2018…the year of voice control?
Will 2018 be dominated by voice control for the connected home? It certainly looks that way. The last couple of years have seen the concept of voice control going from science fiction to the reality in many people’s homes. The phenomenal success of Amazon Echo with worldwide sales estimated to be in excess of 30 million devices has raised the public awareness of the potential for voice control. Google were quick to follow suit last year with their Google Home smart speaker and Apple’s delayed HomePod will be launching shortly.
But are voice interfaces just confined to having one or more ‘smart speaker’ sitting on shelves around your home? Whilst that might have been the main implementation so far, 2018 will see voice control move from the smart speaker into many consumer devices. LG will be launching their new range of their very popular OLED televisions at CES in Las Vegas in a few days’ time, and they are expected to have Google Assistant voice control built in (along with their ThinQ AI artificial intelligence platform). Similarly GE are expected to launch a range of in-ceiling lighting fixtures that have Wi-Fi connectivity, a microphone and speaker and Amazon’s Alexa voice control interface. Innovations like this will make voice control no longer a gadget on view in the home, but instead integrated into the fabric of a room’s design; where it can be heard but not seen!
The technology behind these voice interfaces is also expected to get ‘smarter’. Amazon Alexa has had continuous updates over the last year or so (over 20,000 ‘skills’ as of late-2017 with almost a third of these being smart home related), allowing it to both understand more complicated questions and also to control a wider range of third-party technology from lights and heating controls to smart sockets for turning on and off any mains-powered devices. Don’t be surprised if your smart speaker starts to answer you back over the coming year, with new capabilities to respond with ‘clarification questions’ to more accurately get you the information you need or complete the desired home automation task.
The more users a voice system has, the more it can ‘learn’ from all the different voices, accents, languages and requests it receives and hence the better it can get at understanding natural speech. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are clearly leading the field at the moment, will Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana be able to make up ground? Time will tell.
We await to see what major announcements are made at CES.