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Friday
May272016

Podcast #741: SVS Soundpath and Google I/O 2016

Google has dabbled in the Home Theater and Home Automation arenas for quite a while - going all the way back to the Logitech Revue and Google TV in 2010, and there were a few devices before that failed experiment as well (review in Episode 452). Even with the success of the Chromecast, it still feels like Google is just toying with us, but that all may change soon. Some of the announcements out of this year’s Google I/O conference are pretty exciting, and very promising. Plus, they have something called Project Ara - how can we not talk about that?

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SVS Soundpath Subwoofer Isolation System

We have been proponents of isolating your subwoofer from the rest of your home by using the SubDude made by Auralex.  


The Subdude is a roughly 15 X 15 platform for your subwoofer that reduces structural vibrations through walls, floors and ceilings. As a result you have a tighter bass and overall improved low end. The only real knock we had with the device is that there isn’t a perfect fit for your subwoofer. Your sub is either too big or too small.

Enter SVS with their Soundpath Subwoofer Isolation System (Buy Now $49.99). The system consists of 4 “Shock Absorbers” that you attach to the bottom of your subwoofer. It doesn’t have to be a SVS subwoofer either. SVS includes hardware and adapters that pretty much make the device universal. For our test we attached them to the DIY subwoofer we assembled from Parts-Express and removed the SubDude that it was previously placed on. Attaching the took all of five minutes and can be done by virtually anyone with a screw driver.


Even before we turned our system on we received a thumbs up from the aesthetics committee. The new setup took up less space and made the subwoofer seem smaller. A big plus for many spouses. Then we turned it on and immediately heard an improvement, even over the SubDude.

The bass was tighter and cleaner than before. Things that rattled in the house no longer did. But you still got that boom when you wanted it. Bottom line, the SVS Soundpath Isolation System performed better than an already good product, the SubDude, and it costs slightly less. If you have already spent $500 or more on your subwoofer spending $50 more to get the best performance out of it is not asking too much. It's really a no brainer.

 

Google I/O 2016

Google has dabbled in the Home Theater and Home Automation arenas for quite a while - going all the way back to the Logitech Revue and Google TV in 2010, and there were a few devices before that failed experiment as well (review in Episode 452). Even with the success of the Chromecast, it still feels like Google is just toying with us, but that all may change soon. Some of the announcements out of this year’s Google I/O conference are pretty exciting, and very promising. Plus, they have something called Project Ara - how can we not talk about that?

 

Google Home

Perhaps the most relevant announcement to our show and everyone listening was the Amazon Echo competitor simply called Google Home. The device itself was the big announcement, but they followed that up with an expected delivery date of later this year. However, they didn’t specify a price. The man behind the project, Mario Queiroz, also happens to be the same man who launched the only other successful home product in the Google portfolio, the Chromecast. Google Home is exactly what you’d picture if you were told someone was going to launch an Echo competitor. It's a small speaker you plug into the wall with always-listening, far-field microphones that can hear you from across the room.

Just like the Echo, Google Home will answer your questions, play your music, and control some of your home automation components. Of course Google will tell you that their device is better at most of those things than the Amazon device, but they have to say that. While the Echo isn't great at multi-room, Google Home is designed with multiple rooms and speakers in mind from the start. It’s built on the Cast standard, so you can talk to any speaker and tell it to play music on other speakers, just like you can with Google Cast Audio. Not sure if it’ll support synchronized music in multiple rooms, but if it doesn’t at launch, we can’t imagine it’ll be too far off.

Google has said they don’t plan to be as open a platform and the Amazon Echo, so you can expect less home automation devices to work with it. Their focus is on quality, not quantity. Queiroz made the statement that other platforms may support more devices, but when you actually try to use them, it doesn’t really work all that well. We cannot confirm nor deny that claim, but Google’s spin on less device support is that each home automation component that is integrated with Google Home will behave just as you’d expect. That’s a tall order, but if it is true, it’ll be pretty awesome (and probably a historical first).

 

Google Assistant

Google Now is getting an upgrade to the new Google Assistant in an effort to take on the Siri, Cortana and Alexa’s of the world. The uniques feature that sets Google Assistant apart from the rest is the ability to remember prior questions and apply context to new questions. For example, you could say something like “show me what action movies are playing in my area” followed by a statement like “I’m a fan of anything with vampires in it” to further narrow the search. That sounds more intuitive than most of the digital assistants on the market right now. And could have a nice tie-in with voice controlled home automation. Google Assistant on your Google Home device? That could be pretty sweet.

 

Daydream

Farewell Android VR, hello Google Daydream. Quite similar in approach to Google Cardboard, Daydream is built by Google, but it's up to the developers to create the apps, games and experiences that really make it compelling for consumers.  At Google I/O, they showed off sketches of a reference VR headset and a remote reminiscent of the Nintendo Wii, that together will provide motion-controlled gaming and simple user interface navigation while using the Daydream headset. Google also announced that several phones that are "Daydream-compatible" from companies like HTC and Samsung should be hitting store shelves later this year.

 

Project Ara

So what is Project Ara?  For those who don’t know, it’s actually pretty cool. The idea is a totally modular cell phone, basically the marriage of cell phones and legos. Your phone, instead of being one solid piece of electronics, is a bunch of smaller pieces of electronics your put together, where each of the small pieces is replaceable. You could buy a phone, which is basically all the parts you need pre-assembled, or just go out and buy the parts you want and build your own.

For anyone who has seen a commercial about a new phone with a super awesome camera, or crazy long battery life, or a killer screen and wished your phone, the one you just bought six months ago, was that cool, Project Ara solves that for you. Want to add a better camera? Go for it, just replace that module and you’re set. No reason to replace the whole phone. Or want to add a better battery, or a louder speaker? Go for it. That’s pretty freakin’ cool.

At the I/O conference, Google announced that Project Ara is coming out of the cool, futuristic idea phase and will be making it into your hands in the very near future.  The technology will release to developers in the Fall of 2016 with a consumer release planned in the Spring of 2017. They’re giving plenty of time between the developer release and the consumer release to make sure they have a good idea of what kinds of modules developers will want to create and what kind of modules consumers will want to buy. But bottom line the Google / Lego phone concept could be on store shelves in less than a year.


 

 

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