I am not talking to myself, I am talking to my house!

One of the things I have learned about both the new Google Home, and the Amazon Echo devices is once you have them installed you start finding more and more uses for them. Initially, we had one in my office and one in the kitchen of our house. For the most part, the one in the kitchen was almost always used for weather and news. That has expanded quite a bit from just weather and news to playing music. We now have the Dot’s (smaller version of Amazon’s Echo) installed in our bedroom).

I find that I use Google Home a lot more for looking up quick facts. The commercials are hilarious (how much does a blue whale weigh). But it is interesting to see what new skills the devices are gaining. I have been playing Jeopardy J6 on Alexa now for the past couple of weeks. It is really fun, but also annoying. For example, while the judges on the TV show may actually let someone say something that includes a more descriptive name (Qantas, or Qantas Airlines) Alexa will not. So you have to word the answers in the Jeopardy format, but they also have to be exact.

Now, I’ve said the limiter for voice control is you have to be in a controlled noise space. That reality remains one that limits the effectiveness of the tools. Alexa struggles to hear at angles as does the Google Home device. By angles, I mean literally, if you are not speaking towards the device the device may not hear you.

My office is L-shaped. Based on that my desk sits literally along the lower part of the L. The Amazon Echo in my office is actually in the upper part of the L. So I face away from Alexa. If I say something to Alexa looking out of my office, there is a much lower response rate. By lower I mean normally it is less than a 50% success rate. The same is true for the Google Home.

Microphones are better but still not perfect. Now, if I were on the team I would integrate the Alexa Application with a moveable microphone that is always engaged (the remote for Echo does include this ability, but having fixed Mics that are always on would be an improvement). I suspect as we move forward into the reality of home automation the concept of always on, or always listening microphones throughout your house will become more real. Home automation packages struggle in the space of voice control right now. That will change, but for now, they are more input from cellular and tablet devices than voice control.

Although, can you imagine the image of someone walking around yelling at their house? “Turn on lights. Turn off lights. Answer front door. Answer phone. Call XZY.” Today we find that depending on where we are in the house, it is hard to have a conversation about what you can do with Alexa. Because once you say the name, you are invoking the device. Google Home is a little less likely because you have to say OK Google.

The home of tomorrow will be automated, in that automation, there will be a level of voice control. That voice control will be something we become more and more used to over time. Right now it is still pretty new and there are a few kinks that need to be resolved. I still worry that the more we rely on voice activation the more ambient noise will continue to impact the quality of what we are doing. Plus I’ve found if you have a mouthful of potato chips, and ask Alexa to play Classical music, or say OK Google what is the weather, the response isn’t always what you were looking for.

It is certainly better than it was, but still not quite 100%. Perhaps the next iteration will be the full integration of the remote applications (Cortana, Google Home, Amazon Echo) on your tablet or smartphone with the option of picking always on options. Like when my phone is with me at home, always have the microphone on, but only keyed to my voice.

Yesterday is the past. Tomorrow isn’t promised. Today is a present!

.(I am taking a break from sharing old family pictures)

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Technologist