12 Smart Home Devices to Help You Live Your Best (and Laziest) Life

Amazon/Best Buy
Amazon/Best Buy

The days of having to get off the couch to change the channel or turn off the lights are long over, thanks to the seemingly never-ending flood of smart devices to hit the market. But setting up your smart home isn’t something you should jump right in to. First, you need to find the right hub for your needs, and then you'll need the correct devices that work with it. But once your setup is complete, your thermostat, slow cooker, refrigerator, vacuum, and pretty much anything else you can think of can be controlled by the push of a button or the sound of your voice. Here are some of the devices you may want to consider when making your home a bit smarter this year.

1. Google Home Smart Hub; $100

A Google assistant
Best Buy

If you're ready to commit to Google's smart ecosystem, the Google Home is your starting point. This central hub includes a voice-activated helper (the aptly named Google Assistant) that acts as the central nervous system to your smart home. Once you pair it with your Wi-Fi, the Google Home can answer your questions, tell you the weather, set alarms, and, most importantly, control many of the different smart devices on the market through voice commands. Having all of your most important devices—like smart lights, TVs, and security systems—all going through one hub that you control with your voice is what living lazy is all about. As with any hub, though, do your research and make sure all of your desired smart devices are compatible with it.

Buy it: Best Buy

2. Amazon Echo Show 8; $90

Amazon Echo Show.
Amazon

If you’re looking to go the Amazon route for your hub, start with the Echo Show. It has the Alexa-enabled capabilities of the Dot, but its built-in screen is a great catch-all for displaying photos, watching recipe tutorials in the kitchen, making video calls, and going through the news. Like the Google Home, you can control other smart devices through the Show, so you’ll always be connected to the gadgets around your home. Oh, and while those Show speakers certainly won’t replace a Bose setup anytime soon, they’re more than capable of filling the room with your favorite music.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Sengled Smart Lights; $40

Sengled Lights on Amazon.
Sengled/Amazon

Smart lights are the necessity you never knew you needed. They’re energy-efficient, simple to set up, and even easier to use. And this offering from Sengled, complete with two bulbs and the smart hub, is as good a place to start as any. These lights screw into most sockets around your house, and once in, it’s all a matter of pairing them with the Sengled hub, downloading the app, and learning the ropes. You can control brightness either from your phone or through Alexa or Google voice controls, and there’s even an option to set a schedule, so your lights will turn off and on depending on your personalized timetable. The company also offers colored bulbs capable of millions of different shades and tones.

Buy it: Amazon

4. LG Smart Refrigerator; $1800

A smart refrigerator
Best Buy

This refrigerator from LG is designed to keep your food fresh for longer. It all starts with its InstaView panel, which allows you to get a peek at what's inside without having to open the door over and over again, wasting energy and messing with the temperature in the process. This model also has a smart cooling system (controlled through Alexa or Google Assistant) that continually monitors its temperature and adjusts accordingly, along with two humidity-controlled drawers ideal for storing fruits and vegetables.

Buy it: Best Buy

5. Nest Thermostat; $213

A smart thermostat
Google/Amazon

This Nest thermostat learns your preferred temperatures and adjusts itself to fit your needs. You can set a schedule to have your home at the exact temperature you want, whenever you want it. And if you're at work and temperatures suddenly drop, you can hop on the app and adjust right from the office. To streamline the process, the thermostat comes with all the setup equipment in the box, and there's even a YouTube tutorial online to make installation even easier.

