This Smart Speaker Is Designed to Help You Learn Chinese

Maybe
Maybe

The latest smart speaker technology isn’t designed to turn on your Wi-Fi-connected lights or help you figure out a wine pairing. Lily, a new smart speaker available now on Indiegogo, can help you learn Chinese writing and speaking “faster than anything on the market,” according to its creators.

The voice-controlled gadget is equipped with artificial intelligence that allows it to engage in real-time conversations, so beginning to advanced students can learn to speak the Chinese language Mandarin. It can correct pronunciation, perform translations, and help you learn vocabulary through interactive games, too. It helps you learn to write with an associated app where you can practice using both pinyin and Chinese characters. Lily’s curriculum can also prepare you for the HSK Chinese proficiency exams necessary to work or study in China.

A Lily speaker conversation illustrated with text bubbles that read 'Hey Lily, how do I introduce myself?' and '你好,你叫什麼名字'
Maybe

Designed by the language-learning company Maybe—which is based in San Francisco and Shenzhen—with Chinese tutors, the AI is engineered to recognize different accents, even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect.

Language learning is all about repetition, and unless you live in an area with a large Chinese population, you may not have much opportunity to practice your Mandarin in everyday life. A smart speaker like Lily can provide the next best thing by creating an immersion environment for you at home, putting it a step ahead of other language-learning apps like DuoLingo.

It’s currently only in the prototype stage, but it’s scheduled to ship by April 2019. As for other languages, the Lily team says that they hope to release software updates in the future that could give the speaker French and Spanish capabilities. (Once you have the speaker, you’ll be able to download any other languages that are released—you won’t have to buy a whole other language-specific speaker.)

The smart speakers start at $149 for early-bird buyers, which may seem like a significant investment, until you start looking at the prices of even a few weeks of private language classes. Get yourself one on Indiegogo. And don't worry about it matching your home decor—it comes in red, white, black, blue, teal, and pink.

The UK Wants to Use 'Noise Cameras' to Crack Down on Loud Cars and Bikes

iStock/Ales-A
iStock/Ales-A

Snarled traffic creates more than air pollution. Thanks to modified engines, mufflers, and exhaust systems on cars and motorcycles, congested roadways can become symphonies of belching and rattling. Now, the UK government is looking to do something about it.

According to the BBC, the Department for Transport is currently testing “acoustic cameras” that will measure the decibel levels of vehicles on public roads. If a microphone detects a vehicle producing an excessive amount of noise, a camera will photograph the source and the owner will be fined.

What defines excessive? That remains to be seen. The UK enacted a law in 2016 limiting new cars to no more than 74 decibels. It's primarily older cars and modified motorbikes that create noise disturbances and prompt complaints from people living nearby.

The trial equipment will also need to prove it can identify one vehicle's noise emissions from another's and single out cars from other possible sources of sound. If the trial results are promising, it's likely the "acoustic cameras" will be policing UK roads in the near future.

[h/t Jalopnik]

This Scented Smart Candle is Fire-Safe and Alexa-Friendly

LuDela
LuDela

Candlelight can do a lot for a room, setting a mood and signaling that it’s time to relax. But not everyone is comfortable with the idea of nursing a tiny flame and melting wax indoors. Technology has provided a solution in the form of the LuDela Perfect Pillar, a smart candle and decorative accent that takes the worry out of a flame-lit atmosphere.

The battery-powered artificial candle generates its flame with refillable liquid paraffin and offers a variety of different scents in the form of SunScent fragrance rings, which you can place on top of the candle to release the scent of your choice. The candle never dims or melts, and you can swap out its fragrance ring at any time to give your home a new scent.

The LuDela Perfect Pillar smart candle starter set
LuDela

The LuDela candle's smart features make it a safer choice than your typical accent candle, especially for homes with small kids or pets. For instance, it has a sensor inside that detects when the device is tilting; if it falls over, the flame is automatically extinguished. You can also turn the candle on and off or create a timed session using the included remote control or your Amazon Alexa. The remote control comes with a child-lock option to prevent little hands from turning the candle on without adult supervision.

You can find the LuDela Perfect Pillar on Amazon, where a starter set with a wax candle fixture, two liquid paraffin refills (which burn for approximately 20 hours each), two fragrance rings, and a remote control goes for $99. Subsequent refill capsules cost $10 per two-pack.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER