 120Hz refresh rate and a 20:9 aspect […]

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Satechi Pro Hub Slim designed for the Apple M2 MacBook Air

MacBook Air Hub

Apple M2 MacBook Air owners searching for a way to expand the connectivity to their minimalist laptop. Might be interested in a new connection hub created by Satechi in the form of the Pro Hub Slim which is now available to purchase in three colours, Space Gray, Silver and midnight priced at $80. The latest […]

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Samsung showcases sustainable digital signage at ISE 2023

Samsung digital signage

Samsung has showcased its latest sustainable digital signage at ISE 2023 (Integrated Systems Europe) in Barcelona. The latest Samsung digital signage products are designed to be slimmer than previous models, which makes them easier to transport. At ISE this year, Samsung will highlight the company’s sustainability initiatives based on its new environmental strategy announced in […]

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Apple HomePod (2nd gen) review: A smarter smart speaker

When Apple debuted the HomePod in 2018, it was already late to the smart speaker game. Sure, the company has never been worried about tardiness, choosing instead to focus on being the best. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with its first attempt. The HomePod sounded good, but lacked a lot of the basic functionality and voice assistant smarts the likes of Amazon and Google offered. Apple has spent the last five years improving both HomePod and HomePod mini, adding features like multi-room audio, multi-user support and an intercom tool.

In 2021, Apple discontinued the original model in favor of the $99 HomePod mini. But now, the larger version is back with a familiar look, but lots of changes on the inside. Like the first, the new HomePod ($299) is best suited for those who’ve committed to Apple’s ecosystem. So if that’s not you, I understand if you don’t want to go any further. If it is, just know that the company has given its speaker a lot more tools than it had at launch five years ago, including more capable assistance from Siri and more smart home abilities. Plus, the second-generation HomePod is $50 cheaper than the original was at launch.

A familiar design updated on the inside

If you were hoping for a wholesale redesign with the new HomePod, Apple undoubtedly disappointed you. However, there are some noticeable changes upon close inspection. First, the speaker’s touch panel is now slightly recessed like the HomePod mini. On the original version, that panel sits flush with the top rim. When you trigger Siri, lighting for that panel now goes all the way to the edge too. Next, the power cord is now detachable. This means if you have an issue with that very necessary component, it should be easier to get a replacement (via Apple Care). If you have excellent vision, you might also be able to discern the 2023 model is 0.2-inches shorter at 6.6-inches tall (vs. 6.8 inches) if they’re sitting side by side.

On the inside though, Apple made a host of changes. Both versions have an upward facing woofer with a group of tweeters around the bottom. For the second-generation, Apple reduced the number of tweeters from seven to five, angling them slightly upward where previously they were almost perfectly side-firing. The company also cut the number of voice microphones from six down to four. And perhaps the most important change internally, Apple swapped the iPhone 6’s A8 chip for the much more modern S7 – the silicon that powers the Apple Watch series 7.

Software and setup

Despite the lack of changes on the outside, the second-gen HomePod is a better speaker because Apple has been improving it and the HomePod mini over time. The company added stereo pairing and multi-room audio alongside AirPlay 2 a few months after launch of the first generation model. Multi-user support and audio handoffs were added in 2019 and the intercom feature arrived ahead of the HomePod mini in 2020. And in 2021, HomePod gained the ability to play any TV audio via an Apple TV 4K over eARC and both spatial audio and Apple Music lossless streaming. So many of the key features Apple is chatting up on the new HomePod are things it has been slowly adding since 2018. And many of which, I’d argue, should’ve been there from there from the start.

Everything you need to set up and control the HomePod is found in Apple’s Home app. First, you’ll need to add a new speaker like you would any other smart home device with this software, including assigning it a room or location in your home. The app allows you to set up Automations and Scenes along with configuring how you’d like to interact with Siri.

Apple Home app
Billy Steele/Engadget

You have the ability to disable voice cues or the long press on the HomePod’s touch panel in order to activate the assistant (both are enabled by default). You can also have the speaker light up and play a sound when using Siri – or do one or neither. The Home app will let you use Siri for Personal Requests too, where the speaker can recognize your voice for things like messages, calls and reminders so long as your iPhone is close by. The software allows you to disable the HomePod’s intercom feature as well, should you prefer not to use that tool.

Like the first HomePod, the 2023 model is equipped with room calibration. This detects reflections off of walls and other surfaces to configure the sound for the best performance. The HomePod does this the first time you play music, but it isn’t constant monitoring. Instead, like it did on the previous generation, the setup leverages an accelerometer to determine when it has been moved. If it has, the speaker will then reinitiate the room sensing process when music is played.

A smart home with Siri

Apple HomePod (2nd gen) review
Billy Steele/Engadget

When we reviewed the original HomePod in 2018, one of our biggest gripes was with Siri’s limited abilities. Sure the speaker sounded good, but the lack of polish with the voice assistant made it seem like a work in progress. Apple has done a lot to improve Siri over the last five years, so a lot of those issues with the original have been fixed.

First, the HomePod, like Siri on your iPhone, is capable of recognizing multiple users. Personal Requests can allow it to peek at your Calendar, Notes, Reminders, Messages, Find My and more when you ask. Plus, HomePod can give each member of your family (up to six people) their unique responses from certain iPhone apps. What’s more, Siri can create recurring home automations without you having to pick up your phone and swipe over to the appropriate app.

