Once upon a time, controlling the world around you with nothing more than your voice was the preserve of Jedis and their mind tricks, but thanks to advances in technology (both hardware and software) 2017 could see it become widespread and virtually all-encompassing.
The Amazon Echo is not new technology in terms of the hardware, it was released in 2015 with only gradual improvements since. The Echo’s long-range microphone, provides the basis for voice control of your entire household (with the possible exception of your partner and your kids!) However, it is only now that the Echo is really coming to dominate the market, and receive buzz about fundamentally changing the home technology landscape. So what’s changed?
The difference is firstly that Amazon have now greatly improved the software (or platforms), Amazon Alexa and Amazon Voice, to learn to recognise new words and engage with an increasing variety of other software and technologies. The second is that the companies developing those platforms and technologies have had two years to really understand the Echo and gear their new developments and releases around it. Everything released for use in the home this year that could be integrated with this technology, will be. (Well, it might take washing machines slightly longer – although those at the higher end might well be).
Of course, this might seem a little invasive, we’ve all seen iRobot or any number of other ‘robots gone wrong’ sci-fi films. Easing this fear has also been part of Amazon’s strategy and is another reason why it has taken a couple of years for this to really take off. Their answer so far to softening the blow of having a listening device in your bedroom has been to ram Alexa with an array of geeky references, including a Hitchhiker’s based response when asked the number of life, and the use of The Big Bang Theory Catchphrase‘Bazinga’. Whilst these might be slightly clumsy, a combination of these efforts to humanise the device and the sheer utility and possibilities of the device make its expansion in 2017 inevitable.
The onset of the internet saw the coining of the phrase, ‘just a click away’ - by the end of the year your entire house could be ‘just a say away’.