The Wrap – January 19, 2018

Amazon’s Echo brings Alexa’s smart speaker system down under, Surface gets big, and Nintendo gets imaginative with cardboard. The Wrap is back.

Transcript

For the week ending January 19, you’re tuned into The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology round-up, and after four days of seeing all the new technology at CES in Las Vegas, we’re ready to settle at home for a little bit of quiet.

A week after CES, though, there’s still news, with a few big deals in Australia right now.

Take Amazon, which made an impression at CES with Alexa compatibility for the smart home, something Australia wasn’t at the time all that compatible with. That’s about to change, though, as Amazon announces Alexa for the Australian market arriving in the form of its three Echo products, the Echo, Echo Plus, and the Echo Dot.

Already available for quite some time in America, the Echo products are similar to Google’s Home gadgets, but with the smarts of Amazon’s Alexa, offering answers to questions, information, and allowing you to connect with gadgets around your home and other services.

Things like Netgear’s Arlo security system, Philips’ Hue lightbulbs, and Ring’s video doorbell are all compatible, while services like Dominos and Spotify can be connected, and every single option is a wireless speaker.

The question essentially becomes what sort of speaker and the size you’re after, with the Echo dot being a sub-$100 flat disk of a speaker, the standard Echo for below $200, and the larger Echo Plus for a little more, packing in more sound, all offering a connection to your smarter home.

They’ll all be available from February 1st, where they’ll no doubt compete quite aggressively with the speakers Google has out in the market, effectively creating two major smart speakers in Australia.

That’s interesting, but also interesting is what’s happening in the world of Nintendo, which has this week rolled out support for cardboard technology in the form of Labo. We’re probably pronouncing it wrong, but this is Nintendo doing what Nintendo has always done best, with a way to make its consoles even more creative.

Remember how you could touch the screen of the Nintendo DS and make it do more, complete with a stylus? That was pretty creative.

With Nintendo’s Labo, you’ll be using cardboard to make connected accessories for the Nintendo Switch, essentially working with a Do It Yourself mentality to make extra bits and pieces for the Nintendo’s latest portable console.

That means if you want to turn your Switch into a fishing rod or a motorbike controller, you’ll be able to do that, building the accessories out of Labo’s cardboard sheets and creating your very own imagination-fuelled accessory, and that’s not all .

Labo’s accessory system will come in different packs, but will offer different cardboard toy choices for you to make, including a piano, a robot, and more, with a sticker pack helping you to customise even more.

We have to say we like the idea that Nintendo Labo will bring, revitalising a sense of imagination that the gaming world can sometimes feel like it loses, especially as games become the be-all and end-all for imagination in today’s society.

You’ll find Nintendo Labo in Australia from April 20 onwards, but you’ll need a Nintendo Switch if you plan to play along. Make sure to keep that imagination ready.

And keep that imagination going for other reasons, like the building of applications, of graphics, of virtual reality and all that jazz, because if you’re someone into creating that sort of content, there’s a new computer coming with your name on it.

In fact, there are a few coming, something CES should prepare you for what with all the new hardware coming from Dell, HP, and Lenovo, some of it based on Intel’s new AMD collaboration. But that’s not all, because this week Microsoft announced that its 15 inch Surface Book 2 would be arriving to the Australian market, expanding the Surface Book range with a machine that goes beyond the 13 inch size.

This one is interesting not just because it’s a bigger Surface Book with an even bigger 15 inch detachable tablet, but also because it’s a 15 inch laptop that isn’t made to be widescreen, but rather the 3:2 aspect ratio Microsoft uses for its computers.

Under the hood, it’s all meat with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, and up to 1 terabyte of storage on a solid-state drive, and a starting price of $3649, different from the 13 inch model’s starting price of $2199. Granted, there are some technical differences between them, but Microsoft’s 15 inch Surface Book won’t be cheap to start with, delivering one of the biggest tablets you can find.

Right now, we’re putting the 13 inch Surface Book 2 through its paces, so we’ll let you know what we think of that soon enough, and we’re still finishing up our CES coverage, too. Tune into the website over the week, and you’ll see more from our time at the show, because there was just so much.

We were hoping to point out our best in show this week, but there was just so much to write, that it’ll have to be another week, but that’s fine, because we’ve run out of time, anyway.

And that means it’s time to say this: you’ve been listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest round-up of technology. You can find out more about what we’ve spoken about in this show at Pickr.com.au where all the stories go, but we’ll be back next week with more of those, and then some again. Until then, have a great weekend, a lovely week, and we’ll see you next time on The Wrap. Take care.

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