The Smart Speaker
AI is slowly but surely raising the consumer’s expectations when it comes to the smart speaker or personal assistant. The technology is improving and with each improvement, it seems our expectations are increasing, as they should. These gadgets have been somewhat of a novelty but that is changing. As they find their way into our homes we become more familiar with their capabilities. When one starts playing with these devices we want to see what it can really do. The following is my list of expectations.
- Does it inform?
- Does it understand me or other members of my household?
- Can it read my email, text or any other document on my network to me?
- Can it interface with other IoT devices I’ve invested in?
- Does it sound good?
- Can it take dictation?
- Will it sync with my calendars?
- Will it alert me to appointments and events?
- Can it access data and media from the entire internet or only the manufacturer’s eco-system?
- Can it distinguish one household member from another?
- Does it stream over Bluetooth?
- Will it accompany me on my smartphone when I’m on the go?
- And most important, is it adaptive to our household and learning as we go?. Learning to the point where it can recognize and greet you when entering a room, begin and conduct a conversation?
There is a lot to consider if you are thinking about inviting one of these “intelligent” devices into your home. I have not made the plunge yet because I don’t feel any of them can provide all that I’ve listed above. But I am watching and waiting. It’s cool that these devices can tell you the weather, the time and give you the sports scores. I don’t need one to tell me jokes, although SIRI can be pretty funny at times. A truly “smart assistant” needs to be smarter than that. Some robot vacuums in the market can work with Alexa, which makes your life easier.
I know I’m behind the curve on this one. After all, 55% of US households have already purchased at least one smart speaker or another. I just don’t want to find myself saying “is that all there is?” I do not want to be disappointed on any aspect of this purchase so I’m waiting.
Encouraged By Investment
I feel confident that the smart speaker or personal assistant will only get smarter. We know this by looking at how much is being invested in this tech. There has been a substantial investment in AI this past year alone. This was apparent a couple of months ago at CES here in Las Vegas. Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics all had a very large footprint at CES and that’s because there is a lot being invested in these technologies.
Not There Yet
The three main players in this space are Apple’s SIRI driven Home Pod, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home. Google’s search dominance gives it an edge and it already handle’s a good number of the items on my list. But we are an Apple house and business so I feel left out of the Google option. Amazon’s Alexa is focused on the home and it seems open to whatever platform you are already invested in. But it appears to have poorer sound quality and little support when on the go. Apple’s sound quality is their strength, but it appears the intention is to keep you locked into the Apple eco-system, which is not a good strategy in my opinion. Both Amazon and Google have less expensive smaller sister devices that allow you to expand your smart speakers to multiple rooms, providing a whole house solution at a reasonable price. If you want to add additional Home Pods in other rooms throughout your home you need to drop $349 for each room. Really Apple?. I think all three of these platforms missed an opportunity to market these devices as a whole house solution by offering an affordable whole house bundle.
I’m happy to wait for that “WOW” experience which I do not believe any of these devices have achieved just yet. But I am encouraged that it will happen eventually.