The movie 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) tells the fictional story of a sentient computer that double crosses the crew of a spaceship headed to Jupiter. When they try to shut it down, it kills most of them. The weirdest thing about the movie is that the computer can have not only a conversation with the ship’s crew but also disobey their commands. So, when someone hears about a voice controlled home or appliance they are likely to relate it to such movies. Voice integrated automation does exist in the real world. However, we’ll have to wait years before Siri learns to hold grudges and disobey your commands based on that grudge.
Voice integration involves the use of speech recognition technology that processes voice commands. It then converts those commands into instructions understood by smart home appliances or smart accessories. It does away with the need to use computer peripherals or apps to communicate with a computer or smart device. Once thought to be a gimmick that future-tech obsessed tech reviewers loved to fantasize about, voice integration is now considered one of the most promising tools in home automation. Let’s look at three ways voice integration is changing automation:
Voice integration makes the idea of smart homes more attractive to people who do not like scheduling smart gadgets or using apps to turn things off and on. It also attracts people not tech savvy enough, or simply afraid, to use IFTTT systems to schedule their smart devices. Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) software has improved considerably, making it one reason voice control garners interest in the automation market. ASR technology has reduced word error rates to below five percent and even lower for longer speech or utterance. Imagine giving voice commands to check your email while cooking – no more smearing flour on your smart device screen.
Since voice integration in smart devices is easy to use for most consumers, more companies are looking for ways to make it a central feature in automated homes. For instance, at the 2016 CEDIA Expo, a spokesman for Amazon indicated that the company wants to make Alexa the focal point of the automated home. This move could mean that smart devices may not need to have apps to operate in the future because they will only be operated through voice control.
Companies in the home automation market have begun a worldwide hunt for human speech, including different accents and dialects. The reason for this is that artificial technology powering speech recognition in smart devices still has trouble recognizing some speech. People with deep accents must still speak slowly and clearly for voice-enabled smart devices to understand. Voice integration forces these companies to collect more data that will make voice-enabled devices perform even better. Microsoft records the speech of volunteers in different cities, Baidu collects Chinese dialects, and Amazon collects Alexa queries.
Voice integration is changing how people view automation and what companies focus on when manufacturing smart devices. We have not reached a point where the technology works like the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, the possibilities for voice automation are endless.