I’ve been reading and watching tons of reviews on various home assistant devices from the Amazon Alexa, Apple HomePod (what little info exists for it since it hasn’t been released yet), and the Google Home to see if this is something that would help me when I’m actually at home and so far I can’t justify the cost of having one. I tried doing a few experiments when I’m at home or on the road with just Siri on my iPhone since I have enabled “Hey Siri”. The functionality works pretty well overall over the iPhone 7 but I use it very infrequently and so do people in my household. I guess the reason that I find it so useless is that we don’t really have a smart home so there is nothing for the virtual assistant to actually control. For being an IT guy my home is pretty basic. No lights are controlled by WeMo or Belkin, garage still uses a regular radio remote, thermostat is just on a simple schedule and doesn’t have wifi connectivity, and on and on and on…..
My family doesn’t constantly have a TV or computer on (maybe I do, I keep my MacBook Pro on the entire weekend even though the start up time is insanely fast) but I’m not in front of it doing stuff like surfing the net, creating junk or whatever. Music…. ha! The only time music is really listened to is in the car so no need for constant Spotify, Pandora, or any other music streaming service that would compel me to call out into thin air “OK Google, play me some Ice Cube on Pandora!”. I also don’t have a huge ass bank account that I can call out “Hey Alexa buy me (insert product here)” and have it delivered to my door. This is my opinion but the home assistant doesn’t have a good use case in my life that isn’t fulfilled by my iPhone, iPad, or my MacBook Pro. Besides I’m more of a visual person and just hearing my commands obeyed (granted that sounds pretty cool when I think about it) doesn’t justify spending mucho cash on a speaker with a mic that has to be constantly plugged in just to function.
A poor mans version of this can be done with a UE Boom (I think I haven’t tried it but if you’re connected to a phone with Bluetooth it should be possible) which I do have. It’s wireless and when connected to my iPhone or any other device it sounds awesome! I can’t do all the cool commands that Alexa or Google home can do but I don’t really have a desire to start yelling in my home to a computer. There’s still something weird about doing that but maybe its because I’m not sold on the benefits. I ask Siri during the week about the weather but I can’t ask it whats on my calendar or anything like that since work secures the data so much I have to check my phone to see what I’m up to that day.
I think my home will need to become a lot ‘smarter’ before I consider investing in a Home Assistant. These things are sort of not expensive but since its over $100 I take a long time to ponder getting something that expensive. I also have to clear it with the house CFO before making such a purchase and for right now it doesn’t fit with our lifestyle. Until everything can be controlled by a single service like Google (I do have 2 Chromecasts already), I don’t want to have a mishmash of device types infesting my house. I’m already considering if I should ditch my Apple TV’s in favor of the Chromecast since I mostly use streaming from my Plex server rather than mirroring my phones screen. Since everything still works I won’t retire them yet but there’s going to be a point when they won’t work with my current phone or my MacBook Pro and thats when I’ll start killing off technology. One area where I think I could make my home really ‘smart’ would be all my light switches, that would be neat to control using my voice but at $50 a switch thats an expensive proposition, and it would increase my laziness so instead of getting up I’d just yell at my home. Sounds great for when I get old(er). I guess I have found a use case but one that won’t be useful to me for another 20 years.
Unless there is some HUGE leap in the home assistant area, I’m still going to pass. Siri on my iPhone is just fine.