What are Voice Assistants?
A voice assistant is a digital device that makes use of speech synthesis, voice recognition, and language processing to make a device or an application provide expected results. Voice assistants can be used to search the web, answer a question, start an application, turn off lights, unlock a door, and much more. If you’re thinking about home automation or creating a smart home, having a good voice assistant is key. The good news is that most voice assistants today are incredibly affordable and easy to setup. In the simplest of terms, voice assistants are robots without the ability to move.
The categories of voice assistants
There are essentially 2 types of voice-based assistants:
- Consumer-based voice assistants for homes
- Chatbots and virtual mobile assistants for enterprise use
In this article, we will be looking at consumer-based voice assistants for homes. Also known as domotics, these systems represent the ideals of home automation, taking control of household equipment including lighting, among other things, and performing functions within the scope of its capabilities based on voice recognized commands.
These consumer-based voice assistants also interact with IoT (Internet of things) connected devices.
The best voice assistants
We have taken the time to research some of the best voice assistants based on a number of factors. We’ve pulled together the main voice assistants that work with almost any application, are widely available, and, most importantly, are affordable.
Amazon Echo is basically home to Alexa. Alexa also lives within the confines of Echo Dot as well. Thanks to top-notch artificial intelligence engineering and a state-of-the-art voice recognition system, Amazon Echo can keep you up to date by reminding you of calendar appointments. The Amazon Echo can also perform even more complex operations such as calling a taxi or beatboxing.
In truth, the possibilities with the Amazon Echo are limitless. In-home automation, you can pretty much automate your entire household on Amazon Echo and bark out commands at will.
What makes the Echo truly phenomenal is that you can group events and save the groupings or categorizations rather than individual tasks. For example, most home automation systems currently available require an app to function effectively. This would naturally mean an app for every piece of home automation. Now the Echo, on the other hand, groups these tasks into one and saves it under the group title such as ‘dim lights.’ This way, all the lights are dimmed.
However, there is a caveat: you must pair Alexa with your devices and search the skills of these devices.
Google Home/Google Nest
Google Nest, formerly known as Google Home, holds the second spot on our list of best voice assistants. From seemingly mundane tasks such as turning down the volume of your television set to bigger duties like engaging your state-of-the-art security system, Google Nest executes seamlessly.
A typical advantage of the Google Nest among other voice assistants lies in its obviously large library, thanks to services such as the Google search engine, Google business, Google music and YouTube, to mention but a few.
Some of the home automation services sported by Google Nest include Spotify, Netflix, Google Photos, Google Calendar, Google keep, iHeart Radio, and YouTube. This largely implies a slight tilt towards more entertainment-based home automation applications. However, this is not to say that Google Nest is incapable of the applications on other home automation fronts.
While Apple HomeKit isn’t compatible with as many devices as Google Nest or Amazon’s Echo, it is arguably one of the easiest to use. The Apple Homekit sports a truly integrated system; with the push of a button on your mobile device or an instruction to Siri, your room temperature can be altered, your doors unlocked, and your lights turned on.
What makes Apple HomeKit quite the catch is its integration with all Apple devices as well as compliant devices. This way, Siri can relay your messages too. If there’s anything we know about Apple, it’s that they are exceptional at integration with their own services. The bottleneck is compatibility with only a few home automation vendors.
The Sonos One is a typical representation of the phrase ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ Released after some of the big guns, the Sonos One is arguably one of the best voice assistants in the current market.
While the Sonos One mostly represents the hardware, it is extremely functional with services such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and AirPlay 2. It also offers a much better sound than the aforementioned options.
Think of the Sonos One as all your dreams wrapped up in one device. It is especially appealing because you are not necessarily tied to any of the services. This means that if Alexa’s voice begins to remind you of your cheating ex, you can hook up your Sonos One with Google Home and listen to Toni Braxton’s ‘Unbreak My Heart’ until your tear glands are empty.
In truth, the Sonos One is pretty much just a smart speaker, but it’s an exceptionally good one that can handle the tasks of the other voice assistants as well.
Samsung’s Bixby is compatible with the fewest home automation systems. This may be attributed to Bixby being more of a proactive rather than a reactive innovation. However, it meets up to standards and functions exceptionally well when pitted with a compatible device.
Bixby composes emails and sends messages (among a host of many other functionalities). Simply put, Bixby can perform tasks that typically require you to touch your phone by voice. It can also control a wide array of smart home appliances, including some television sets and smart fridges, most of which are products of Samsung.
While Bixby might be the least compatible voice assistant on this list, like everything that carries the Samsung logo, it sure has a bright future ahead.
There you have it. Some of the best voice assistants and their associated strengths and cons. If you’re thinking about getting started with home automation, here’s a list of some ways to get started. Lastly, it’s important to note that you’ll want to make sure you get a wireless router that provides the coverage you need, connects to all your devices, and fits within your budget.