What are your thoughts on smart home assistants?


#1

This Christmas, my mom was gifted her first smart home assistant - an Amazon Echo Dot. We spent lots of time getting it set up and messing around with all the features it has to offer. My favorite feature was definitely getting Alexa to play any song I wanted, therefore annoying my entire family with my constant control of the music we were listening to :sunglasses: :musical_note:

We all started looking up ways that Alexa could help my mom around her house. Mainly getting smart plugs for her lights and simple things like that. She started to get excited about how useful this small device would actually be for her.

Maybe it’s just me, but this made me realize that 2019 definitely feels like the year of the smart home. There are commercials and advertisements everywhere telling us that our lives will be made easier with things like Amazon Echos, Google Homes, and so on. Although I personally don’t have any of these fancy devices in my own home, I am curious to see how they would fit into my day to day life. After chatting with some folks here around the office, it probably comes as no surprise that many people here at Republic have at least one type of smart home integration set up in their house, or even multiple. We’re all about the latest technology!

The more I talked with everyone, I started to wonder what the general consensus is on this topic as a whole. As someone who may be looking into getting myself a Google Home someday soon, I want to know more about some of the interesting things I could use it for.

So, with that I want to pose a few questions.

  1. Do you have a smart home assistant?

  2. If yes, which one(s) & what do you use it for?

  3. If no, what are your reasons for not getting one?

  4. Do you think smart home assistants are cool, creepy, or both?

I welcome any and all advice for making the best use of my future smart assistant! It’s probably about time for me to fully step into 2019 and join the smart home movement :house:


#2

No I don’t have one annd I do not I want one

I don’t want anything or one listening in to me at all time of the day there enough of big brother watch us as is

they can do some cool stuff but nothing that can not be done with a push of a button somewhere, and I find the always listening to be on the creepy side


#3

Thanks for sharing! I definitely feel you on the listening part. When my mom opened her new Echo Dot, the first thing my sister said was “It’s going to hear every word you say”, to which my mom responded “And your point is?” haha, so it’s definitely a personal choice how you feel about those things. I don’t mind as much, but it’s definitely something to be aware of.


#4

Woohoo! Smart Home hype train!

As you can probably guess, I am all-in when it comes to smart-home tech. I have multiple Echo devices throughout my house, as well as a couple Google Home devices. In addition to that, several of my TVs are smart-TVs, several of my outlets & light switches are WiFi-connected, and I have several Nest smart-home products throughout the house.

For most use-cases, I prefer Alexa over the Google Assistant. My Echo devices tend to recognize my voice better & they tend to give better answers to my questions (this is subjective, of course). I am able to control my We-Mo switches and outlets via both platforms - I use these for things like turning on the lights in my office & bedroom, as well as controlling the ceiling fan in my bedroom. It is super helpful when I’m out of town. I can schedule the lights to come on and turn off at random times to make it seem like I’m home.

I also have Nest thermostats, so asking Alexa or Google Assistant to change the temperature is super convenient. While it is just as easy to do via the Nest app, I enjoy being able to make adjustments without having to pick up my phone - especially during tech downtime. I also have multiple Nest Cameras (and a Nest doorbell) throughout the house. This is one area where my Google Home Hub comes in handy, since it has a screen on it. If someone rings my doorbell, the video stream immediately pops up on my Home Hub so I can decide if I need/want to get up to answer the door. I can even talk to the person at the door if I want to.

My absolute favorite aspect of my Echo is the ambient sound skill. I like having ambient sounds playing while I sleep, so I make good use of the Echo every night.

I don’t really worry about the possibility of the device (or people on the other end of the device) listening in on me. If someone has that much time & boredom on their hands, more power to them. Frankly, we already have a ton of electronics in our homes that have microphones on them & could listen to you anytime they want, so having the smart-speakers isn’t really any different. But, I do recognize that some people may be uncomfortable with the idea. For me, the convenience factor outweighed the creepy factor. :man_shrugging:t2:


#5

No

I don’t like to talk.

