For every dollar we save on the new connectedness, we need to spend $20 on learning the skills and make the time in our day to ‘do’ it. In this space, the efficiencies we’ve been promised with the technology are not yet being realised, our most precious commodity is now time and focus, and the effort often hardly feels worth the beneﬁt.
It’s no wonder technology fatigue is a real thing!
Gartner has a great framework for this called the ‘hype cycle’. In it, they chart the ﬁve key phases of the life cycle of technology, including the Peak of Inﬂated Expectations down to the Trough of Disillusionment.
But voice-activated technology could be one signiﬁcant thing that helps us all back up the Slope of Enlightenment and onto a Plateau of Productivity.
Google Home launched here in Australia back in July and Amazon’s Alexa is due next year. Will it ever take off? Well, in the US the latest ﬁgures, depending on who you ask, are between 15 and 18 million units of the Amazon Alexa sold. Amazon is estimated to hold 76 per cent of what is called the ‘home speaker’ market.
But what do they do? Both the Alexa and Google Home are like Siri – but for your house. They connect to your wiﬁ and are constantly listening for instructions. Start any sentence with ‘Hey Alexa!’ or ‘Hey Google’ and your online searchable wish is their command.
Now I have friends who ask: what is the point of this? And how do you know what to ask for? But I say ‘Bring it on!’
Because the power of these bots lies in their ability to bypass bad user experiences on a screen and give your tired eyes a break. Technology starts to become a lot simpler when all you have to do is ask the computer a question – not peer into a device and type.
Here are some of the things you can make Google Home or Alexa do:
- Play music
- Check your calendar and tell you what you’ve got coming up
- Create a shopping list
- Set an alarm or timer
- Tell a joke
- Help with your maths homework
- Read out the news
- Tell you how long it will take to get to your next appointment
- Tell you what the weather is going to be
- Find what movie is playing
- Recommend a restaurant nearby
- Answer trivia questions
- Tell you the results of your favourite sporting team
As long as it doesn’t involve a physical activity such as cleaning the bathroom or picking up the kids from school, the bots can answer pretty much anything. But they’re now starting to
‘do’ as well. When they are connected to smart home devices, they can turn lights on and off, shut garage doors and moderate the temperature.
In the US, where Amazon is omnipresent, you can even tell Alexa to place your order – and your shopping list will arrive that day in many areas, taking online shopping to a whole new level.
According to Kleiner Perkins, publishers of the annual Mary Meeker technology overview, Amazon’s Alexa now has over 12,000 skills, up from just 2,000 in 2016. The technology is galloping ahead in leaps and bounds, with its major strength being that voice is replacing typing. This is because the level of accuracy that a human being will tolerate when speaking so that we feel understood has now been reached and surpassed.
Remember the Starship Enterprise and how Captain Kirk would call out “Computer!” and issue a command? What was once a sci-ﬁ fantasy can now sit on your kitchen counter.
So it’s pretty easy to imagine how these could start to change searching for property for buyers, or even change how we run our businesses – and our lives.
It won’t be long before Alexa and Google will be able to hunt down and provide you with a list of properties that match your criteria, rank them according to suitability and put them in your diary, with alarms to alert you to the open for inspection based on a calculation of how long it will take you to get there.
Equally, making appointments sending emails and documents, making calculations, sending quick messages and checking availability will no longer require multiple apps and sign-ons into different systems, but will be done just by speaking.
And when that occurs, the technology promise that we’ve all been hanging on for will be delivered.
Personally, I can’t wait – and really hope Santa puts a Google Home under the Christmas tree for me.