According to CNN, many high-tech companies are in a hurry to roll out their own versions of smart speakers. You’ve probably heard of these devices, but there will be times when you wonder how they work and what do they mean for your privacy?
Here’s what you should know about this new line of tech products that Xi Pa Chao gathered.
I. What is smart speaker?
Smart speaker is a small speaker with Wi-Fi connection and controlled by voice. To use your device in hands-free mode, simply activate the personal assistant built into them with simple voice commands like “Hey Siri,” “OK Google”, “Alexa” – and then Ask a question like “What’s the weather like now?”. Or ask like “order with Lyft”. The smart assistants on the speaker talk to you to help you fulfill your requests.
II. It is used to do?
A smart speaker is mainly used to play music, news, set timers and reminders, manage shopping lists, and control connected home devices such as heat device lights. Amazon recently added features like texting and receiving / making calls, so the smart speaker promises to bring us much more in the future.
The Echo is useful for ordering from Amazon Prime but it struggles with answering questions about basics. In the meantime, Google Home does a pretty good job at this task (which is not surprising considering it is the product of the Google search giant).
III. Who created the smart speaker?
Amazon created the smart speaker market in 2014 with the release of the Echo. Google followed Amazon in 2016 with Google Home, and Microsoft is currently working with Harman Kardon to develop the Invoke smart speaker using Cortana’s voice assistant. In early June, Apple announced the HomePod but it won’t be available in the market until December of this year.
Third-party devices like Lenovo’s Smart Assistant also use Amazon’s Alexa assistant.
Currently, most smart speakers are permanently plugged in, rather than a handheld device. Amazon’s smart speaker comes with a built-in small battery for on-the-go use. You can press a button to initiate Alexa voice chats or use the device’s new hands-free mode.
Here are the available or upcoming smart speaker options in the market:
Amazon Echo ($ 180); Echo Dot (50 USD) connects to larger speakers; Echo Tap (130 USD) and Echo Show (230 USD); a speaker with a touchscreen and a camera will be launched by Amazon on June 28.
– Google Home ($ 129).
– Apple HomePod ($ 329), available in December.
– Harman Kardon Invoke with assistant Cortana, expected to launch by the end of 2017 (no official price yet).
IV. What about sound quality?
The Amazon Echo and Google Home are comparable in quality to speakers of the same market price, but music lovers can connect them to Bluetooth speakers for better sound. The Echo Dot also connects to existing speaker systems via Bluetooth or with an audio cable.
Apple is marketing the HomePod as a speaker with better sound quality. When tested with Sonos and Amazon Echo speakers, the sound from Apple’s smart speakers is better. Using the microphone to measure the size of the room, the HomePod “senses” its position and adjusts the sound accordingly.
V. What services and applications does the smart speaker work with?
Each product is a way for a company to sell its own services, like Apple Music, Amazon Prime, and Google Play. But the ability to work with secondary services and 3rd party hardware is what makes smart speakers more useful. The Echo can play music from popular music services like Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn and iHeart Radio. Currently, it is the industry leader with more than 10,000 third-party voice applications called “skills”.
While most of these skills aren’t very useful, you can still order pizza or flowers, get wine suggestions or check your bank account balance. Google Home has less integration with third-party products but says there are plans to add this soon.
It is not known whether HomePod will work immediately with 3rd party applications after being on the shelf or not. Siri can do the usual smart tasks, but the device’s music commands are specifically designed to work with an Apple Music monthly subscription. If not, users can simply ask Siri to play podcasts or BeatsOne radio. To listen to music from a library or any other service, you’ll need to stream them via Airplay from an iPhone or iPad.
VI. Are there any privacy concerns?
Smart speakers have powerful microphones that are always listening. This could be one of the reasons for privacy concerns, but companies say their devices don’t record when the user is not in use. When the device hears a wake up word or phrase, they record and send your voice to the cloud to complete the request.
Although Apple, Amazon, and Google encrypt the saved recordings data, the police have recently attempted to use Echo’s recording as evidence for a murder trial. Home and Echo also include mute buttons. Apple has not yet revealed how to mute the HomePod.
VII. Who is it for?
Anyone who is busy cooking, keeping kids, or other smart home tasks will benefit from a hands-free computer. Because the devices understand your natural speech, the smart speaker works with less complexity and makes it an easy-to-use tool for the seniors.
The list of tasks you can do with voice commands to your smart speakers is growing. The technology , electronics and telecommunications industries are betting smart speakers will be our way of interacting with computers in the future.