As any techie could tell you, smart home assistants are all the buzz right now, with Amazon.com , Apple , Google, Microsoft , and others with significant stakes in the market. While the current assistants available offer a wide range of capabilities, at the end of the day, they are all just smart speakers. The problem with smart speakers is that they are only able to answer queries and commands, and provide answers, play music, etc. While this may be useful for smart home applications, these smart speakers are actually quite limited. I wanted to talk today about how I think the smart assistant could potentially evolve into something… smarter.
Companies have already become aware of the limitations of their speakers. Amazon, for example has started to include capabilities like a display, Echo Spot (display + camera + Alarm clock), Echo Show, security cameras, and even a fashion advisor. If you ask me, it’s pretty clear what Amazon is doing here—it’s effectively combining all these different parts to build a smart home robot powered by Amazon Alexa.
I believe that the future will be one where each home is powered by a smart assistant that exists in the cloud but has a local ‘home’ device that acts as a hub. Currently that hub is a speaker in most cases, but I believe that in the future AI capabilities will require more powerful hubs and devices to perform their functions. I also believe that the adoption of these smart assistant robots will be aided by the familiarity people already have interacting with smart speakers and other smart appliances.
Imagine a robot that tracks all your purchases, who knows and can identify every object in your home (perhaps because you purchased all of your belongings through it). Such a device could prove invaluable in many scenarios. A smart robot could ensure that you never leave the house without things that are important to you for that day. It could remind you to grab an umbrella if it sees you leaving the house without it when rain is in the forecast. While we’re daydreaming, perhaps it is even a ‘connected’ umbrella with some wireless tech like RFID or Bluetooth connectivity so your smart assistant can help you keep track of it. These kinds of very light touch user experiences could meaningfully improve quality of life and make smart assistants even more useful. Heck, a properly equipped robot could find the umbrella for you and have it ready for you at the door as you are about to walk out. This is just one of infinite potential use cases. With the growing, aging global population, another big area of potential for robot assistants is in elder care. One can just imagine all the different ways a smart robot assistant could improve quality of life for seniors. Who knows? Maybe the next generation of Sony
’s Aibo robot dog will be capable of doing such things.
While I do not see this future becoming a reality for at least another ten years (and another 5 years for mass adoption), I expect that we’ll start to see more, smarter assistant capabilities being integrated and consolidated into single devices. I believe that eventually many of the smart assistant devices that are around today will still be here, but they will serve to supplement a primary robot with high-performance compute capabilities for serious AI applications. While I am not sure that these smart assistant-powered robots will necessarily become our primary computing devices, I do believe they will offload how we interface with our various computing devices, such as smartphones. Time will tell, but the future of smart assistants looks very exciting.