Light, turn on”

Matt Webb writes, in How I would put voice control in everything:

Because it is really appealing to me to turn on a light, set the stove timer, play music, pause the TV, snooze an alarm etc just by saying something. What’s not cool is

  • having a device in my home that harvests every sound in the house and sends it to cloud servers for eternal recording, or not, who knows and that’s the point – an audio panopticon dressed in plastic
  • needing to remember arcane vocal syntaxes
  • latency.

I was an early “smart” speaker adopter, and our collection has grown to two Alexas (one in the office, one at home) and three Google Homes (one at the office, one in the kitchen, one in Oliver’s room). Like Matt, I’m uncomfortable with the audio panopticon I’ve visited upon myself.

After three years, our use of these devices boils down to three simple things:

  1. Listening to Spotify (“Alexa, play some music” or “OK Google, play Lost Words Blessing”). Half a dozen times a day.
  2. Turning on and off the television and the lights in the living room (“Alexa, turn on the television,” “Alexa, turn off the yellow lamp”).
  3. Casual mathematics (“OK Google, what’s 1749 divided by two,” “OK Google, how many days ago was January 24”).

That’s it. I haven’t used any of the “skills” or “actions” that Amazon and Google and related third parties have created in a long time. I never did, really.

All of the above I could accomplish, with slightly more friction, otherwise: I could play Spotify to a Bluetooth speaker from my phone, I could turn the TV and lights on and off as our ancestors did, and I could learn to do math in my head. But, my behaviour suggests, I am unlikely to do this, having given up all of my audio privacy to eliminate the friction.

I would really like to be able to say “light, turn on” and have that be a relationship between me and the light, and not between me and the world’s largest retailer and/or the world’s largest advertising platform.


Nick's picture
Nick on May 28, 2020 - 08:24 Permalink

I recently got a Hubitat home hub that runs home automation locally rather than in the cloud. It’s been an interesting learning curve. I think it has the potential to tie into Mycroft and thus, make yourself independent of large megacorps.