Joshing, but serious
Some experts say that 2016 is the year for voice control to dominate the headlines. Paul Skelton looks at a solution that seems to be leading the way.
We all know someone who shouts at the TV as if the people on the screen can hear them.
No matter how often you remind or ridicule them, they just won’t listen (much like the people on the screen).
Now, it turns out that someone is listening.
His name is Josh and he is an omnipotent being that is always present (in your home), listening and obeying your wishes, such as “turn on my lights”. It’s almost enough to make you feel like a magician.
Introduced in 2015, Josh is software capable of handling natural human inputs and translating them into real-world commands. The software lives on a Mac Mini, which the company refers to as the Home Base, controlling local devices when possible and hooking into the cloud when necessary.
It was developed by Alex Capecelatro and Tim Gill in California, and it’s being rolled out in a few ‘test homes’ in the US.
“We had been working on an artificial intelligence (AI) program for quite a while, but we had never really thought about home automation applications for the technology,” Alex says.
“About three years ago, I began to play around with a few of the home automation systems available when I started to renovate my home.
“My house had a very old Crestron system, but it was so out of date that it wasn’t worth keeping. So we ripped it out.
Alex started his career as a research scientist working for NASA, the Naval Research Lab and Sandia National Lab, so he has long been exposed to the latest technologies.
“Because of my background as an engineer and research scientist, I’m used to cutting-edge technology. But what I found on the market didn’t quite come up to my expectations.”
“Don’t get me wrong; there are individual companies out there that do amazing things with graphic design. Others don’t.
“When we decided to get into this space, I was coming into the market from the perspective of a distressed customer thinking there had to be a better way.
“I started to read all the industry magazines and began connecting with CEDIA members to learn and become engaged with the market as much as I could.
“This is a trade product. We’re not looking for it to be a mass market product. We realised early on that to achieve a high-end custom home you need to use a professional integrator.
“You need to use someone who innately understands these systems and how to develop an installation that meets all of the client’s needs.
“DIY products may get there in the future but they’re not there yet.”
Josh’s Home Base provides local and remote access. The company offers a full-home solution that, in addition to offering one the most advanced home AI systems on the market, gives users a variety of ways to interface with their home.
Complementing voice control is a full suite of mobile and desktop apps providing a beautifully designed visual user interface that provides a clean and intuitive experience.
Further, Josh is the only voice solution capable of handling multiple commands in a single breath. For example, it has no problem executing a command such as: “Play Adele in the kitchen, turn on the living room lights and open the blinds.”
Alex says Josh’s Home Base was built on the company’s proprietary artificial intelligence system and is very flexible. It is expandable and learns over time.
“It’s so much more than voice control – sometimes you’ll want to use a remote or switch. Our feeling is that you should be able to use your system in whatever way is most natural.
“A big component of Josh is the really beautiful user interface for iOS and Android phones and tablets.”
The system sits on a Mac Mini that lives on the server. It features IP control that grants remote access to the system, but it also sits locally on the network, so if your WiFi is down you can still access the control system.