Voice technology, NLP, and artificial intelligence in the home have been getting a ton of attention lately. The general masses have yet to be convinced that a smart home is possible or even necessary, and many believe that voice is the key to turn those people into believers. Since natural conversation is something we all know how to do, a voice solution, with its seemingly intuitive interface, gives everyone the power to control and program their home. Indeed, the big technology companies, from Amazon with its Echo to Google with its recently announced Home, are betting big on this, hoping to become the dominant brand in this currently nascent industry.
Here at Josh.ai, we’ve always believed in the power of voice in the home. Our AI has been tailored specifically for high-end home control, allowing us to deliver a more accurate and exceptional experience. We also believe, however, that there is more to home control than just a voice solution. This is particularly true in the high-end custom market. For example, even though I very much enjoy conversing with an AI in my home, my 70 year-old father with a thick Mediterranean accent is intimidated by this technology, and would prefer simply pushing a button or flipping a switch when controlling his lights. Since different people are comfortable interacting with technology in different ways, a truly complete home control solution should give the user the option to interface with that technology in whatever way is most natural to them. A single solution will almost always fall short.
Talk to Me
Although we are still at the very beginning of the voice revolution, thanks to recent advances in AI and NLP technology, no longer do you have to say specific words like a robot:
Set temperature to 75 degrees.
Instead, you can speak to your home the same way you would speak to a personal assistant:
It’s too dark in here, can you brighten the lights?
Josh, make it warmer in the living room.
But what is the best way to talk to your AI? Through microphones throughout the home? By pushing a button on your phone? With a remote? The answer is all of the above. Some people don’t like the idea of an always-listening microphone, such as Amazon’s product, in their home. Aside from a potential security issue, what happens to all the data being gathered? While Amazon claims that conversations are not being recorded while the microphone listens passively, some people would rather not take that chance. In that case, an authorized device, such as a smart phone, that only listens when you push a button, is the right solution. Whether you agree with such concerns or not, we can agree that people need to have the option of how to speak with their home.
Tap, Swipe, Tap, Swipe
What happens if you just get to bed with your significant other already asleep next to you, and you realize that you forgot to turn off the lights downstairs? Speaking out loud to issue these commands is definitely not the best choice in this scenario. In this case, the ideal solution would be to tap a button on an app.
Smart phones have become so ubiquitous that most everyone is comfortable with this type of intuitive interface. By extending that option to home control, the user can more naturally adopt this sort of new technology.
World Wide What?
Sometimes you may be working away on your laptop and you want to check in on your daughter sleeping in her room. Instead of interrupting your work to go search for your phone to bring up the camera app, how about quickly opening a browser to get the same thing? Some people don’t want to keep their phones around them at all times when they are home, so offering the option to still access your home control through a web portal, from anywhere in the world, is essential.
Old School Switching
Finally, even though people may have the convenience of full control from a mobile device, sometimes they just want to get up and push a button or flip a switch on a wall to turn off the lights. This always needs to be an option. One of the challenges that “smart” bulbs, such as Philips Hue, are having is exactly that. If you flip the switch on the wall to the off position, you can no longer control the lights from your smart phone. Essentially all this cutting edge technology is rendered worthless by a decades old $2 wall accessory.
Indeed as technology progresses, the interfaces we have available to us will evolve as well. Voice is just the first step. Already, we are researching new ways to make the home control experience more natural, such as gesture and spatial recognition. When combined together, and by giving users the option to employ the solution most natural to them, we can offer the best home control experience possible.
This post was written by Nader who heads Business Development at Josh.ai. Previously, Nader was managing partner at GenYrator and before that he was Vice President / Supervising Execution Trader at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Nader has an MBA from USC and a BS in Electrical Engineering from UT Austin. He likes to play volleyball, travel, and rock out to pop music.