Voice-activated assistants becoming a necessity for many


  • TECH
  • Saturday, 03 Feb 2018

'Hey Google, what time does the next monorail leave?' Google has gone so far as to push its digital assistant on a monorail in the United States. — dpa

At the start it was easy to dismiss them as a passing fad but voice-controlled devices are being used more and more in everyday life.

A recent survey found that across the planet almost one in four people would prefer to use a voice assistant than a website when searching for information.

In another survey carried out for Samsung-owned electronics company Harman, nearly 60% of people who use voice assistants said they've become a necessity in their lives.

Results like this explain why Amazon is bringing its smart assistant Alexa to ever more devices from different manufacturers while Apple is trying to play catch-up in the market with its Siri-enabled smart speaker HomePod.

Even non-electronics companies are bringing out voice-activated technologies. For example, Mercedes-Benz has its own language assistant which is activated by the phrase "Hey Mercedes".

Users don't have to give precise instructions such as "Raise the temperature to 23 degrees", instead it's enough to say something like "Hey Mercedes, I'm cold".

However, the technology doesn't always work according to plan. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CSE) in Las Vegas, LG's household helper, a cute-looking little robot called Cloi, embarrassed the company when it ignored on-stage questions such as whether the washing machine was ready or what chicken recipes were suitable for lunch.

There's also the question of how the different assistants can co-exist in everyday life. At the moment, each platform is trying to lure users into its world and keep them there exclusively, but in fact it's not unusual for someone to use the Google Assistant or Siri on their smartphone and Alexa at home.

So device manufacturers face a balancing act because they don't want to be reduced to the ecosystem of just one assistant.

Harman unveiled a solution for how manufacturers can work with the different voice platforms, showing an in-car system in which all the assistants are available at the same time and can be activated using their wake-up phrase or an onscreen switch. — dpa
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