6 Voice Command Choices for Your High-Tech Home


Voice commands in the house — “Lights on! Turn of the TV! Turn on the air conditioning!” — have long been a sign of sci-fi technology or the manors of the extraordinarily rich. But the evolution of home automation has brought the beloved voice command function to more and more houses, until the right apps and services allow just about anyone to turn their home into an attentive, listening system where you can control anything with a word.

6 Great Voice Command Options

Below are some of the best solutions for bringing voice commands into your house.

1. VoicePod: VoicePod combines both software and hardware into voice command automation solutions for your home. You can download the app on your mobile if you like the idea of ordering your lights, TV, thermostat and other devices through a smartphone or tablet. You can also by the tabletop device, a flat speaker that sits on the tablet and lights for specific commands, suitable for a living or kitchen. You can customize your commands, add various devices (shades, security systems, etc.) and create the perfect set-up for your home. However, there is a catch: You have to have a Control4 automation system in place. If you do not favor the Control4 brand, this solution is not for you — at least, not until it adds further compatibility with other brands.

2. Shortcut: Shortcut is a Google app that allows you to activate a number of common household devices using your voice. The goal is to combine all the home automation technology you use under one app that recognizes voice commands. The voice recognition software is very forgiving, and can understand a wide variety of commands phrased in different ways. If you want the lights on, for example, just say, “Turn on the lights.” The only downside to this app is that Shortcut provides integration on a brand-by-brand basis. It works with EcoBee, Sonos and Jawbone, for example, but if you use a less-common automation device, you may have to wait until it gets added to the Shortcut list.

3. EnBlink: EnBlink, although a funny name, is a simple device that turns a Google TV enabled device into a voice sensor that works with Z-Wave technology. This creates several caveats: Your home automation devices need to use the Z-Wave frequent format to communicate, and you need to be a fan of Google TV. But if this is true of your home, you can customize a variety of voice command phrases to turn on lights, TVs, and other devices, as well as operate them is specific ways.

4. Tasker: Tasker is an extra-adaptable Android app designed for building specific automation services into your home. It features plenty of plugins, but one of the is “AutoVoice,” which, as expected, allows you to control home devices with your voice. This takes a significant amount of DIY software work, however, so the Tasker route is not for the faint of heart.

5. Smart Home with Voice Command: This is an Android app for those who love to tinker. It connects with Bluetooth devices and allows you to form basic voice commands like “on” and “off.” While inherently flexible, this app requires a lot of customization and circuit building, so it is most suitable for those building their home automation systems from the ground up.

5. Xbox One: The latest Xbox console comes with the Kinect sensor, which reads both body movements and voice commands. This gaming console can also tap into your TV, cable box, and receiver to turn on and manipulate all your home entertainment devices at once. At around $500 it’s an expensive investment, but it can take the place of set-top box as well. Our last entry also deals with Kinect capabilities.

6. Castle OS: CastleOS is software designed for Windows computers that helps connect a variety of different automation and voice recognition services. Specifically, it focuses on working with the Microsoft Kinect, which recognizes voice commands, and customizing its capabilities to operate a variety of home devices. This is halfway between the full customization option for code-savvy homeowners and the do-it-all options for those who just want a simple solution. It works with a number of protocols, including Z-Wave, Wemo and ZigBee — but you have to be a Microsoft fan to really appreciate it.

Photo Credit: Vernon Chan