Google Home can now recognize more than one voice. Which means, anyone in the house can use it to activate the lights. Not just your Dad. But why is this important? Because it’s something that Alexa doesn’t have. Or at least not yet. And the bigger reason, as I just mentioned, is that anyone can use it in the house. But is that really a good thing? On one hand, it opens up the possibilities for everyone in the house, but on the other hand it means anyone can do anything. Right?
It is a bit of a double edged sword. Let’s think about it from the perspective of being able to order things online through these “home” devices. Having the ability to only recognize one voice means that only one person can order. And presumably that person is an adult. So if my twelve year old can now use this home device, can they order on my behalf? And if the answer is yes, then there is a problem. But if the answer is no, then we’re ok. Meaning, there are safe guards in place that are going to stop certain people from being able to use it for these purposes. On the other hand, can my kids use it to turn on the lights? I’m hoping, and guessing that there is a way to identify the voice profile and include or exclude certain rights within the system.
Continuing on this idea of making purchases without your consent. Not only do children end up ordering things, but there was one report that a news reporter repeated a line that a child asked to Alexa, and many Alexa users who were watching that broadcast, ended up with that order. This isn’t the norm, but it leads to you wonder what can and can’t be done with these devices. Or better yet, what should and shouldn’t be done with these devices.
While these devices are a wonderful and useful tool, there still isn’t a lot of information around what could happen to your data. Or at least these haven’t been tested to any great degree in the courts. Who stores the information, if anyone? Can the information that is stored be cleared? Does Google or Amazon have the right to this information? And how could it be used otherwise. And should we actually be concerned that this data might be stored somewhere? For most of us, this likely isn’t a concern, but if the device can recognize two voices, is it potentially picking up a side conversation that you’re having in the kitchen? Where there might be sensitive information?
Getting back to the ability to differentiate voices. It is intended to roll out to customers in the United States today, but Google is saying that it’s not perfect. At least not yet. Like with anything related to technology, there are bugs and glitches that they have to work through. And maybe there are no concerns or issues with it being able to recognize more than one voice. But I tend to be a bit skeptical. Not necessarily because I don’t like the device or the idea behind the technology, but because I have a lot of questions that need to be answered. And without answers, I can’t necessarily buy in to what is being sold.
And what does this mean for Alexa? My guess is that Amazon has been working on this, and Google beat them to the punch. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I always go back to the Android vs. iOS comparison. When a new phone comes out, the other platform is surely going to have the same features. But because the one is being released a few months later, they have the advantage to be able to get a leg up on the competition. Now I’m not saying that this is coming for Alexa, but my guess is that it’s in the works. Which might give them the advantage to be able to work out the bugs in advance. I do like where this is going. I think the idea of an integrated home is really cool and I look forward to further advancements.