Smart Speakers Are Thing Of The Past

At least partially so.

Are Smart Speakers Done?
Illustration by Writer

If I told you that your brand new Echo Dot or your newly bought Google Home is obsolete, would you believe me? You’d probably think I’m crazy even to think that, still, evolving devices are already outdated.

But there’s more to it than what meets the eye. We’ve always wanted more out of technology, and perhaps that’s why I’m writing this piece today. Smart speakers are convenient, but they’re not enough. According to a recent MIT study, users prefer a more “human-like personality.” What does that mean? Let’s find out.

The future of Smart Speakers

A group of MIT researchers did a study to find out which smart assistant/speaker was the most preferred. Participants used Google Home, Echo Show, Echo Spot, and a Jibo robot. While Google Home is just a speaker, Echo Show and Spot come with displays.

Jibo, on the other hand, comes with a face. While the research misses out on the more significant Google Nest Hub that has a display, it conveys the point pretty clearly.

Most users found “Jibo to be far more outgoing, dependable, and sympathetic.” This was because most people thought Jibo had a more ‘human-like personality.” I don’t blame you if you have never heard about this robot.

Jibo was the world’s first family robot. It can control lights, send messages, click pictures, take videos, and tell you the weather, stocks, and the works. But what made Jibo special was its display. Jibo came with a round display or head, and it had a face. It turned and looked at the person giving commands, and it recognized everyone in the family.

It was such a good design that it brought a face to a smart assistant. Not a display, but a face. I think it was ahead of its time, but poor execution killed the idea of Jibo. However, people liked the idea back then, and they want it now. While Google Home and Amazon Echo devices are more comprehensive, users in the study still preferred Jibo.

Are Smart Speakers any good?

Amazon Echo Dot

I’ve been extensively using Siri on my iPhone for as long as I can remember. I use it to call people, set alarms, reminders, and even open apps when I’m too lazy to swipe three screens to get to them. I also bought an Echo Dot smart speaker, which I just gave away because it wasn’t much of a ‘speaker.’

But that’s a story for another day, which I’ve already told here. Based on the MIT study, smart speakers are decent, but voice assistants feel incomplete without a display. I would’ve used an Echo Show more than I used Echo Dot.

Smart speakers aren’t bad, and they’re not good enough if they’re only speakers; there has to be more. It should have a touch screen display, good cameras, and maybe some more movement.

Jibo is gone, but is there more?

Oh, there is a lot more. If you want an AI assistant that is more than just a speaker, you’re in luck. However, you’ll have to shell out some pretty serious money to get one.

Sony Aibo is one of the more comprehensive AI companions you can get. It is an AI-powered dog that acts like a real puppy. Watch the above video to see what Aibo is and how it works.

Are Smart Speakers a thing of the past?

Smart assistants started on phones, and smart speakers are the first dedicated hardware for these assistants to level up their jobs. Next up, we have robots like Jibo and Aibo that further elevate the experience.

If we can leave the privacy perils behind and look at what these assistants have to offer, there’s a ton of potential. So, are smart speakers a thing of the past? Well, not yet. But when smart assistants realize their full potential, voice-only speakers will be the first to go obsolete.

This will be a level-up from smart assistants to smart companions. Sometime in the future, if you’re sitting in a chair and look sad, your smart assistant will ask you about your day. They’ll be able not just to listen and respond but read and show empathy. If you haven’t watched the movie ‘Her,’ this might be a good time because we’re heading towards something like that.

Take Amazon Alexa’s recent mind-reading ad, for example. While that is creepy, a smart assistant that can save dates, order stuff, and add small improvements to everyday living isn’t a bad idea. And that’s where smart speakers will be outgunned by smart robots that can move, listen to you, and actively ask you things instead of just taking commands.

In other words…

One of my capable peers had another opinion about smart speakers. He thinks that these speakers will have their purpose in the near and distant future. This is how he put it together.

Voice-activated smart speakers don’t explore eyesight, which is one of the 5 human senses robots would need to move shoulder to shoulder with us. But smart speakers have their use-cases even when there is a robot that can stare at you straight in the eye.

These speakers have a low-key presence in your house, and they are at your service all the time. Sometimes, you don’t need that human-like connection. For example, emails came first, then IMs. But even today, emails have their purpose; they are primarily associated with work and used by companies to market their content without actually disrupting your daily life.

In most cases, you’re not obligated to reply to an email as soon as it arrives. Of course, at the end of the day, everything gets replaced by better technology.

What do you think of a world with smart assistants becoming smarter than smart speakers? Let us know in the comments.

Manik Berry

Manik Berry

With a Master’s degree in journalism, Manik writes about big tech and has a keen eye for political-tech news. In his free time, he’s browsing the Kindle store for new stuff read. Manik also adores his motorcycle and is looking for new routes on weekends. He likes tea and cat memes. You can reach him at [email protected]
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