Voice Control in the Home

It's in our cars and on our phones, now voice recognition software is making its way into our homes.

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Remember the clapper? A little applause, and your lights would turn off. We've certainly come a long way since then, but the concept of using sound to control your home is nothing new. And why shouldn't we enjoy voice control in the home? We use it in so many other facets of our lives, including hands-free communication while driving, or to tell Siri or Google Now to translate your voice into an email instead of typing it all out.

"We have seen the demand for voice control on mobile devices and in automobiles. The next logical step is the home," says Paul Williams, VP of Security and Communications Products at Control4. VoicePod ($649) — a wireless voice control module — translates commands like "turn on lights" or "secure the house" and sends the appropriate instructions to the Control4 system. Your vocal chords act as the remote control, allowing you to be completely hands-free. Just imagine the liberty of never having to look for a remote control again. Integrating with your TV and audio system allows you to do things like change the channel or mute the audio system. You can even ask VoicePod questions, like "what's the weather like?" and get a response.

Voice control isn't something that's reserved for those with a whole-home automation system, either. Manufacturers like LG, Panasonic and Samsung, are using voice control in their smart TVs' remote controls, allowing you to simply speak to the remote to direct the TV.

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Likewise, Microsoft Xbox One will feature Kinect Real Voice technology, which can hear commands through the commotion of your game play. Meanwhile, DirecTV recently introduced voice control to its smartphone app. Instead of navigating through a menu system using a cumbersome remote, now you can tell your system to record Top Chef or ask it things like, "What comedy movies are on right now?"

Ted Rosenberger, CEO of HouseLogix, predicts more such apps in the future: "Given the intense interest in this area we imagine that additional companies will offer voice-control solutions in the coming years," he says. In fact, Rosenberger mentioned that HouseLogix is currently working on such an app.

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