“HomePod takes the listening experience to a whole new level. And that’s just the beginning” as Apple states. Released on February 8th, the HomePod, released by Apple, is a new competitor in the smart speaker industry. The Homepod aims to be an excellent speaker for Apple products, and it uses Apple Music and Siri to learn your taste in music. Additionally, the HomePod can be used as a home assistant to answer questions and do assigned tasks, similar to Amazon Echo and Google Home. Since the HomePod is voice sensitive, you are able to talk aloud and the HomePod will listen to the command. To use the HomePod, you must have an Apple device, and you must be subscribed to Apple Music in order to be able to listen to songs outside of the songs you have purchased. If you do not have Apple Music, the musical capabilities of the HomePod is limited, as the only other options you have is to listen to the live radio, play songs that you have purchased from Itunes, or use your phone to control the songs that are playing. Even with these drawbacks, the Apple HomePod has a hefty price tag, starting at $349 on the Apple site.
With Google and Amazon already having successful smart speakers on the market, consumers wonder what makes the HomePod stand out. One of the most valuable features of the HomePod is its high performance for music. The HomePod is the superior speaker, with spatial awareness to make give the most optimal sound. Inside of the HomePod are seven tweeters, which means the sound quality will be consistent no matter which direction you are located relative to the speaker. In addition to this, an algorithm analyzes the music and is able to make adjustments. Meanwhile, although they are able to play music, the Google Home and Amazon Echo are more focused to being home assistants. The HomePod does use Siri as its home assistant, which does not have as many capabilities as its competitors. The HomePod is able to provide answers to some questions, and activate some smart appliances. However, for example, the HomePod is not able to call an Uber, which the Echo is able to do. The Google Home goes for $39 for the mini version, $129 for the normal version, and $399 for the “max” version. Amazon also has a similar approach of having several different models; the Echo Dot costs $49, the Echo is $99, and the Echo Plus is $145. Amazon also has the Echo Spot and Echo Show, for $130 and $230. Apple only has one model of the HomePod at the moment.
After being released, the Amazon HomePod has been receiving mixed reviews. Most are impressed by the sound quality of the HomePod, but feel that Siri is lackluster compared to other home assistants. This, paired with the very high price point, leaves many feeling that it is not worth it - and it is probably better to get a different smart speaker. Those who are supportive of the HomePod claim that it is an excellent smart speaker because of its superb sound quality, and is a great choice for people who often listen to music. Overall, the HomePod has been a different smart speaker, receiving mixed reviews - but let us know what you think of it!
SpaceX, manufacturer and launcher of advanced spacecrafts, just successfully launched the most powerful rocket into space since the Saturn V, whose first flight was in 1967. This rocket, named the Falcon Heavy, launched on February 6th, and SpaceX claims that the Falcon Heavy can carry about 64 metric tons into space. However, it costs a whopping 90-million dollars to purchase a launch for the Falcon Heavy. One of the most interesting features about the Falcon Heavy is that it is made to be a reusable rocket. This means that all parts of the flight must go well, and there must be features that allow it to land properly, have specific launch systems, have re-entry heat shields, and have other features. The good thing about having these rockets reusable is that it eliminates the cost and time to build a new rocket.
An interesting factor in this first orbit for the Falcon Heavy is that Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, sent his Tesla Roadster on the orbit, - with a mannequin sitting inside of it. This is to test the SpaceX’s ability to carry payload. Additionally, sending the car into space allows SpaceX to tell their customers how much the payload and gear will move around. It was planned that the Tesla Roadster on the demo flight would orbit past Mars. This demo flight was considered a success, but two things did not go to plan. First, one of the center cores missed its landing and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. Second, one of the engine’s burn was stronger than anticipated, so rather than the Roadster orbiting Mars, it extends past that and is orbiting near the asteroid belt.
The Falcon Heavy is actually made of two different stages. The first stage, at the bottom of the rocket, is made of 3 cores, totaling to 27 different engines. During takeoff, these engines produce a total of 5.13 million pounds of thrust, and this is what allows the Falcon Heavy to launch even with so much weight. The upper, or second stage, includes a single engine that delivers the rocket’s payload to orbit once the main engines have been cut off.
Source: Digital Trends
The main goal that SpaceX has is to support flying people to Mars or to the Moon. In fact, SpaceX has lined up many different future plans and launches. Their goal is to launch a cargo mission to Mars in 2022, and then send a crew and cargo in 2024. From this, SpaceX hopes to be able to start building a Mars base. Additionally, SpaceX plans to launch the Falcon Heavy again in three to six months - and even launch astronauts on the company’s other rockets, the Dragon and Falcon 9. Although the Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket, SpaceX plans to use what is called the BFR in the future. This rocket is still being developed, but this is the rocket that SpaceX wants to help with sending people to Mars. It is also a possibility that the BFR could be used for Earth to Earth transportation, as long distance trips could be completed in half an hour. The BFR could also be used for moon missions, satellites, or for space station missions. It is exciting to see space exploration hitting new milestones, it we cannot wait to see what this push to reach Mars will result in.
After much anticipation, Amazon, one of the biggest companies, recently opened a store called “Amazon Go” to the public on January 22nd. Amazon Go was officially opened on December 5th in 2016, but this was only available for Amazon employees. Amazon Go sells mainly grocery items, but unlike any other store, Amazon Go is cashier-less. Using technology similar to that found in self-driving cars, such as computer vision and machine learning algorithms, people are able to take whatever items they want, and sensors detect which items have been taken, and by who. People who do shop at Amazon Go have to install the app on their phones, which adds items to the consumer’s online cart. You are allowed to enter the store only if you have the Amazon Go application on your phone, as there are small gates at the entrance where you are able to scan your phone with the app open, which opens the gate for you. Cameras are placed throughout the stores, and weight sensors on the shelves are able to detect when items have been taken. When you leave the store, a few minutes later, the items you took will be added to your Amazon account. Although this is a cashier-less store, there are still workers in the store, such as employees in sections with alcoholic beverages to check IDs before a customer is able to take any beverage. Additionally, there are workers there to assist customers.
Although the store is mostly successful, there have a been a few cases where people have taken items from the store, but were not charged for anything. Amazon Go vice president responded to these reports and said that there is no feature on the app for customers to say they did not get charged - because Amazon believes these incidents won’t happen often. Surprisingly, there seems to be no answer to why some people are not charged. For example, a New York Times reporter attempted to hide an item he took so that cameras would not detect it, but he was still charged. At the same time, a CNBC reporter shopped at Amazon Go on the first day and did not get a charged for an item despite not attempting to steal. Even though Amazon claims this does not happen often, people could have a chance of taking something expensive and not getting charged. One of the reasons why Amazon Go has built up much interest is because it is extremely convenient for customers because it removes the whole process of checking out items. Amazon plans to slowly implement more Amazon Go stores throughout America in the next few years. It is also a possibility for Amazon Go to implement this type of technology in the Whole Foods markets, after their huge purchase of the Whole Food grocery chain in 2017.
It will no doubt be exciting to see more stores opened soon, but these types of stores also do not provide as many jobs as normal stores, as cashiers won’t be needed. In fact, if Amazon Go does eventually become widespread, there could be about 3.5 million cashier jobs threatened. Despite this, it is cool to see Amazon pushing the boundaries of machine learning even more, and as machine learning is getting more and more important in technology, it is exciting to see what more can be achieved. It is equally interesting to see how these mechanized devices change the daily lives of people.