Connected Objects Music

Vinci is a smart headphone with a screen on the side

Apple’s removal of the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 was a truly divisive move. Some see it a company prescient about the longer-term industry trends while others label it a cash grab. No matter what it really is, consumers are left to figure out what to do next. With the Vinci smart headphones, the choice is pretty easy.

The Vinci over the ear headphone is an internet-connected pair of Hi-Fi cans embedded with an AI-powered personal assistant (ala Amazon’s Alexa) to help facilitate a wide array of functionality. Users can interact with Vinci using taps and swipes on either of its colorful screens on either side or by simply using voice. Musically, Vinci’s AI continually learns about user preferences to recommend new songs, fine tune old playlists, or add a soundtrack to a workout session based on heart rate and pace. No matter the situation, though, the Vinci produces high-quality, immersive 3D sound and pairs it with 28 db of intelligent active noise canceling that still lets in important sounds to keep users safe and aware.

Connected Objects

Say Bonjour to easier mornings with this smart alarm clock

It seems like every day, a new idea for a smart assistant hits the crowdfunding circuit, and for good reason: The utility of having one in the home is only growing with their expanding abilities.

While the Bonjour Smart Alarm Clock is one of these, what sets it apart is its use of artificial intelligence to learn a user’s routines and habits, integrate itself with smart home devices, and be totally controlled using nothing but conversational language. The device is designed to be used in the bedroom to facilitate an easier morning routine. By simply asking it, users can get an update on the weather, traffic, and news, control products like Hue lights and Nest thermostats, and even play music through Spotify.


Musio robot may be music to the ears of AI fans, kids

The most widely-used personal assistant application remains Apple’s Siri. But, as many iPhone and iPad users know, it is pretty difficult to engage in a true conversation with Siri because its software can only do what it’s been programmed to do by Apple.

Musio is a cross between a robotic toy along the lines of Sony’s long-discontined AIBO and a personal assistant. The Android-based device features artificial intelligence and was designed to engage and grow with its user, while its Arduino-compatible board enables the device to do whatever the user asks, its maker says. It is being fielded in three separate versions, each featuring a different brain.

Connected Objects

AiFi speakers promise great sound, Lego-like stacking capabilities

It takes a lot to come up with an original concept in speaker systems anymore. The last major new speaker category to become a hit was the sound bar, which achieved popularity thanks to the growth of flat-panel TVs. The makers of aiFi (Artificial Intelligence Fidelity), however, seem to have come up with a somewhat unique twist.

AiFi is being positioned as the Lego of sound systems because the small, modular speakers can be stacked one on top of the other and used in conjunction with any audio source. Although one unit is enough to fill a room with sound, stacking them makes the sound louder and serves to enhance the quality of the sound in general. The speakers can be stacked together and built in any configuration the user wants. On the top of each speaker are two grooves that make the rubber feet on the bottom fit securely. Speakers placed next to each other connect magnetically.

A smartphone app for the speaker system turns the user’s mobile device into a remote control. AiFi’s Bluetooth solution is compatible with iOS, OS X, Android and Windows. When stacked, the aiFi speakers will inform the app about their configuration. The speakers use top-of-the-line ADC converters and a 192kHz/24bit digital sound processor. The standard finish of the speaker is brushed aluminum and backers can get one, along with various accessories and other extras, for $170 with an estimated delivery date of April 2015. AiFi is looking to raise $80,000 on Indiegogo.

There have been stackable speakers before, but they have tended to be low-end portable models designed to be used exclusively with mobile devices. The aiFi, however, is being targeted for use with any two-channel sources, especially flat-panel TVs. If the sound quality of aiFi is as strong as its maker claims, the product is enormously promising.

Smart Home

EmoSPARK melds AI, cloud intelligence in a small cube

The Premise. The movie Her raises many questions about artificial intelligence (AI) in relation to human interaction. As technology grows smarter, a more capable AI becomes almost inevitable as humans continue to grow closer and closer to creating a computer program that can think and interact like a human.

The Product. The EmoSPARK is one of the first products that claims the capability to read human emotions and learn from its environment in order to improve its interactions with people. It allows people to interact with it via conversation, music and visual media through an Android-powered program that uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. By reacting to human emotions and interaction, the EmoSPARK can enhance the stimuli it receives to boost that emotion and make interaction seem natural—as if with another human being. It has access to over 39 million topics and can be paired with smart devices to make integration that much easier.

The Pitch. While maybe not as advanced and alluring as Scarlett Johansson’s voice in “Her,” the video shows that the EmoSPARK can read and understand human emotions—and subsequently translate that into a response that constitutes normal interaction. It can be used by people of all ages, and it can even be used as an Internet learning tool with its wide access to information on the web. The creators have held out two stretch goals at $200,000 for home automation and a Windows Phone app and $300,000 for compatibility with crowdfunding alumni Webee and Ninja Sphere.

The Perks. The EmoSPARK cube costs $224 for early adopters, and it will be delivered by May 2014. For an extra $50, the IP camera that gives it eyes and ears at home is worth getting as well if you’re investing in the cube. If you’re willing to drop a cool $9,000, you can claim a day with CEO in EmoSPARK’s London office as well as a cube signed by the whole team.

The Potential. The idea screams potential, but unfortunately, the product doesn’t. The EmoSPARK definitely takes steps toward being a more capable AI unit capable of human interaction, but the it still hasn’t reached the natural cadence of human interaction. EmoSPARK bills itself as the firat AI home console but it’s certainly not the first cloud-based device sitting waiting for your ambient commands. The Ubi recently began shipping to backers since being funded on Kickstarter in 2012. Nonetheless, the EmoSPARK may be a stepping stone worth taking a look at as we continue to strive toward that goal.