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Logitech Harmony direct control is finally live on Google Assistant (and Home), but there are some limitations

Harmony's history with Google Home and Assistant goes way back. When support for the service first rolled out, it was an Actions on Google integration (or Assistant app). That meant you had to "ask Harmony to do something" every time, which only worked with your own voice (no support for other home members unless they added the account in their own Assistant) and was very inconvenient. Sure, you could create shortcuts/routines to avoid having to say "ask Harmony" for every command, but even those were voice-dependent and you had to manually set up an equivalent shortcut for every action.

Direct integration for Harmony with Assistant — so it would work like Hue, Nest, LIFX, and others — was promised in May.

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Spooky Google Assistant easter eggs are going live in time for Halloween

The Google Assistant is a serious tool that helps us through each day in various ways, but it also has a whimsical side. In a similar vein to last year, with Halloween just around the corner, Google has unveiled some special Assistant easter eggs relating to the most terrifying of holidays.

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Lutron's are the first smart shades natively supported by Google Assistant

After decking your house with everything from smart lights and speakers to robot vacuums and connected ovens, the remaining things you may be looking at and wondering if they can integrate your home 2.0 setup are your shades. Replacing existing shades with new connected ones isn't easy or cheap, but if you've already taken that step or looking into it, you should know that they will soon be natively supported as a device type in Google Assistant. Better yet, Lutron's connected shades are the first ones to roll out this integration now.

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Google Home is getting playback speed voice controls for podcasts and news

Any podcast app worth its salt allows you to change the playback speed. People speak at different paces; some podcasters are agonizingly slow and articulate, others talk very fast and are impossible to understand if you don't speak their language (and even dialect) natively. That's why it's important to be able to set the playback speed to a convenient rate for you. Google Home appears to be getting this feature soon - possibly even now.

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Google Home and Home Mini coming to The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark on October 24

At its I/O conference in May, Google announced that it would expand Home and Home Mini availability to seven new countries by the end of 2018. The smart speakers have already launched in Mexico, Spain, and, most recently, South Korea. Users from The Netherlands, Sweden, Demnark, and Norway will soon join the party.

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Sensibo Sky review: A pricey but near-perfect smart controller for your air conditioner (Update: Discount coupon)

If you live in a house with no central climate control, or if you're making an expansion to your house and it's impossible to get a ducted system in place, a ductless setup may be your only hope. Nest, Ecobee, and the dozen other smart thermostats we often talk about aren't compatible with ductless systems, so you have to start thinking creatively if you want connected climate control. The solution comes in the form of small units that can send the same infrared signals as an air conditioner's (AC) remote, but that are themselves WiFi-enabled for remote access.

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Google Home and Home Mini are coming to South Korea next week

Back in May, Google announced that it would be bringing its Home smart speakers to seven new countries, including South Korea. Now, the wait is almost over as the Google Store in Korea has began listing the Home and Home Mini as coming soon. The official launch should happen next week.

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More Assistant-triggered visualizations are coming to Chromecast, plus per-device casting defaults for Google Home

Back at I/O 2017, Google showed off what it called "contextual visual responses." Put simply, they were visual feedback for Assistant-based queries on your Chromecast. Earlier this year, we spotted the first of these in the wild for weather, and next up was YouTube. Now Google is revealing that even more of these visual results from the Assistant will be coming to Chromecasts. In related news, Google is now formalizing the announcement of a feature which landed last year, allowing you to set default media playback devices.

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Google Assistant routines are rolling out in more languages in Australia, Canada, Germany, India, and the UK

Google Assistant's routines rolled out in March, then gained customization and scheduling a few months later, but in the time since, routines have always been an English (US) feature. If your Google Home or Assistant on your phone was set to any other language, or any other variant of English, you had to make do with the old My Day feature for a morning routine and not much more. In the past day, however, routines have started popping up left and right for users in several countries.

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Smart speaker sales up 187% in Q2 2018: Google Home leads the pack, Chinese market sees rapid growth

With the ultra-affordable Google Home Mini and Echo Dot often on sale for as little as $30, it's no surprise that sales of smart speakers have gone through the roof over the past 12 months. The global market saw year-on-year growth of 187% in Q2, with total shipments increasing from 5.8 million in 2017 to a staggering 16.8 million for the same period in 2018. Google's lead from Q1 has been retained — it sold 5.4 million Home devices in the second quarter.

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