Many people are daunted by technology, the thought of using a computer, tablet or smartphone fills them with dread. A lot of these people are the ones that have never needed to use computers at work, so have little or no experience of them.
So how can we introduce people to technology when traditional tech doesn’t fit with their way of life? Luckily technology has evolved from screens to voice activated devices. Most smartphones and computers can now be voice activated, using apps like Cortanta on Windows, Siri on Apple and Google on Android. However there is a big market for standalone voice devices, such as the Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple Homepod.
These devices allow users to ask questions, just by speaking, using a trigger word first. The trigger word is the phrase that starts the device listening, with the Amazon Echo this is “Alexa”, so a question would be something like “Alexa, what will the weather be like tomorrow?”
With all of these devices it is possible to link other technology to them, such as smart switches and thermostats to control different things around the house. You can turn lights on and turn the heating up and down just by talking. This can be a major improvement for people with poor mobility or disabilities. I have seen these devices linked to automatic door and window openers, to allow users control of their property from their chair.
The main use for voice controlled devices amongst my friends is as a music player. They link to internet radio and can play literally hundreds of radio stations from all over the world, including all of the BBC stations and the majority of commercial UK stations. They can also tell you the weather, the news and the latest sports results. They can also sing you happy birthday or tell jokes.
One of the things I find fascinating is that new skills are being added all the time, without having to buy a new device. If you wanted a new skill on a mobile phone you would need to buy a new one, but new skills are added to the libraries of these devices all the time, without the need for an expensive upgrade.
The cost of these devices has dropped over time, both the Amazon Echo and Google Home can be purchased for less than £50. They do however require a wireless connection.