2017: The Year the Machines Take Over?

In Lifestyle, Tech by Andrew Selepak

Recently I purchased Google Home, a connected home device that answers questions powered by Google Assistant, provides news and sports updates, plays music, holds my calendar and allows me to control a few household lights using Philips Hue.

Phillips Hue Interface

Most people may already be more familiar with Amazon Echo, a similar device from Amazon that allows users to play music, control their smart home, or get information, news, weather, and more just using their voice.

Google Home is the latest connected device set to compete with Echo.

Google Home

Why did I purchase Google Home? I’m not sure I can even answer that question without first also saying that I already have a tablet, the Samsung Note 5. I also have a Samsung 4K Smart TV.

I didn’t mention the Note and Smart TV as a way to show off, but simply to lay it out there that I am already pretty connected to the world with current devices. If I want to order an Uber or hop on social media, I have my Note.  And if I want to see how far away my Uber is or view my social media on TV while waiting for my ride, I can use Samsung Smart View and screencast my Note to my TV.

Or I can send my friends money using the Venmo app on my phone or deposit checks using my Wells Fargo app.

I can also watch Amazon Prime on my smart TV or switch over to Pandora on my TV to hear some music while I am making dinner.

But to do any of these things requires me to have a remote or my cell phone in my hands and then go to the trouble of clicking different things before finally getting to see what restaurant I should go to based on suggestions from Yelp before then asking Google Translate how to order Pad Thai in Thai.

The problem is that I don’t always have my phone in my hands or a remote near me. And let’s be honest, it is 2017 and I shouldn’t have to use a device to do something as simple as turn on a light or play my favorite music. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969 on the Apollo 11 spaceflight and 48-years later I still have to find an egg timer or use my cell phone to know when my baked potato is finally done cooking after two hours? I don’t think so.

So that leads us back to why I purchased the Google Home. It is 2017 and the machines have finally started to allow us to live the lives we were once promised. We may still not have jetpacks and flying cars like the Jetsons, or the Holodeck like Star Trek (although Virtual Reality has come a long way), but at least Google Home can turn off the lights and knows my name:

I should say that as of January 2017, Google Home has a lot less capability compared to Amazon Echo particularly with connected devices. While Amazon Echo can work with a number of different hardware devices, I was essentially limited to only using Philips Hue which required purchasing a $69 starter kit with two white bulbs and a bridge to connect them to Google Home and any bulbs purchased in the future.

For now, Google Home works with Chromecast, Nest, Samsung’s SmartThings, and Philips Hue as well as some additional applications like Netflix.

While the list of compatible devices continues to expand since Google Home’s November 4, 2016 debut, I will continue to turn on and off lights with just my voice, use the assistant to ask more complicated questions than Amazon’s Echo can handle, and wait for my flying car.

But it better be a self-driving car just not one driven by a Cyberdyne Systems series T-800 Model 101 Terminator.

Maybe I should ask Google Home if it knows Skynet?

About the Author

Andrew Selepak

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Dr. Selepak is a professor in the department of telecommunication at the University of Florida, and director of the graduate program in Social Media.