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Google Chromecast Review: A Streaming Device That Gets Better the More It Knows

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Once upon a time, watching TV involved picking up a remote control, pressing the power button and flipping through channels.

Boy, have things changed. When you watch TV with the new $50 Chromecast streaming stick from Google, the search giant tries to find content that you may want to watch based on what it knows about you.

Before you get started, it wants you to take these steps:

1. After plugging the streaming stick into the back of your TV, you press and hold two buttons on the white remote control.

2. On your smartphone, you download and open the Google Home app, log in with your Google account and enter the home address where you are using the Chromecast.

3. You give the app access to your smartphone’s location data to help find the nearby Chromecast. (Wait, didn’t you just share your home address?)

4. You give the Google Home app access to your phone camera to scan a bar code shown on the TV screen to link the app with the Chromecast hardware. (Wait, didn’t you just give access to your location to help the phone find the Chromecast?)

5. You agree to accept a Google privacy policy and to waive any rights to sue Google, via an arbitration agreement.

6. You specify where the Chromecast is — your living room, kitchen, bedroom or basement, for example.

7. You select your Wi-Fi network to connect Chromecast to the internet.

8. You are presented with the option to share more information with Google to help improve the product and services.

9. Google asks you to record some voice samples so that its virtual assistant can recognize your voice.

10. You pick your streaming apps, like Netflix, YouTube TV and Disney+.

Rest assured, Google says you are providing this data so that it can speed up the setup process and show you personalized information, like the local weather and recommendations for TV shows and movies that you may enjoy. Sure beats flipping through a bunch of random TV channels, right?

Well, here’s how that went for me.

ImageThe new Chromecast and remote.
Credit…Google

First, a primer on what’s new about this Chromecast, which was unveiled last week. The streaming stick includes a remote control and a software operating system for choosing content to watch, similar to Roku’s streaming products and the Apple TV set-top box.

With past versions of Google’s streaming stick you would open a video on your phone and press a button to “cast” the content to the Chromecast, meaning the phone was essentially your remote.

I downloaded my favorite streaming apps to the Chromecast: Netflix, YouTube, YouTube TV, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max. The Chromecast then took information that Google knew about me to come up with a list of recommended programs on a page labeled “For you.”

The “For you” page is the main screen of the new Chromecast. Google gathered information about activities on my Google account, like my online searches and the YouTube videos I watched, to find content I may enjoy.

All told, I was disappointed. Given how much Google knows about me, I was hoping it would do a better job at predicting what I would like to see. In the top row, labeled “Top picks for you,” Google recommended that I watch “The Wendy Williams Show,” a celebrity talk show, as well as “SportsCenter.” (For the record, both my wife and I don’t watch talk shows, and we’re not sports fans.)

It also recommended I check out “Wonder Park” and “Bigfoot Junior,” both children’s animated movies. (We don’t have children.)

A few of Google’s recommendations were spot on. “Snowpiercer,” a movie from my favorite Korean director, was a top pick. One row of recommendations was devoted to home improvement shows, which makes sense because I’ve been watching dozens of do-it-yourself repair videos to work on my house amid pandemic-induced boredom. Another row presented cooking videos from YouTubers I frequently watch for inspiration in the kitchen.

On the other hand, another row listed “Comedies about love,” including several Adam Sandler movies like “Big Daddy” and “Mr. Deeds.” (To put it lightly, I am no fan of Adam Sandler comedies.)

Over all, the “For you” page felt like a grab bag of hits and misses. The Chromecast also has an “Apps” page that shows a simple grid of my streaming apps for me to open and find content by myself. That’s generally how Roku and Apple TV work, and to me, that’s still a better way to watch TV.

I described my experience to Google and pressed the company on why it needed so much information just to set up the Chromecast.

The company said the setup process with the Google Home app was an optional shortcut to skip manually entering my Google account information and password with the remote control. Granting access to the location and camera sensors was a security requirement for the setup process. Sharing my home address, it turns out, was also optional, to help Google give updates on local information like the weather.

As for the inconsistent recommendations, Google said that it made suggestions from a wide variety of signals of activity on Google’s products, including entertainment-related searches and programs added to my watch list, and that the picks would get better over time.

So whom is the Chromecast for?

I must confess that my struggle with the streaming era is never knowing what to watch. It’s the paradox of choice: If we can pick from thousands of TV shows and movies, it’s tough to be satisfied with whatever we choose. The Chromecast, if it had worked well for me, would have helped solve that problem.

Yet I’m probably not the target audience: Over the years, I’ve taken steps to minimize the data I share with tech companies, including Google and Facebook, and that may be largely why the Chromecast’s recommendations were off the mark. So the Chromecast may work for those who don’t think twice about sharing information with Google.

