There’s a quiet war raging at the moment. Two giants are sizing each-other up, building up their arsenals, testing each other. This war isn’t about religion or oil or land. No, We’re talking about the war for your living room. Google and Amazon are locked in a close fought struggle for dominance of your home. Their champions prepare to face each other once again. It is the Amazon Echo Vs Google Home.
Despite being accused of looking a little like a black tub of pringles the Amazon Echo hit the ground running. It was the first into the market and it did really well. Equipped with it’s personal voice assistant, Alexa, the Amazon Echo was able to strike first and gain a healthy lead over its rivals.
Google soon shot back with the Google Home. It came armed with the Google assistant and It was a great device but it was always going to be difficult to overcome Amazon’s head start.
Both of these “smart speakers” have been around for a while now and Amazon and Google have become engaged in something of an arms race. Amazon has gone for variety. They have released a number of devices, each designed to fit into a different niche, with more varieties on the horizon. Google, on the other hand, have focused trying to create a single must have product. They have poured their energies into making improvements to the home and their Google Assistant, hoping to make their flagship product more attractive. Google also seem to be looking to third parties to help provide variety.
The scene is set. The champions are ready. The question is, in the battle of the Amazon Echo Vs Google Home, who will win?
Design and sound
The Echo might not be what one could call conventionally beautiful. It somewhat resembles a large matte black (or white) monolith with blue lights dancing on top. That said, I think that it has a strong sense of style and it draws attention when you walk into the room, which is kind of the point.
The Echo (unless you own an Amazon Tap) needs to be wired into a wall and requires a constant Internet connection in order to utilize it properly, so it needs to be placed next to a power point.
While the Echo only comes in a couple of color there is still a lot of variety. With Three Echo devices to choose from and more on the way you’ll be able to find something that suits your needs.
With the Home Google took a different approach from Amazon. Not just because they chose to focus on their flagship but also because of their design. The home is a small curved device, with a customizable base to help it fit in with your decor. It is certainly more subtle than the Echo and comes with a lot more colors to choose from.
Like the Echo, the Home needs Internet and power to function, so it will have to make its home next to a power socket.
When it comes to sound, Amazon’s Echo has an edge on the Google Home. This isn’t to say that the home is bad. It can comfortably fill up a small room but the bass comes on too strongly. The Echo isn’t perfect by any means and is no replacement for a proper speaker setup but in general is a better performer. Both speakers can fill a room up comfortably and unless you turn your music up to full volume the microphones will still be able to hear you.
Neither device can act as a replacement for a proper speaker setup and both will fit quite well into an existing one. That said, if you’re buying the devices in lieu of a complete sound system and it’s between the Amazon Echo or the Google Home, then I’d say go for an Echo, the difference isn’t huge but it is there.
Alexa is Amazon’s take on the personal assistant AI. When it was first revealed Alexa struggled against Google’s assistant when it came to understanding conversation.
Two years on and Alexa has made some real strides. Now it can understand context just as well as Google’s assistant and it is linked in with numerous shopping and streaming applications, allowing you to ask Alexa for nearly anything.
Alexa does support multiple users but you have to ask Alexa to switch accounts directly and it is unable to differentiate between users by voice.
In the past Google’s assistant had the edge here and Google aggressively showcased its almost conversational ability. The Google Assistant was able to draw on the experience of Google Now. The Google Assistant has some nice features, you can search for songs using very vague terms and even ask it to find a song based on the lyrics, if you can’t remember the name.
One of the coolest new features of the Google assistant is it’s ability to recognize multiple users by voice. Once it learns how a user says “Ok Google” it will then recognize their voice from now on.
So, who wins this round, the Amazon Echo or the Google Home? While Google’s assistant can’t quite do as much as Alexa, I think the ability to understand multiple users gives Google’s assistant and edge here.
This state of play will almost certainly change as Google and Amazon keep improving their assistants in order to win the war between the Amazon Echo and the Google Home.
