Voice assistants such as Amazon Echos can be a godsend for people with reduced mobility. Here’s why I think we should embrace their benefits.
When I put my back out recently I was laid up for a week and it was then I realised just what a godsend voice assistants are.
Being able to answer the door without having to shuffle there slowly and painfully, being able to switch lights on and off, turn the heating up and down, tell the TV what I wanted to watch, let my family keep an eye on me remotely: suddenly it all made sense.
We worry a lot about the privacy implications of voice assistants, but we should acknowledge the good things about them too.
It’s not only the futuristic fun of being able to summon up music or heating just with a shout.
Thoughtfully deployed, I’m convinced smart speakers are going to help more vulnerable people live independently for longer.
Masses of information
On privacy, it’s worth remembering that most of us are already signed up to the technology panopticon.
If you use a smartphone, order things from online retailers, chat on Facebook, post photos on Instagram or even just use email, you’ve already given those companies masses of information about yourself.
Your smartphone, which you use to do those tasks, knows far more about you than even your mother does. Voice assistants are just another way to interact with services you already use.
I tend to think of my relationship with technology companies as a partnership – an occasionally fractious one, to be sure, but one where I have agency: I’m not a hapless victim. I make choices about what I use and how I use it, aware that in return I get useful services.
Control your technology
Taking time to work out how you use technology means you can make informed choices.
You might not think being able to set a timer when your hands are covered in dough you’re kneading is enough reason to give room in your house to a smart assistant, and that’s a valid choice.
Ultimately, it’s up to all of us to be in control of our technology and not to let it control us.
Have you embraced a voice assistant in your home? Do you see any need for one? Are privacy concerns enough to put you off completely?