Smart Speakers are wireless speakers with a voice interface and underlying Artificial Intelligence. Amazon created this category with the introduction of the Amazon Echo in 2014. The main purpose of the Echo started out as a streaming service, streaming music from Amazons music service Amazon Prime Music. Another attractive feature of smart speakers is that they respond to voice commands, from just about anywhere in audio range so you don’t have to be right next to the device to interface with it.
Several aspects of smart speakers has led to the rapid increase in popularity
Voice interfacing is becoming more advanced and more accurate, and is an attractive means of controlling a device…. When it works
Connecting to the cloud allows the smart speaker access to a larger resource database and more computer power of to respond to a wide range of questions in a more natural conversational sense, such as “do I need an umbrella today”? Yes this is much like Siri.
Several smart speakers on the market can now interface with products from other manufacturers, supported by a healthy and growing list of device manufacturers with complaint interfaces for control via the smart speaker. The meteoric expansion in the number of home networks, and the corresponding growth in Wi-Fi enabled smart home automation devices is opening a wealth of possibilities for voice control over many aspects of your house, from lighting, heating/cooling to home security and safety devices. More and more devices, including household appliances, are becoming Wi-Fi enabled with intelligence and potentially controllable by smart speakers.
Innovative sites like If This Then That (IFTTT.com) produce applets connecting smart speakers, like the Amazon Echo, to other services and resources software such as spreadsheets, calendars, fitness tracker databases etc. Just talk to the Echo to set a reminder, check your activity levels, save data to a spreadsheet etc.
Amazon started the smart speaker revolution with the Amazon Echo released in 2014, a smart speaker with AI through Amazon’s Alexia service. Amazon has also released the Amazon Dot a smaller version of the Amazon Echo with the same functionality and connectivity to other wireless speakers.
Google was asleep at the wheel on smart speakers and left playing catch-up to the success of the Amazon Echo. The Google Home was introduced in 2016. The Home follows in the same vein as the Echo, being a voice activated smart speaker but of course uses Google’s AI, Google Assistant, which is developing quickly in terms of humanising voice interactions. It also streams music, like the Echo, interfaces with some smart home devices, but not as many as the Echo, and interfaces nicely with some cloud services, particularly the Google owned ones for say making diary notes, calendar appointments, lists etc.
There are many wireless speakers on the market, but few with the add-on smart features that the Amazon Echo and Google Home bring to the table. However, other companies which are also developing smart speaker products include:
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