Smart digital assistants might just be THE gadget of 2017. These voice controlled speakers have a number of automated functions that can help make your life easier. I’ve recently had a chance to have both a Google Home device and Amazon’s Echo and smaller Echo Dot in my home. I can tell you from experience these gadgets are handy and can integrate themselves easily into your life. You’ll find yourself chatting to Google and Alexa (Amazon’s assistant) more than you might think. Here are five things you’ll do with them every day.

5 things you’ll do with a voice controlled speaker every day

1. Set timers
“OK, Google, set a timer for 30 minutes.”

While I’m making dinner or baking, it’s handy to be able to set timers using just my voice. If I’ve got raw chicken on my hands or flour, I don’t need to wash up before I set a clock, especially if time is of the essence.

While my Google Home device is in the living room, it can easily hear me from the kitchen, and the timer is loud and noticeable so I won’t burn my muffins.

Google Home Mini is a smaller version of the full size Google Home that has the same functions.

2. Play hands-free music
“Alexa, play some Bossa Nova.”

Both Amazon Echo devices and Google Home have music apps available; Amazon Music and Google Play Music. You can try these free for a limited time, or subscribe for a small monthly fee.

Google Home also provides access to other music streaming services like Spotify, and Apple Music, while Amazon also connects to Spotify.

Whichever music streaming service you choose, you can simply ask for the artist, song , genre or mood you want to hear and the device will automatically play your music. Don’t like a selected track? “Hey Google! Skip this one!”

3. Room-to-room intercom
“Alexa, drop in the Kitchen!”

Amazon’s Echo and Dot devices can be used as room to room intercoms, so there’ll be no need to scream up the stairs, “Dinner’s ready!!!”

With your Amazon devices named according to the rooms they live in (Living Room, Junior’s Bedroom, etc) you can ask Alexa to ‘drop in’ to a room and have a normal conversation. This will also work on a long distance basis, meaning if the grandparents also have an Echo device, you can talk to them from your Echo via Wi-Fi… with no long distance bills!

4. Control your lights
“Hey Google, dim the living room lights to 50%”

Google Home and Amazon Echo have the power to control a multitude of smart home gadgets, from Philips Hue, to August Home, Nest, and LIFX light bulbs.

Once you connect these devices to your Echo or Home all you need to do is ask for a smart home task to be executed:
“Alexa, turn the bedroom lights off,” or
“OK, Google, lock the Front Door.”

5. News, Traffic and Weather info
“Alexa, what’s the news today?”

Google Home and Amazon Echo can give you a roundup of the day’s news as you’re waking up. You can choose which sources the news will come from, like CBC, BBC, Sports networks and more.

Up-to-date weather forecasts are also available for your specific neighbourhood since these devices are geo-located to your home. Just ask, “What’s the temperature right now,” “what’s the forecast for tomorrow,” or “what’s the forecast for the week?”

There are so many more functions smart home digital assistants have. Here are just a few more things you can do with Google and Alexa:

  • Hands-free calling: when configured, you can use Home and Echo/Dot as speakerphones for hands-free calls
  • Find Answers: ask the assistants for help with homework questions, to do math, or recipe conversions for you, or to entertain you with trivia
  • Play podcasts
  • Get sports scores and game info
  • Set reminders and add appointments to your smartphone calendar

Smart home digital assistants are a great way to automate your home. Find Voice Assistants by Google and Amazon at Best Buy.