I'm in the market for my first smart speaker, so I've just spent all weekend speaking at inanimate objects. I'm joining the future here, and with Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant to choose from (sorry not sorry, Cortana), I want to make sure I'm joining the right future.
What areas of this brave new sci-fi future voice assistants are going to fit into, though, is still an open question. Uttering my innermost desires ("Alexa, turn on the living room lights") in the privacy of my own home is something I can deal with, but issuing commands at an Apple Watch in public?! I'm not going to be doing that — and not only because Siri's already off the short list on account of being piss poor.
A physical button for each function isn't going to work now the average car has hundreds or even thousands of functions to choose from.
If I'm being perfectly honest with myself, though, my smart home vision is motivated more by geekery than any genuine need. Taking my eyes off Netflix for a moment to fiddle around with the thermostat probably isn't going to put anybody in immediate danger.
The same can't be said when driving, of course; anything that takes your attention away from the road has the potential to turn real bad, real fast. And while auto manufacturers are happy to throw more and more features at their infotainment systems, most are still finding it difficult to figure out how to give drivers access to all these options without, you know, putting their lives and the lives of those around them in serious jeopardy. A physical button for each function isn't going to work now the average car has hundreds or even thousands of functions to choose from.
The Tesla solution — putting everything on a huge dashboard touchscreen — is one way around it, but it isn't really suited to the present or the future. Nowadays, when people have to drive their own cars, the lack of tactile buttons you can feel your way around forces you to look at the screen to find whatever you want to tap. In the future, when our cars drive themselves, forcing people to be within touching distance of the dashboard doesn't make any sense.