Josh Freed: Smart devices, hear my words — no, not birds, words! – Montreal Gazette


Our new smart devices might be too smart for us to communicate with.

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Josh Freed  •  Special to Montreal Gazette This year, North Americans are expected to buy 100 million “connected” home gadgets, many with voice recognition capability and an uncanny ability to fail to understand what we’re saying. Photo by Antonio Diaz /Getty Images/iStockphoto

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I bought a new voice-recognition “smart” appliance recently that’s so smart I can barely speak to it.

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It’s my humidifier. Among many voice commands I can give it are: “Hey humidifier, raise the humidity!” and “Hey humidifier, lower the humidity!”

Also: “Set the humidifier mist to low,” or “Play misty for me”. Sorry, that last one is a joke only my humidifier can appreciate.

My machine is the latest in a new series of smart appliances that obey many voice commands — but only if you can remember all the commands.

I’ve tried saying simply “less humidity” or “more humid,” but you have to get the long commands above exactly right, or it doesn’t understand.

Even then, it often seems hard of hearing, and won’t respond unless I lean in close and speak slowly and moistly, the way humidifiers like.

Welcome to the future. This year alone, North Americans are expected to buy 100 million “connected” home gadgets, many with voice recognition capability, from voice-activated lights, doors, thermostats and stoves to robot vacuum cleaners you can tell: “Just clean up a little for the cleaning lady.”

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But I wonder: are we humans smart enough for our smart new machines?

My humidifier is behaving better than my smart TV, which has stopped listening to me lately. We’d been getting along passably, as long as I pronounced my show requests ve-ry clear-ly.

Things went OK if I asked to watch  “The Val … hall … a  Murders”,  or “Baby-lon Ber … lin”.

But I rarely pronounce “Shtisel” to its satisfaction, so instead it offers shows like It’s Supernatural or Crikey! It’s the Irwins.

Recently when I asked for “Little Women” it offered The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window.

Frequently, my TV will just bark at me in a patronizing voice, like a government tax auditor, saying: “Voice not recognized — ERROR 324!”

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Source: https://montrealgazette.com/opinion/columnists/josh-freed-smart-devices-hear-my-words-no-not-birds-words

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