Buy it: Google

6. Pet Food Dispenser; $180

PetSafe food dispenser
PetSafe/Amazon

If you have a dog or cat that insists on being fed the moment you sit down, then this food dispenser is for you. Without getting up, you can schedule feedings right on your phone, whether you're on an iPhone or Android device. Have an animal that eats too quickly? This machine even has a slow-feeder option, which will dispense food over a 15-minute period.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Samsung Smart Outlet; $18

Samsung Smart Outlet.
Samsung/Amazon

If you don't want to invest too much money in smart devices, a smart outlet is a low-cost alternative. This option from Samsung allows you to control power to a non-smart device using the Samsung SmartThings app or through voice commands, via Alexa and Google Assistant. So instead of pulling a plug out of a hard-to-reach outlet every day, you can simply use this smart outlet to control the power from anywhere in the house (or out of the house). It works without needing a pricey hub, so there's far less setup than most smart gadgets. And Samsung's app also offers scheduling capabilities for more personalization. If you're dipping your toe into smarter water or are wary of throwing out your favorite non-smart devices, this is a great starting point.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Smart Instant Pot; $79

An Instant Pot you can use from your smartphone
Instant Pot/Amazon

This Instant Pot does everything a standard model can do—it's a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, and sauté pan all in one—but because it's, well, smarter, you can schedule and control cooking times from an app or through your Alexa device. This means you can start and monitor your BBQ pulled chicken from work, so it's perfectly timed when you get back home at night.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Ring Smart Doorbell; $170

Amazon Ring Device.
Amazon/Ring

For Amazon customers in the market for a smart doorbell with a built-in security camera, there’s the Ring. This device lets you see, hear, and talk to anyone at your front door from your smartphone, Amazon Show, PC, and plenty of other devices, even if you’re not home. Other similar options include the Google Nest Hello if you’re a Google Home user—this one boasts similar features as the Ring, with some reviewers touting the Nest’s video quality as superior. And for those not looking to commit to either tech giant, there’s the Arlo smart doorbell, which currently sits at a four-star rating on Amazon.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Smart TV Sticks; Various

A Roku device as sold on Amazon.
Roku/Amazon

When it comes to smart TVs, you don't necessarily need to spend big on the latest set. Instead, a streaming stick, like Roku ($46), Amazon's Fire Stick ($50), or Google's Chromecast ($34), is about as high-tech as you'll need to go. These low-cost options plug right into your non-smart TV's HDMI port and come equipped with streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and more. And depending on the device you get, most can be paired with Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands or an app, so you can control your binge-watching from your phone.

Buy it: Amazon

11. Eufy Robot Vacuum; $259

Eufy vacuum cleaner
eufy/Amazon

It's 2020—if you don't want to spend your free time pushing a vacuum around the house, make a robot do it for you. Alongside having an app, the eufy robot vacuum is also compatible with both Alexa and Google Assistant, allowing you to start and stop the cleaning process with a simple voice command. The eufy can also run on its own according to whatever schedule you program, so you can have your vacuum working for you while you enjoy a well-deserved weekend off.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Sensibo Smart Air Conditioner Control; $119

Sensibo Smart Air Conditioner Control on Amazon.
Sensibo/Amazon

Control your air conditioner from anywhere with this handy device from Sensibo. You can set a seven-day schedule, so your A/C will turn on and off at the right times on work days and weekends. And on days when temperatures rise quickly, your Sensibo will react on its own and cool things off for you. It's perfect for keeping a cool home for your pets while you're on vacation, and it can pair with your Google Home and Alexa devices to make your ideal temperature just a voice command away.

Buy it: Amazon

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19 Every Day Things Science Hasn’t Figured Out

Haydar Dogramaci/iStock via Getty Images Plus
Haydar Dogramaci/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Science has enabled humans to complete some pretty incredible feats, like land on the moon, for example. But when it comes to common things like laughter or hiccups, scientists still can’t quite figure out the reason behind them. In this article, which was adapted from The List Show on YouTube, we look at everyday things that are still a mystery.

1. It's still not understood why we cry.

A woman crying.
Tom Merton/ OJO Images via Getty

Crying is still a scientific mystery. Physiologically, it’s clear what’s happening when someone cries. But, it has been more difficult to figure out the evolutionary reason for tears. We know that babies cry to communicate and get attention. So, some experts believe that adults might also cry for social reasons, like to bond or to warn others that something is amiss.