Come to think of it, that’s plenty of people.

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Save More Than $200 on QuickBooks Online Essentials

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Score an awesome deal on the world’s leading accounting program.

Free Book Preview Money-Smart Solopreneur

This book gives you the essential guide for easy-to-follow tips and strategies to create more financial success.

October 25, 2020 2 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

If you earn your money by invoicing clients, you know what a hassle it can be. Not only does creating invoices take time and energy, but onboarding clients to your payment system and following up with delinquent customers to ensure they pay on time becomes a genuine waste of energy. If you’re having trouble with invoicing and managing your accounts, it may be time to bring in some technology to help.

QuickBooks Online Essentials is the web-based version of the world’s top accounting platform, specifically designed for service-based businesses. With QuickBooks Online Essentials, you can create individual or recurring invoices, track bill statuses, record payments, and much more from one intuitive app. You’ll be able to track your income and expenses seamlessly in a single portal, and QuickBooks will help you maximize tax deductions based on your accounting. You can also pay multiple vendors and bills at the same time and create checks to pay bills in person whenever you want.

QuickBooks Online Essentials goes beyond office management, as well, giving you detailed reports to analyze your expenses and manage contractors. You can even track miles, sales tax, time, and send estimates to customers before you do the work. It’s effectively everything you need to run your business.

QuickBooks Online Essentials has earned a rare Excellent review from PC Mag for good reason. See how it can help your business when you get a one-year subscription for 44 percent off with promo code “COUNT21” at checkout. 

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The Week in Business: A Headache for Big Tech

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Welcome to the weirdest (and legitimately scariest) Halloween week ever. Surprisingly, candy sales are up this year — perhaps it’s the stress eating? Here’s what you need to know in business and tech news going into Monday. — Charlotte Cowles

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

The federal government is finally making good on its threats to crack down on big tech. The Department of Justice announced a major antitrust lawsuit against Google and accused the company of deploying unfair business tactics to squelch its competitors. (The only precedent for a case like this occurred nearly two decades ago, when the government sued Microsoft.) Google rejected the allegations and said the suit would “artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices” and hurt consumers. But many consumer advocates say it’s high time to regulate big tech more aggressively. Next up: The Federal Trade Commission is planning to vote on whether to file an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook.

Purdue Pharma, the drugmaker behind the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin, has pleaded guilty to felony charges and will be required to pay more than $8 billion in settlement fees. The company admitted to rewarding doctors for pushing prescriptions for its drugs, thereby contributing to an opioid crisis that has resulted in the deaths of more than 450,000 Americans. It still faces thousands of lawsuits in several states. As for the wealthy Sackler family, who own the company: They’re being held accountable in a separate settlement, to the tune of $225 million in penalties.

It’s been over a year since the financier Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide after being charged with sexually abusing teenage girls, but his case continues to haunt his business and personal associates. His former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, remains under arrest and has been silent on charges that she recruited victims for Mr. Epstein. But in a four-year-old deposition, released this past week, she vehemently denied any wrongdoing. Elsewhere, new revelations about financial ties between Mr. Epstein and Leon Black, the founder of the investment firm Apollo Global Management, prompted one pension fund to halt new investments with the firm and others to consider doing the same. Apollo’s board announced that it was investigating Mr. Black’s relationship to Mr. Epstein.

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

Social media platforms are struggling to fight the spread of misinformation leading up to the election, particularly as Russia and Iran have mounted new interference campaigns to hurt the Democratic presidential candidate, Joseph R. Biden Jr. But nobody’s happy with how it’s going, particularly lawmakers. Now, the Senate has called for the chief executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter (Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey,) to testify on Wednesday about how they’re handling hate speech, misinformation and privacy. The hearing will focus on a law that shields tech companies from liability over the content posted by their users, while also allowing them to moderate it. President Trump has claimed the rule is unfair, and wants an overhaul.

Like many art institutions, the Brooklyn Museum is struggling to absorb the pandemic’s impact on its revenue. But unlike many of its peers, it has resorted to selling notable pieces from its holdings to pay its staff and care for the rest of its collection. This week, Sotheby’s will auction off a selection of the museum’s Impressionist and modern artworks, including paintings by Henri Matisse and Claude Monet. While de-accessioning is usually prohibited by the Association of Art Museum Directors, the association has made an exception because of the pandemic, and will allow such sales to proceed through 2022.