Even with fewer microphones to pick up your voice, the new HomePod doesn’t suffer any performance setbacks. It’s just as capable as ever at picking out your voice even in a noisy room. And, while playing music with voice commands used to be limited to Apple Music, services like Pandora, Deezer and several others can now be controlled via Siri.

HomePod is also a smart home hub, easily pairing with HomeKit and Matter accessories. The new model is equipped with temperature and humidity sensing, and that info is displayed prominently in the Home app. Of course, you can use that data to create automations with other smart home devices. I don’t have a compatible smart thermostat, but I was able to successfully trigger a smart plug once the HomePod detected a certain temperature in my living room.

Sound Recognition is arguably the most notable new feature that Apple is debuting with the new HomePod, but it’s not ready yet. It can listen for smoke or carbon monoxide alarms and send a notification to an iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch. What’s more, you’ll be able to “check in'' on what’s happening via an audio feed or camera. Sound Recognition won’t arrive until later this spring, so we’ll have to wait to test it.

Sound quality

Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt.
Billy Steele/Engadget

Audio quality wasn’t an issue with the first-gen HomePod and it’s still great here. But like the first version, Apple’s choice for tuning won’t appease everyone. There’s a continued emphasis on voice, so things like vocals in music or dialog on a TV show or movie take center stage. At times it’s fine though, with some genres and content, it leads to a rather subpar experience.

Don’t get me wrong, for the most part HomePod sounds outstanding, especially when you put it up against other smart speakers. The fact is many of those don’t sound very good at all, so Apple continues its track record for making a device that has serious audio chops and smart features. RTJ4 has ample bass for its bombastic hip-hop beats while Sylvan Esso’s No Rules Sandy gets enough low-end for its synth-heavy rhythms. Thanks to the HomePod’s excellent clarity, detailed styles like bluegrass and jazz shine. Sometimes the bass is a little too subdued for metal (Underoath’s Voyuerist) or full-band country (Zach Bryan’s 2022 live album), and the vocals too forward, but overall, it sets the standard for smart speaker sound. And the HomePod only shines brighter as a stereo pair.

When you add the second HomePod in the Home app, the software asks you if you want to use them together. Once you tell it which side the additional unit is on (left or right), the app completes the setup for you, assigning the appropriate channel to each speaker. Now everywhere you previously saw a single HomePod icon, you’ll see two, constantly reminding you of the stereo arrangement. The double speaker option is great for music. On Béla Fleck’s My Bluegrass Heart, the two-speaker arrangement adds a lot of dimensionality to each track. There was already a spatial element to the tunes, but dual HomePods heightens the sensation, making it seem like you’re in the middle of the musicians while they record each song.

Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt.
Billy Steele/Engadget

When you select a HomePod for use with the Apple TV you still need to deselect your TV speakers. Those aren’t disabled just because you’ve asked the streaming box to also send audio to a HomePod or two. TV audio with stereo pair is fine, but I can’t see using a single unit for the same purpose. In a multi-room setup you might want to send the sound from a live event like the Super Bowl to a solo speaker, but having just one as your lone living room audio from a TV isn’t a great experience. While the HomePod beams sound in all directions, with a single speaker it’s clear the sound is coming from a fixed location – something that’s a lot less noticeable with a pair or with a soundbar.

As is the case with vocals, dialog takes prominence with a HomePod and Apple TV. At times it can seem slightly muffled when watching things like live sports. Otherwise, there’s good clarity, nice bass and great dimensional audio when streaming Formula 1: Drive to Survive or Slow Horses. But, honestly, if you’re looking to improve your living room audio, a soundbar and sub is a better option. The driver arrangement in those speakers does a better job of filling a room completely and evenly. Plus, most companies give you the ability to use adjustments or presets to dial in how much you want those speakers to focus on dialog so you can fine-tune things to your liking.

The competition

Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt.
Billy Steele/Engadget

Because the HomePod is best suited to people who have married themselves to Apple’s ecosystem, the best alternative to the second-gen HomePod is the cheaper HomePod mini. If all you’re after is some Siri assistance with your smart home and a speaker that’s good enough for casual listening and podcasts, the $99 option will work well for you. Plus, Apple just unlocked the smaller speaker’s inactive temperature and humidity sensor and it’s due to get Sound Recognition.

Wrap-up

Apple has been preparing for a new HomePod for five years, constantly improving both the original version and the HomePod mini. And the fact that the company has made Siri a more capable companion certainly helps. Plus, there’s more smart home abilities than before. Apple hasn’t strayed from its emphasis on the spoken (or sung) word for HomePod’s sound profile, but that’s okay. It’s clear that the company is focused on expanding the toolbox for its smart speakers after their debut, so I’d expect that much like the original HomePod, this is just the beginning for the second generation.

ViewSonic 4K Presentation Displays harness AI video conferencing

ViewSonic 4K Presentation Displays

At ISE 2023 this week in Barcelona, Spain, ViewSonic will be showcasing their range of 4K Presentation Displays capable of harnessing artificial intelligent videoconferencing systems to enhance meetings and put focus on all meeting participants says ViewSonic. The ViewSonic’s CDE30 series of presentation displays feature 4K resolutions complemented by ViewSonic’s new Live Mosaic View feature […]

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