Smart Home Controller
Both The Amazon Echo and the Google Home are being touted as a controller center for your myriad smart devices. In many ways, this is why Google and Amazon are competing so aggressively. If one company can gain clear dominance then they can force smart home device makers to use their services. This goes both ways, if one side can convince more Smart Home manufacturers to produce exclusively for them then their device becomes more attractive.
Amazon’s Alexa relies upon inbuilt “skills”. It has a lot of them, over 10,000 at this point. You can tell Alexa to turn your device on and off but its responses are limited. It will only respond to a single trigger word, or if you group multiple devices to a group word, so it’s a little fiddly and unnatural.
Google Home takes a similar approach and despite Amazon’s head-start is moving quickly. The Google assistant is a lot more flexible and is much better at using “If this then that” customizable commands. Google have also attempted to convince smart device manufactures to include the assistant in their devices by releasing the SDK.
When you’re choosing between the Amazon echo or the Google Home; the Echo still has a real lead on the number of compatible devices that will give it an edge. Although Google is looking to change that.
The Amazon Echo has a few models you can pick from. The premium flagship, the Amazon Echo, will set you back $180.00, the affordable Echo Dot will cost you a modest $50.00 and the Echo tap is $130.00.
In comparison Home has a single offering for $129. This is a good bit cheaper than Amazon’s flagship but currently Google is not offering any kind of budget version.
If you’re sizing up the Amazon Echo vs Google home when it comes to price, then Amazon has a lot more choice here and the portable tap is $130, almost the same price as the Google Home.
Amazon Echo vs Google Home, who wins this round of the duel?
It’s a really close call. On the one hand the Google Home is better value for money and the Assistant is really impressive. On the other Amazon’s echo is more compatible with other smart devices and you have a lot more choice.
I think a lot will come down to what smart devices you already own and your personal preference but as things stand I think that the Echo has a slight edge for the moment.
That said, the war is just beginning and both Google and Amazon will be looking to lure customers over to their side with new tweaks and features.
4 Most Interesting Crossovers in Gaming
Gaming crossovers are a great way to bring in new people and drive up interest in a title. With that being said, crossovers aren’t as rare as they once were. More and more gaming companies are now embracing crossovers, to the point that some may say that it has lost its appeal. And while this is true to some degree, there are still crossovers that are really effective when it comes to adding a whole new dimension to a game. To prove our point, we’ve put together a list of five of the most interesting crossovers.
Forza Horizon 4: Halo
Forza Horizon 4 is the eleventh installment in the Forza series. The Forza series is known for its ability to emulate realistic racing conditions and offer accurate representations of real-world cars. And while they’ve partnered with car manufacturers before, Forza Horizon 4 features one of the most interesting collaborations in the entire series.
For a series that prides itself on realistic racing, Forza also knows when to cut loose and have a little fun. Nothing exemplifies this more than the Halo crossover that features Master Chief and the iconic Warthog.
Fortnite: Travis Scott
Fortnite is no stranger to crossovers. But if we had to pick one as the most interesting it would have to be the Travis Scott concert. Not only did this crossover include custom skins and emotes but it also paved the way for one of the most unique digital experiences of 2020.
The Verge’s article on the Travis Scott crossover details that the crossover included an interactive digital concert that turned the Fortnite island into a music stage. What’s great about this crossover is that it hints towards a future wherein music and video games will be working hand in hand to deliver immersive musical experiences to millions of people from all over the world.
Merge Dragons: Rick and Morty
When you think of the popular TV show Rick and Morty, a fantasy puzzle game isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. This is what makes this Rick and Morty crossover so interesting. The sheer absurdity of this crossover shows what gaming collaborations can achieve when one thinks outside the box. The game features original dialogue spoken by the characters that matches their characteristics from the show. It is a fun addition to the puzzle game.