The first report on the United States’ third-quarter gross domestic product — the broadest assessment of the economy’s health — will be released on Thursday, and is anticipated to show the fastest growth on record. But that’s because it follows a record drop in the second quarter, when many businesses were forced to close under lockdown measures. Either way, don’t get too excited by the numbers. The country’s economy is expected to slow considerably in the fourth quarter, especially as a wave of new infections hampers reopenings and, in some cases, results in more shutdowns.

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How Technology is Revolutionizing Beauty Ecommerce

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Emerging technologies like augmented reality and artificial intelligence are keeping beauty in business.

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October 25, 2020 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The current crisis has changed and expectations immensely. Since the lockdown started, personal safety and hygiene have emerged as a top concern. Consumers are scared of visiting crowded marketplaces and in some instances, have postponed purchases. One area that has seen unprecedented growth across multiple facets is online sales. From grocery buying to banking, consumers are meeting most of their needs online.

To be a part of this movement, the beauty industry needs to innovate and offer an experience at par with what brick-and-mortar stores do. Major ecommerce beauty brands have leveraged artificial intelligence (AI) and (AR) to build assessment, comparison and testing tools to assist in finding online. We can learn from some of these case studies.

1. Augmented reality is being used to visualize cosmetic products

With customers shying away from brick-and-mortar stores and shifting online, brands should move to virtual try-on tools to preserve the offline experience.

  • L’Oréal product ModiFace allows consumers to have an AR-powered makeup try-on experience.
  • Olay, a PnG , launched Skin Advisor in 2017. Based on deep learning, it recommends products analyzing the user’s skin via a photograph. Of the 6 million people who use this service, 94 percent report recommendations being appropriate.
  • ’s “Virtual Try-On” tool allows you to apply and compare four makeup products simultaneously. It also shows a comparison of before and after look.
  • ’s Virtual Artist analyses your skin and facial features to recommend products to try on. By 2018, users had demoed more than 200 million shades using this feature.

Key enablers

  • 88 percent of mid-sized companies are already using AR in some capacity (Deloitte)
  • 66 percent of people claim to be interested in using AR for assistance when shopping (Google Consumer AR Survey)
  • 60 percent of people would like the ability to be able to visualize how and where a product fits into their lives (Google Consumer AR Survey)
  • Conversion rates increase by 90 percent for consumers engaging with AR compared to those who don’t (Retail Customer Experience)

Related: Instagram and Google Launch Interactive Online Shopping Portals

2. Artificial intelligence is being used for product recommendations

Are you worried about the safety and effectiveness of a cosmetic product? Organizations are building AI-based product recommendation tools to resolve the pain point.

  • Proven Skin Care – a tool based on the Skin Genome Database: This is a search engine used to find out information about beauty products. The database contains data points about the effectiveness of more than 20,238 skincare ingredients, characteristics of over 100,000 individual products, 8 million user testimonials and 4,000 scientific publications.
  • EWG’s Skin Deep cosmetic database is an online tool to search for ingredients in beauty products. It lists hazard ratings for 70,000 products from 2,374 brands and information about 9,000 ingredients.
  • Function of Beauty produces customized hair care products with ingredients recommended by algorithms. These custom shampoo/conditioner formulas are specific to customers’ hair types.
  • Haut.AI is a SaaS tool that offers tools and APIs for it.

Key enablers

  • Consumers are 40 percent more likely to view items that are recommended based on the information they’ve shared with the brand (MarketingDive)
  • Forty-seven percent of consumers will go to Amazon if the brand they’re shopping with doesn’t provide relevant product suggestions (SmarterHQ)
  • Global Organic Beauty Market to reach $54 billion by 2027 due to concerns about the safety of ingredients used (Statista)

Emerging technologies are expensive bets

Prima facie, technology such as a virtual trial tool based on AR might seem simple to implement. It would be best if you had 3D photography of your product catalog or data attributes that mimic the life-like application of the product. That is just the tip of the iceberg; the real complexity lies within doing so. You would end up with a set of disgruntled customers if the tool fails to depict real-life applications accurately.

This space is seeing breakthroughs within product development — moving from a showcase novelty to functionality that the majority of the customers use. What used to be limited to high-ticket items like real estate is being used to showcase regular products. It has certainly worked in favor of brands within the beauty industry, as L’Oréal reported an increase of 49 percent in product sales owing to their AR initiative.

Related: 3 Reasons Why the Aesthetics and Anti-Aging Market is Unaffected by the Pandemic

A shift in the direction is how AdTech companies are using AR. Google has implemented it within search results while is working on AR advertising for both Facebook and Instagram. Immersive is the future wherein users interact with AR depictions of products and purchase it without leaving the social media platform. The capabilities have been demonstrated by the behemoths, but cost acts as the major limiting factor in the widespread adoption of these technologies within ecommerce.

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