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Yukle

Why do those "smart speaker" thingies exist?

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Seems like it would be useful if I had one in every room of my house, but I'm not gonna throw a grand into making my house voice activated.  It was funny watching my Aunt use one when my sister in law 'Alex' was in the house.  Between missing commands ~50% of the time, yelling for constant adjustment of the volume, accidentally putting on some gangster rap while trying to find a song she didn't actually know the title for, and 'Alexa' constantly thinking she was getting commands when talking with 'Alex'; it made for a humorous night and a realization that this would be a huge waste of money for me.

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1 hour ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

I find voice activation to be cumbersome.  Typing, for me, it allows me to streamline what I'm attempting to search for.  I can look back at my prior search attempts and see what I might be able to change to get better results.  I don't have a way to look back at my prior attempts.  

I'm being a fair bit tongue in Cheek when I damn voice recognition tech, but, it isn't what I prefer to use.  I don't find that it makes my life easier, and as such, I'm not going to use it.  YMMV.

Yeah, I really don't see the utility in slamming people who prefer one mode of interacting with technology over another. Whichever mode is "easier" is still, at this point in the technology curve, a matter of perspective. Personally I find the notion of talking to my devices to be much more bothersome than it's worth, and I don't really see that changing anytime soon. If someone has a different opinion from that, well, awesome for them. 

Edited by Ferrum Aeternum

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4 hours ago, Spockydog said:

Gotta love the fact that the only people questioning the worth of these devices are people who don't actually own one.



Well yeah. That's not weird, that's a perfectly logical consequence of being someone who questions the worth of the device. As is those people who own one being thise who find it a good idea. At this point, it isn't a tech which people are going to pay for casually and then use or not use, it hasn't got to that point yet. At the moment getting one is still somewhat An Event.

And I mean, for those who find it helpful, fair play to you, but I can see very few situations in which I'd benefit from Alexa or Google Home, and many many ways in which I'd find it frustrating and irritating trying to use it, so why would I splash out 80 quid or whatever on it? The same is gonna go for most people who don't have one.

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23 minutes ago, aceluby said:

Seems like it would be useful if I had one in every room of my house, but I'm not gonna throw a grand into making my house voice activated.  It was funny watching my Aunt use one when my sister in law 'Alex' was in the house.  Between missing commands ~50% of the time, yelling for constant adjustment of the volume, accidentally putting on some gangster rap while trying to find a song she didn't actually know the title for, and 'Alexa' constantly thinking she was getting commands when talking with 'Alex'; it made for a humorous night and a realization that this would be a huge waste of money for me.

It's a piece of cake to rename Alexa. 

No need to put one in every room, though one of my favourite things about the Echo is multi-room, lag-free playback of music. 

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21 minutes ago, Spockydog said:

It's a piece of cake to rename Alexa. 

No need to put one in every room, though one of my favourite things about the Echo is multi-room, lag-free playback of music. 

It was anecdotal and funny, I doubt people are going to rename Alexa just because their niece is staying with them for a couple days.

And yeah, you kind of do need them in multiple rooms, at least for my house.  Otherwise instead of getting up and turning the stereo on, you're getting up and walking to the room with the device in it to turn the stereo on.

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5 hours ago, Spockydog said:

Gotta love the fact that the only people questioning the worth of these devices are people who don't actually own one.

If I'm chillin' in my living room and decide that I want to listen to some music, I can either:

A. Get up out of my comfy chair. Walk the fifty or sixty paces to my upstairs bedroom. Wake up my PC (where all my music is stored). Open a music streaming app. Choose Some Tunes. Select The Big Speakers in the living room. Click play. Walk back downstairs, and another fifty or sixty paces back to the living room. Sit down and Enjoy Music.

Or

B. "Alexa, play Some Tunes on the big speakers."

It seems to me that your proposition is rather fallacious here. You start with a setup that is not optimal since your speakers and your source(s) of music are in two different rooms and unconnected ; for people who care about these things in the first place, this is a highly unlikely setup.
Then there's the binary choice between A and B, when there are quite a few alternatives. Like, even assuming I somehow find myself in this specific situation I would simply wipe out my smartphone, that I almost always have in my right pocket, that would auto-connect to my home wifi and to my speakers via bluetooth, and have several possibilities for music: youtube, a decent app/website like Deezer or Spotify, or my own personal playlist.
Finally, there's even the fact that I could use a voice recognition app' on my phone...

