The week in smart home: Microsoft may turn Cortana into the new Clippy

All the smaller stories from the week

Microsoft may turn Cortana into Clippy
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It's the weekend, and that can only mean one thing: time for another edition of The Week in Smart Home, our weekly roundup of the news you may have missed.

This past week was Google week, as the company set out to New York City to announce a gaggle of new products including the much-rumored Google Home Hub, a new Chromecast and the Pixel Stand. Plus, there's an adorable Mickey Mouse stand for the Google Home Mini.

Competitors didn't stand pat though. Amazon announced that smart doorbells and cameras can now talk to Echo devices, and the Xbox skill for Alexa is live for every Xbox One owner in the US. Oh, and a patent for Alexa to play doctor was unearthed. Curious.

That's not all that happened this week. Here's what else went down.

The week in smart home: Microsoft may turn Cortana into the new Clippy

Microsoft may be turning Cortana into Clippy

Microsoft was late to the digital assistant game with Cortana. It has tried to play catch-up, teaming with Harman Kardon for a speaker and trying to build out an ecosystem by leveraging Windows and Xbox - but it still falls behind Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri.

Microsoft may now be shifting strategies with Cortana, as Petri reports it has pulled Cortana development from its AI group and given it to the Office team. Yes, Microsoft Office - the work productivity suite. Turns out that the Office team has been lobbying for Cortana for quite a while.

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, Microsoft nestled an assistant referred to as Clippy into Office to help users out. Clippy was a little too nosy though, and has since become consigned to meme status. It appears the Office team wants to try again with Cortana, which would likely be used as a tool to help you do and find things within the Office suite.

Petri says the reorganization is still new, but that you can expect Cortana to get a whole bunch of new Office-related productivity features. It's unknown what will happen to Microsoft's AI group without, you know, a flagship AI assistant, but there seems to be another reorganization on the way. Ah, corporate intrigue.

The week in smart home: Microsoft may turn Cortana into the new Clippy

Alexa has rejected over a million marriage proposals

Digital assistants are making up larger and larger parts of our lives, so it's natural to grow some sort of affection for them. But these people have taken it to the next level.

Amazon tells Business Insider that over a million people asked Alexa to marry them in 2017 - a request that Alexa will turn down every time. As that's just Alexa, it's likely the number will grow when adding in marriage proposals to Siri, Google Assistant and others.

So why are people proposing to assistants? The film Her certainly took human-AI love from a niche sci-fi idea into a mainstream one. People are also just more used to digital assistants, and like playing around with them out of pure boredom. A lot of that has to do with how much work companies put into to make these assistants feel personable - Google Assistant even has an entire backstory.

The week in smart home: Microsoft may turn Cortana into the new Clippy

C by GE smart lights are the first Made-for-Google bulbs

Last year Google announced the Made-for-Google program, which is a way for manufacturers to make certified accessories and products for Google devices. In the smart home world, this means a series of products that have simpler setup with Google Home.

The first light bulbs to take advantage of the program are the C-Life and C-Sleep bulbs. You can pair them up through the Google Home app, with GE saying that no additional apps are necessary.

Previously, C bulbs needed the C-Reach hub to gain certain smart powers like voice activation and out-of-home control. However, if you pair your C bulbs with Google Home, you won't need the C-Reach. You'll be able to control them both out-of-home and with Google Assistant.

The bulbs pair with Bluetooth, and this is largely enabled by a software update. Every C by GE bulb will get support by 22 October, when a $55 new starter kit that pairs a Google Home Mini with a single C-Life bulb goes on sale.

The week in smart home: Microsoft may turn Cortana into the new Clippy

Sonos cuts some features from its desktop app

Sonos has long prioritized using its mobile apps on iOS and Android to set up its devices, but if you had the Desktop Controller for either Windows or macOS you could also do the setup there if you preferred.

Now Sonos is making that option impossible, as with the latest update of its Desktop Controller (version 9.2) it's cutting those features. You will no longer be able to setup or transfer a Sonos system, add a player, create or separate stereo pairs, register stereos, setup a TV, enable parental controls, manage network settings, change Sonos passwords, or opt in or out of beta programs. All of that is now only in the mobile app.

Otherwise, the Desktop Controller was updated to bring it more in line with the mobile app, which is somewhat ironic given all those features above are mobile only now. There are some new features however, like a new volume limiter and support for the upcoming new Sonos Amp.

The week in smart home: Microsoft may turn Cortana into the new Clippy

Optoma's new 4K, Alexa-compatible projector

Optoma, one of the leaders in projectors, has just raised the stakes with a high-end, feature-packed portable 4K projector. The UHL55, as it's known, has 4K Ultra HD resolution and HDR support with PureMotion processing for smoother motion.

It's got 2000 LED brightness, HDCP 2.2 support and a range of connection methods that mean you can connect it to a host of audio options. There's Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and two HDMI ports. That Bluetooth, by the way, means you can either pair Bluetooth headphones or speakers. It's got Dolby 5.1 support, so you can get quite the home audio setup going. You can also opt for the built-in stereo speakers. There's also support for USB media sticks.

Optoma says it's small and light enough to carry from room to room, so it sounds like it'll be good for taking to friend's houses or parties. Plus, it's got Alexa support so that you can control the speaker with your voice. There's no word on a release date or price yet though.

Top smart home deals

Every week we scour the web for the best smart home deals – check out our pick of this week's biggest bargains below.

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