One year of personal assistants…

As I was asked, I decided to share my experience with the personal assistants.

A little background

In fact, although I only use these small voice boxes for a year, my experience with voice command goes back a little longer. In 2015, while I was getting tired of the smartphones that the Technos had stagnated for a few years, I discovered the exciting universe of the connected house. I immediately plunged into it and started testing my first products and home automation boxes.

But very soon I wanted to push the vice further, and I had always wanted a JARVIS (see Iron Man for those who do not know) home personal. And I came across an ultra-promising French project for the time: SA. R.A.H.

It was a PC-based voice recognition solution, preferably articulated around a Kinect, a fantastic tool marketed (and sadly neglected) by Microsoft. The Kinect had the advantage of having an excellent microphone capable of effectively ignoring ambient noise and a powerful camera, which the creator of the solution, Jean-Philippe Encausse, had diverted for a facial recognition just as Effective. The solution worked very well, but still needed to put your hands in the sludge because the apps were configuring with XML files, and had the main failure to turn only on Windows, thus requesting a dedicated PC running 24/7 , not great for the electricity bill.

So I studied and tested the subject for a while, until the arrival of the Google Home in France.

And Google landed at home

It was in mid-January 2018 that I discovered the Google Home Mini, bought second hand on the right corner. A small pebble that responded very well to the voice. Very quickly, I began to want to entrust everything to him, and its very smooth integration with the service IFTTT made the thing hyper simple. So my box Jeedom had been easily attached, and I had the joy of ordering my lights and shutters, but also just asking for the weather and all the useful answers to my research. The recognition was quite effective, unfortunately the number of services available was quite limited.

And Amazon Echo took over!

In June 2018, Amazon Echo arrived in France, after 3 years of existence overseas. The principle is the same as the Google Home, and to tell the truth, Echo was the first to come into the field. And in three years, he has had time to forge a solid experience. Thus, barely a month after arriving in France, 200 services were already available. Moreover, it is very simple for a non-developer to create his own skill for Alexa. So I had the opportunity to test both side-by-side, and despite a slightly less sensitive mic, I still prefer the solution of Amazon. Moreover, since then, I have completely piloted my multimedia installation (TV, change of Channel, volume control, etc.) in addition to the rest of the equipment of the house. The Garden irrigation system is planned for spring.

I preferred Alexa to such an extent that for Christmas I received an extra Echo Dot that I made portable through the addition of an external battery. So speech recognition is more efficient, and if necessary Alexa can be moved into other rooms of the house.

What about private life?

The question that annoys, will say some. Because Google and Amazon are still known to have no respect for our privacy. The polemics accusing the two firms of constantly recording the conversations have Pullulé on the web in recent years.

Personally, it doesn’t make me hot or cold. It’s been 20 years that I use Google, almost as much as I am Amazon customer, so I think these two no longer need to know my conversations to know my habits, and this for a very long time. And I guess the same goes for many users. In summary, they can listen to what they want, they will not learn much more than they already know…

To go further, as I said, I use the GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft) for 20 years for the older services, and to be honest, I did not notice any difference in treatment by these multinationals before and after. In other words, if they listen to me, if they spy on me, I feel no effect. But I doubt that this is enough to convince the most skeptical…

In conclusion

In good big techie (and lazy), I love these connected speakers. And I’m not going to do without it. I am also waiting for my Freebox Delta, which will add additional access to Alexa in the living room, we do not remake…

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