From Alexa to Siri to “Hey Google” and more, voice assistants are talking, responding and helping out nearly 112 million people in the United States each month, according to eMarketer. With just your voice, you can request the current weather conditions and the latest news, turn on an alarm and turn it off again, set your thermostat, play music and call your best friend—thanks to the support of these now ubiquitous devices. In addition, people with disabilities can enjoy greater independence since voice assistants can control lights, equipment and appliances, determine the right dose and timing of medication, for example.
Employing speech-recognition technology, voice assistants are another form of artificial intelligence (or AI) that are engineered to behave like the humans they emulate and support. Siri, which was quickly picked up by Apple, was the first on the scene about a decade ago. We now use voice assistants in our cars and our kitchens, at the office and in most every room of our homes.
You can find a voice assistant on your smartphone, of course, but they are also now popping up everywhere from watches to TVs to speakers to cars.
The upside to voice assistants is pretty clear: They can personalize and streamline information and experiences. They can increase productivity and keep you on schedule. They can simplify daily tasks and order you a pizza. They can motivate you to exercise. And, frankly, they are kind of fun (most of them, for example, will tell you a decent knock-knock joke, when asked).
On the other hand, many people justly have privacy concerns when it comes to personalized technology that knows your favorite brand of toothpaste and your bank information. Further, the more dependent we become on technology, the more likely we are to forget how to do certain tasks on our own. Naturally, while voice assistants can be helpful in many ways, they cannot actually unload your groceries and put them away or fold the laundry. And, those who live in more rural areas may struggle with signal strength.
If you have not already experimented with a voice assistant of your own, a smartphone is a great place to start. Pose a question and enjoy the beauty of a quick response. As the options for voice and virtual assistants expand, so, too, will the tasks they can manage and the information they can share.
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