Select home security cameras have facial recognition, an option that lets you make a profile of friends and family members who regularly come to your house. Then, when the camera sees a face, it determines whether or not it’s someone in your list of known faces.
The software can be hit or miss, based on a variety of factors, from lighting to changing hairstyles, wearing glasses one day but not the next — and more.
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But one thing we know for sure is that this feature is becoming increasingly popular in our devices, not just in home security cameras, but also our phones and as efficiency tools helping to automate airport check-ins. As law enforcement becomes more invested in facial recognition technology, it’s already raising serious questions about privacy and civil rights across the board, and bringing calls for governmental regulation. But let’s step back a bit to the consumer realm. Your home is your castle, and the option of having facial recognition devices therein is still a compelling option for those who want to be on the cutting edge of smart home innovation. Let’s take a look at the facial recognition cameras we’ve tested recently, to see which models are the best and to help you determine if one would work for you.
If we’re talking about sheer facial recognition capabilities, the Nest Hello, the Nest Cam IQ Indoor and the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor (all of which are essentially the same camera), win by far. Of those models, the Nest Hello is my top pick for facial recognition because it’s the least expensive of the three and has the most opportunity to give you important information about who’s at your front door. Nest’s IQ Indoor can tell you who’s already inside your house, but the Hello, as well as the IQ Outdoor Cam, tell you who’s outside your house. The Hello doorbell’s eye-level location has the best chance of monitoring and seeing the most visitors, too (although I suppose you could install the $349 IQ Outdoor cam at eye level if you wanted). The snag with the Hello and other face-tracking Nest cams is that you do have to pay for the facial recognition feature. That means for facial identification, you have to subscribe to the Nest Aware cloud subscription service. Learn more about Nest Aware.Still, the Nest Hello is also a pick for best overall video doorbell. So it’s a win/win, whether or not you want to enable facial recognition.
Read the Nest Hello review.
The Tend Secure Lynx only costs $60. Given that, I was skeptical that this camera would deliver, but it does. Not only does the camera itself perform well and offer multiple nice features like free seven-day event-based video clip storage, but it also has facial recognition free of charge (unlike the optional Nest Aware service).Create your database of familiar faces, and the Lynx takes over. There is a bit of a learning curve as it becomes familiar with each face, but it’s a very good option if you want an inexpensive indoor home security camera with decent facial recognition.
Read the Tend Secure Lynx review.
The $299 Nest Cam IQ Indoor is similar to the Nest Hello doorbell. It has facial recognition (if you sign up for a Nest Aware subscription) and lets you know who walks in front of the camera’s field of view with consistent accuracy. But it also has a number of additional benefits. Because it is an indoor camera, Nest gave it an integrated Google Assistant speaker. That means the camera essentially doubles as a Google Home speaker and can answer basic questions like what the current weather or traffic is in your area — and control a variety of Google-Assistant-enabled smart home devices. It also works with Amazon Alexa.
Read the Nest Cam IQ Indoor review.
