5 ways in which voice assistants will change your life
- The ideal kitchen help
Suppose you want to steam broccoli today but just as you’re about to place the steaming basket on the pot of boiling water you can’t recall how long you need to steam the broccoli. “Hey Google, how long should I steam the broccoli?” Less than a second later the friendly female computer voice says: “According to the website culy.nl the ideal steaming time for broccoli is 4 to 5 minutes.” So you place the basket on the cooking pot and call out to your voice assistant: “OK, Google, set the timer for 5 minutes”. Confirmation follows instantly. The timer is running.
It happens to every amateur chef: there you are in the kitchen with your dirty fingers when you realize you’ve forgotten one crucial detail from the recipe. Leafing through a cookbook is not self-evident under those circumstances and that’s when a voice assistant can come in handy. Amazon also has voice assistants with a corresponding screen: the Echo Show. Use such a device in the kitchen when you’re preparing dinner and you’ve got the perfect kitchen help. Use voice commands to call up videos by famous chefs and let these top chefs remind you how to make the perfect mousseline sauce.
- A whole new world for people with a disability
During one of my lectures on the future of digital applications there was a blind man in the audience. I was speaking enthusiastically about the possibilities of voice assistants when that gentleman asked to speak. He told us how much easier his world had become thanks to his Google Assistant. He no longer needed assistance to listen to his favorite music. Requesting songs from Alexa or Google is one of the most popular applications for most users but for this man this had genuinely enriched his life. He said enthusiastically: “For the first time I can find the results of my favorite football team on my own. And I can finally be sure all the lights are out at home when I go to bed”. He had linked the lighting in his home to his virtual assistant so he could turn all the lights in his house on or off with a simple voice command.
Virtual assistants can be a real game changer for many people with disabilities. For instance, some people suffering from arthritis find it hard to type on a smartphone for any length of time, or they have trouble performing fine motor movements on their phone. For these people voice commands are so much simpler and it makes information and communication much more accessible.
- Always close to home
When I visited the famous tech trade show CES in Las Vegas back in January – at a time when travelling was still the most normal thing in the world – it became very clear that shortly every household appliance will be connected with the internet and will react to the voice commands of Google and Amazon. Since your household appliances are connected with the internet you can also operate them from a distance. Also, digital voice assistants travel right alongside us more and more often. Several car manufacturers have already integrated Google Assistant and Alexa into their vehicles. For instance, Amazon has manufactured in-ear phones that make it possible to talk to Alexa. The combination of a connected home and a travelling digital assistant makes it possible to operate the devices in your home regardless of your location.
Just imagine: your working day is over. You’re ravenous but home is still half an hour’s drive away. All of a sudden you have a craving for pizza. You can simply ask the built-in digital assistant in your car to preheat the oven to 200 degrees. This way you don’t have to wait as long when you come home. It will be possible to operate any device connected to the web with a simple voice command.
Nowadays many people order products via e-commerce. We all know how it works: you go to an app or a site, select your products and in just a few clicks the order is complete. Meanwhile e-commerce has become very user-friendly and it is a reliable way to buy products. In the next phase digital assistants can introduce us to the world of a-commerce, or Automated Commerce.
Most families have a fixed consumption pattern. Every week we eat and drink many of the same things and we use the same products. Once that pattern has been identified the computer can build an algorithm to automate these purchases. From then on all that’s required is a single command to your virtual assistant to order a fresh supply of these products when the virtual assistant deems it necessary. This way all routine purchases are outsourced to a computer. Because a-commerce is fully automatic you don’t even have to think about it, leaving more time for the things you truly find important in life.
- Your own private butler
Today voice assistants are primarily used for simple applications such as a timer in the kitchen, requesting a song, operating the lights, starting a new episode of your favorite series or listening to your favorite radio show. Over time voice assistants will evolve into private butlers. Once artificial intelligence has reached the next level, many of the things we still have to invest our own time in right now will be outsourced to a voice assistant. Imagine being able to give such complex assignments as ‘buy four tickets to Coldplay, same type as always’. Or how about this one: “Book a barber’s appointment at the most suitable time in my planning this week”. Personal assistants used to be the prerogative of top managers but in the near future this technology will make this a reality for each of us.