The piecemeal adoption of different smart standards comes back to bite manufacturer (And us!) on the behind. You should be able to buy a branded smart accessory and know it’ll be recognized instantly so that the hardware plays nice with every other part of the system. That generally is the case, but there may be some headaches during your connection adventures. There are rooms to be labeled in your App settings panel. Then there are multiple bulbs to name, hubs to connect, and at least three wireless protocols to navigate. Expect some rough waters, maybe even the occasional sharp rocky outcropping.
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Smart Home Speaker AI Soup!
One best practice you can adopt is a platform limitation maxim. Don’t select more than two smart AIs. A HomeKit equipped network, for instance, will operate wonderfully with Siri. Your iOS devices will love the interface, but the addition of your smart speaker needs to accommodate the existing system, not undermine its efficient runnings. It’s the same if you already own an Amazon Echo. If you pull in a separate AI, there could be some unusual crosstalk, the kind of side effects that hamper the distributed connections that should provide a fully functional smart home. Name every bulb, group rooms, assign nicknames, and download firmware updates when they become available. After all, the end result is meant to be a voice-activated and automated home, not a mess of products that regard each other as foreign language speakers.
Smart Speakers and Accents
Accents are another drawback. Irish accents and deep Southern American accents use regional diction, a form of speech that makes other English speakers frown as they attempt to comprehend the strange dialect, so a machine intelligence can’t be expected to do any better. This issue is improving, though, as the cloud-based language learning servers evolve. Over in the UK, Amazon Echo is probably already answering questions about Haggis recipes while asking how many teaspoons of sugar Mother desires. Beyond the accents, there’s a more worrying thought darkening the faces of potential smart speaker owners. Essentially, if that microphone is always listening, how do you know it’s not spying on your every conversation? It’s a fair question, one that cries out for a full answer. There’s always the option to hit the mute button, but that’s a counterintuitive move. You lose your voice activation features when you mute everything like that. Perhaps it would help to say the data uploaded to the voice cloud servers is always encrypted. It is, you know. No information is transmitted to Google or Amazon, not unless it’s heavily encrypted. Additionally, those two smart speakers don’t record and upload voice data unless you issue that all-important wake word. Curiously, there seems to be a greater threat from other media sources. If your living room TV has a show with a character called Alexa, imagine the confusion every time she hears her name. Perhaps what’s required is a script or firmware update that uses a voice activation command to mute voice activation. Again, that does sound counterintuitive, but it would definitely avoid confusion.
Different Smart Speaker Sound Levels
Subjectively, the Apple HomePod speaker sounds better than Amazon Echos and Google Home inbuilt smart speakers. But wait, let’s face facts, you’re not basing your final choice on bass levels that will shake your fillings loose, nor are you looking for the mids and highs that perfectly reproduce one of Mozart’s finest concertos. If that’s what you’re looking for, there are some amazing Bluetooth speakers that are built for sound. In truth, you’re in search of a top-notch voice-controlled gadget. You’re considering an Amazon Echo, a Google Home, Apple HomePod, and perhaps you’ll pull The Lenovo Smart Assistant into the mix because you’ll gain the best of both worlds product, something that sounds good and comes with an Alexa personality. So, sound drawbacks aren’t necessarily a deal-breaker, not as long as your streaming music doesn’t distort when you tell your virtual assistant to turn the volume up to eleven. However, there is one definite drawback that’ll make you forget all about sound quality. Have you ever experienced a processing pause? You voice your request, and there’s no response, at least not for a few seconds. These rare events cause feelings of conversation discontinuity. You just no longer feel as if you’re speaking to a real person, not when that synthetic person has to spend several precious seconds considering your simplest command. She’s either working on her own biography in there, or something’s up.
Correcting Response Delays on Your Smart Home Assistant
Try cleaning out the microphone with a puff of air before thinking the worst. Then, recruit your own pause by stopping to think. Was there silence when you first trained your virtual assistant? Maybe you carried out the voice recognition training in a quiet room, and there’s now more ambient sound to overcome. Those far-field microphones are gifted, but they’re not perfect. A noisy air conditioning unit could be the culprit. move the box away from a vent. Finally, if all else fails, Alexa or Google Home may require retraining. Follow the retraining routine in the configuration guide. Your dulcet tones are the model used by these smart home personas to recognize every voiced request, so take a deep breath before reciting the programmed phrases.
Your Future with Smart Home Assistants
Genie metaphors aside, voice-activated products are only going to become more common in the years ahead. Do you remember that first computer interface revolution? It was a relatively small affair, with people focusing instead on their data plans, but you must still recall physical keyboards being replaced by touch-sensitive sheets of glass. Now natural interfaces are completing the transition. The voice-activated personas live on those same smartphones, so you can choose to call out a request or make the effort to shift a finger. Which user experience do you prefer?
On that same timeline, we’re heading into a future where natural voice interaction brings instant results. Consider your smart home. It’s a place that begins dumb and full of discrete parts. You have to purchase your smart home assistant, perhaps a hub, and definitely at least one smart kit. The Philips Hue, as one example, is a kit with several bulbs and a hub. Then there’s the App to download. Configuration takes a minute, but it’s a breeze to navigate the steps because the manufacturers want every social group to be comfortable with the tech. The setup routine is therefore about as friendly and by-the-books as you could imagine. But wait a minute, what about a future where the Smart Home is already in place when you purchase the property. That’s not just conjecture, it’s something that’s happening. Certain far-seeing real estate agents and home designers are building residential properties with a smart system incorporated.
A tour of one of these bleeding-edge homes feels a little like employing the demo mode on an HDTV while it’s still in the store. The TV is set to show off its best features. The incorporated Smart Home does the same thing. An Amazon Echo, just to stick with our flagship AI, greets folks at the front door of their new dwelling, guides them around the property, and explains all room features in some detail. At the same time she’s mimicking a real estate person, she takes this opportunity to show off a fully operational Smart Home. Essentially, AI is being baked into the housing market, so there’ll be no need to buy kits and hubs. Of course, even though you purchase an all-in-one solution, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with what you have. The smart components are always upgradeable, always extensible.
The “Smart Home is coming” cry is a truism, but wouldn’t it be just something else entirely if the systems were already part of the interior design? What started out as a foot in the doorway exercise, a smart speaker that was gifted with server-contained intelligence, is evolving at an astonishing rate. You see one, perhaps two big names dominating the market, but others will join in as the products multiply. If they don’t manufacture alternative host housing, bits of hardware that can contain an AI, well, they’ll dedicate their resources towards building approved Hubs and kits.
Final Thoughts from Gerard
Meanwhile, years in the future, we’ve mastered the flying car and everyone’s wearing a silver jumpsuit. Actually, no, you can’t predict the future that accurately, although the flying car idea sounds cool. As for your smart speaker, well, the Amazon Echo and Google Home are bound to still be around. They’re in the home, in the garage, and they’ve made the leap into your car. Your car starts and warms the passenger compartment. It’s tied into the Smart Home, working out an efficient route to work and uploading this morning’s playlist, as requested by Alexa or your Google Assistant. And those senses will improve. They’ll improve and multiply. Voice recognition is following a path where it’s beginning to recognize individual members of your household. Facial recognition routines still mostly belong to our governmental bodies, but they’re coming to your personal assistant as well, just in time to stop your confused AI from responding to every nickname you’ve allocated to her, to date.
Voice-activated products are here to stay, there’s no doubt of that fact. In using our Genie in the bottle analogy one last time, she’s out of the bottle, and there’s no putting her back. Prepare for a voice-activated world, one full of products that listen, think, and respond to your every wish.