Creepy


#6

You’re definitely the winner for the most devices I have ever heard of having in your home! You definitely make some great points, but I think my favorite to note is your tech downtown callout. I didn’t even think about the fact that having those devices can definitely help keep you off of your phone, which is always a win in my book. I could see myself using it for most of what you have listed. I will say the most savvy one is your nest doorbell hookup. The introvert in me loves that idea :blush:


#7
  1. I’ve had Echo’s (Alexa devices) since the first beta model was introduced in November 2014. Now I have one in every room and in the travel trailer. In one room 2 devices.
  2. In the bedrooms, it turns the lights on and off. Plays music until I go to sleep, then turns itself off. Used as an alarm it wakes me up. While still groggy I’ll ask “Alexa, what’s going on in the world?” She gives me a flash briefing and the local weather. I can also use it to call my daughter, “Alexa call [etc.]” without getting my phone out. In the kitchen, the Echo Show with a 7" screen lets me have face to face calls with my grandkids. She also makes great cooking timer (Alexa set a timer for 20 minutes). I can ask her for the current weather conditions, or “how’s the commute to NYC?” When watching TV we can easily get trivia answers by asking questions like "how old is [name your actor], etc. I can even pull up a security camera on the TV screen, “Alexa, show me the backyard camera.” In the den, a second Dot is hooked up to my surround system, also connected to a WEMO switch (to turn it on and off.) Then I can say, "Alexa turn on the amplifier, and play Led Zepplin, and I’ll get the music through the surround system instead of the little speaker. Things like that.
  3. Probably wouldn’t buy another until one of these quits working or until we add another room to the house.
  4. No, I don’t think they’re creepy. Your Republic phone can track your locations and let Google know what you’ve been shopping for. The key is knowing how to use them.

#8

I have a Google Home Mini. I really haven’t dove into all the smart home devices yet. I really want a WiFi connected thermostat like a nest, but with having my cell phone within arms reach 24/7 I only really use the Google Home Mini to play music from. I bought it as a toy because I am an electronics nerd.


#9

No.

I use my smart phone as an assistant, no need for another device.

I think they can be useful for some, not so much for others. I don’t consider them creepy, or cool (well not more than Smart Phone cool) I also don’t have a privacy issue with them. I could be wrong, but it is my understanding that while true they listen all the time, it is listening for the key phrases before it does anything. Isn’t that just like “Hey Google” on our phones? Listening till it hears the catch phrase?


#10

We have one Echo and several Echo Dots sprinkled around the house.

We mostly use the Echo for music, play jeopardy and control smart switches or quick weather or misc info.

The Echo Dots are mostly used as very expensive alarms.

I had set up one of the Echo Dots in my older car that didn’t have bluetooth built-in. That was an interesting experiment but data-hungry so had to abandon that setup.

The idea of something “listening” all the time is creepy…but we mute the Echos from time to time when we feel them encroaching.

Overall it is a cool concept and the voice recognition is mostly well implemented.

We’ve disabled all voice-based ordering…so don’t have to worry about accidental purchases.


#11

Really cool to hear you’ve had an Echo for that long! Seems like just yesterday when they made their introduction to the market. It sounds like you have some awesome day-to-day uses for yours. I can definitely see myself using it for checking the weather. I really like that you can ask it what’s going on in the world for a quick news rundown before you start your day, all without having to look at a screen.


#12

We don’t have one, and I think they’re super creepy. I think the technology is impressive, but I don’t want to have the always listening speaker in my home. Amazon and Google have enough data on me, so I’m in no hurry to give them another way to learn about me. I’m also really concerned about the security of smart devices. I try to keep the number of “internet of things” items in the house as close to 0 as I can.

The only smart product I use regularly is Android Auto, and with that I’ve got the settings to allow it a bare minimum of access.

The older I get, the more concerned I am with over connectivity.


#13

I have an Amazon Echo Dot, which I keep in a battery/speaker base. It’s also connected to a Bluetooth receiver so I can listen to music on my big speakers. I like it with Audible for audiobooks, too. I watch a lot of TV, and ask it questions about cast members, etc.

I’m not really concerned about it listening, because I rarely talk while I’m alone, so it’s not gonna hear anything interesting. Sometimes I worry when it hears something like it’s wake word, and then listens to some murdery thing I have on Netflix. :joy:

My main use for it is turning lights on and off. I love getting all settled into bed and then telling it to turn off the lights once I’m situated and comfy. If I happen to wake up, I’ll ask it the time. Weather is also handy. I even wished Alexa a Happy Valentines Day, and she had a sweet reply!


#14
  1. We have multiple Google Home Minis and a 3rd party Google Assistant product from Best Buy
  2. We’re all in on smarthome tech. Our lights, locks, thermostats, smoke detectors, sump pump, alarm system, garage door openers, and outside security cameras are all connected by either wifi or Z-wave and are largely controllable by voice (or app). (And yes, I’ve seen the relevant X-Files episode).
  3. Based on the above list, what do you think?