Facial recognition cameras: Every one we tested Here’s a recap of the facial recognition cameras we’ve installed and tested recently. Recommend above: Worth considering, but not as good as the top picks above: Nest Cam IQ Outdoor: The IQ Outdoor camera is similar to the $229 Nest Hello and the $299 IQ Indoor when it comes to specs and performance, but it offers a worse value at a whopping $349 per camera.Netatmo Welcome: Netatmo’s Welcome indoor camera did a fair job detecting faces, but the feature ultimately wasn’t quite as reliable as we’d like. Wisenet SmartCam N1: The $150 SmartCam N1 smart security camera and app did a good job detecting faces, and it comes with a built-in microSD card slot for local storage, but the $60 Tend Secure Lynx performs just as well for much less. Not recommended: Honeywell Smart Home Security: Unreliable performance, including its facial recognition tech, seriously hurts this all-in-one system’s appeal. Tend Secure Lynx Pro: While the indoor-outdoor Lynx Pro is technically the high-end version of the indoor-only Lynx, its improved specs didn’t translate to better facial recognition. Note that the recommendations above were at the time of testing, and could change based on later software updates. We’ll periodically update this list as such changes warrant. How we tested When setting up a camera with a facial recognition function, you create profiles of individual people, by either taking their picture in real time and adding it, or using an existing photo that you have of them. From there, The face recognition camera should be able to distinguish human faces from every other type of motion activity and single out the ones it recognizes from your database of familiar faces. When it’s working optimally, you will get an alert that says the camera saw “Chris,” “Molly” or whoever is in your database. There are many use cases for this type of functionality, but some common ones include getting an alert when your kids get home from school, or if a dog walker or a family caregiver shows up. It creates peace of mind when you’re expecting someone to show up and you want an automated alert telling you they have (especially when you aren’t home to greet them). But it also helps in security scenarios, since the camera is essentially distinguishing between faces it recognizes and those it doesn’t. That way, if your camera sends you an alert that it saw someone on your front porch or walking into your house, but you don’t recognize them, you can more quickly send the information to police officers in the event of an actual break-in or theft, instead of having to sift through dozens of generic motion alerts to find the activity. Viewing the facial recognition feature inside the SmartCam app.
Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET
The best way to test these cameras is to create a database, which is what I do when I test a camera with facial recognition (see the screenshots above). I add people to my database and let the camera do the rest. It’s best to give these cameras at least a few days, because some improve significantly, even over a short period of time, as they see faces at different angles. Then it’s a matter of doing an analysis of how well the camera actually recognized faces. How often did it correctly identify my face versus someone else’s face? How did it do when approached at different angles and changes to hairstyles and clothing accessories? Was the camera able to detect faces at all? Some occasionally struggle to detect any faces, even ones that claim to have facial recognition, and instead mark the activity as a basic motion alert (ahem, Tend Secure Lynx Pro). The future of facial recognition Amazon’s doorbell and security camera company, Ring, filed two patents related to facial recognition in 2018. The patents suggest that future developed Ring products might be able to automatically detect and identify faces from “most wanted” lists or a watch list and automatically send notifications to law enforcement officers. Here’s an excerpt from one of the patent filings: A video may be analyzed by an A/V recording and communication device that recorded the video (and/or by one or more backend servers) to determine whether the video contains a known criminal (e.g., convicted felon, sex offender, person on a “most wanted” list, etc.) or a suspicious person. Some of the present embodiments may automatically submit such video streams to the law enforcement agencies. “Amazon is dreaming of a dangerous future,” ACLU attorney Jacob Snow said in a blog post. “The history of discriminatory government surveillance makes clear that face surveillance will disproportionately harm people already targeted by the government and subjected to racial profiling and abuse — immigrants, people of color, and the formerly incarcerated,” Snow added. Right now, Ring cameras don’t offer facial recognition at all. Models that do, like the Nest Hello, are only designed to identify a person you add to your list of “familiar faces.” They won’t draw from a law enforcement list to determine if a convicted felon is nearby — or reach out to law enforcement if they spot a face that could match someone in a database. While we know of no ethical breaches associated with these cameras on the market right now, the reality is we have no way to verify how the biometric data is used. Even if we give the companies involved the benefit of the doubt regarding their analytics and data usage policies, those policies could change at any time. And when you consider that Ring is owned by Amazon and Nest is owned by Google, the potential for a Big Brother scenario is readily apparent. We’ll continue to keep an eye on home security cameras, doorbells and other devices with built-in facial recognition tech, to follow along with any changes in industry trends — and to see if any new models come close to matching the smarts of Nest’s Hello buzzer.
Nest Hello video doorbell: Smarter than your average…
Read more: Originally published last year.
Acer’s new smart speaker is a colorful contribution to the market – CNET
Acer’s new smart speaker will be available in early 2021. Acer If you’re interested in smart speakers, but not impressed by what you’ve seen from Amazon, Google or Apple, there are third-party speakers out there. Acer on Wednesday announced the Acer Halo, a $109 smart speaker with DTS sound, LED display and more.The Acer Halo sits…
Acer’s new smart speaker will be available in early 2021.
