I have written and spoken about how voice control will be one of the new steps forward within the commercial AV space. At CEDIA 2017’s press day yesterday, we got a glimpse of just how soon that will be.
Last year was the big announcements that Control4, Crestron, Elan, and others can be controlled through the Amazon Echo device. This year, Origin Acoustics has created a product, along with St. Louis integrator Joe Whitaker, that allows you to install in the ceiling an Amazon Dot (the little brother of the Echo) and send the audio throughout the room audio system.
“Why wouldn’t we latch on to the hottest consumer electronics product”, Origin Acoustics founder, Jeremy Burkhardt asked.
The basics of the system are a multi-channel amplifier, an Amazon Dot, and Origin’s ceiling mounting system. You would then connect the system to any number of control systems that the Echo can integrate with, including Crestron. It has a muting mechanism for when you say “Alexa” (or whatever your wake word is). This mutes the audio of the amplifier and sends the Echo audio to the room. It comes in a four-zone (accommodating four Dots) or six-zone (with room for four Dots) configuration.
Here is why I see this ending up in the corporate world. It’s simple. There are companies out there who are working on integrating Amazon’s technology into speakers. They are using hidden microphones and the electronics that make the Echo work. They are also not on the market yet. The Dot is.
This system uses the processing power and the technology Amazon has already paid for and is continuing to improve. It hides the Dot in the ceiling so that the CEO doesn’t have to see another device on the board room table. Now, there could be issues with ceiling height and your voice reaching the Dot if the ceiling is too high, just like ceiling microphones. There is also the ever-present security and privacy concerns with having an always on device with a microphone in your most sensitive meeting areas. Those aside, CEOs are still going to continue to ask for voice control in the corporate environment. Here is one way to get them that request in an elegant and hidden way by the end of the calendar year.
It’s just day one of CEDIA 2017, but it has already paid off in seeing the first product that could cross over from residential into commercial; Origin Acoustic’s Valet.
What do you think, though? Let me know if you think voice, in general, is a passing fad, should we wait for an integrated speaker to provide voice to commercial clients, or should we just put an Amazon Echo in the board room? Comments below. Thanks.