Virtual Home Assistants - Are Google Home and Amazon Echo the Future?

in #life6 years ago

With modern technology, we got used to the fact that we can have access to almost all information, at all times.

Whether we want to know the location of something, opening times of a store, translate something in a different language or even have scientific/historical/general knowledge question - we can always look for the answer on the internet.
To do that, we have multiple options - smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktop PC's or even Smart watches. Everything is becoming more accessible.

But in the future, we might not even have to use screens or a keyboard to access that information - it will come to us as natural as a conversation.

A totally new product line has just been created and might revolutionize the market and the way we interact with technology in the future:

Smart Home Assistants.

Now you might be asking yourself - what is a Smart Home Assistant?

And do we actually NEED it?

A Smart Home Assistant is basically a bluetooth speaker with an integrated AI virtual Assistant.

So it's a standalone device that you can place anywhere in your home, and ask it whatever you want to know - without the need of a screen or another technical device.
Of course, you can also link it to your phone, contacts, calender, to do lists etc.

Amazon actually started the trend when they released their "Amazon Echo".

The AI inside is called "Alexa" and is 100% voice-controlled.
It basically works like the virtual assistant on yor phone, but is a stand alone unit that you can place at home.
The Amazon Echo comes in 3 different sizes - Echo, Echo Tap and Echo Dot.
It gets activated by addressing the device with "Alexa", "Echo" or "Amazon" and then you can ask her whatever you like - How far is the moon? When is my next meeting? When does the grocery store close?
She will have an answer to all of those questions.
But the technology is still far from perfect - reviews have shown that the home system sometimes doesn't understand you correctly, or can't find the right answer you'd like to hear.

Now, Internet-Giant Google has released their own virtual-assistant-speaker: Google Home.

It has very similar functions to the Amazon Echo (essentially it's the same type of product).
But it's roughly half the size, and it also has a touch-sensitive panel at the top which lets you control the music, volume, and turn on the listening mode (while you turn a physical ring on the Amazon Echo to do that).
The device itself is white, but you can buy different colors for the bottom part of it.
When the device is activated, different colored lights start to beam - similar to the blue light that theAmazon Echo emits.

Both devices have a very highly developed AI software, but they aren't the same.

The Amazon Echo has a database of questions that he can answer, and the speech is surprisingly human.
"Alexa" manages to sound more like a human rather than a robot.
Google Home on the other hand of course sounds more like the electronic Siri we all know, but it can also understand the connection between sentences.
For example: If you ask "Where is the next Bank?", Google Home gives you the address.
Then you can just ask "How do I get there?" and Google Home will be clever enough to understand that with "there" you mean the bank.
You don't have to repeat that explicitly.
So it behaves more like a human, and it feels more natural to communicate with her.

Personal Opinion

While I agree with the idea that we'll connect with technology much easier in the future (not always through screens, keyboard etc but more naturally) I'm not sure if we really need a virtual home assistant just yet.
It's a very innovative idea and futuristic concept, but I don't think enough people would really appreciate and use it now - compared to how it might be in the future.

I would like to try it out though, and judge the experience myself!

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They certainly are the future. Alexa has a lead with more connected devices available. Google, although late to the game, it has a solid ecosystem that it can use for its advantage.

that's true - both have benefits as well as disadvantages, we'll see which one will be more popular!

I agree with you - this is a cool product for sure, but too early. people don't really NEED it yet, and wouldn't use it as much as they maybe will in the future.
but then again, a new product line has to start somehow, and maybe people will get used to it and soon everybody will have it. who knows.

yes, exactly. I'll be interested to see how this develops in the future, and how popular it will get.

I think the real reason here is not if someone needs it, but if they will buy it. and tech geeks or businessmen that love gadgets definitely will . so that's enough reason for them to bring out a product like this!

that's true, as long as people will spend their money on it,it's considered a good product!

I am looking forward to playing with these, likely in their next major version update. The features are still a bit thin for my likes and I am not convinced they are secure to my expectations.

yes, that's what I think as well - they don't offer enough features currently for me personally.
But it'll be interesting to see how they improve the product in the future, and make it more attractive for regular consumers

I don't use Siri on my phone anyway, so I don't think I'd ever use this. it's a cool idea though but it needs to be optimized in the future

exactly my thoughts. Personally I don't know anyone who uses Siri frequently and really sees it as a "help", but if someone does, they'll definitely like this product.

I'd love to know how good the actual sound quality of these are (compared to high-end speakers)

that's a good question, I haven't read any tests on that yet!

always coming up with new gadgets - the tech industry never sleeps!

google is gaining more and more power, and more and more access to the consumer's data!

that's so cool! We're getting closer and closer to the future we see in sci fi movies

yes, the gadgets are getting more and more advanced!

I had no idea that a product like this even existed, but it seems pretty cool! I definitely know some geeks that would buy it

When I first read this, I had no idea what a virtual home assistant even was ... I dont think we are quite ready for it yet

I haven't heard of the term either until a few weeks ago.. it's still very new and in early stages of popularity

I've had the equivalent set up via computer for several years. I find that I don't use it except when I am alone and/or when I want to show it off to others. I used Ultrahal to make it years ago, but now I use a subset in android that only speaks between songs when I have my headphones connected. It comes in like a radio DJ to remind me of my schedules, tell me where the bus is (if I am outside), stuff like that, then beeps at the end for if I want to ask it something. If I do, it transfers the query to "Utter!" another AI like system, then speaks the results to me.

But the point is that I am hesitant to use it when other people are around, it just seems rude. Until we get past that as a culture, we are not ready for it.

The Amazon Echo DOT is amazing and is only $49.99 for those in USA.

It's beginning to sound like skynet. Coming and inevitable.

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I wouldn't want either of these companies to have further access to my life than what they track when I'm online. So the last thing i'd do is buy a device that will be used to harvest data and target advertising at me 24 hours a day.

Little and bigger robots are coming!

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