Voice Control and Commercial Audio Video
This coming week will be my last class of the year for friends at AVI Systems. For the past three years, I have helped out in various roles with their regional events. It has been a blast as well as a learning experience. Along the way, it has been my pleasure to meet some of the greatest AV professionals.
This year the topic of IoT and voice control was brought up. It was a subject I was passionate about, and the resources that were at hand were plentiful. So I set about writing a one-hour session on IoT, voice control, and security.
While writing the course, the subject matter kept bringing me back to a central question; how will commercial audio video providers integrate voice control? Integration is what you do so well every single day. You make projectors, switchers, and control processors from different companies sing in harmony and provide an exceptional experience to your customers. It is why they keep coming back to you for service, support, advice, and their next great room.
The idea of voice control isn’t new. I mentioned on a panel with HTSA last year that we have had Dragon software for well over fifteen years. Apple brought us Siri, and the collective populace began to get comfortable with the idea of talking to devices. Google followed shortly after. Microsoft introduced Cortana. Then came the Amazon Echo.
CEDIA Expo 2016 brought about a significant shift in residential audio video control. Control4, Crestron, Lutron, Elan, and others announced the ability to integrate Amazon Echo (Alexa) with their systems. You could suddenly use Alexa to turn on your entire house with a few phrases.
Until this announcement, you had the ability (or skill to keep it in Echo jargon) to control your Nest thermostat, Phillips smart LED bulbs, and other IoT/DIY devices. You did this by saying “Alexa, tell Nest to make it 75 degrees”. However, with the integration of control systems you say “Alexa, make it 75 degrees”. It is a small change, but that change is significant to adoption.
Telling Alexa to tell something else to do something is a stumbling point linguistically. It is the technological equivalent of me asking my wife to ask my daughter to clean her room versus me asking my daughter to clean her room directly. Her room won’t get cleaned either way, but you get the point. It’s direct communication as opposed to indirect communication.
All of this voice control is made possible through the vast amount of computing power Amazon possesses. See, your Echo isn’t able to interpret what you are saying. It’s a microphone, speaker, and Internet device. The microphone transmits what you say to servers within Amazon. These computers then process what you said, or thought you said, and do whatever. This brings in the commercial part.
How we will accomplish commercial voice control
At ISE 2017 Harman was showing their first product integration with IBM’s Watson. Instead of going with Amazon, Harman is partnering with IBM and using Watson for their voice recognition. Watson is a learning computer that has beat Jeopardy champions. It is also owned by IBM, a company long trusted within corporate walls. When your client calls and says “my CEO wants Alexa in the boardroom,” and they will if they haven’t already, you can have a conversation.
That conversation should include what the use case is, security issues, as well as what all you are controlling. It is not as simple as placing the Amazon Echo on the corner of the boardroom table. There are larger issues at play here. This is an Internet device, again, so connectivity to the outside is imperative. There are also some who view voice controlled devices with a wary eye.
Voice control is coming to the commercial audio video world. The Apple TV introduced executives to the idea of sending video wirelessly, and then companies like Barco gave us a commercial solution. Today those same executives are being introduced to the idea of talking to their Echo and controlling their home. Soon they will be asking why they can’t do the same thing in their office, or boardroom, or wherever in their facility. I’m not certain the final solution is currently on the market, maybe it is. As audio video and control professionals, it will be our job to make certain the client’s networks remain secure while at the same time get an exceptional experience with these voice controlled interfaces.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Have a great week.
If you’re interested in more on this subject, we talked about voice control in commercial audio video applications on AVWeek 299.