Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Hey Alexa, play set the controls for the heart of the sun, No Alexa- don't fly there, Hey Alexa Pause #blooper

It's entirely possible that a certain well-known blonde Belgian beer had a part to play in a recent conversation. Would the choice of operating system affect a house purchase in the future? Kind of Mac vs Android.

At our place we already have different areas of the house running on different systems. The hallway has the Google Nest thermostat and if we ever upgrade it, then it would probably also get speech recognition.

The lounge has Apple Home, mainly because of the Apple television with its speech recognition. But come to think of it, there's also an Amazon Fire device, which also has speech recognition.

But no, we don't use the speech because it is generally too random in its responses. As an example, when I recently asked about a lunch stop on the A1M, it gave me a fishing shop location 4,600 miles away in America.

Recent new gadgets for all of this are the cascaded set of Amazon things; Echo, Tap and Dot, one of which arrived through the post today. Unlike Siri, Cortana, the enigmatic Facebook M and even Google MSA, the Amazon system uses a real name, Alexa, to trigger the voice input.

We shouldn't forget the French invoxia system, gamely trying to sell the toy-like Triby to the Americans although now with Alexa input. Although, I must admit I'm not too sure about their main advert strip.

That's not to say that speech can't work. If I go all comic-book Dick Tracy and talk to my watch, such as to make an Evernote reminder, then the speech is almost entirely well-rendered. I suppose I'm using my carphone voice for this, which isn't quite like natural speech. Yes, it gets remarked upon.
It's still easy to fool Siri on the Mac though. If I want music Siri will happily play 'Pop' 'Jazz' 'Ed Sheeran' etc. but if I ask for 'Coffee House' or 'Start the Week' it will get somewhat more haphazard. Maybe I need to update the genres?

The biggest recent change has been the Apple IOS 10, which has started to pull all of the systems together on the iPhone. To my surprise, this latest version has somehow integrated the Hue lights, the fire, the Nest and all the Harmony TV controls including Sky, Apple, Netflix, Amazon so that they are now accessible mainly from a 'card swipe' on the phone. Pretty good actually and I didn't even need to install anything other than the IOS for all of this to start working.

So I guess that's going to be the basis of my theory. It won't be the domestic operating system that dictates; it will be the protocol that somehow binds the disparate systems together to give a single interface, whether its phone, voice or gesture-based.

Not that gesture, Alexa.

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