Lately companies have been figuring out ways to get more invested in our lives—home robots are their response. Three main companies that have created home robots are Google, Amazon and most recently, Apple. These home robots, also called home/voice assistants or smart speakers, can do many tasks, from playing music to keeping you organized and informed with up-to-date weather and news. They can even tell jokes.
These home robots vary in both price and aesthetic design. The Apple HomePod and the Amazon Echo look similar to portable speakers, while the Google Home Max slightly resembles a free-standing air freshener. All of these home robots are offered in different colors, so they will match whatever room in which they are placed. One of the main uses of these products is as a home speaker. The Google and Amazon home robots can play music from different platforms such as Spotify and Pandora, however the Apple HomePod only plays music from Apple Music, your iTunes music purchases, and Apple podcasts.
With these home robots come many questions. Are they always listening? Are they recording everything that I say? Are they spying on me?! While it may seem slightly creepy and maybe even scary, these home robots are always listening, but they are only listening for their “wake-up” command, such as “Alexa,” “Okay, Google,” and “Hey, Siri.” Once the device is awake, the home robot records whatever is being said and sends the recording to a server to process the audio and prepare a response. A rumor went around stating that Amazon was listening in on conversations to gain data on what advertisements their Echo device should play for customers. Amazon came forward right away claiming that they do not use the voice recordings of their customers.
One slight issue with the smart speakers is that anyone can control your device by saying the wake-up command. In 2017, a young girl “accidentally” ordered $170 worth of cookies and a dollhouse from her Amazon Echo. There are also many stories of these home robots being “woken up” by television characters, actors in commercials, and even news anchors. But like many things, you have to do your research beforehand and see if these smart speakers are for you. While you should not put your whole life in the hands of these home robots, they can make everyday tasks easier.