Tech Digest: John Legend Cameos as Google Assistant, Apple Drops HomePod Price

John Legend
Courtesy of Google

John Legend

Google announced on Wednesday (April 3) that John Legend’s voice is available as a cameo on Google Assistant.

For a limited time, English-speaking Google users can hear a select number of responses -- including the temperature and singing “Happy Birthday” -- in the Grammy winner’s voice by simply saying, “Hey Google, talk like a Legend.”

Other questions users can ask their Google Assistant as the crooner include “What’s your favorite type of music?”; “Are you John Legend?” and “Who is Chrissy Teigen?” Other responses will be still be made in one of the normal assistant voices.

Legend’s silky voice is now available on all Google devices with Google Assistant capabilities, including Google Home speakers, Smart Displays and both Android and iOS mobile devices.

Apple announced a slight, permanent drop in the price of their HomePod on Thursday (April 4).

The expensive smart speaker will now cost consumers $299, having previously been $50 pricier at $349. Even with the price cut, the HomePod remains one of the most expensive smart speakers in the crowded market compared to more affordable options like Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa and the Sonos One.

The high price point reflects Apple’ primary challenge with its Siri virtual assistant: the lack of a budget-friendly option for smart home integration that its competitors have found in the Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini.

The price change to the HomePod appears to be consistent in every region where the product is sold, and is effective on Apple’s website immediately.

Amazon announced on Thursday morning (April 4) that it will be launching an invite-only program for developers to integrate Alexa with HIPAA-compliant healthcare skills. The announcement comes on the heels of a recent pilot program involving Amazon smart speakers in patient rooms at L.A.’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

According to Amazon, the new healthcare skills will give Alexa the ability to book patient appointments, access hospital instructions following discharge, check the status of a prescription delivery and handle other confidential information.

In order to protect patient privacy, the company will apply numerous security measures to Alexa’s medical skills and patient information, including encryption, access controls, secure cloud storage in addition to other HIPAA-specific requirements.