2. The reason we laugh is still unknown.

A woman talking on the phone laughing.
Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Like crying, we also don’t know why people evolved the ability to laugh, but experts guess it has something to do with communication—and not just that we find something funny. One researcher found that only 20 percent of laughs he looked at were preceded by anything deemed in any way humorous.

It's possible we laugh to let other people know that we’re okay or to bond with each other. A study published in 2016 gave evidence for the latter. Researchers found that an outside observer could distinguish whether laughter was produced between a pair of strangers or a pair of friends.

3. Scientists haven't figured out why we blush.

A woman blushing at work.
fizkes/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Blushing is often telling others things we don’t want them to know, like the fact that we’ve done something wrong or embarrassing. Some experts believe that we may have evolved blushing to show submission to group leaders. Others think it may have something to do with the fact that blushing people have been shown to be considered more likable, so it helps peers look past the bad things we’ve done.

4. It's still unclear why anesthesia makes us pass out.

Doctors putting a patient under anesthesia.
YakobchukOlena/iStock via Getty Images Plus

General anesthesia has been in use in the United States since 1846, but there are still some uncertainties about why the chemicals in anesthetics cause people to pass out. A recent study showed that the drugs affect proteins in the brain and the reason we go unconscious has to do with altering neural activity, but more research is needed.

5. We aren't exactly sure what consciousness is.

A man looking out the window.
fizkes/iStock via Getty Images

Consciousness is frequently defined as how we feel present and alive in the world. But the question is: Why and how do we feel conscious? It’s of interest in both philosophy and science. Scientists would like to know which part of the brain is responsible for consciousness, but it’s still a mystery.

6. It's unclear exactly how medications like Tylenol work.

A woman taking a painkiller.
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We don’t 100 percent understand how pain relievers containing acetaminophen give us pain relief. We do know that acetaminophens aren’t totally consistent; they’re more effective in some types of cells than in others. So for now, scientists believe the drugs might be a specific type of enzyme inhibitor.

7. We aren't sure why we get hiccups or how to stop them.

A mother burping a baby.
twinsterphoto/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Scientists don’t know what causes hiccups, what purpose they serve, or how to cure them. A lot of people have favorite techniques, from gargling water to pulling hard on the tongue, but there’s no scientifically-proven way to get rid of them.

In 2002, one researcher tried to get to the bottom of the problem by looking at how 54 hospital patients had been treated for hiccups. They tried multiple treatments, like holding their breath and medication, but none were proven effective.

8. Scientists haven't figured out why tornadoes start.

A tornado in a field.
mdesigner125/iStock via Getty Images Plus

We don’t know why only some thunderstorms create tornadoes and others don’t. Generally, it’s understood that tornadoes come to be when cold, dry air interacts with warm, humid air. But the thunderstorms that result from those air conditions only sometimes cause tornadoes.

9. Scientists also haven't figured out why tornadoes end.

A tornado in the distance.
Jordan Carruthers/iStock via Getty Images Plus

It’s also unclear why tornadoes die—though experts believe that at least sometimes it has to do with the tornado’s interaction with cold temperatures.

10. It's still uncertain why we need to sleep.

A woman sleeping.
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There are theories as to why we need sleep, but no one knows for sure. It's possible our ancestors slept because it kept them out of danger during the night. Or it could be an energy conserving function. What we do know is that sleep helps us recover from the day, and there’s evidence it changes the connections in our brains.

11. The reason we dream is still unclear.

A woman asleep.
gorodenkoff/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Similarly, there are no clear answers as to why we dream. Some sleep experts think dreaming doesn’t have a purpose at all. Others have theories, like that we’re playing out threatening situations, like being chased, so that we’re better equipped to handle danger while awake.

12. We still aren't sure why we have the urge to scratch.

A man scratching an itch.
ipopba/iStock via Getty Images

We often understand why we itch. But, we don’t completely understand why we have the urge to scratch. The body has receptors just for itches that are almost identical to those that convey pain, and it’s thought that scratching might interfere with these signals. But at the same time, it might cause the skin to get more irritated, which causes even more itching.

