There is much truth in the belief that technologies we like to use at home get taken into the workplace either by stealth because workers want to use them, or officially because bosses see their value. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that smart speakers are making their way into the office. Indeed, Amazon has had a development platform for Alexa specifically for workplaces since late 2017.
There are lots of things you can do with your voice through a smart speaker that can help you work more smoothly and efficiently. Here are some examples:
- Join a local meeting by voice rather than physically being present
- Join a conference call
- Make a voice or video call
- Answer a voice or video call
- Schedule meetings
- Set up reminders
- Find out which meeting rooms are free and book one
- Give verbal instructions to a range of applications
There is nothing here that you could not do through the more traditional method of sitting at your desk and tapping a few keys but with a smart speaker it is all so much faster. Working with your voice, using normal language, is just much more convenient.
Getting computers to understand normal language is very tricky. Language is complicated, and what we humans manage to do in a split second takes phenomenal powers of understanding and interpretation but computers are getting better at understanding normal language – or what’s called in tech-speak Natural Language Processing – all the time.
A smart speaker, armed with the right back-end technology (such as an Alexa Skill), can make a pretty good job of helping with a lot of mundane, time consuming, tedious office tasks, like checking your schedule or making a call. Add in a platform that allows offices to develop their own personalised apps – such as an app which knows about meeting rooms, when they are free, and allows people to book them – and you’ve got a recipe for accomplishing a very wide range of tasks by voice.
Of course, smart speakers aren’t necessarily appropriate for all office environments. A quiet open plan office will have its silence shattered if everyone starts jabbering at a smart speaker, and it starts jabbering back but in the right environment, and with the judicious application of headsets in environments that want to retain some peace and quiet, smart speakers really do have the potential to be useful assistants, saving us time and helping us be more productive.