Technology development is always closely tied to a user interface. If you look at a computer, there is a mouse to interact with what you see on a screen. If you’re a smartphone user, you use touch to navigate through the device’s apps. Now a voice assistant is possible for direct interaction with apps, eliminating the need to hold a smartphone in your hand or stay at a computer.
The interest in voice user interface is currently supported by Amazon with its Echo platform. Users can order pizza, call an Uber car, ask about the weather, connect to Pandora and much more. Google Home is launching this summer, and it is reported that Apple is working on a device with similar capabilities using Siri. Jibo, the first social robot for the home, is scheduled to launch in October. They are all concentrating their efforts on increasing their virtual assistants’ communicative abilities.
The development of voice interface technology started with voice-enabled interactions with mobile phones in 2011 with Siri. Now it is the smart home ecosystem that is viewed to have a most promising future due to the comfort and control consumers experience in their own homes.
Voice-enabled interfaces are going to impact smart homes and offer significant changes in controlling household devices:
Voice control provides a totally different experience than managing household devices using a smartphone or laptop, clicking on buttons on a screen to navigate an app. Instead, your voice directs commands from an IoT device and enables apps to create “skills” that integrate with the IoT device. Voice interaction eliminates age and technical education limits to operate smart home devices. In 2015, only 27% of senior citizens in the U.S. had a smartphone. Voice interfaces will become even more valuable once it is possible to use voice commands from any room in the house. Currently Amazon’s Tap is an inexpensive assistant to Echo that can be used throughout a home.
The intuitive nature of voice interaction will draw the smart home technology closer to a user. Enabling voice control with artificial intelligence will create context awareness and provide a better understanding of a user’s intent. For example, saying something like “I’m going to sleep” will include taking control of the lights in the house, enable a security system, change temperature and check whether the door is locked.