Tech round-up for September 25: Roku's new streaming sticks, Apple Music on Amazon Echo, Blade Runner vocal test, Apple Arcade is a deal, Google Play ups the ante

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Apple Arcade looks to be the best deal in gaming and Google wants in on that business, how you can prove you’re not a replicant, and Apple Music is enabled on Amazon Echo devices. But first, Roku has new streaming devices launching soon.

Roku introduces $40 video streaming stick

Roku, the indie video streaming device company, continues to stay relevant in a changing market. This fall, two new affordable devices are being released that despite the low cost deliver solid functionality to consumers.

The Roku Express is tiny, and when plugged into a TV it’s like it’s not even there. This is a perfect solution for those extra TVs you’ve got scattered around the house in the kitchen or the kids’ room. It costs $40.

For an extra $10 you can stream video in 4K and HDR with the Roku Premiere. Both of these sticks come with an HDMI cable and an infrafred remote, which needs line of sight to be able to work properly.

Roku’s top model is the Streaming Stick+, which costs $90. The extra expense comes with the extra features that are included with the improved remote. The remote comes with a long-range receiver that also has voice search capability.

One of the features that all Roku streaming devices have is the ability to get the audio for your viewing through an app on your smartphone. That means that anyone can use headphones or earbuds plugged into a handset.

In addition to announcing the new devices, Roku also announced last week that its Roku Channel, which provides access to free movies and TV shows on demand, is adding 14 live linear channels including:

  • TMZ
  • Adventure Sports Network
  • Food52
  • Fail Army
  • Now This

Get your Apple Music music on your Amazon Echo device

Consumers win again. Amazon and Apple are working together so that if you choose to subscribe to Apple Music, you can listen on your Amazon Echo devices.

This is a new integration, and it’s a smart move by both companies, even though each competes with the other. Amazon, for example, has a couple of different music streaming subscription options (Amazon Prime Music and Amazon Music Unlimited), while Apple has the HomePod speaker.

This extends beyond Echo devices, too. Amazon has made it so that if you’re using Alexa to control your Sonos devices, you can use that voice activation to enable Apple Music on your Sonos speakers.

Take the Blade Runner test to see if you’re a replicant

In the Blade Runner movies, there are verbal tests that are designed to identify replicants, or to determine whether replicants are displaying human-like responses.

The test in the original film is quite different than that used in the Denis Villeneuve film, Blade Runner 2049.

Calgary writer and critic Ian Samuels found a video of the entire test that we see Ryan Gosling’s character take, and writes, “This test has a horrible, brutal but fascinating poetic that’s designed not as the subtle probe of Voight-Kampff from the original film, but as a repeated hammering meant to break something loose.”

He recommends that we try and take the test ourselves.

Apple Arcade may be gamings biggest bargain right now

Great gaming just got easier people using Apple hardware. Whether you’re using an iPad, an iPhone, a Mac computer, or an Apple TV, a subscription to Apple Arcade is going to give you access to over 100 titles in total according to Apple, all for $6 a month, only $72 a year. Contrast that with $80, which is the price of many single games.

But even $72 is too much if the games aren’t worth playing. That is not the case with Apple Arcade, which boasts dozens of amazing and varied titles, from some incredible developers.

A couple of the games I’m playing right away are exclusives, so Apple Arcade is the only place you can play them. Among those are two from Snowman, the Toronto company that got its start developing the Alto snowboarding games and has branched out into publishing.

Skate City is a skateboard game that was develped by Agens that captures the aesthetic of riding the sidewalks of Barcelona, Los Angeles, and Oslo.

Where Cards Fall is a puzzle game based on building card houses that comes from the Game Band.

Ustwo, developers of the Monument Valley puzzle games, has created Assemble with Care, which is also exclusive to Apple. It tells the story of an antique restorer and your job is to put things back together.

Not all games are exclusive; some are coming to iOS from other platforms and some are also launching on other platforms.

Sayonara Wild Hearts is as much a musical album as a rhythm game. It comes from Simogo, a developer responsible for some unique game experiences, and is available for Nintendo’s Switch, the PS4, as well as Apple Arcade.

There’s also Projection: First Light which is coming to Nintendo Switch, PS4, Windows, and Xbox One next year but is playable on Apple Arcade now. It’s a puzzle platformer that takes its cues from shadow puppetry.

Google announces Play Pass, a games and app subscription plan

It’s only available in the U.S. right now, but Google’s Play Pass is a subscription plan that will unlock more than 350 Android apps.

This includes but is not limited to games. In the U.S. a Play Pass subscription will cost $5 a month, with a limited time offer of a year at just $2 a month.


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