Physical Interfaces for Voice Interactive Devices

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In the book What Technology Wants, Kevin Kelly does a great job drawing a comparison between technological evolution and biological evolution. He shows that similar to how evolution converges on certain biological features such as wings, fins, and scales, so do developments in devices. One great example he uses is the lightbulb and the mad rush to invent the perfect illuminating device.

It’s interesting to observe this at much faster scale with voice interfaces. Specifically, looking at the physical inputs for voice devices. Looking at the Ubi, Echo, and Home, there are similar physical characteristics:

  • Illumination on ready. The device lights up when it’s ready to receive a command.
  • Mute button. This button physically disables the recording of audio.
  • Long push. Holding down a physical button puts the device into setup / config mode.

These devices have still not converged on volume control (button vs encoder vs capacitive touch vs none) but we’ll likely see some features crystallize in the next half year.

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