If you’re interested in smart speakers, but not impressed by what you’ve seen from Amazon, Google or Apple, there are third-party speakers out there. Acer on Wednesday announced the Acer Halo, a $109 smart speaker with DTS sound, LED display and more.The Acer Halo sits on a base lit up by RGB lighting you can customize. The glowing lights can sync with streaming music, too. That music streams from a speaker with DTS sound designed to project in 360 degrees to fill the room.
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On the front of the speaker’s gray fabric cover, an LED light display provides visual information like weather or time. Acer is working on an app that will let you personalize the message or image displayed via LED.An LED display on the front of the speaker displays information.
The smarts behind this speaker come from Google Assistant. You’ll use the usual “Hey, Google” voice command to request music, podcasts, news and answers to questions. The Acer Halo is equipped with two far-field omnidirectional microphones to detect ambient noise and voice commands. A physical switch is available to mute the microphones.Acer isn’t the first third-party manufacturer to try its hand at a smart speaker. We’ve seen successful models from Bose and Sonos, among others. The Acer Halo Smart Speaker will be available in North America in early 2021 starting at $109. Its European price of 119 euros converts to about £110 or AU$200.
This luxury speaker brings Alexa smarts to art gallery…
Google smart displays are getting a makeover, dark mode included – CNET
Google smart display interfaces are getting a new look. Google Smart displays are just a few years old, but updates and redesigns are already in the works. Google just announced a brand new look for the user interface of its Google Assistant-enabled smart displays such as the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max. Keeping tabs on…
Google smart display interfaces are getting a new look.
Smart displays are just a few years old, but updates and redesigns are already in the works. Google just announced a brand new look for the user interface of its Google Assistant-enabled smart displays such as the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max. Keeping tabs on your homeThe overhaul starts with several new screens. The home screen now displays a quick glance at your day. In the morning that section is called “Your Morning” and it progresses throughout the day, displaying information like news, events on your calendar and the weather.
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Other new tabs across the top of the home screen will direct you to specific categories. Those tabs include Home Control, Media, Communicate, and Discover. Each tab holds tappable cards and widgets. On the Media page you’ll find music, videos, shows and recommendations. You’ll also be able to see and control what media is playing on other connected devices in your home. Media widgets will be customized to show content from your preferred streaming service. The Home Control tab displays a dashboard of all the connected devices in your home and tappable cards to adjust any device settings, like dimming lights or viewing the doorbell camera.The Communicate tab houses cards for video and chat settings, and the Discover tab displays ideas for things to do with your smart display like playing a game, hear a joke or find a new recipe. Dark mode and ambience settingsIn addition to organized tabs, Google-enabled smart displays are also several new ways to wind down in the evening and wake up each morning.Relaxing ambient sounds are coming to Google Assistant-enabled smart displays.
With dark mode on, your smart display’s color scheme changes, reducing light emission. You can set dark and light modes to activate automatically depending on ambient light of the sunrise and sunset. A selection of ambient sounds is also coming to smart displays for added relaxation options. A Sunrise Alarm feature is also making its way to smart displays, gradually increasing the brightness of your screen for 30 minutes before your alarm time. You can manage alarms on your display, set different alarms for weekdays and weekends, as well as choose alarm tones. Meetings and calendarsIn recent months, the team at Google improved Google Meet and Duo on smart displays and announced plans for Zoom to come to the device. Now smart displays will be able to link multiple Google accounts, so you can see personal and professional meetings all in one place. You can also cancel or reschedule meetings on your smart display. If you use Google Meet on the camera-enabled Nest Hub Max display, you’ll be able to move around the room while staying in frame. Google smart displays will support multiple accounts for calendars and meetings.
These new features and the new interface design will be rolling out in the coming weeks to all Google Assistant-enabled smart displays in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Spain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, and US.