However, this crossover shouldn’t be too surprising as Rick and Morty have appeared in other games, demonstrating how they have become pop culture icons. The comic nature of the duo makes them perfect for every type of genre, including slot games. Foxy Bingo’s pop cultured-themed slots include an official Rick and Morty game that features the iconic imagery and characters from the show. The show has also produced its own game in the form of the Pokémon-clone Pocket Mortys. One thing that all of these games have in common is that they maintain the show’s penchant for fun and wacky adventures. This is seen in Merge Dragons with the exclusive cow-dragon hybrid featured in the crossover event.
Mortal Kombat 11: Rambo
While crossovers in fighting games aren’t exactly new, Mortal Kombat has always had a knack for creating interesting crossovers for their iconic fighting game. One way that they’ve done this is with the inclusion of popular film characters. The franchise has had everyone from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Jason of the Friday the 13th franchise appear in their games.
However, the latest iteration of the game may have topped all of the previous crossovers. This is because Mortal Kombat 11 features John Rambo of the legendary Rambo franchise as one of its available fighters. To add to this, CNet’s article on Mortal Kombat 11 details that Sylvester Stallone voiced the digital John Rambo. This is certainly a treat for fans of the popular action film franchise, as they can finally play as one of the most influential action heroes of all time.
Loot Crate vs. The Curiosity Box: A Beginner’s Guide to Subscription Mystery Boxes
With all the loot box shenanigans we’ve witnessed this year, you might have, while searching for more information, accidentally stumbled across something by the name of Loot Crate. Unlike the reviled loot boxes, Loot Crate isn’t a digital gambling scam. Instead, Loot Crate is a physical, subscription-based mystery box you receive in the mail that contains a bevy of geek-related material. Moreover, Loot Crate isn’t the only available service. Alongside the vanilla Loot Crate Classic, the Loot Crate company supplies geeks with anime-themed items with Loot Anime, gaming swag with Loot Gaming (Loot Crate also sells Halo, Minecraft, Fallout, Call of Duty, and Destiny 2 themed boxes), and film/TV merchandise with Harry Potter, Firefly, Marvel, and Star Trek themed boxes. Loot Crate also has a rival in the form of Geek Fuel, which is more expensive than Loot Crate Classic but contains more (and more expensive) merchandise. While I don’t have a Geek Fuel box to compare to a Loot Crate, I received a different subscription box for Christmas, The Curiosity Box. This mystery box is a joint venture between the company behind Geek Fuel and the YouTube Channel VSauce, which is admittedly cool. So, without further ado, let’s get into what sets apart a Loot Crate from a Curiosity Box and determine which is right for you.
WHAT’S THE SAME
On the surface, Loot Crate and The Curiosity Box seem similar. They arrive in big cardboard boxes and contain random items. Well, not precisely random; each box focuses on a different theme, and the items provided center around that theme. While a lot of geeks subscribe to these boxes for various bits of swag, perhaps the biggest draw is the exclusives. The companies behind these subscription services make deals with other firms to create unique pieces of merchandise that are literally impossible to find anywhere else, aftermarket/marked up eBay sales notwithstanding. Some of these exclusives are just color variants of readily available products, such as a glow in the dark Funko POP Groot figure and orange Quantum Mechanix Tribble.
Most exclusives, however, aren’t available elsewhere in any other form and include items like the The Walking Dead art print, the Yeti temporary tattoo, the tower of magnetic rings, and “collectible” pins.
Furthermore, while most exclusives are decorative, some are practical items, such as a pen shaped like the Sledge Saw from Dead Rising 3 and light-up beverage coasters with periodic symbols.
Finally, these subscription boxes have some of the most awesome, exclusive, geeky shirts this side of ThinkGeek or Hot Topic.
The exclusive items tend to be the best pieces of merchandise in each box and are usually worth the price of the subscription alone. Usually.
Let’s get this out of the way: the most obvious differences are the prices and subscription models. Loot Crate Classic is about $20 per box and comes once a month, while The Curiosity Box is well over $50 and arrives once every three months. More importantly, these boxes are designed for two completely different audiences. The Loot Crate (and likely by extension Geek Fuel) is aimed primarily at adults or older teenagers and provides geek-related decorations and practical items, such as the Dead Rising 3 pen, Star Wars and Deadpool fridge magnets, and a Mega Man car air freshener.
