A BBC News page caught my eye today. It focuses in on the battle between Google and Amazon for the virtual assistant ground.
Reading through the page, one question comes to mind. Is some of the technology innovation displayed at the CES 2018 Conference really necessary?
One use case mentioned in the piece is Amazon’s Alexa being fitted to a bathroom mirror, and then being able to turn on your sink tap or flush your lavatory. Another is Google Assistant being fitted to car entertainment systems.
Here’s my beef with virtual assistants. They’re really not solving the big problems.
OK I know of some people who’d die for the ability to flush a public lavatory without touching anything the great unwashed have touched before. But if you have to, is it really that big a problem?
The in car entertainment system has a practical use at least. I can see a use case for playing your favorite track without fumbling for a button on the display and taking your eye off the road.
The virtual assistant marketing makes a point that you can switch on the oven to cook your dinner 30 minutes before you arrive home. You can even tell delivery men that you’re not at home and to leave what they’re delivering in your back yard.
Useful? Perhaps, but both of these use cases have flaws.
I won’t leave any electric or gas device (except the TV or lights) switched on whilst I’m out of the house. Having a cooking device come on just seems unsafe to me. Likewise I’m really uncomfortable with telling people I don’t know that the house is empty. I mean what if they broke in and stole all my tech? What would my Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant control then?