13. Science still hasn't figured out the cure for aging.

An older person and a younger person.
Halfpoint/iStock via Getty Images

Scientists know some things about why we age, but no one has fully figured it out. There’s little evidence for popular hypotheses having to do with things like free radicals and telomeres. Aging is probably the result of a complex group of poorly understood processes, meaning a cure isn’t happening any time soon.

14. Ornithologists still don't know why only some birds migrate.

Birds flying in a v-shape.
FTiare/iStock via Getty Images Plus

It’s also unclear why some birds migrate while others don’t. The ones that do migrate might do it to conserve energy, which might be kind of confusing, since they’re flying great distances and therefore expending a lot of energy to get to their destination. But it’s likely worth it since they’re probably traveling somewhere with abundant energy sources—a.k.a., plenty of available food. Luckily, thanks to technology like tracking devices, scientists are able to track birds more easily and are now learning much more about migration.

15. Scientists haven't figured out the “nature vs. nurture” debate.

A family sitting at a table.
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The question of nature versus nurture hasn’t been settled yet. Technically, we know that our genes interact with our environment to foster characteristics—but science isn’t sure to what extent. A complicating factor is that it varies by trait and individual person. How much your genes are influencing your IQ, for instance, may be different from someone else.

16. We still aren't sure why the placebo effect happens.

Dark pills with one white pill in a pile.
Photoboyko/iStock via Getty Images Plus

The placebo effect is pretty mysterious. It has been proven again and again that sugar pills and other fake treatments can actually make someone feel better. And it’s not just a feeling as scans have shown that placebos affect the area of the brain associated with pain. We still don’t know why. It’s believed that placebos somehow help release endorphins, but experts need more information.

17. It's still unclear why bicycles are able to stay up on their own.

Bikes in a row.
guppys/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Have you ever given a bike with no one on it a push and noticed that it stays up on its own? It doesn’t fall over for much longer than you expect, and we don’t know how it manages to balance itself while moving.

18. How skates work on ice is still unknown.

A woman putting on ice skates.
Akiromaru/iStock via Getty Images Plus

And another mystery of physics: How do skates work on ice? There is a popular theory. We know that ice has a very thin layer of liquid on it. So, a skate moving quickly on top of ice might make more liquid because the friction causes melting. The skate is actually changing the ice itself, creating a path on which to glide.

19. There still isn't a cure for the common cold.

A woman with a cold.
Tero Vesalainen/iStock via Getty Images Plus

We get colds from seven separate families of viruses and those families have sub-viruses. So, to cure the “cold,” there would need to be a cure that acts as a catch-all for about 200 sub-viruses.

6 Surprising Facts About Nintendo's Animal Crossing

Nintendo
Nintendo

by Ryan Lambie

Casting you as a newcomer in a woodland town populated by garrulous and sometimes eccentric creatures, Nintendo’s Animal Crossing is about conversation, friendship, and collecting things rather than competition or shooting enemies. It’s a formula that has grown over successive generations—which is all the more impressive, given the game’s obscure origins. The 3DS version now one of the most popular games available for that system, and the franchise was catapulted into further fame when Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released on Nintendo Switch in March 2020. Here are a few things you may not know about the video game.

1. Animal Crossing’s inspiration came from an unlikely place.

By the late 1990s, Katsuya Eguchi had already worked on some of Nintendo’s greatest games. He’d designed the levels for the classic Super Mario Bros 3. He was the director of Star Fox (or Star Wing, as it was known in the UK), and the designer behind the adorable Yoshi’s Story. But Animal Crossing was inspired by Eguchi’s experiences from his earlier days, when he was a 21-year-old graduate who’d taken the decisive step of moving from Chiba Prefecture, Japan, where he’d grown up and studied, to Nintendo’s headquarters in Kyoto.

