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Hey Siri, make my life easier

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Hey Siri, make my life easier

Asking a device for the time or a weather forecast, or to send a message, may sound futuristic but it’s all happening. EDIN READ explains the value of having a virtual assistant and addresses concerns about privacy.

You might have heard someone say, “Hey Siri”, “Ok Google” or “Hey Cortana”.

These phrases are used to summon Virtual Assistants on your iPhone, Android, and Windows computer respectively.

Now, if you’ve never used one, you might be wondering just what is a Virtual Assistant.

A Virtual Assistant is a handy tool that allows you to talk to your device and command it to perform tasks and follow directions.

You can ask for many things, including the weather, to reply to text messages, set alarms, and tell you a joke. For example, I use it when I am cooking and need to start a timer while my hands are dirty. To my iPhone, I say “Hey Siri, start a timer for 15 minutes”.

Siri replies, “Starting timer for 15 minutes”, and I can see on my phone a timer starts to count down. No more batter-covered egg timers.

Siri, which is rumoured to stand for Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface, is very handy for day-to-day tasks. It is there to expedite the tools on your phone. Google and Cortana work similarly, the only obvious difference being the way they’re summoned.

As far as privacy goes with these features, there are some things worth mentioning, however, I strongly believe that this is extremely low risk.

The very act of saying “Hey Siri” means that your phone is technically always listening. This is true but in reality, it only starts listening for the trigger of those two words. The device only starts actually listening to what you’re saying after it hears this phrase. And what does it do once it starts listening? It listens as if it’s another human and tries to perform the activity you say.

Siri does collect data to build a profile about you, but Apple says that it is not linked directly to you, that “Siri data is not used to build a marketing profile and is never sold to anyone” and that “only the minimum data is stored on Siri servers” (From Apple’s Legal Site, on Ask Siri, Dictation and Privacy).

In my opinion, there’s not a lot to worry about – Apple/Microsoft already has your information from when you use your phone and this doesn’t carry much additional risk to privacy.

As well as setting timers and other basic features, you can make your whole home smart and control it with your voice. At my home, I use Google Home to turn lights on and off, play music, and open and close blinds.

This is all to do with the Internet Of Things (IOT). Basically, these special devices connect to each other via the internet with Google Home as the hub of it all – just a small speaker device.

There are smart bulbs, motors, and speakers that all work together. Then, I can say to Google “Ok Google, turn on all lights” and suddenly all the smart lights in my home turn on. I’ve even programmed it for me to say, “Ok Google, I’m having a movie night” and it dims the lights, shuts the blinds, and turns the TV on to Netflix.

I use these features for convenience and accessibility. It means that I am bending and reaching behind cabinets less and less, so I don’t get hurt. For seniors, this is a great modern solution where mobility is an issue.

If Siri or Google isn’t activated by your voice, head to phone settings and set it up. On older iPhones with a home button, long-press it to activate Siri.

Siri, Google, and Cortana are easy ways to make your life easier. Why not ask Siri a question today?

 Edin Read is founder and chief technician at Greyology Tech Support for Seniors.


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