Voice assistants lose out against the language barrier. Or only with her?

Voice assistants could be really helpful. It has long been known that there is great potential in voice control. The problem is that none of those on the market offer what one expects, especially as a Polish speaker. Is the language the problem?

How often does this happen to you use voice assistants? These intelligent programs, supported by advanced technologies such as, among others, artificial intelligence and machine learning, are designed to make using electronic devices even easier than before. Why unlock and lock a phone or tablet, why uselessly click on successive screens to finally choose one of the available options? Just say a specific voice command to get the desired effect. Simple? Sure. Comfortable? Yet how. It’s just a theory. In practice, unfortunately, it is sometimes worse, and after fulfilling a condition, using the voice assistant becomes really very expensive.

I was very interested in the use of voice assistants and what they can do. I admit that I was impressed by the progress and the way they handle the orders given. Yes, the effects weren’t always optimal, but in many situations it worked just fine. It got to the point where, at some point, I had the three most popular speakers installed in my home: Amazon Echo Dot 4, Google Nest Mini 2 and Apple HomePod mini. I easily noticed the differences between them, and after a while I settled on one of the tested variants (the Echo Dot 4 won, I even bought the Echo 4). Nevertheless, although I opted for one of the available solutions, I don’t use it very often, and especially two basic commands. Why was interaction with voice assistants so slow? Why haven’t they captivated me enough to consider them something irreplaceable and necessary in everyday life? I would like to tell you about it in this document.

Voice assistants – no language is unnecessary

What is the main disadvantage of voice assistants from the Polish user’s point of view? It’s very easy to guess. It is this special condition of which I spoke above. Unfortunately, without knowing English, we simply cannot get along with the virtual assistant. Whether Siri and Alexa don’t speak Polish at allthe Google Assistant is an exception to this. Yes, he understands Polish, but still his functionality in our native language is very limited. How strong? All we need to do is add one of the assistant devices to our Google account (like the aforementioned Nest Home Mini) and the software will force us to change the supported language to English. Unfortunately, the change applies to your entire Google Account, not just this device. After connecting the smart speaker or display to the Google account, we have to say goodbye to the assistant in Polish.

Yes, issuing commands in English for me, and probably for the vast majority of people my age and younger, is not a problem, but can you still call this a practical solution? For someone who uses English on a daily basis, especially orally, this is certainly not an obstacle. For me, the use of English comes down almost exclusively to written forms, so it’s difficult for me to switch to English only for the one time when I have to give a command to the voice assistant. Naturally, with simple and frequent commands, this is not a problem. Nonetheless, I’ve noticed that I’d much rather pick up my smartphone and click on what I want to do than figure out how to say it in English. Laziness? Well, that’s why I use an assistant so I can afford it.

Interestingly, this problem affects the largest and most extensive helpers. In the case of somewhat simpler software, such as that available, for example, in LG TVs or Mercedes cars, the service in Polish works very well. Who knows, maybe one day Alexa and Siri will learn to speak Polish (after all, Amazon’s assistant is being developed in Poland). However, I’m afraid that even if that happens, they won’t get the full functionality. Suffice it to say that to date, Alexa makes all of its skills available to English-speaking users only.

If a voice assistant, it’s the only one

As I mentioned earlier, among the most popular voice assistants, I decided to choose an Amazon product. There were at least several reasons for this decision, more or less important. Why didn’t I choose the Google Assistant? First because I didn’t really like the compatible devices. The Nest Mini 2, although very practical and very inexpensive, did not appeal to me. Similar in shape to a sphere, with an interesting backlight, the Amazon and Apple products, in my opinion, looked much better. Why not the HomePod mini? Yes, Siri is really smart and the Apple speaker sounds greathowever, when I made my decision, it meant an additional cost to me. In the case of the HomePod, although Apple provides the appropriate tools to software producers, the sound source can be Apple Music or one of the few music services. In the case of Poland, the only alternative is Deezer. As a Spotify user at the time, I had to pay an additional service for the HomePod only. It didn’t make much sense.

Amazon Alexa has become my primary voice assistant due to the following strengths. First, a native and seamless collaboration with Spotify as the music source. Second, a very long list of commands that allows you to control many home electronics using the wizard. Alexa and its skills are by far the most popular among consumer electronics manufacturers. What finally convinced me, however, was a nice Polish accent in the form of an information source. Amazon Alexa lets you set the Polish FM station RMF as your news source. A single voice command is then enough to listen to the latest information service broadcast on this air. Although it is only a small addition, I use it regularly.

Voice assistants have a chance to change the world

While the above considerations may be seen as complaining about voice assistants, especially in the context of the language barrier that separates many users from the possibility of their wider use, they should certainly not be suppressed, on the contrary. Personally, I have my fingers crossed for the further and intensive development of voice assistants, both in terms of additional features and availability for the widest possible group of interested people. Honestly, the most interesting application in which I would see the broad skills of voice assistants is in helping to improve the quality of life of disabled and elderly people. After all, using the voice assistant only changes the way you enter data into devices, not the data entered. Whether by voice, click or gesture, we always give our devices the exact same commands.

It is easy to imagine a situation in which an elderly or disabled person is able to operate many items of furniture with just their voice. An assistant would help you turn the light on and off, change the room temperature or get in touch with the world. A voice command is enough to hear interesting information, whether it is the news of the country and the world, or the sphere of life that interests a given person, or at least to know the current outside temperature and the forecast for the next few days. All of this, with the help of an assistant, could be done remotely by voice. With the help of voice assistants, you can also make voice calls or video calls, which can be important even in emergency situations. Unfortunately, the language barrier and the possible difficulties in setting up the devices can be an effective barrier for a long time.

I am very curious about your feelings related to the interaction with voice assistants. What are voice assistants used for in daily activities? Do you use smart speakers? What do you think of the future, in which a large part of the equipment in the home is controlled by voice – too much laziness or a future-oriented and comfortable solution? I guess opinions on this topic can differ significantly from each other, so I’m even more curious about them. I would also like to know your opinion on the subject of the use of voice assistants in the future – what do you miss the most about them? Thank you very much for any advice on this aspect.

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