Voice-Controlled Home Assistants
by Bob Poliquin
Voice-activated gadgets are the rage in our active-adult community, with the Echo Dot being the least expensive toy of choice. Everyone wants to show everyone else the latest trick “Alexa” can perform. What sold my in-laws was that the Echo Dot has home assistant functions like turning lights off and on. My father-in-law was more than a little disappointed the first time he said, “Alexa, turn off the kitchen lights” and nothing happened. We had to explain to him that smart devices don’t talk to dumb light switches. Anyhow, everyone seems to have Perry Como playing from their Echo Dot.
Although there are many similar devices on the market, the three big kids in the portable speaker game are Amazon, Google, and Bose. All three systems are sleek, attractive, and simple. Google Home is available in a variety of colors, while the Echo and Soundlink Revolve come in black or white.
From the reviews, you really can’t go wrong with any of the more expensive models. The sound quality, obviously, on the much smaller Echo Dot cannot compete with the larger platforms; it’s like the difference between your old stereo and a transistor radio. Bigger is not always better, but in this case it is. Nevertheless, if you are looking for something for the kitchen counter or a Christmas stocking stuffer, the Dot will suffice.
The features on all three devices are too numerous to list in detail. Suffice it to say that they all have more capability than any senior I know will ever use or need. All three are easily movable and have wifi and bluetooth capability, but the Bose is the only device truly portable in that it has an internal battery.
Amazon Echo ($179) and Echo Dot ($49)
While the Echo Dot looks like an electronic hockey puck, the Echo is a cylinder tower slightly larger than 9” x 3”. It comes with a 6’ power cable that must remain plugged in, or you can purchase a battery base as an accessory that allows you to make your Echo portable.
Google Home ($129)
The Google Home is slightly shorter (5.62”) and wider at the base (3.79”). The base comes in a variety of colors. As with all Google products, the Google Home is designed to be simple to set up and use. It aso needs to be plugged in while in use.
Bose Soundlink Revolve ($199)
The Bose name always comes at a premium. You pay a little extra for the brand, but Bose seldom gets things wrong. The Soundlink Revolve is 6” tall and 3.25” wide at the base. Battery life is 12 hours. This is a true grab-and-go device with 360 degrees of sound. As with the Echo and Home device, the Revolve has voice command features.
All three systems are between one-and-a-half and three pounds. The Bose and the Echo, to me, are what a grownup would want, both for their attractiveness as well as for their function. The Echo Dot is a toy or a device you can use to control other devices. The Google Home, although it has loads of capability and a reputation for great sound, seems like something I would get my school-age granddaughters. It’s just a little too cute, sparkly, and shiny to be in my home. Nevertheless, they all play music extremely well for the size and do far more other things than I would ever use them for.