Voicing My Opinion About Voice Control!

August 8, 2019

 

Overview

Over my 30+ years in the electronics and computer business I’ve seen voice control come and go several times.  In the past, the attempts to give us voice control have been only marginally successful, at best.  Lately, however, there seems to be a growing trend towards more and more voice control.  And it seems to be sticking this time, if you know what I mean.

 

 

Background

Years ago, when personal computers first came out, there were many attempts to make them easier to use.  One of those attempts involved controlling things with voice commands.  In my experience, although it worked acceptably well, it was still much easier and quicker to use a keyboard and a mouse.  And, thus, it never caught on.  About 20 years later they invented Bluetooth wireless audio and put it on our mobile phones and car radios.  Suddenly we could make calls while in our car without having to look away from the road.  Now this made a lot of sense!  Maybe there was something to this voice control thing, after all?!

 

Current Status

Fast-forward another 10 years or so and Apple came out with a voice-control “assistant” on their phones called Siri.  You could ask “her” to do many things, but, like the original PC control systems, she wasn’t always that helpful, and typing on the phone was frequently quicker.  About the same time as Siri, Google added voice control to their Android operating system, appropriately named the “Google Assistant” and residing on Android phones, Google Home devices, and others.  Amazon quickly followed suit with their Echo devices and Alexa assistant.  This seemed to be a smarter, more capable version of other systems.  Now we were getting somewhere!  More recently, just about all major electronics manufacturers have gotten into the game as well.  Roku and Apple TV media players now have voice control, as do Cox and Comcast cable boxes.  Even my TV, which has the Android operating system, has voice control.

 

 

How Well Do They Work?

I haven’t tried every assistant, nor every command, but I must admit that, by and large, the systems all work very well.  I continue to be impressed, for example, when I ask Alexa to “play Ed Sheeran” or something along those lines.  The response is usually quick and very accurate! (even with obscure artists!) The other night, while watching YouTube, my daughter and I searched by voice control, rather than type in each character using the remote.  Again, the results were very quick and very accurate!

 

 

Is Voice Control Always the Answer?

So, the final question you may be thinking, is, “is voice control going to take over everything?”  I would guess not, for several reasons.  Although I presume that it’s here to stay for many applications, it’s not always the best approach for control.  For example, when watching TV or a movie, you probably don’t want to say “volume up” or “next channel” each time you want to adjust the sound or the program.  It’s much easier (and less annoying to your fellow watchers) to just push a button on a remote control.  And, in many cases, it’s still faster to just type things in on a keyboard.  But, in many other cases, voice control is definitely the best way to go.  So, in summary, I would say that voice control is a welcome addition to the ways we can control our sophisticated and often complex electronics!  The more and easier the control, the better, right?

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