The Harman Kardon Invoke Smart Speaker

The Harman Kardon Invoke Smart Speaker


Premium home audio manufacturer and Blackfire Research partner, Harman Kardon, has teamed up with Microsoft to take on Amazon, Google, and Apple in the smart speaker realm. The Harman Kardon Invoke is the newest smart speaker on the market. While Amazon’s Echo line of smart speakers have Alexa as it’s voice assistant, the Invoke’s voice AI is powered by Microsoft’s Cortana, which makes this an excellent smart speaker for Windows lovers. This is the first smart speaker to feature the Cortana voice assistant, which in the past has lived in Microsoft’s Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs.


The beautifully designed Invoke smart speaker is cylindrical in shape, with a narrow top and wide base (107 x 242mm), and comes in either pearl silver or graphite. The Invoke features 360-degree audio with three 45mm woofers, three 13mm dome tweeters, dual-band (2.4GHz/5Ghz) wireless connectivity, Bluetooth, and seven far-field microphones (which can be muted). Through voice commands, you can ask the Cortana powered smart speaker to stream music, set reminders, control paired smart devices, manage your Office 365 and/or Outlook calendar, ask questions, get the news, and make/receive hands-free calls via Skype to mobile phones, landlines and Skype-enabled devices. At the moment, the Invoke only works with three streaming services: Spotify, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn, but Microsoft has promised that Cortana will support Pandora sometime in the future.


And because the Invoke smart speaker is by Harman Kardon, you know the audio will sound great. In fact, according to Digital Trends, the Invoke’s audio performance beat out the Amazon Echo and The Google Home.

For more information on The Invoke, check out the Harman Kardon website, and the Microsoft website. The Harman Kardon Invoke retails for $199.00.

5 Movies to Watch on the 4th of July

5 Movies to Watch on the 4th of July


For Bay Area dwellers, the 4th of July is usually a disappointment: most years it’s too cold for a backyard barbeque, and good luck trying to catch a glimpse of any fireworks through the dense layer of fog that incessantly rolls in every evening during the summer. Most people who live in the Bay Area tend to skedaddle out of town for the holiday, but for those staying in chilly San Francisco today, instead of trying to make out colors through the clouds, here’s a list of movies to watch on the 4th of July while staying cozy and warm inside.


Forrest Gump

One of the most quoted films of all time, “Forrest Gump” is an excellent choice for The 4th of July. The film chronicles the life of a lovable Southerner, Forrest Gump (Played by Tom Hanks), and takes viewers on an American history tour that spans the second half of the Twentieth Century. Through coincidence, talent, and sheer luck, Forrest continually finds himself in the midst of history unfolding: from meeting Elvis before his big break, fighting in the Vietnam War, engaging in 1960’s counterculture and even investing in Apple Computers. The carefully curated soundtrack especially helps the film fully manifest each decade and provides a perfect anthology of American rock. With a runtime of two hours and twenty minutes, “Forrest Gump” is a great film to watch when you’ve got the entire day off to enjoy. And on the 4th of July, it’s a near-perfect, American-themed film.


Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

You probably watched this uplifting, 1939 film about overcoming political corruption, the goodness of humanity, and the unflappable bedrock of morality that is the American Legislative branch (*sigh*) in your 8th grade Social Studies class. The story follows a Junior Senator, Jeff Smith, who takes on a powerful and corrupt political machine, culminating in an epic, 24-hour long filibuster highlighting American ideals. This film is exactly what your therapist wants you to watch this 4th of July.  


Apollo 13

The 1995, major box office success directed by Ron Howard depicts the true story of the on-board explosion and subsequent emergency landing expedition of the Apollo 13 lunar mission. Starring Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell and Kevin Bacon as Jack Swigert, the film was praised for being scientifically and historically accurate. Besides the all-star cast and stellar attention to detail,  “Apollo 13” is an excellent story about the science, ingenuity, and perseverance that defined the Apollo Program and lifted the American spirit during the Cold War.


This 1972 movie-musical about the events leading up to the signing of The Declaration of Independence features our Founding Fathers (Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, & Company) in neatly choreographed musical routines. Based off of the 1969 Broadway musical of the same name, “1776” borrows portions of its dialogue and song lyrics directly from the letters, diary entries, and memoirs of participants of the Second Continental Congress. Overall, the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, putting a jazzy twist on a long, tiresome debate and the birthday of American Independance.


Independence Day

No 4th of July movie list would be complete without “Independence Day,” the 1996 sci-fi disaster flick about aliens coming to Earth to destroy all of mankind on – you guessed it – the 4th of July. Featuring iconic performances by Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum (and an epically inspirational speech by fictional President Thomas Whitmore), it’s easy to remember that this movie was a really big deal when it first came out – from its high stakes action scenes to its cutting edge special effects (like blowing up the White House), “Independence Day” helped define the modern blockbuster heading into twenty-first century. But most importantly, “Independence Day” brought to light a Utopic vision of all of humanity putting aside their differences once and for all to seriously kick some evil alien butt.

Happy 4th of July! Do you have any favorite 4th of July movies that didn’t make the list? Tell us yours in the comments section below!