• 23 JUL 17
    • 0

    Hi-tech Google Home and Alexa not smart enough to be error-free

    Sent in by Richard Giles

    Published in The Australian

    Hi-tech Google Home and Alexa not smart enough to be error-free

    By Sian Powell, 

    Excerpts

    “Alexa, make tea. Now.” Wouldn’t it be great if we all had our own intelligent robot house assistants to deal with the boring chores of everyday life? “OK, Google, dim the lights.”

    So-called “smart homes” offer varying degrees of automated assistance, and Google Home, launched this week in Australia, is multi-talented — it can speak with an Australian accent, translate phrases, do simple sums, get definitions, play music, and list news stories, among other skills.

    Alexa, the tea-maker, is Amazon’s voice-controlled personal helper and she sometimes features in new-age homes. Sadly, it seems Alexa, being American, has had some trouble with Australian accents and occasionally stumbles. If you ask her to make tea she might play you a Beatles song.

    That could be amusing, but many of the smart-home glitches surfacing now that the techno trend is accelerating are irritating at best and potentially dangerous.

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    Others have complained that because IFTTT (“if this then that”, an automation service for little tasks between internet-connected services) was down, they couldn’t turn their lights on or the locks in their homes stopped functioning. One tweeter noted that a seconds-long power outage sent her smart home into a spasm and turned all the lights on in the middle of the night.

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    “Some work really well and some don’t,” she says. “And when you try and combine stuff together, which a lot of people do, it doesn’t work either. That’s where the confusion and horror stories come in.”

    One couple, she remembers, had an automated skylight in the roof of their smart home, designed to open and close to take the best advantage of breezes and provide cross-ventilation in the roof space. One stormy day, the skylight decided it was a good time to open wide, flooding the couple’s kitchen with rainwater.

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