Best robot vacuum for 2020: Neato, iRobot Roomba, Electrolux, Eufy and more – CNET
It used to be that robot vacuum cleaners were only to be seen in dream homes from the future. But now they’ve become reality. In fact they’re more advanced than they’ve ever been. They boast arrays of sophisticated sensors, lasers, CPUs, even AI-enhanced software. The fact is these robots are useful tools to keep your home…
It used to be that robot vacuum cleaners were only to be seen in dream homes from the future. But now they’ve become reality. In fact they’re more advanced than they’ve ever been. They boast arrays of sophisticated sensors, lasers, CPUs, even AI-enhanced software. The fact is these robots are useful tools to keep your home nice and tidy.Living the robot vacuum dream can set you back a healthy pile of cash — some cost as much as four figures. While you don’t have to spend that much, you do get a lot in return. That includes multiple room and floor mapping, self-emptying dust bins, powerful suction and thoughtfully designed hardware. Despite all this sophistication, however, none of these machines can really replace a mop.
Battling bot vacs: iRobot Roomba S9 Plus vs. Neato Botvac…
To choose the best robot vacuum, I spent over 120 hours (that’s a lot of time) torture-testing a group of 12 robotic cleaning vacuums for things like suction power, their ability to perform on carpets and hard floor and how well each performed during each cleaning cycle. Among them are brand-new models that have recently launched, flagship models and compelling options offered across numerous online retailers. I excluded older models that likely won’t be sold for much longer. I update this list periodically.
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If someone were to give you a blank check and tell you to buy the best robot vacuum, this is the bot to get. That said, the iRobot Roomba S9 Plus costs a whopping $1,100. For that staggeringly steep sticker price though, this robotic vacuum delivers powerful suction and superb dirt and dust removal. On hardwood floors this Roomba picked up an average of 93% of our test sand, the highest amount in our test group, but it struggled a bit cleaning sand from low-pile carpeting and area rugs, earning a low average dust and sand pickup of 28%. That said, the Roomba robot vac removed an average 71% of sand from our mid-pile carpet while vacuuming. Again, this is the best result that we saw on this specific test. It also cleaned up more dog hair, pet dander and allergens than any vacuum in this test group, and the bot navigates and maps multiple rooms and floors. iRobot has also updated its app to let you designate “keep out zones” that you want the S9 Plus to avoid when cleaning. The app also lets you use voice commands to immediately clean a room using Alexa or Google Voice Assistant.The robot zipped through our test room in a short average time of 25 minutes, too. You can link the S9 Plus to the Roomba app and your home Wi-Fi as well. Best of all is the Roomba S9 Plus’ CleanBase docking station. The dock both charges the robot’s battery and empties its dustbin automatically, making cleaning even easier and keeping you from worrying about battery life. Now that’s convenient.
Read our first impressions of the Roomba S9 Plus.
For roughly half the price of the Roomba S9 Plus, the $600 Neato’s D7 vacuums up dirt, dust and messes almost as well, making it the best robot vacuum at a midrange cost. On average this robotic cleaner picked up a greater amount of sand (36%) across low-pile carpet and rugs than the Roomba did. This automatic vacuum cleaner narrowly beat the S9 Plus for cleaning power on hardwood bare floors, too, collecting an average of 95% of the sand we put down. The vac cleaned dirt, dust and sand from midpile rugs less effectively though, notching a pickup average of 47% while cleaning. While the Neato can’t match the Roomba’s prowess at removing pet hair or empty its own dust bin, the D7 navigates more efficiently around furniture yet covers more ground thanks to smart robot vacuum built-in lidar laser navigation mapping. You can also control the cleaning robot using the Neato app as a remote control, as well as link it to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The app allows you to designate areas of your home as off-limits to cleaning, too.