In a nutshell, it's really hard for me to see any situation where the "smart speaker thingy" itself becomes interesting.
Now, of course I'm not into voice recognition in the first place: I don't find this means of interaction with technology to be particularly attractive or even easy. I'm a visual kind of guy who likes to see what he's doing so it would take very specific situations for me to be interested in these devices (for example, If the lights are off in the room, or if I'm momentarily disabled/encumbered for some reason).
Which might, in the end, be what this topic really is about: we're talking about using different senses to interact with technology. Ultimately, while I'm willing to believe that some people like using their voice, I'm inclined to think that most will go for a visual interface most of the time.

Also, I would tend to think that what makes these new devices interesting is how they can centralize/manage other devices/applications, rather than the type of interface itself. In other words, a touchscreen having access to the internet and all of one's devices would probably be just as interesting. As a matter of fact, an app' on a tablet would probably suffice, rather than having a device dedicated to being an interface.

Anyway, this was a long and boring way of explaining why:

Quote

I mean, that's not even remotely worth the hassle of buying one of these devices and taking the five minutes it takes to set it all up. Nope. You'd have to be mad. Or Just Extremely Fucking Lazy!

Well yeah, this is my take on it. With the major difference that I think this is the opposite of laziness: seeking an easier/quicker way to interact with your home technology seems like work to me, on the contrary. And I very much doubt it only takes 5 minutes to set it all up.
Of course, from the start this thread was biased, because by calling your device a "thingy" it strongly implied that it was useless and put the burden of proof on you to prove its usefulness. Something that I think is rather difficult, because this is not about true usefulness, at least not yet. Although if you think it really is useful, I'd still be genuinely curious to know how...
 

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26 minutes ago, polishgenius said:

And I mean, for those who find it helpful, fair play to you, but I can see very few situations in which I'd benefit from Alexa or Google Home, and many many ways in which I'd find it frustrating and irritating trying to use it, so why would I splash out 80 quid or whatever on it? The same is gonna go for most people who don't have one.

Yeah, it's very much a luxury item, and I fully understand people's reluctance to pay 80 quid for such a thing. 

I, however, am already deep into a journey that began, years ago, with the purchase a Logitech Harmony universal remote. And so, long after banishing the nightmare of the six different remotes needed to control my home entertainment setup, I find myself hopelessly lost in the embrace of our new, smarthome controlling, AI overlords. 

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24 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

It seems to me that your proposition is rather fallacious here. You start with a setup that is not optimal since your speakers and your source(s) of music are in two different rooms and unconnected ; for people who care about these things in the first place, this is a highly unlikely setup.

Where did I say that my source of music is unconnected from my speakers? I've got shelves and shelves of CDs (that I basically haven't touched in years) in my living room, where my receiver and big speakers are. My PC, which is in my bedroom, has nearly a hundred gigs of music on it. This is where I spend most of my time, working, and, incidentally, listening to the most music. And it was all connected, wirelessly, long before Alexa showed up.

 

24 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

Now, of course I'm not into voice recognition in the first place: I don't find this means of interaction with technology to be particularly attractive or even easy.

This is why it's probably not worth us continuing this discussion.

Edited by Spockydog

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I am way older than most people on this board and I have also never been an early adopter of new technology. I doubt if I will ever have something like Alexa unless when I get really old and decrepit I have to move to an assisted living facility which will automatically have them in every room.

I guess my one worry about society in general and all of these electronic devices is their effect on our physical health. This is NOT just an issue with "smart speakers" but with a lot of way older things I myself do regularly use -- such as the TV remote control. At the beginning of humankind's use of technological "labor-saving" devices, a lot of the labor saved was heavy labor which could sometimes be bad for one's health instead of good. But I am a bit concerned with the idea that we have now moved way beyond that era and the "labor" we are saving is mostly moderate or mild exercise which is good for our bodies and our health. The party of Spockydog's post above about his using his device which concerns me is the loss of those 100 to 120 steps he takes in order to get to his computer. That may not seem like much, but the loss of little incidental bits of exercise like that every day really does contribute to the modern problem of obesity and lack of health (even people who are not obese are generally healthier if they are not complete "couch potatoes" in terms of exercise.)

