Speaking of Voice Control

While the world is still largely unaware of the imminent explosion of voice control in our lives, our industry has been waxing lyrical about it for some time. So what's all the fuss about? Will it really catch on? Was it wrong to name my daughter Alexa?

Immediate Past and Present Voice Control
Most of you are familiar with the effective birth of voice control in recent years, with the introduction of Apple's Siri. Siri was introduced on the iPhone 4S in late 2011 as a personal assistant — answering questions, making recommendations and performing actions such as buying cinema tickets. The application adapts to the user and their search history to improve its effectiveness over time but, for most people, it can be hit and miss with its understanding and responses. With any kind of background noise, such as when driving a car, it becomes almost useless.

Immediate Future of Voice Control
Since mid-2015, Siri has had competition and her name is Alexa. In the US, Amazon released a device called an Amazon Echo, essentially a Wi-Fi connected speaker with a snazzy blue light around the top. Slowly but surely it is changing the way we interact with the world. By prefacing a comment with Alexa, this device is hanging on your every word to help you in your day-to-day life: "Alexa, what is the weather like in London?", "Alexa, what is the tallest building in the world?", "Alexa, rock, paper, scissors!" The device then responds to these questions and behaves like a new pet with all the associated fun and excitement but none of the mess.

But, just like any pet, this is more than a child's play thing. "Alexa, play The Killers in the sitting room", "Alexa, lower the blinds in the cinema" .. Simple, effortless home control is now on the tip of your tongue. The best thing? You don't have to pick up a phone, open a laptop or even be that close to her, thanks to the beauty of far-field communication technology.


Josh.ai, a US-based company, has developed a competing solution that is targeted solely at the high-end home automation market.
And Alexa is not alone. Josh.ai, a US-based company, has developed a competing solution that is targeted solely at the high-end home automation market. More complex, Josh.ai has clever algorithms which allow it to do multiple things from one command string: "Josh, turn off the lights in the cinema, drop the blind and turn on the first series of Breaking Bad.” Bish, bash, Josh.

Although mainly targeted to the US at the moment, the possibilities are very exciting and, in our opinion, this will become the future of smart home technology. Speak and it shall be! Who needs pesky remotes?

Philip Turner, CEDIA Board Member and Managing Director of Philharmonic AV.

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