Remember Ask Jeeves? This early search engine’s brand name suggested it would serve up whatever info you needed with a flourish of personal service. Sadly the experience didn’t live up to the expectation. Thankfully, the concept of a personal technology assistant has recently been reborn in a new form.
Imagine. You could be walking home from the station and at the same time, turn on the lights and heating, order a delivery of food for the night and make sure your TV is tuned to the channel you want. Or have the latest box set on Netflix downloaded and ready to go – all just with your voice, without even lifting a finger to swipe or click.
Not too many years ago, this was the stuff of fantasy – a sci-fi vision of the future. But now, you don’t have to imagine. With voice-activated devices, it’s becoming an everyday reality.
Amazon Echo and Google Home can operate everything from light bulbs, central heating through to lawn sprinklers. And more voice-operated gadgets are emerging as the Internet of Things continues to expand and homes become ever smarter. Voice-activated devices can warn against travel problems before you leave home for your morning commute – you can even ask Google for directions to your meeting that afternoon and it will send them direct to your phone.
Both Amazon Echo and Google Home are expanding their sphere of influence so that you can control things outside your front door too, like book a cab or send flowers to your sweetheart. All with just your voice.
And just last week (17th May) it was announced that Google Assistant was going to be available on the iPhone too. Poor Siri.
Meanwhile, Amazon is launching Echo Look, a hands-free camera that takes photos using your voice and gives you advice from fashion specialists – basically, home-selfie heaven.
Echo Show meanwhile can make or take video calls on command, or watch the latest viral YouTube clip, see the latest news, or check out your Kitten Cam.
Voice activated devices are only going to become more popular and mainstream too. Recent Radiocentre research shows that 9% of households now have an Amazon Echo and that’s expected to increase to 40% by early next year.
Listening to audio entertainment is the main reason people give for buying Alexa with over three-quarters (77%) using it to listen to radio – more than Amazon Prime Music or Spotify Premium and it is increasing the time people spend listening to both radio and music streaming services. Without leaving the sofa, we can have total control over the kind of audio entertainment we enjoy in our homes yet people are still choosing radio.
People might have thought that video would kill the radio star in the Eighties, then the internet would be the death of the medium in the Nineties – but instead Rajar figures released this week for the first quarter of 2017 show that radio is still in rude health, with 48.2 million listeners in the UK every week.
Radio has embraced online and is getting on-board with the latest voice activated technologies too, as evidenced by Radioplayer, a joint venture between the BBC and commercial radio.
Radioplayer brings together more than 400 stations and already has six million users every month. The Radiocentre study highlights how the UX of the Radioplayer’s Echo skill is helping to make it the preferred radio skill in the UK. By being at the forefront of voice-activated technology both in-home via devices such as Amazon Echo or Google Home, and in-car via its own aftermarket Radioplayer Car product, Radioplayer is exploiting voice activated systems to make radio even more easily accessible.
By making radio more available it may be that voice activated devices will not only make our lives easier, they might actually make us happier too.
After all, it’s been proven that listening to the radio makes you happier and even gives you more energy than being online or watching TV.
If we’ll soon be living a fully voice activated, smart home life – these developments suggest we’ll have the perfect soundtrack for it too. All we’ll have to do is ask Alexa.
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