As a child, I was fascinated by Sci-Fi movies and futuristic world that the Jetsons lived in. The 1962 cartoon was set exactly one hundred years into the future. The family had a very utopian lifestyle; living around an orbit, holograms, flying vehicles and the best of all, Rosie the Robot Maid.
At that time, it seemed impossible to have a humanoid robot doing all your housework but those seemingly strange inventions exist now! We have Google maps, smart watches, FaceTime, drones, Roombas, flat screen TVs and even a dog treadmill that the show predicted years ago. It doesn’t seem far-fetched at all now, does it?
If my husband asks me what I want for my birthday, I will tell him straight away to get me a smart virtual assistant. If he doesn’t, I will buy myself one anyway! Smart technology is created to make our busy lives easier and convenient. There should be no guilt if you often turn to Siri for help or let a smart speaker tell a story to your kids.
Virtual assistant technology can help you with plenty of mundane and important chores around the house. There are several nifty digital assistants that have been making quite a splash in the media. If you are confused whether you should get it or not, let me help you make up your mind! Here are some of the reasons to buy a virtual assistant for your home.
1. Your Wish is its Command
Imagine you are sitting on a couch, munching on potato crisps and watching an old classic. Suddenly, you feel hot, but too lazy and engrossed in the movie to step out of your cozy spot and turn on the air-conditioner. If there is a smart assistant sitting in your house, you only have to utter a few words and the air-conditioner will turn itself on. Neat, right? Well, that’s just one example.
Users can make any query and receive a full-formed answer. You can learn about the weather conditions, traffic jams and time for your commutes, nearby restaurants, opening times of certain stores and a detailed routes and locations of landmarks. General knowledge is one that we like to use our virtual assistant for asking questions like “Can dogs eat plum?”.
The other questions we like to ask is “What’s the weather like today?” and “What are the changes of rain?”. We can then decide to dress appropriately, remember to take our umbrella or carry a jacket. It means no more getting stuck in a rain storm or stranding on a snow-covered road!
Amazon’s Echo, a smart speaker controlled by Alexa, fulfill your wishes in a jiffy. Dim the lights of your bedroom, open garage doors, play your favorite music from your playlist, make a purchase on online stores, order a ride or a pizza, or call a friend while watering your plants. You only have to set up the system to get it online with your user account and use the right commands. Link up your smart home devices, then group them or create a series of actions or routine so you can trigger multiple actions with one command. It does seem like saying a magic spell! One that you can concoct by yourself.
Amazon’s Alexa app has a very good example to get your started. “Alexa, Start my day” lets you combine, weather report, traffic and news from Flash briefing as well as adding other options like switching on the lights and turning on the coffee maker.
2. Virtual Assistants Keep You Company
Some children love bedtime stories and can’t go to sleep without hearing one. For parents, it can be tough to stick to the routine at times – when you are sick, have had a busy day or simply don’t want to read the same fairy tale for the umpteenth time.
This is where digital assistants can offer you a helping hand. Request the smart speaker to read out a story to your kids, and it will do so! Now, now, don’t feel guilty. The speaker is never going to replace you and your kids won’t hold a grudge against you. They might even be excited about their new ‘friend’.
We may not be able to have a heart to heart talk with robot, but we all love to give it a try. Ask any virtual assistant like Siri or Alexa about its day, it will give you a positive answer. If you want a little company or have trouble sleeping, they can help you out with soothing music or special ambience sound to help you wind down.
3. Breaking Language Barriers and Knowing Context
Take Apple Homepod for example. It has six different voices to choose from. I prefer the American Siri, but you can opt for a different accent. Apart from English, it knows French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, and Spanish. Another amazing thing about Homepod is that it actually tells you off for swearing! If you end up taking out your frustrations at it, it will only scold you in return. The point is you can safely use it around children.
Homepod also understands context. You will not have to repeat the specific details. For example, ‘Siri, tell me the nearest location of H&M.’ It will give you the desired response. Next you can ask, “when does it open?’. It will let you know the opening timings of H&M.
3. Wake Up on Time
I hate setting up an alarm every night for the next day. My baby tries to snatch away the phone from me and I end up confusing the am/pm. When the tiny monster finally sleeps, the alarm goes off at the wrong time! Oh, the horror!
With a support of a virtual assistant, I won’t have to go through the trouble of setting up alarms and timers. It takes care of it by hearing a short command. Tell Google Home, ‘Wake me up at 7 AM’, and it will start off an alarm on your speaker to make sure you get out of bed.
The other thing about Google Home is that it supports multiple user profiles. It can set up alarms and timers for different members of the house. Google Home knows your voice and personal preferences. It can play your favorite music, bring a thermostat to a comfortable temperature, and reminds you of upcoming event.
4. Never Forget a Loved One’s Birthday
Talking of events, with a help of a virtual assistant, you will never miss an important event like a birthday or an anniversary. I wish my husband would use one because he never remembers the dates and it is a terrible disappointment to remind him of my own birthday.
The assistant keeps tracks of all the events and meetings. You can choose to link up your Google Calendars, Microsoft (outlook.com or Office 365) Calendars or Apple iCloud Calendars. Personally, we create a separate account and calendar which then gets an invite from our own account so others in the family have sight of joint activities. It will then let you know when your dentist’s appointment is near, when you have to attend a meeting at your child’s school or when a deadline is upon your head. It is a perfect tool for those who are forgetful!
5. Keep Your Hands Free
A virtual assistant will tell you a recipe in a calming tone while you are frantically looking for a spice and stirring the spoon to keep your food from burning. Yes, no more greasy phone screen. Most of the times, I don’t reply to text messages because I am engaged elsewhere. I make a mental note to reply but eventually forget all about it. The result is a few hurt friends. Smart assistants can also type up text messages for you and send out replies in time. Just tell them what to write! I usually go to do my grocery shopping without a list. I always forget a couple of items to buy. A virtual assistant can create to-do-lists and reminders and allow you to shop peacefully without fumbling for a list in your purse.
We have only scratched the surface of the technology. There is so much more to come. With every new release, hundreds of functions and skills are added to smart home assistants. Third party developers are also building ‘skills’ that allow virtual assistants to interface with the services they offer besides smart home devices. If you wish someone can help you with the chores and automate your home, consider buying a virtual assistant.