Here’s a robotic vacuum that proves you don’t need to blow your budget to purchase a solid robot vacuum cleaner. Even though the Robovac 11S Max costs just $227 right now, it cleans floors effectively. That’s especially true when cleaning bare hardwood floors. It managed to remove an average of 71% of our test sand from this type of surface. The bot didn’t work as well cleaning carpets, earning sand-pickup averages of 21% and 27% on low-pile and mid-pile, respectively. And thanks to this vacuum’s basic navigation system, it took well over an hour to negotiate our test room. As far as time goes, that’s a lot. Still, the Eufy used its runtime wisely. The vacuum covered the space well, cleaning up and leaving almost no spots untouched. The Eufy is also self-charging, so again, no need to worry about battery life or factor that into overall cleaning time. It’s the best robot vacuum for value.
How we test robot vacuumsOur method for evaluating robot vacuums is straightforward, yet grueling. There are two types of tests we run. The first trial is to figure out how well a robot covers the floor while cleaning. We built an industry-standard testing room as specified by the International Electrotechnical Commission, just for this purpose. The IEC is an international standards body responsible for managing robot vacuum testing procedures, among other things, for vacuum manufacturers. Obstacles in our test room mimic what robot vacuums run into in the real world.
Inside this room are objects designed to simulate typical obstacles a robot vac encounters for navigation as it cleans. These obstacles include wall edges, table and chair legs, couches and other furniture, and so on, plus bare tile and hardwood floors, as well as carpet. Here’s a coverage photo of the iRobot Roomba S9 Plus as it moved through our test room. You can see the Roomba S9 covered the floor well, except for one slight section in the center (left, bottom).
We mount LED lights to the top of each vacuum cleaner. The dimensions of the lights correspond to the measured nozzle width of each particular robot vacuum we test.
Lasers, sensors and robots, oh my: Some robot vacuums…
As robots move through the room while cleaning, a camera overhead captures a long-exposure image of the entire room in low light. That photo will then have a light trail, created by the LEDs, that shows the exact areas where the robot traveled (and its nozzle position) during its runtime. We can also see areas of the floor the vacuum may have missed or gotten stuck. This is the coverage pattern created by the Neato D7. Its movement through our test room was very orderly, logical and effective.
You can see the navigation results of all the robot vacuums in our test group in the gallery below.
Some robot vacuums have a better sense of direction than others
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The second type of test reveals exactly how much physical debris a vacuum is able to pick up off of the floor. To mimic dirt of small particle size, we use a mixture of play-sand and landscaping sand. For bigger particle soil, we use grains of uncooked black rice. Robots then run in straight line mode across three types of flooring (low-pile carpet, medium-pile carpet and hardwood bare floors). We test robot vacuums on three types of floor surfaces.
We control for the specific nozzle width of each vacuum, too. We constructed an adjustable tool to soil our test floors. It lets us lay down a strip of precise area of soil to match the nozzle dimensions for every robot. The mass of soil isn’t chosen at random either. We measure a proportional amount that’s related to the flooring material, type of debris, plus each vacuum’s nozzle width. Our custom-built tool lets us match soil area to a robot vacuum’s nozzle width.
We conduct three cleaning runs (at minimum) on each floor type. We also perform cleaning tests with sand and rice separately. That comes to at least 18 tests per robot vac. We weigh the robot’s dust bin both before and after each run. From there we can calculate the percentage of debris pickup for every cleaning run and the average amount of soil a machine manages to remove. Additionally we run anecdotal (visual) pet hair tests for each robot, on all three floor types. We run robot vacuums in a straight line during the debris pickup tests.
The chart below shows the fine particle cleaning performance data for all of the robot vacuums we tested. It should give you a pretty good idea about their cleaning performance on different kinds of flooring surfaces. Our rice-based, medium-size particle test didn’t show enough differentiation between each cleaner, which says they can all handle larger particles without trouble. For fur removal for pet owners, we judged anecdotally. Percent soil removed
Neato Botvac D6 Connected
Sand from low-pile
Sand from hardwood
Sand from medium-pile
Results listed are the average percentage of total material removed from test surface
Want more robot vacuum options? Here’s a list of the other robot vacuums we tested besides the models listed above. More vacuum advice and recommendations