VOICE CONTROL The smartest gadgets are now the ones you can talk to
Tech has found its voice, and 2018 is the year the conversation will really get going
HOW DOES VOICE CONTROL WORK? These devices are essentially speakers with embedded microphones that act as hubs for connecting smart technology, such as light bulbs and thermostats, in the home, as well as accessing online apps and information – all controlled by spoken commands.
WHO ARE THE KEY PLAYERS? Apple, Google and Amazon. Apple’s ‘Homepod’ (out January; apple.com) was late to the show, launched in the US at the end of last year and only now planned to hit the UK, while the Amazon ‘Echo’ (from £89.99; amazon.co.uk) and ‘Google Home’ (£129; store.google.com) are already into their second generations, with a range of sizes and designs available – Amazon’s ‘Echo Show’ is the first of its type to have a screen.
WHAT DO I SAY? The conversation starts with a command to ‘wake’ the device – with Amazon this phrase is ‘Alexa’ (the name of its cloud-based voice service). Google uses ‘OK Google’ and Apple ‘Hey, Siri’. Then simply ask it a question or make a demand – if you’re stuck, try ‘tell me a joke’.
WHAT ELSE WORKS WITH IT? Sonos’s latest ‘One’ speaker has ‘Alexa’ capability, while Philips Hue, Nest and Samsung also offer compatible devices. In fact, there’s a wealth of products that can be voicecontrolled, from TVS to vacuum cleaners and smart door locks. As they’re speakers, music plays a part – Spotify, Apple Music and Tunein can all be voice-controlled. SHOULD I GET ONE? As with all new technologies, there are glitches that need ironing out – but it’s a fast-moving area that is definitely the future of technology in the home. Controlling your house with just your voice reduces your screen time (why search for answers on your smartphone when you can actually ask the internet?) and by amalgamating your smart devices you save time. Still not sure? Amazon and Google’s mini versions cost just £49 – an affordable introduction to the future.
SOPHISTICATED AND DISCREET, THESE NEW HOME GADGETS ARE MASTERING THE ART OF CONVERSATION
Clockwise, from above The ‘Amazon Echo’ in ‘ Heather Grey’. ‘Google Home’. The Apple ‘ Homepod’