So if one is going to be losing those steps every day, one has to be consciously aware of the need to replace them with other forms of exercise. There are some people who have a genetic constitution where they have a high "activity level" and will constantly be jumping up and moving their bodies without thinking about it, whether or not they have an Alexa type device. But for most of us, it will take conscious effort to replace the "labor" we save with these devices with other forms of exercise for it not to be detrimental to our health. (This is why I think those desks where one can stand instead of sit while working at them are probably a very good thing.) Certainly if one is going to have something like an Alexa, it would be a really good idea to have one of things you program into it reminders to exercise. 

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Another funny anecdote is that my aunt got my grandma one in her assisted living apartment and she keeps forgetting what to call it.  So she'll call it random names for 20 minutes before taking another 10 minutes to get her walker, walk to the front desk, ask the girl there what the name of her 'thing' is, then walk back and tell it to do something she doesn't really need it to do, like add something to a grocery list she'll never go shopping for. 

I just picture this old lady shouting random names at her coffee table waiting for it to acknowledge her and find it hilarious.

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14 minutes ago, aceluby said:

Another funny anecdote is that my aunt got my grandma one in her assisted living apartment and she keeps forgetting what to call it.  So she'll call it random names for 20 minutes before taking another 10 minutes to get her walker, walk to the front desk, ask the girl there what the name of her 'thing' is, then walk back and tell it to do something she doesn't really need it to do, like add something to a grocery list she'll never go shopping for. 

I just picture this old lady shouting random names at her coffee table waiting for it to acknowledge her and find it hilarious.

Why hasn't anybody just taped a note with it's name to it?

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21 minutes ago, TrueMetis said:

Why hasn't anybody just taped a note with it's name to it?

No idea, she lives 1,000 miles away and heard the story through my wife.  Just thought it was funny.

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Thread OP Thesis: Smart Speaker? More like Fart Squeaker

Antithesis: I like Smart Speaker

Synthesis: Smart Speaker for some is Fart Squeaker for others

 

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I don't have one yet but I honestly believe they are going to be as common as telephones in the future.  Iphones were very much a toy at first yet now they are standard issue with many businesses.  I believe this tech will take longer to become standard but I see bluetooth tech in almost everything now; thermostats, lights, appliances, entertainment devices.  

Gone will be lost TV remotes.  With the rise of online grocery shopping one could just say their list and then tell the speaker to send it.  Tied to something like a smart phone a crockpot could be started at just the right time, uber can be ordered for grandma because her car broke down and she barely can figure out her cell phone, etc.  I don't think we have even cracked the possibilities of what this tech will offer. 

For those with mobility issues I see this being a godsend; independent living will be available for longer than ever as even simple tasks like turning off lights can be done from one spot and who knows what complex tasks will become available as technology moves along.

I see no need for one for myself right now, but I can't deny that I am excited to see where this particular technology goes; I see it as one the key techs for the next generation. 

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1 hour ago, larrytheimp said:

Thread OP Thesis: Smart Speaker? More like Fart Squeaker

Antithesis: I like Smart Speaker

Synthesis: Smart Speaker for some is Fart Squeaker for others

 

Yeah... this became much more personal and caustic than I thought it would.

I am the first to admit that I suffer from selective anti-consumerism-syndrome. :P When it comes to my kids wanting a PlayStation 4, they are an unnecessary excess that dulls the brain, destroys creativity and stops kids playing outside.

When it comes to new shoes, they are an essential item that our ancestors threw off their agrarian ways to produce in shiny boxes and it would be losing not to buy them.

Which, again, is a lackadaisical viewpoint that I hope people don't read too much into. I have shuddered a little reading through this thread, far more value judgements than I thought, but also I have to admit that I didn't exactly establish a neutral viewpoint to work within.

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27 minutes ago, Yukle said:

Yeah... this became much more personal and caustic than I thought it would.

Indeed. Would have been much simpler if you'd just stated your intention to debunk the validity of anyone claiming to have had a positive experience with such a device. Because that's basically what happened.

 

Edited by Spockydog

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4 hours ago, Ormond said:

I am way older than most people on this board and I have also never been an early adopter of new technology. I doubt if I will ever have something like Alexa unless when I get really old and decrepit I have to move to an assisted living facility which will automatically have them in every room.

I think you're wrong here, not because I know you better than you know you, but because of the speed of technology. We're probably not very far away from things like voice activated stoves, toasters, microwaves, coffee pots etc., and once that happens there will be a strong and quick push to have centralized household voice activating systems, so one could say start the stove in their kitchen and turn on the TV in the living room from their bedroom through an intercom. It will be 2001 light. Maybe you will avoid it, but it will be everywhere.

