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The Problem with Alexa…

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It seems as though everyone has gone crazy for voice command devices and applications, but we are exercising caution.  Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google’s Assistant Allo all have flaws. That’s what we are hearing from you.  “Alexa won’t turn on the lights in my kitchen.” “Allo can’t open the garage door for my plumber while I’m at work.” “Siri can’t find anything!”

As home electronics, integration and automation experts, we feel your pain. We know you want to speak your mind and have your wishes granted: open the shades, change the music, pre-heat the oven, and on and on. This is life in the 21st Century. The good news is that eventually all of these devices will understand you clearly. In the not too distant future, they will communicate with you and one another!

These apps and devices are basic and limited in what they can do. So if you’re OK with that, go ahead and plunk down $129 for the Google Home device or $179 for the Amazon Echo, and then download the apps that make them work. Want to know the weather? The score of the Red Sox game? Change the temperature on your Nest? These will do that for you.

Name that skill

One of the issues is how the devices in your home are programmed. Let’s say you have multiple lighting sources and need to be very specific, for example, kitchen recessed lights. Your voice command will have to be equally specific, according to AVD Project Manager Glenn Middleton. You may know this but your guests may not. Another issue is that Alexa and counterparts “aren’t at full voice recognition capacity yet, which means they make a lot of mistakes understanding human speech. Eventually they will understand us 100 percent. At that time these will be great devices for interacting on some level with our systems,” says Kyle Tripp, AVD Systems Designer.

Currently Alexa and Allo do not communicate easily with any smart home systems. And they won’t necessarily be able to work the rest of the cool, high-tech stuff in your house. The latest versions from Control4Crestron and Savant have the capability to be “introduced” to Alexa and learn one another’s language. Alexa’s language is “name the skill” or “call the skill.” Once Alexa becomes more fluent, the skills it knows will be more easily understood by the home integration systems we install. For now you’ll still have to push buttons on your smart phone, tablet or wall touch panel, which in many cases is actually more convenient than voice control. The best smart home systems are now developing their own voice recognition technology.

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Father’s Day Gift Ideas from our AVD Team

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Father’s Day is a couple of weeks away and if you’re stumped for what to give Dad, we have some gift ideas from our team at AVD. Present the man in your life with a gift certificate for a fully-equipped “man cave”/media room. Or give him one of the items suggested here. And, as man does not live by home electronics, automation and integration alone, we’re offering up some additional thoughts as a way to honor Dad this month – or anytime.

What man cave/media room would be complete without a big-screen TV? Bob Copeland recommends Sony’s new XBR 65A1E OLED Display. John Veloza suggests pairing that with surround sound that works in multiple locations like the Sonos system. Brad Smith suggests one of the Leon Soundbars to be mounted with the TV. Add a subwoofer, says Bob Riddle, and he likes JL Audio. Richard Mullin says an all-in-one remote is essential and recommends the Universal Remote Control. Bob thinks the Savant Pro Remote is a must have for ease-of-use and the coolness factor (just enough to make it fun).

What would our team members like to be gifted – related to business and not related?

Bob Copeland: DAC for Sonos Connect and time with family.

Richard Mullin: Apple TV and a pair of tickets to the new Odyssey cruise ship with dinner aboard.

John Veloza: A Control4 System and an Apple Macbook Pro.

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10 Tips for Outdoor Entertaining

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Summer will be here before you know it. Since the season is so short in New England, we want to make the most of it when we spend time outdoors. The trend to entertain outside gets stronger every year with improved technology and products. Here are 10 tips to enhance your outdoor A/V experience.

  1. Wireless audio can be your new BFF if not exposed to the elements.  Soundcast has weatherproof wireless  speakers that we would recommend. They are portable and battery powered so you can even take them to the beach! While we always prefer a hardwired connection for quality audio, wireless systems are great for getting music outside temporarily, without a lot of planning or structural wiring.
  2. Plan for permanent fixtures when building or renovating. The more speakers the better! It’s important to plan for permanent outdoor electronics. For example, you need to install pool speakers before the concrete is poured, and conduit will need to be run to any permanent outdoor video displays.
  3. Look for speakers that blend in. In the beginning rock speakers were all the rage, but there are more advanced speakers now that can be hidden among plantings. Compact speakers designed with flexible mounting options are increasingly popular because you can place them in trees, bushes, or virtually anywhere.
  4. Allocate the proper space for in-ground subwoofers, which produce great bass outdoors.
  5. Invest in a waterproof, rugged iPad cover or remote for outdoor control.
  6. Never use indoor gear outdoors. You can’t simply take your TV outside, install it and expect it to hold up to the elements. That is one reason why we like the products from Seura, especially their Storm series. Splash is made to be waterproof! Install the largest size screen you can accommodate for maximum viewing pleasure.
  7. Wow your guests with an outdoor movie theater, complete with a weatherproof screen and drop down projector. Just remember that appropriate housing is important.
  8. Run video wiring to several locations so that you can put video in one or more spots should you decide to add another screen, or move your screen, in the future.
  9. Add outdoor wireless access points to boost your signal for continuous Wi-Fi coverage outside. Or talk with us about some of our advanced network solutions.
  10. Light it right to set the mood and add to your home’s safety. We can program lighting for various activities, like watching TV outside, a late night dip in the pool or soak in the hot tub.

It’s not too late to get your property ready for summer. Get in touch with our System Design team. And don’t forget all the other elements that go into fabulous summer entertaining: a great play list, comfortable seating, an outdoor kitchen and, most important of all, family and friends.

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Extraordinary Sounds & Spirits Event

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What’s a better combination than music and wine? Join Audio Video Design for our inaugural Boston Design Week event at M. Steinert & Sons at the Natick Mall on April 7, 2017 from 5 to 7 p.m. and find out! Play with the amazing Steinway Spirio™ piano and listen to the Steinway Lyngdorf S-Series Sound System. Sip a fine selection of wines, nibble delicious hors d’oeuvres and mingle with music lovers, design aficionados, wine connoisseurs and design industry professionals. Thank you to our media sponsor Boston Design Guide, a trusted and comprehensive resource guide featuring the “best of the best” in the home design industry.

The knowledgable staff from Audio Video Design and M. Steinert & Sons will be on hand to demonstrate the Spirio™ and the S-Series speakers. Learn about room correction and how the shape and dynamics of a space play a large part in what you actually hear in terms of echoes, reflections and absorption of sound.

We’ll also be giving away door prizes, including a set of speakers valued at more than $500.

Registration is required to attend through Eventbrite.

M. Steinert & Sons is located on the second floor of the Natick Mall near Neiman Marcus. 1245 Worcester Street, Natick, MA 01760.

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Roy, the technician assigned to the work at my home, was simply amazing - so kind, smart, considerate and the utmost customer-oriented person.
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SimpleHome did a fantastic job for us. Helped us design, spec and install two relatively complex TV and A/V installations.
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