Home Automation and Entertainment

By Nihar Kulkarni

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The growth of home automation and rapid developments in wireless smart technology has led to an increase in a wide range of smart home entertainment devices, bringing connected home ideas into
reality.

Currently we are living in the world of technology and it has become an important part of our lives. Technology has made a big impact in creating many tools and resources thus providing useful information at our fingertips. It has revolutionized the way we live, work, and play.  Earlier houses used to be packed with people and everyone would share the work at home. People used to enjoy talking directly to their neighbours, relatives, and family. However, the new generation of technology promises the same, not directly, but through smart devices like phones, watches, etc.

Nowadays we prefer living in a modern house with a small family and leading an independent lifestyle. With the help of latest innovations, we can smartly execute our work without much human intervention. We usually desire to be at home no matter where we go, as ultimately home is the place that gives us immense satisfaction and makes us happy. The time we spend with family and friends keeps the house lively. We love listening to music, dance, and play video games at home. Like humans, homes are also getting smarter with the latest smart technologies. Smart homes have become autonomous and energy efficient. The home automation products are changing the way we entertain ourselves and interact at home.

Smart Friendly Home

Smart home technology eliminates the need to walk around to adjust the audio, video, lights, temperature, etc. A single smart system, example a hub, wirelessly interacts with all the smart products at home. This system is responsive to voice and touch commands and can be controlled by a remote or a mobile device. One common Wi-Fi network will allow all the smart home products to interact and respond to voice commands.

Tech giants like Amazon, Google, and Apple have come up with smart speakers like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod, which are the best to control smart home devices through voice commands. These companies have a lot to offer and have thus made home automation a reality. We can choose the one that best suits our need.

Smart Assistant for Entertainment

Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based virtual assistant, was first used in the Amazon Echo smart speakers in 2014. This device dominated traditional speakers and radio manufacturers with its technology and ongoing advancements. The latest Amazon Echo Studio (Figure 1) is the first smart speaker with Dolby Atmos processing for multi-dimensional sound.

The Echo Studio produces the best sound experience by analysing the space of the room. This device best suits for home automation as it has an in-built ZigBee hub that controls compatible devices without the need for a separate hub. The Studio uses onboard mics to continually tune its sound in the room in which it is placed.

Fun with Alexa
Echo Studio can turn an ordinary evening in our homes to a fun filled one. Amazon Alexa has many built-in voice-based games like puzzles, mind games, funny games etc. for all age group. The entertainment company Warner Bros. created a mystery game for
Alexa called “The Wayne Investigation”. You can start the game by saying, “Alexa, open The Wayne Investigation” and follow the prompts. This game gives one of the best interactive experiences with Alexa. Many other games can be easily launched by asking Alexa to play them by name.

Alexa in Home Theatre and Lighting

At a house party, we wish to enjoy the time with family and friends rather than running around to adjust lights, TV, music, or temperature. This time and effort can be eliminated by placing an Echo Studio to control the home products. 

Movies entertain us, and we all love to have the cinematic experience at home. Echo Studio perfectly controls the lights, audio/video, etc. as per our voice commands. The Studio’s HD audio delivers a whole new listening experience. This is a simple way to upgrade our home theatre and enable home automation.

Smart home products like lighting, visual systems, sound systems with in-built Alexa turns the idea of automated home into reality. We can create routines in Alexa app, which automatically triggers the smart home gadgets based on the conditions we set. For example, you can have Alexa to dim the lights when you play a movie and turn on when you pause.

Upskilling Alexa

Alexa’s extended skills makes it more powerful and efficient. These additional functionalities are developed by third party vendors to make Alexa more user-friendly. We can enable games, financial services, food and drink, fitness etc. on the Alexa app through our voice commands. Amazon has made it easy to discover new skills by creating a Skill Finder feature. You can just ask Alexa to open Skill Finder and give the skill of the day. The easier the skill is to use, the more speed and efficiency it offers.

By enabling Capital One (Bank holding company) skill on the Alexa app, you can check credit card balance or make a payment through voice commands. Alexa manages all the security checks enabling the user to perform transactions safely.

You can order a pizza with the Domino’s skill by just saying, “Alexa, open Domino’s and place my Easy Order.” You can also track the status of an order you have placed by asking, “Alexa, open Domino’s to track my order.”

To contribute to Alexa’s growth in the market, Amazon made Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) accessible to external developers to integrate their own skills into an Alexa device for their specific needs. Companies like Domino’s, BBC News, Starbucks etc. have built more than 80,000 Alexa skills using ASK.

Innovating Alexa for Future

Amazon is constantly upgrading the way Alexa works. Many latest updates are focused on making conversation between user and Alexa to sound natural. Rohit Prasad, Vice President and Head Scientist, Alexa Artificial Intelligence thinks that Alexa would function better with a robot body. “The only way to make smart assistants really smart is to give it eyes and let it explore the world” Prasad said at EmTech Digital, MIT Technology Review’s AI conference. Amazon plans to build a domestic robot “Vesta”, code-named after the Roman goddess of the hearth, home, and family. The Vesta robot could be a sort of mobile Alexa with advanced cameras, computer vision software and can navigate through homes like a self-driving car.

Alexa is also being implemented in the automobile industry. Automobile companies like General Motors, BMW, Rivian etc. are collaborating with tech companies to roll out voice assistants, car-optimized apps, and remote update that will enhance the driving experience. Automobile companies are embedding the latest software in the car systems to access navigation or Alexa for voice commands thus eliminating the need to pair our phones with the car. 

Conclusion

Over the past few years, smart devices have become cheaper and easier to manufacture. As a result, more and more people can afford to buy them. Currently there are more than 28,000 Alexa-compatible smart home automation devices made available from 4,500 different brands. The latest smart devices are constantly interconnected and can be optimized to reduce energy waste. The suggestions Alexa provides, and the way it supports the home environment, will be important for evolving it from a smart assistant into a valuable member of the family.

Biography of Author

Nihar Kulkarni is an experienced and results-oriented professional with approximately 6.6 years of work experience in Information Technology, Technical Marketing, Business Enterprise, and Augmented Reality. Nihar is an engineer and currently working as Associate Business Analyst. He is very good at teamwork and always concentrates on solving problems until they are successfully completed. Cycling is something that Nihar enjoys.

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