Smart Speakers: Smart Choice?
Carolina Parent|December 2019
Weighing the pros and cons of welcoming Alexa or Google Assistant into your home
Carolyn Caggia

The 1960s sci-fi TV series “Star Trek” introduced an array of futuristic gadgets, like a flip phone communicator, Uhura’s Bluetooth-esque earpiece and voice interface computers. Today we’ve adopted technology that was once the science fiction of the past — and we have even invited it into our own homes.

In the Clouds

Amazon introduced Alexa as part of its Amazon Echo line of smart speakers in 2014. Google Assistant, which was released in 2016 as part of the Google Home series, is another cloud-based service that can be accessed via smartphone or speakers, and features products ranging from the Google Home Mini to the Google Home Max. Apple’s HomePod speaker, released in 2017, allows users to tap into Siri’s vast knowledge without having to use an iPhone.

Users can interact with these virtual assistants by using their voice to request that they play music, check the weather and answer general questions. These products can also talk to other smart home devices to turn on the lights, change a home’s temperature and more. Interactions begin with an activation “wake word.” For Alexa, users might say:

“Alexa, what’s 5 times 2?”

“Alexa, set a timer for 10 minutes.”

“Alexa, play ‘Baby Shark’!”

Smart Benefits

Brian Gribbin of Saxapahaw, a father of two kids ages 10 and 12, says playing music is the most popular way his family uses Alexa.

“We pay the $1.99 a month and it gives you access to a never-ending ocean of music,” he says. “The kids love it, and we all like a different genre.”

He says using Alexa to play music brings the family together and makes chores more fun. “We have danced together in the kitchen while I rinse dishes and the kids fill the dishwasher,” he says.

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