July 17, 2024


Think spectacular technology

SmartBeings WooHoo at CES 2017 rolls every smart home product ever into one AI helper


Josh Miller/CNET

At CES 2017, a SmartBeings rep called WooHoo “an Amazon Echo combined with a Nest Cam, combined with a touchscreen.” That’s an impressive description, and it doesn’t even account for lots of other features. WooHoo has facial recognition and voice recognition. WooHoo’s head has motion detection and spins all the way around. WooHoo also works as a smart home hub.

WooHoo’s goal: conquer the smart home. You’ll be able to use it as a security cam, and the touchscreen has Android built in and lets you make video calls. In will connect to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Z-Wave and more. It’ll even have a cellular signal and a battery backup.

As for its Echo-like functionality, it’ll listen for a wake word, like the Echo, and you’ll be able to command WooHoo to control your smart home. Since it can recognize your face and your voice, you can even create personalized commands.

SmartBeings reps didn’t offer any confirmed smart home partnerships at CES, and the device itself is still very much a prototype. That’s understandable — it’s still being crowdfunded on Kickstarter. But I’m still worried. Face recognition is a tough technology to get right, as is voice recognition, and so is voice assistance generally.

WooHoo aims to do everything, but that won’t be worth much if its not as good as the Echo or the Nest, or anything else at any one task. Commendably, the preorder price is enticingly low — $50 (converts to AU$70, £40) on Kickstarter or the company’s site. But you’ll need to pay a monthly fee to take advantage of all of the services. That makes sense, given the cellular connection, but it’s still an ongoing cost not shared by the many devices it’s combining.

SmartBeings has ambitiously set summer as a release goal. I’d like to believe WooHoo will be able to hit on all of its promises — it would be an amazing device if so — but the SmartBeings team still has a long, difficult road to get to that all-in-one promised land.

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