Smart speakers & voice-control technology

Why do we use smart speakers?

A recent survey conducted by HARMAN, a subsidiary of Samsung, has revealed the different reasons why we use voice-controlled smart speakers:

 

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The researchers discovered that 41% of adults said they already can’t live without their VC speakers, with the top five most-used applications including music streaming, weather or news updates, finding new music and checking emails.  Other regular applications for the included 24% as a kitchen assistant (recipes, portion measures and timings), online shopping 13%, joke-telling 9%, and 6% as instructors during home workouts. 21% of owners said they save now one-two hours a day on tasks on average with the help of smart speakers.

Michael Mauser, Executive Vice President and President Lifestyle Audio at HARMAN, said: “Whether your voice control speakers are powered by Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant, the voice-controlled smart speaker is here to stay and is rapidly becoming a must-have device for the home. As our study found, voice technology  is engaging and entertaining for people across all generations  and people love the time-saving benefits.”

Inside Amazon’s Alexa

Amazon produce some of the most popular smart speakers on the market. Their virtual personal assistant, Alexa (named after the ancient library of Alexandria), is intended to rival even the most competent of human aides. Enabled devices, such as the Echo unit, include a series of speakers and sensors that work together, centrally controlled by Alexa.

 

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Alexa is the wake word for the Echo smart speaker. This is furnished with seven microphones and uses beamforming technology to hear you from wherever you are in the room. Users simply need to say ‘Alexa’ followed by their request and the Echo or Echo Dot unit closest will then respond. Once you’ve made your request, Alexa uses a programme called Alexa Voice Services (AVS) to send the recording via the internet to Amazon. Alexa has a predetermined set of ‘skills’, which Amazon is constantly updating and adding to. When the recording is sent to Amazon’s cloud service, the skill is identified and then actioned. The data is sent back to your Echo and you’ll hear Alexa’s voice confirm it or give you the information before completing the task. Alongside this, the companion Alexa app for tablets and smartphones will show you a relevant graphical representation, such as a weather report or task list.

 

Opening image credit: © 1996-2018, Amazon.com, Inc.

 


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