Technology with a personality seems like a futuristic idea, but we’re already living with it: Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and OK Google are all smart, responsive personal assistants or “digital butlers” that live in our phones and tablets.
These smart assistants are also gaining new ground through expanded functionality. Siri is already available on Apple TV as an interactive agent that will search through shows, movies and apps.
Many smart-home devices can also talk to each other, following rules that you create (read “If this, then that”) to deliver a more connected living experience.
The next generation of digital home butlers have started to arrive: Amazon launched its Echo device to an impressed crowd in the tech world. By communicating with Amazon’s servers in real time, it’s able to understand questions asked directly to it and pull from a wide range of online sources to give you answers.
Devices such as the Echo and Athom’s Homey are packed with lighting sensors, microphones and radios like Bluetooth and wifi to make it easier for them to be your personal concierge.
They tap into your home network through a wifi connection and they’ll speak to your phone, your tablet and your smart watch with Bluetooth.
The most interesting aspect about these personal assistants is how they communicate with you: voice commands. The Echo, Microsoft’s Cortana, Siri and Google all can be controlled by your voice alone, making them extremely user friendly and fun to operate.
They’re polite, though, only listening for a key word before they’ll start to take action.
Say, “Hey Siri,” “Hey Cortana,” “Alexa!” (Amazon’s personality in the Echo) or “OK Google” to wake your device up from sleep mode.
They’ll wake up from sleep mode immediately and begin to listen to what you have to say, using cloud technology to recognize your voice, before talking to you and reaching out to take action on the things around your home and even beyond.
Need to know where the closest coffee shop is? Or a pizza place that delivers late at night? Just ask and these devices will provide you with a number of choices close to your neighbourhood.
Digital home butlers are just getting started in the marketplace, but they’re quickly becoming a powerful way to make your home a more active part of your life.