Whether you have Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri in your home, they offer new ways to interact with technology and information. However, to unlock any of these benefits we have to first get over the strangeness and embarrassment of talking to an Artificial Intelligence.
It’s something that my children were less reluctant to do than I was. We’ve had a smart speaking in our home for a while now and they find it completely natural to ask Siri what the weather will be like before heading out to school. Listening to the response, they then put on coats and jumpers to suit the forecast read out to them.
In the kitchen, they’ve also taken to using Google Home Hub to find and follow recipes with just their voice. They used to use my iPad for this, which would often be handed back covered in flour — or something worse.
Now, they simply asked Google for a recipe and then can go through each step as they are ready. Google simply reads it out to them. If they forget what was said they can ask to go back a step. It will even tell you the ingredients you need and set a timer when you’ve put it in to bake.
They also have quickly taken to the Echobee smart thermostat with it’s Alexa controls. They simply ask Alexa to change the temperature if things get too hot or cold in the house. My son also delights on getting the thermostat to play music which they all find funny. I must admit, the thermostat pumping out Celine Deon is quite amusing.
These anecdotes give an insight into how voice control is more than just a novel way to set a timer or hear the news. When you get used to integrating this into how you interact with technology it can have real benefits.
Not least of these benefits is the broadening technological activity in the home away from screens. This breaks the tether of the internet from sitting at a device and inevitably makes children more active. I’ve also seen my children be more enthusiastic about other audio-related activity such as reading audiobooks.
Children are good at having high expectations of what technology can do for them. This same ambition for Alexa, Siri and Google can unlock new ways to make technology work for your family rather than the other way around.
“Hey Siri, set a 30 minute timer for Fortnite,” is one of my recent favourites.
It’s important that you get the right device for your home. While the three main options from Google, Amazon and Apple all share the majority of features, how they integrate with other technology does vary.
It’s worth researching which of the systems will work with your existing tech. In some cases, you may already have voice controls and not be using it — like on your Smartphone. Before investing in more devices why not just start using voice there and see how you go.
Another consideration is which features would make a tangible difference to family life. For me, turning on and off light bulbs (or changing their colour) has never been all that exciting. But being able to adjust the heating, get weather and travel information as well as read and answer messages is more helpful.
To help you decide which is right for you, check out the guides on Internet Matters for more information.
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