Voice Assistant for The Home Office

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Alexa

We’ve all been in the position where we wish we could have a personal assistant while working from home. Someone to take messages, organise meetings and someone to ask questions and get them answered straight away. As close to reality as we can get at the moment is by having a ‘virtual’ voice assistant for the home office.

Of the several on the market, the most popular are Alexa by Amazon, Google Assistant and Siri from Apple. But which one is best for helping out in the home office?

A lot of the decision will be made by which one you prefer or which one you have been using up until now. If you have an i-phone or i-pad you will, of course be used to using Siri. If you have an android phone then you’ll be used to using Google Assistant. The one which lags behind on this front is the Amazon Echo which, of course does not have their own phone.

That’s not to say it will be the over-riding decision, but I am sure Apple consumers are fiercely protective of the Apple brand and tend to stick to the same brand buying up whatever they release. I use an i-Phone and i-Pad but when it came to buying a voice assistant I plumped for the Amazon Alexa.

The advantage that the Amazon Alexa has is the integration with other devices, whether its smart sockets, lights, central heating or camera’s. These can all be controlled via Alexa either by issuing commands or by setting up routines on the Alexa App. As an example, I have my Alexa set up to make me up at 7am every work day morning, by switching on the bedroom lights, telling me the news headlines for the day, the weather and then playing the local radio station. If you had an Alexa controlled electric blind unit (and I know you can get them) alexa could even open the curtains for you too. Siri, at this point I will add, does not have that level of control outwith other Apple devices and neither does Google Assistant.

 

Range Of Devices

As well as the Echo dot (pictured above) Alexa have a range of products from the cheapest plug in Alexa Echo Flex to their Latest Echo Show Echo Show10 which comes with a 10 inch screen.

This model actually rotates to follow you round the room, so for example, if you were cooking in the kitchen, you could watch a recipe or catch up on the latest Netflix series while you are moving about. It would also be very good for video calls.

This, of course, doesn’t help when it comes to the home office and the Echo Show would be overkill. A simple Echo dot would suffice.

As well as the Echo show 10 they also have both an 8 and 5 inch version (not rotating) as well as Echo dots (now onto version 4- although personally I prefer V.3 ) and even an Echo studio with high quality audio. I have found that the quality coming from the later versions of the Echo dot are good enough to listen to. If you are into higher end audio then I would recommend pairing them up with Sonos speakers – you can even get a sonos speaker with Alexa and Google Assistant built in already.

The Google Assistant comes in similar standalone versions – the google home mini – which looks like a small pebble (4 inches wide by 2 inches tall) and the Google home which looks like an air diffuser (approximately 4 inches wide by 6 inches tall) and both come in a range of colours. They also have two versions with screens 7″ and 10″.

Apple on the other hand, given they already have i-phones and i-pads, do not require to have models with screens so have two models, namely the home pod and home pod mini.

A Straight Fight

Google

So if you had the three models – for this test it was an Echo dot, a google home mini and an Apple home pod mini – in a room, which one is going to come out on top?

If we ask Alexa, Google and Siri twenty random questions regarding sports and general trivia then the one which comes out the winner is the Alexa which answered the most questions as well as giving some additional background info while the Google device came in a close second. Apple device came in third.

 

All the devices are able to make calls to those in your contacts which is a crucial to those needing a virtual assistant. Siri lets you make calls and send texts. On the phone, siri will also allow you to “write” emails and text messages as well as read them back to you.

Google also allows you to make calls to contacts but not text messages however. It does allow you to make international calls – but you do need to have a Google Fi account or Google Voice account with available credit.

Alexa, on the other hand, allows you to call and send messages to any other Alexa user in your contact list as well as calls to phone numbers. They also have a neat feature where you can “drop-in” on other Echo devices in your home like an intercom as well as making announcements across all devices in the home (useful for when dinner is ready!). If you have an Echo show – you can even video call people using Skype.

 

And The Winner Is…………

 

I’m going to stick my neck firmly out here and say that, and I have to stress this – for me, the winner is Alexa. I just find the integration with home automation and other compatible devices quite good (I’m not saying it is without its problems – and can sometimes be VERY frustrating when they don’t work). Although I really like the simplicity or Apple devices and their interfaces usually blow everything else out of the water, I think that they have a bit of catching up to do, and in another couple of years they may well have overtaken both Amazon and Google with their own smart devices but for now, they still have a bit to go. Google I like, but, I have reservations – I don’t even know why but as a company who has made a lot of money out of storing information about users I am just a bit wary!

At the end of the day, it will come down to personal choice, whether its brand loyalty or on the particular aesthetics of the device models or functionality then you will know which one your prefer. The rate at which all three of these devices are developing would suggest that there will be very little to choose between them. Like so many products before it is unfortunate that there is not an industry standard which makes all devices cross compatible (don’t get me started on the VHS / Betamax debate again, please!!!) with each other and 3rd party devices too.

Do you have a favourite assistant device which you use, and do you use it as a personal assistant while working from home? I would love to hear your opinion so please drop me a comment and get in touch.

 

Take Care,

 

Dave

 

Simple wfh

4 thoughts on “Voice Assistant for The Home Office”

  1. Reading this article made me think about the meme I saw recently “Siri, why do I have so many problems with women?” voice assistant replies. “You are talking to Alexa”.  We have explored the possibility of adding a voice assistant to our home. Our biggest concern is having all of our conversations being recorded. Alexa is a good option and I can see how it would help increase productivity especially in a home office environment.

    Reply
    • Hi Rich,

      Haha I can see why that would be a problem, nice joke! Yes, I agree, I know that Amazon at least have tried to address concerns about recording conversations, and Apple have always seemed to be proactive when it comes to personal data concerns. 

      Alexa does seem to be the best both with connectivity and general knowledge questions.

      Thanks for your input,

      Take care,

      Dave

      Reply
  2. Wow, I must say that the Echo Show is truly amazing, definitely a step in the right direction towards the future. I love this product as I can command it to play my favorite podcasts or tv shows and even cook a meal with me step by step. It might not be an ideal home office assistant but has definitely sparked my interest in the other tasks that it can perform.

    Reply
    • Hi Jean,

      I like the Echo Show but agree, it would just be too distracting in a home office environment being able to stream Netflix as well as Amazon Prime movies and series! It’s tough enough as it is to concentrate. 

      Will stick to the Echo dot in the office, it’s for the best all round.

      Thanks for your input,

      Take care,

      Dave

      Reply

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