Voice Control: The Good and the Bad
Sound & Vision|September 2020
Voice Control: The Good and the Bad
If George Orwell had lived to see millions of people voluntarily shelling out money to have listening devices installed inside of their homes, he’d likely shout, “I KNEW IT!” With untold R&D dollars having been poured into the development of voice assistants by Amazon, Google, and Apple, one of the most exciting developments in the home-control world over the past few years has been the addition of voice commands to systems. And while voice control is fantastic for doing some things, the experience comes up a bit short for others.

I’ve had Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant in my home for some time, using them to control various smart home devices such as lights, a thermostat, and door locks. I also use them to kick off “events” such as “dinner” and “movie time.” But If the idea of voice control conjures a vision of walking around your home and having it respond instantaneously to your bidding by simply calling out commands, you’ll want to read on.

First things first: When using a voice-controlled speaker, you need to accept a certain level of privacy loss. These devices are listening to all the time (unless you turn them off, which kinda defeats the purpose) and if that idea bothers you, then you should probably reconsider using them. Also, while the devices are supposed to only respond to wake words (“Alexa” or “Hey, Google”), they will occasionally respond out of the blue when you are talking or watching TV.

If you’re okay with giving up privacy, voice-controlled speakers offer loads of features, with new uses that you’ll continue to discover over time. And with entry models often selling for under $30, they are inexpensive enough to sprinkle around your home for even greater flexibility.


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September 2020