Some revolutions happen overnight. Elections can impact society within months as we in the good old U.S. of A. witnessed in early 2017. Other revolutions take time but clearly are visible in progress.
The smartphone revolution started by Steve Jobs and the iPhone in mid-2007 has been ongoing, visible, and has enough penetration among the population– about 3-billion smartphones clutter planet earth these days– to have an impact we can see. What about slower revolutions?
To hear technologists tell the story, the most important new tech trend is the talking home. No, not a home that talks, but devices in the home that listen to us, take commands and put them into action. Think Amazon Echo and Alexa because the technology noise makers think it’s game over for Apple because Siri is an idiot and Apple has no real presence in the home talking speaker market.
Really? I count 11 Apple devices in the Mincey plantation’s household vs. a single Echo Dot. Apple wins, 11-1. Yeah, I know, Apple’s HomePod still hasn’t shown up so we really don’t know exactly how Apple intends to play in this market, but let me take a moment to scrape away all the hyperbole and predictions so we can deal with reality.
The technology equipped home is a slow revolution and will not be as ubiquitous with gadgets as humans are with smartphones. This is a small market and it is growing slowly. About 40-percent of humanity have smartphones and internet connections.
How many have an Amazon Echo with Alexa? Not so much. Why not?
Remarkably, the most technologically advanced device in the home is the one you carry in your pocket already. iPhone or smartphone. After that, it’s an iPad, then a Mac or Windows PCs, followed up by Watch and various exercise trackers (which often find a home in drawers). The rest of the house works much like it has for about 100 years.
We have electricity, running water, a stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer, and heating, ventilation, air conditioner, and smaller appliances– almost none of which are hooked up to the internet. Yet.
Sure, it’s cute that Alexa can check on the weather, play some music, catch me up on sports scores, and even buy something on Amazon, but let’s be brutally honest– those are parlor tricks for early adopters and not yet the spearhead of a major revolution.
Siri, Alexa, Bixby, Cortana, and Google Assistant may be able to take queries, cough up a few answers, switch lights off and on, but the list of what they cannot do is longer– they can’t cook, can’t wash and dry and fold clothes, can’t wash the car, can’t change a diaper, can’t clean the house, can’t put clothes in the washer or dryer, cannot restock the refrigerator without human help, or perform any of the basic tasks that we humans walk through each day.
When will Siri learn to control everything in our homes? Not as a talking speaker with internet access. Siri will become valuable enough to control what goes on in a modern household when Siri becomes a robot that can move and perform tasks that truly, madly, deeply need to be accomplished.
A few weeks ago, Taylor Martin and David Priest came up with the list of Alexa commands (many of which are similar to Assistant, Siri, Cortana, and others). Here’s a sample:
- Show your calendar: “Alexa, show my calendar.”
- Show pictures: “Alexa, show my photos” or, “Alexa, show me pictures of cats.”
- Movie showtimes: “Alexa, show me movie showtimes.”
- View the forecast: “Alexa, show me the weekend forecast.”
- See your timers: “Alexa, show me my timers.”
- Change the volume of Fire TV: “Alexa, set the volume to [level] on Fire TV” or “Alexa, turn [up/down] the volume on Fire TV.”
- Mute Fire TV: “Alexa, [mute/unmute] Fire TV.”
- Resume the last played audiobook: “Alexa, resume my book.”
- Skip audiobook chapters: “Alexa, next chapter” or “Alexa, previous chapter.”
- Listen to Alexa read you a Kindle book: “Alexa, read me my Kindle book.”
- Set a sleep timer: “Alexa set a sleep timer for 45 minutes” or “Alexa, stop playing in 45 minutes.”
- Song information: “Alexa, what’s playing?”
- Call another Echo user: “Alexa, call [name].”
- Answer an incoming call: “Alexa, answer the call” or “Alexa, answer.”
- Hang up: “Alexa, hang up” or “Alexa, end the call.”
- Message another Echo user: “Alexa, message [name]” or “Alexa, send [name] a message.”
- Play messages: “Alexa, play messages.”
You get the idea, right? Alexa is not quite as stupid as Siri, therefore slightly more useful, but all these talking speakers are dumb as, well, speakers. Apple is wise to wait to see how this nascent market develops, but the speed bump on the road toward wherever this is going is the home itself.
Besides, you know what we want, right? A Siri robot that talks, entertains, does all that Alexa crap and more, and wanders around the house doing chores that matter.