Eguchi wanted to recreate the feeling of being alone in a new town, away from friends and family. “I wondered for a long time if there would be a way to recreate that feeling, and that was the impetus behind Animal Crossing,” Eguchi told Edge magazine in 2008. Receiving letters from your mother, getting a job (from the game’s resident raccoon capitalist, Tom Nook), and gradually filling your empty house with furniture and collectibles all sprang from Eguchi’s memories of first moving to Kyoto.

2. Animal Crossing was originally developed for the N64.

Although Animal Crossing would eventually become best known as a GameCube title—to the point where many assume this is where the series began—the game actually originally appeared on the N64. First developed for the ill-fated 64DD add-on, Animal Crossing (or Dōbutsu no Mori, which translates to Animal Forest) was ultimately released as a standard cartridge. But by the time Animal Crossing emerged in Japan in 2001, the N64 was already nearing the end of its lifespan, and it was never localized for a worldwide release.

3. Translating Animal Crossing for an international audience was a difficult task.

The GameCube version of Animal Crossing was released in Japan in December 2001, about eight months after the N64 edition. Thanks to the added capacity of the console’s discs, this version of the game included characters like Tortimer or Blathers that weren’t in the N64 iteration, and Animal Crossing soon became a hit with Japanese critics and players alike.

Porting Animal Crossing for an international audience proved to be a considerable task, however, with the game’s reams of dialogue and cultural references all requiring careful translation. But the effort writers Nate Bihldorff and Rich Amtower put into the English-language version would soon pay off; Nintendo’s bosses in Japan were so impressed with the additional festivals and sheer personality present in the western version of Animal Crossing, they decided to have that version of the game translated back into Japanese. This new version of the game, called Dōbutsu no Mori e+, was released in 2003.

4. K.K. Slider is based on Animal Crossing’s composer.

K.K. Slider with his guitar
K.K. Slider appearing in promotional artwork for Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
2020 Nintendo

One of Animal Crossing’s most recognizable and popular characters is K.K. Slider, the laidback canine musician. He’s said to be based, both in looks and name, on Kazumi Totaka, the prolific composer and voice actor who co-wrote Animal Crossing’s music. In the Japanese version of Animal Crossing, K.K. Slider is called Totakeke—a play on the real musician’s name. K.K. Slider’s almost as prolific as Totaka, too: Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the Nintendo 3DS contains a total of 91 tracks performed by the character.

5. One Animal Crossing character has been known to make players cry.

A more controversial character than K.K. Slider, Mr. Resetti is an angry mole created to remind players to save the game before switching off their console. And the more often players forget to save their game, the angrier Mr. Resetti gets. Mr. Resetti’s anger apparently disturbed some younger players, though, as Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s project leader Aya Kyogoku revealed in an interview with Nintendo's former president, the late Satoru Iwata.

“We really weren't sure about Mr. Resetti, as he really divides people," Kyogoku said. “Some people love him, of course, but there are others who don't like being shouted at in his rough accent.” Iwata agreed, saying, “It seems like younger female players, in particular, are scared. I've heard that some of them have even cried.”

To avoid the tears, Mr. Resetti plays a less prominent role in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and only appears if the player first builds a Reset Surveillance Centre. Divisive though he is, Mr. Resetti was designed and written with as much care as any of the other characters in Animal Crossing; his first name’s Sonny, he has a brother called Don and a cousin called Vinnie, and he prefers his coffee black with no sugar.

6. Animal Crossing is still evolving.

A game once inspired by the loneliness of moving to a new town has now become one of Nintendo’s most successful and beloved franchises. Since its first appearance in 2001, the quirky and disarming Animal Crossing has grown to encompass toys, a movie, and five main games (or six if you count the version released for the N64 as a separate entry). All told, the Animal Crossing games have sold more than 30 million copies, and the series is still growing. In late 2017, the mobile title Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was released for iOS and Android—it was a big step for the franchise, as Nintendo is famously selective about which of its series get a mobile makeover. And in March 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizon was released on Switch, selling a whopping 1.88 million physical copies during its first three days on the market.

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