#15

I am a fellow true crime lover as well! Sounds like you’ve got the basics down for how you like to use your Dot. I feel I would probably be doing pretty much all of what you have listed here, especially the convenience of getting all comfortable in bed and then turning the lights off. Now that sounds heavenly!


#16

Do share any recommendations!
My recent favs on Netflix were - River, Shetland (had to go to Amazon Prime to get season 4), Broadchurch


#17

We have Echo Dot devices throughout our home; there is almost nowhere inside that we won’t be heard by one. Along with various direct connect speakers and Bluetooth speakers for music, we use them as alarm clock and kitchen timers, flash briefing news, lots of questions, and turning lights and fans on and off.

However, my wife and I are both over 70, and if we need help we can either say “Alexa, broadcast SomeMessage” or, “Alexa, call MyNeighbor.” We love the calling function just for making telephone calls; it makes a great speakerphone, and if I’ve ever “fallen and can’t get up,” I can still communicate throughout the house or on a phone call.

Everyone is aware, I hope, that the device isn’t sending what you say out on the Internet unless you speak the wake word “Alexa” or “OK Google,” and then it transmits what it hears just for a few seconds.


#18
  1. Do you have a smart home assistant?
    Yes, have Echo Dot and Echo Show

  2. If yes, which one(s) & what do you use it for? Echo Dot is in bedroom and use it to listen to music. I use the Echo Show to see and talk to who’s at front door. It does this with Ring doorbell. I can also ask it to show my 3 Blink cameras. It will also arm or disarm. I also play music, set timers, reminders, find recipes. It can also control my TV, while integrating with Dish Network. I also can turn off and on lights in living and dining room. I can tell it to read certain sections of the Bible with no problem. It can find and recite your favorite devotionals. I also can easily do video calling with my daughter. She just needs the Alexa app on her smartphone and I use my Echo Show.

  3. If no, what are your reasons for not getting one?

  4. Do you think smart home assistants are cool, creepy, or both? I love it. I’m listening to a basket ball game with the Show right now. It’s cool. And it’s not listening unless you say the wake word and/ or allow it to stay on to answer a follow-up question.


#19

My recommendation: Buy one.


#20
  1. Do you have a smart home assistant?
    Yes, I have an Echo Plus that was given to me as a gift.

  2. If yes, which one(s) & what do you use it for?
    Echo Plus… After I got it, I looked for reasons to use it. But eventually gave up, and now it just sits never being interacted with.
    I should say, I am a bit hard of hearing… A moderate amount of high-frequency hearing loss that is not uncommon for us of 60+ years.
    Because of my hearing loss, I find it important in ANY speaker to be able to equalize it’s audio…
    With the Echo Plus, I wanted to boost its high and mid-range, and lower its bass output… But I found that there was no way to do this with the Echo Plus. I asked Amazon for technical help… they basically said “sorry, it can’t… maybe we’ll have it do that in the future”. So they were no help.
    But secondly, even if I turn it’s volume up and listen very close to the speaker, I can only comprehend about 25-50% of what Alexa is saying… partly because of the poorly computerized voice (that often pronounces things with stress on the wrong syl-LAB-les), and partly because the speaker quality seems so poor.
    The other problem I found with the Echo Plus and Alexa, is that about 2/3 of the time I ask Alexa for some information, she doesn’t understand what I’m asking, or just gives me an “I’m sorry, I don’t have that information”. Very frustrating to communicate with when she doesn’t understand me, and I can’t tell what she’s saying.
    We did use the Echo Plus as a bluetooth speaker when both my wife and I were Skypeing with our daughter, because my PC doesn’t have speakers, I normally just use a headset or headphones… and it was useful there.
    But now I no longer use it, and will probably just deactivate it.
    I have a small amount of home automation… I have some wirelessly controlled lights that are automated, but those are on a Hue hub, and so the Echo isn’t needed there.
    I have a Lux Kono thermostat… but I rarely do anything automated with it… I find it easier to control it manually almost all the time.
    I have outdoor low-voltage lighting, that I installed and wired… but those are entirely controlled via daylight detectors and AC timers.

  3. If no, what are your reasons for not getting one?
    Knowing what I know now, I would only get one once I’d verified its speaker quality, and that it had some way to equalize the audio, to use mostly for playing music.
    I wouldn’t get one as a ‘voice-interactive assistant’, because to me it’s just easier to look up information on my smartphone using google.
    And 99% of what it seems to do is just gimicky.

  4. Do you think smart home assistants are cool, creepy, or both?
    Neither… Basically another way for corporations to make money by making us think that we need ■■■■, when we don’t.