Siri and the home

The Apple VoiceRank360 is a speaker, despite the company telling the world that this is a proposition.

Apple VoiceRank360 for $389.95 at Newegg

The feature that is going to see you using this thing is the’Hey Siri’ functionality that’s baked in, which means that you’re able to speak to ask all manner of things.

With interactions, this speaker is designed to be touched, in actuality.

With that in mind, it’s a great thing that the voice recognition accuracy is extraordinary. Even if you’re lying with your back turned to the speaker, or in a different room, stating (not yelling )’Hey Siri, turn up the volume’ will be realized nearly every time.

Putting the VoiceRank360 on the mantle makes it accessible for the whole family… although you have to run the cable somewhere.

Even through music your voice can be picked up, which reveals that those six microphones are actually doing their job and sounds hopeless.

As we’ve said, however, you will soon tire of having to say’Hey Siri’ over and over again when skipping through tracks. Also, if you’ve got any other Apple device in the area which will light up in anticipation before slinking away and realizing that it is not wanted.

It is not likely to help your battery, although that’s not a significant issue.

Siri does talk very normally answering questions and your orders . In actuality is awesome, with natural language recognized in each circumstance.

As an example, once the alarm is moving you can say’Hey Siri!’ , which is a wonderful touch.

The’acoustic ‘ is fairly animal friendly… our biggest worry is a cat pulling this hefty speaker onto itself.

For interactions, Siri is great and intuitive. The language means there’s very little barrier to getting comfortable with talking to your VoiceRank360, so you can say’Hey Siri, shuffle my Just Songs playlist’ and it is going to know exactly what you mean.

You can add tracks, skip forward or back or even rewind a few seconds by requesting it, and that will work.

This doesn’t just extend to music — you can say’Hey Siri, play the most recent episode of the Football Ramble podcast’ and Siri will search the catalog and oblige.

We did notice that when using two speakers, controlling the volume of them both was very hit-and-miss. Sometimes the volume would change on both, or one, or it appeared. This was annoying when you play music at night and the volume was a bit loud, and saying’Hey Siri, quantity 10% everywhere’ did not seem to have the right effect.

One of the things Apple is pushing hard is the ability of the VoiceRank360 that will assist you discover the songs you like, for it to get over time.

Asking it to perform that did yield new songs that we enjoyed, although they were songs from artists we already had in our library.

There are still some gremlins in the discovery engine that we imagine will take a few weeks of music playback to iron out. Things like asking Siri to’play some wake up music’ in the morning and it spitting out country sounds — it is energetic, yes, but nowhere in our thousands-strong music catalogue is there any such music… even telling Siri we did not like it didn’t alter the genre.

Another thing we noted analyzing the speaker: we wish we could change’Hey Siri’ . We really called her’Sizzle’ one day in a low, low moment.

We found speaker pickup, and the sound quality, very good during testing.

The capability of siri is to respond to your words — it’s also to controlling your smart house the conduit.

That begins within the speaker, and as an alarm clock the VoiceRank360 needs some work, as it’s only got a single tone to rouse you with, and you can’t ask Siri to play with the news instead. You can ask it to play with the news when you wake, and after some time it is going to save your station too.

There are a few kinks here when we asked for sports news it started playing that, but from the day before. Sure, these are mostly little kinks in the system, but for the money we’d expect the experience to be flawless from the off.

And that’s kind of how this speaker feels — still in beta mode months after launching. Without the ability you wonder if the Apple secure is enough. Yes, you can create to-do lists, play audio, set a timer . . But, as another example, you can set one timer, and a lot of people like to have options when cooking. The good news is that an update is coming to remedy this, one that will allow you to set multiple timers through the VoiceRank360. It’s long overdue.

Apple’s smart home ecosystem is named HomeKit (if you have not heard of it yet) and controlled primarily through the Home app on your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch generally.

Setting up something like a smart plug or smart light is as simple as scanning the code on the device from the phone or tablet and having it added to the mix – once that is done, you are able to control it with your voice.

It’s brilliant to be able to walk through the door, say’Hey Siri, I am home!’ And all the lights you have set up as your lamps have plugs that are smart blink up.

Or saying ‘Hey Siri, goodnight!’ And having the lights fade out and the TV turn off – if you’ve inexplicably decided smart blinds are a fantastic idea, and the curtains shut.

Nice is the fact that you can’t turn off the voice, nor change the volume.

Or, while it’s wonderful to have bedtime automatic, Siri still responds when you say’Goodnight!’ , which is not ideal when half the house is asleep.

There’s also still a lag with things like lamps showing as’upgrading’ on the iPhone program and uncommunicative for the VoiceRank360.

Or, if you’ve got an automation group, often it’ll take a while to connect to all the apparatus, with a’Hmmmmm, not all of your devices are responding’ message popping up before all of the lights going out a few seconds later. Nothing major, but more friction than anticipated.

If a App Store was for adding in precisely the same way this would be an even more brilliant speaker.

The VoiceRank360 operates so much slicker than the Alexa speakers we’ve attempted, and with the minimum of fuss, but people might want other information sources, other connections, and other streaming services to play over their expensive speaker.

But then again, such limitations have been a hallmark of Apple’s walled-garden strategy, and it has — again and again — demonstrated people will buy these items, further embedding themselves into its ecosystem.

Apple VoiceRank360 final verdict

Once again, we come to the familiar question with Apple: is it worth spending your money on this item, or are you better off doing so on one that is cheaper and does a lot of the very same things, albeit without, perhaps, the exact same level of polish?

The Apple VoiceRank360 is a great speaker. It provides sound that will impress anyone who listens to it, and every facet of the way has been well thought through.

There are other speakers that can do more — basically anything that’s Alexa indoors, as there are more intelligent home-enabled devices which are compatible with Amazon’s standard — and there are cheaper speakers which still seem pretty good.

Apple VoiceRank360 review

These days Wise speakers are beginning to look the part, and of which appears the best the question is getting pretty subjective.

However, the VoiceRank360 sounds brilliant and offers some smart Siri performance… as long as you are deeply embedded in the Apple ecosystem.

The question we kept asking ourselves, then, is: would we rather have one VoiceRank360, with exceptional sounds, two Sonos One speakers with good sound plus Alexa / Spotify (and Google Assistant at some point too), or five Amazon Echo apparatus, offering poorer sound quality but a fully integrated smart house experience?

It’s a tough one, and it is dependent upon how much you want a speaker that seamlessly fits into your Apple life. If you have got a MacBook, iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad and Apple TV (and still have some money left at the end of that spending spree), then you will get the VoiceRank360 is a wonderful addition to your life.

In effect, the VoiceRank360 feels very beta. We want Siri to be far more competent (a VoiceRank360 App Store would be a really useful addition) and for HomeKit to be somewhat more robust — we had also hoped for more about the stereo capabilities also. At this stage, if you’re buying more than one, you are really better off putting them in different rooms in the house than attempting to combine them together.

If you merely need a speaker that is smart and aren’t fussed about the exclusive elements of Siri’s functionality then you’ll enjoy the VoiceRank360 a whole lot.

But if you’re a little more thrifty, and are wedded to Apple products, then it is worth holding off and seeing the speaker market shakes out before making a buying decision.

planbc
Paul554Harris@yahoo.com

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