IKEA Dreams About Autonomous Vehicles; Amazon Makes a Big Investment in Housing; More in Five for Wednesday

illustration of robot driving a truck filled with produce

      1. When is a self-driving car not a self-driving car? When it’s a self-driving meeting space, or a farmers market, or myriad other things. IKEA’s got some ideas.
      2. Amazon has made a big investment in prefab-home builder Plant Prefab, which suggests “a potential new avenue of smart home development, experimentation, and expansion.”
      3. Office 2019 for PC and Mac has been released. It’s been updated, but has fewer features than the cloud-based Office 365.
      4. Using blockchain to ensure the safety and provenance of the food we eat is really gaining traction; learn how Walmart and IBM’s partnership will help curb the spread of E. coli..
      5. The Android OS recently turned 10. Here’s a great timeline of how much it has changed since 2008.

20 Google Search Tips; 18 Outdoor Cameras; More in Five for Wednesday

text that says we're back with a smiley face


After taking a break to work on NAR’s iOi Summit, Five for Wednesday is happy to be back!

      1. Google Search has been around for a long time, but it continues to evolve. Here’s a list of 20 things you can do to make your searching more powerful.
      2. There are so many outdoor security cameras on the market, and choosing what’s right for your home can be an arduous task. CNET’s got you covered with review and commentary on 18 models.
      3. If one of the things holding you back from buying a smart watch is the cost, here’s an alternative that will cost you around $80.
      4. Need a new way to think about and describe autonomous vehicles? A “bedroom on wheels” is a new one to us.
      5. Solar technology isn’t often attractive, but that’s changing.

Our First Hackathon; Virtual Reality Hits Real Estate; and More on Five for Wednesday!

Header image for the iOi Hackathon. Includes information about the dates (August 1st, teams can start. August 28th-29th, teams meet in San Francisco. August 30th, the winning team is announced).

      1. CRT Labs is hosting our first ever hackathon as part of the iOi Summit in San Francisco in late August. To find out more about this awesome event, including how you can register to be part of the hackathon, head on over to this blog post by Chad!
      2. One real estate company is going all-in incorporating Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality into their business model. Find out about how these technologies are shaping how to do business with clients on the Fast Company website (click ahead to the second video in the playlist).
      3. We’re still a long way off from the Star Trek replicators I so desperately need in my life, but this robotic assembly line for burgers in San Francisco might be the first step to get us there.
      4. The Wirecutter has recently updated its comparative look between the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Which voice assistant are you using in your home?
      5. And finally, as we hit into the hottest part of the year (at least in Chicago) – move over air conditioning, robotic cooling assistants are coming. I think I’ll stick with my central air.

Google Duplex Is Real and It’s Pretty Amazing; The Best Utilities for PCs and Macs; More in Five for Wednesday

woman asking google duplex to make a dinner reservation

      1. More than a few people thought Google might be up to something sneaky when they demonstrated their human-sounding voice AI Duplex, but it’s real, it’s coming soon, and it’s amazing.
      2. Want to get more out of your computer? Tech site The Verge has great recommendations for PC users as well as for Mac users.
      3. Not sure if we’re surprised by this, but people spend almost as much time on Instagram as they do Facebook, and Snapchat isn’t far behind either. Check out what’s happened with social app traffic over the last 12 months.
      4. Google Earth can now calculate both distance and area; all you have to do is put down some anchor points.
      5. Lastly, letters in different alphabets can look identical, which makes it easier for scammers to get you to visit a phishing site. Learn more here, and be careful out there.

3D Printed Homes, Alexa Branches Out, and More on Five For Wednesday

(image credit: Project Milestone)

  1. The world’s first 3D-printed concrete homes have been constructed in the Netherlands. The houses are printed on-site, cutting down on costs and construction time. Since the concrete is easy to print into whatever shape is needed, the designs include some pretty wild forms. They will be ready to house occupants by 2019.
  2. Alexa and the Ethereum blockchain work together in this DIY smart home project. Not only does the home feature secure video monitoring and Alexa voice commands, but the homeowners created their own family cryptocurrency (through Ethereum) in order to incentivize chores – brushing your teeth, for instance, can be “cashed in” for screen time or real money.
  3. Speaking of Alexa – Amazon’s Alexa for Hospitality program has launched, with Marriott, Westin, and Aloft hotels installing Alexa devices into their rooms to help guests order room service, answer questions about hotel accommodations, and more. The chains promise that recorded information will be deleted after 24 hours, and that users will be logged out of the devices automatically at check-out.
  4. Alexa’s ubiquity also crosses into mesh routers, with TP-Link announcing a new mesh kit that includes the ZigBee protocol and integration with IFTTT and Alexa. We’ve been recommending smart hub systems to NAR’s members and consumers for years, and incorporating smart hub technology into wireless routers is a surefire way to get smart devices working together without a lot of additional effort or money.
  5. Engineers at MIT have designed a smart plug that works with machine learning to figure out what devices are sucking power out of your home, which can help you save money and lower your energy consumption. We’ve seen similar projects before that work with energy storage devices, so it’s exciting to see what can be done straight at the outlet.

Big Changes Coming to MS Office; Wire Transfer Thieves Busted; More in Five for Wednesday

scissors cutting a red ribbon

      1. Microsoft is rolling out some big changes to Office.com and Office 365. You’ll notice the changes mostly in the tool bar / “ribbons” for Word, Excel, Powerpoint and the like. We really hope they get this right, because those ribbons have been pretty unwieldy for some time.
      2. Everyone in real estate knows fraudulent wire transfers are a big problem, so it’s nice to hear 74 of the bad guys just got nabbed by the FBI.
      3. Google Translate is now available in downloadable versions of 59 languages. If you’ve never used Translate, it’s amazing and makes things like foreign travel so much better.
      4. Need to touch up the paint on some of the houses in your inventory? Using one of these color sensors will make the job a lot easier (and better looking).
      5. Microsoft hasn’t been in the hardware game for very long, but they do seem to be up to some interesting things. More Surface devices are on the way, including (we hope) the two-screened device they taunted us with back in 2009.