In the 1960s, we saw starship captains flipping open a pocket-sized device and talking to their crew in orbit, and family members calling one another in full color through what looked like a TV (or at least, what a TV looked like at the time). Steven Spielberg once said, “There is no such thing as science fiction, there is only science eventuality,” and just 50 years after these shows originally aired, you can video chat with anyone around the world while waiting for a taxi, ask a speaker to play your favorite sappy love song, or tell your TV to start recording the new show premiering tonight.
At this point, we’re all familiar with some of the basics of the Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Siri, but are we using them to their full potential? A fully equipped smart home could include dimmable, color-changing lights, your door locks and security system, a baby monitor, washer and dryer, vacuum cleaner, refrigerator, the obvious cell phone, tablet, and computer, and all the major pieces of your home theater system, including your TV and Blu-ray player; a number of people, however, are only interacting with a small fraction of their equipment.
I’d like to run through some of the nuances of virtual assistants, from initial setup to home theater control, and provide some examples of what they can do, and just how they can simplify your life.
The entire process is nearly as easy as asking your virtual assistant to do it for you. First, connect all your smart devices on the same network. (Most people only have one network in their home, anyway.) Depending on which virtual assistant you’re using, and its version, you may be able to ask it to locate compatible devices on the network and automatically set them up for use. If you’re setting up your assistant via your smartphone or tablet (and, why wouldn’t you?), on-screen prompts will also help guide you through the process.
What Can You Do?
Maybe a better question would be, what can’t you do? For any virtual-assistant-compatible device on your network (within the same ecosystem), you can do just about anything. You can set up what universal remote users would call “macros” that will get everything set up for whatever you want to do. Say you just got home from work, and you have the same routine every day where you watch TV for a bit before moving on to whatever you do next. You can just tell your virtual assistant to start the process by saying something like, “I’m home,” and the proper lights will turn on (at the right color and brightness setting, of course), as will your TV and home theater system, and set to all the right inputs for you to watch what you want without even picking up a remote.
If you like to watch the same Blu-ray before bed, you can say something along the lines of, “goodnight,” and your bedroom TV and Blu-ray player will turn on and start playing the movie, lock all your doors, turn off the appropriate lights, and set up your thermostat; the same would be true if you watch the same thing via a streaming service.
Set up a “good morning” scenario that will get your lighting going, start brewing your coffee, and your speakers will tell you headlines, sports scores, and the day’s traffic and weather reports.
Are you throwing a house party? Tell your assistant, “it’s party time,” and all your compatible indoor and outdoor speakers will start playing your favorite jams in sync for a whole-home party.
Of course, during any of these scenarios, you can have your assistant do just about anything else, such as tell you a joke, order pizza, stock up on dog food, and set a reminder to make a dentist appointment. You can even set up a video call with friends and family. More to the point of home theater control, you can ask your assistant to provide more information on a TV show, movie, or artist; pause, resume, fast-forward, or rewind playback; or adjust nearly any setting you want, including TV brightness, sound mode, and more.
Over the past couple of years, increasingly more products are being released with virtual-assistant compatibility, and manufacturers don’t seem inclined to slow this trend. Whether you’re looking for a new smart TV, A/V receiver, or home security system, there are options that can integrate into your smart home ecosystem. Your virtual assistant of choice may be specific about which other virtual assistants it will work with, so keep that in mind before you hit the blue “Add to Cart” button.
If you’re looking for more advice or insight into virtual-assistant-enabled products, come into the B&H SuperStore, or contact us by phone at 800-606-6969, chat, or email for friendly, knowledgeable advice. You can also join the conversation and tell us about your smart home setup in the Comments section!