Also, Loot Crate tends to include non-exclusive products that are part of a series. Case in point, during my brief stint with Loot Crate, I received (among other things) a Kidrobot Glow in the Dark Ooze Action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle vinyl figure and a Funko ReAction Alien figure. I got Donatello and the titular Alien, respectively, but I easily could have found Leonardo or Ripley in my Loot Crate subscriptions instead. However, since The Curiosity Box is almost exclusively made up of exclusive items, there is no element of randomness and everyone receives the same merchandise.
While Loot Crate caters to the video game, movies, comics, television, and everything pop-culture side of geekdom, The Curiosity Box is more science oriented and is designed for the family. For example, parents who bought the Summer 2017 Curiosity Box got to enjoy a t-shirt, a set of periodic table beverage coasters, a magnetic ring tower, a t-shirt, and a Nikola Tesla (as a sloth) enamel pin, while children will have fun with a temporary tattoo, a unique embroidered sticker patch, a solar system wall decal and poster set, a mobile microscope, and a castle cross-sections book. Finally, the Summer 2017 Curiosity Box came with the Universe Sandbox 2 Steam game, which is fun for all ages.
Since each Loot Crate and Curiosity Box contains new themes and items, you might find the contents of one particular box more to your liking than another. For example, one Curiosity Box contained a “grow your own glow in the dark crystals” kit, while another included a plush of The Curiosity Box’s mascot, the orange octopus Inq. Meanwhile, past Loot Crates have contained a Batman mug, a Doom Marine Funko POP figure, and the One-Punch Man manga.
While I only have personal experience with Loot Crate and The Curiosity Box, they are not your only options for subscription boxes. Geek Fuel is another decent mystery box, and it has come with its fair share of good products, including a South Park: The Fractured But Whole shirt, a Loony Toons Kidrobot blind box vinyl figure, and an exclusive Legend of Zelda pixel sword power bank. While I cannot recommend the Loot Crate, Curiosity Box, or Geek Fuel (or other) subscription boxes enough, you should research each to know what you should expect from these services. Sure, you technically can’t know what to expect since each box is supposed to be a mystery, but look into each specific subscription and figure out which one is right for you. Which do you think tends to have the best exclusives? Which box caters to your interests? These questions are important and will severely impact your enjoyment. Of course, luck also plays a big role, but that’s also part of the fun.
Google Drive will Shut Down in 2018
It seems like yesterday when Google introduced Google Drive 5 years ago. Back then, people didn’t have a good grasp about what Cloud Storage did. Nowadays, there are many Cloud Storage services that it’s only a matter of preference to choose one for your file keeping needs. However, what struck me as an oddity was how Google Drive will pull their Google Drive service come 2018.
That’s right, Google Drive will completely shut down on March 12, 2018. With the software no longer being supported on December 11, 2017. People will have several warnings about this, for now, so they will have plenty of chance to switch to the new version of Drive, Backup and Sync.
This new program is basically a combination of the features between Google Drive and Photos. It’s readily available now for Windows and OSX systems and will be the new host for the Cloud storage. Alternatively, users can get a hold of Drive File Stream, which will become available on September 26, 2017.
The core differences between DFS and BaS come when you compare how they help customers. As shown in the image below:
A day without Google Drive.
It seems like users will have their first experience without Drive today though. Because as of this morning, the service was down for many users who constantly used the GSuit app. According to the independent site Downdetector, more than 7,000 users are experiencing issues with the service. This has been going on since 10:04 AM EDT, but the number of reports has been lowering afterward. You can check the stats here.
It’s a shame to see Google Drive go. To be frank, it was my preferred Cloud Storage option besides MEGA. However, it’s not a huge inconvenience considering they are not shutting down a Cloud Storage service altogether. So we at least have that.
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