There are undoubtedly many downsides to the lockdowns dictated as a result of COVID-19, however one silver lining is that it’s happening now – in an age where technology exists that means we no longer have to remain in total isolation, and the familiar faces of those we love are able to reach us anywhere, anytime.
For those of us who neither have the time, the inclination nor the resource to learn how to Zoom, or join Microsoft Teams, there are also easy-to-use Smart Displays available that make that face to face communication as easy to access as simply saying out loud “Alexa, video call Mary” and you’re on your way.
Smart Displays are the evolution of the incredibly handy ‘smart devices or smart speakers’ that have been rising in popularity over recent years. Many of you may have been gifted one of these smart devices already as they can prove very useful to everyday life, from setting alarms and timers for things, creating a digital shopping list, telling you what the weather forecast for the day ahead is, or turning your heating/lights on/off without having to move from your chair.
We’re going to take a look at some of the more popular Smart Displays available on the market at the moment, so if you’d like to enjoy a bit more hands-free, face-to-face interaction, read on…
Portal by Facebook
Looking a lot like a stylish picture frame, the Portal from Facebook delivers easily accessible video calls with your loved ones either on the device itself or, if you purchase the Portal TV version, enables you to turn your television into a giant videophone.
The Portal is designed to work alongside your Facebook account, so you would need an account in order to use it. You can simply turn it on, log in to your Facebook account and start video-calling with your Facebook contacts within moments. Thanks to Facebook’s ownership of WhatsApp you can also use the Portal to video call with your WhatsApp contacts.
Amazon Echo Show
The Amazon Echo (or ‘Alexa’ as she’s commonly known as) has taken the world, and households by storm in recent years. ‘Asking Alexa’ has become synonymous with having a virtual assistant at your fingertips (or your lips) around the house. The Amazon Echo Show is essentially an extension of the Alexa assistant and still offers the same functionality as the standard Amazon Echo assistant, but has a screen enabling you to do things like watch TV shows, follow recipe videos and, importantly, video call with your loved ones.
One of the smartest features of the Echo Show 10 is its ability to track you as you move around the room, so you’re no longer rooted to the spot when making a video call via your computer or having to carry your laptop/tablet or phone around with you everywhere.
Google Nest Home Max
Similar to the Amazon Echo Show, the Google Nest Home Max is an extension of the Google Home assistant smart devices. You can use the Nest Home Max in the same way as the Google Home assistant, asking it to set a timer, turn your heating on and off, tell you the weather or what’s in your calendar for the day ahead etc, but the bonus of the camera and big screen display of the Google Nest Home Max is the ability to host video calls with your loved ones. An additional benefit of the camera set up on the Nest Home Max is that it will help keep an eye on your home when you’re out and about sending a notification to your phone if it spots somebody in your home that it doesn’t recognise when you’re not there.
The mega wide-screen camera will also track and tilt to your movements meaning you can roam around the room whilst you’re chatting on a video call without going out of view of your loved ones.