Quote

I guess my one worry about society in general and all of these electronic devices is their effect on our physical health. This is NOT just an issue with "smart speakers" but with a lot of way older things I myself do regularly use -- such as the TV remote control. At the beginning of humankind's use of technological "labor-saving" devices, a lot of the labor saved was heavy labor which could sometimes be bad for one's health instead of good. But I am a bit concerned with the idea that we have now moved way beyond that era and the "labor" we are saving is mostly moderate or mild exercise which is good for our bodies and our health. The party of Spockydog's post above about his using his device which concerns me is the loss of those 100 to 120 steps he takes in order to get to his computer. That may not seem like much, but the loss of little incidental bits of exercise like that every day really does contribute to the modern problem of obesity and lack of health (even people who are not obese are generally healthier if they are not complete "couch potatoes" in terms of exercise.)

So if one is going to be losing those steps every day, one has to be consciously aware of the need to replace them with other forms of exercise. There are some people who have a genetic constitution where they have a high "activity level" and will constantly be jumping up and moving their bodies without thinking about it, whether or not they have an Alexa type device. But for most of us, it will take conscious effort to replace the "labor" we save with these devices with other forms of exercise for it not to be detrimental to our health. (This is why I think those desks where one can stand instead of sit while working at them are probably a very good thing.) Certainly if one is going to have something like an Alexa, it would be a really good idea to have one of things you program into it reminders to exercise. 

I totally agree with you, but I think the 100 steps here or there will only be a part of the problem. Online shopping has made life a lot more convenient for many people, and in doing so has significantly reduced the amount of exercise people get on a daily basis. I can have no food or forms of entertainment in my house on a rainy day and I can remedy this now without ever having to leave the house. Think of all the steps lost by not going out to the stores to shop for food and a movie, for instance. Devices like Alexa make this even easier than it already is, and I suspect the device can become quite addictive. 

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2 minutes ago, Spockydog said:

Indeed. Would have much simpler if you'd just stated your intention to debunk the validity of anyone's experience with such a device. Because that's basically what happened.

 

It's also completely ok for someone to question technology dude, no need to play the martyr 

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31 minutes ago, SkynJay said:

I don't have one yet but I honestly believe they are going to be as common as telephones in the future.  Iphones were very much a toy at first yet now they are standard issue with many businesses.  I believe this tech will take longer to become standard but I see bluetooth tech in almost everything now; thermostats, lights, appliances, entertainment devices.  

Gone will be lost TV remotes.  With the rise of online grocery shopping one could just say their list and then tell the speaker to send it.  Tied to something like a smart phone a crockpot could be started at just the right time, uber can be ordered for grandma because her car broke down and she barely can figure out her cell phone, etc.  I don't think we have even cracked the possibilities of what this tech will offer. 

For those with mobility issues I see this being a godsend; independent living will be available for longer than ever as even simple tasks like turning off lights can be done from one spot and who knows what complex tasks will become available as technology moves along.

I see no need for one for myself right now, but I can't deny that I am excited to see where this particular technology goes; I see it as one the key techs for the next generation. 

I like grocery shopping.  I’d never pay someone to do it for me.  I really hope online grocery shoping doesn’t supplant regular grocery stores.

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32 minutes ago, SkynJay said:

I don't have one yet but I honestly believe they are going to be as common as telephones in the future.  Iphones were very much a toy at first yet now they are standard issue with many businesses.  I believe this tech will take longer to become standard but I see bluetooth tech in almost everything now; thermostats, lights, appliances, entertainment devices.

They should never have been marketed as Smart Speakers. Yes, the device features a speaker, but that's really not what it is. 

This early marketing failure is at least partly to blame for people scoffing at the very idea of using an Amazon Echo to link up some kind of bogus, totally fallacious (I mean, WTF?) music listening hardware scenario. A scenario so bizarre that people are unable to countenance the need for some kind of quick and easy automated linkage. I mean, how can a stupid bloody speaker be more powerful than my iphone? Look, I can pull it out of my pocket, and with several taps and swipes and just a little bit of waiting, I can use two or three different apps in order to complete tasks that stupid Alexa can perform with nothing but the information contained in one, concise, clearly spoken sentence. Bah!

 

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