How voice assistants are changing the way we use technology

Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri voice assistants offer new ways to interact with technology and information.

However, to unlock these benefits, we must first get over the strangeness and embarrassment of talking to an artificial intelligence.

How smart speakers support everyday tasks

Talking to voice assistants is something my children were less reluctant to do than I was. We’ve had a smart speaker 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 shared with them.

In the kitchen, they’ve also taken to using Google Home Hub to find and follow recipes with just their voice. In the past, they used my iPad for this, often handing it back to me covered in flour — or something worse.

Now, 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 put it in to bake.

Using voice assistants to control a smart home

My children also quickly took to the Echobee smart thermostat with its Alexa controls. They simply ask Alexa to change the temperature if things get too hot or cold in the house. My son also delights in asking the thermostat to play music, which they all find funny. I must admit it’s quite amusing when the thermostat pumps out Céline Dion.

While my stories are small glimpses into how families use voice assistants, they speak to a wider influence. Voice assistant technology 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 for children.

How smart speakers can benefit children

A major benefit of smart speakers and voice assistants is the broadening technological activity in the home away from screens. Essentially, it breaks the tether of the internet from sitting at a device, inevitably making children more active.

Additionally, I see an increase in my children’s enthusiasm towards other audio-related activities like reading (or listening to) audiobooks.

Children are good at having high expectations of what technology can do for them. This same ambition for Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant 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.

How to choose the right smart speaker

It’s important that you get the right device for your home to keep kids safe.

While the three main options from Google, Amazon and Apple all share similar features, how they integrate with other technology does vary. As such, it’s worth researching which of the systems will work with your existing tech. In some cases, you may already have voice controls that you don’t use. For example, many smartphones use this technology.

Before investing in more devices, why not just start using voice commands on existing tech to see how you get on?

Additionally, consider 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.

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