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Voice-activated virtual assistant guide

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Before you buy, consider the points listed below:

  • Voice-activated controls can be set up on your PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone, or smart speaker to enable you to play music, set reminders, make a call, find online information or go shopping on a website
  • You can also use your voice-activated device to connect to a ‘smart hub’ to create a ‘voice-activated virtual assistant’ giving you voice control of your household ‘smart’ gadgets and systems. This can control your household heating and lighting, switch on smart appliances, change the channel on your smart TV, switch on your smart kettle and even check the contents of your smart fridge
  • There is an ever-growing range of ‘smart’ devices available to purchase, before you are tempted make sure that each smart device has inbuilt data security, some are not secure and may give others access to your home Wi-Fi connected devices
  • Check that smart devices are compatible with the make/model of your smart speaker and smart hub. There are a growing number of manufacturers developing voice assistants; the most popular are from Amazon, Google, and Apple
  • To use a voice-activated virtual assistant you will need to have good Internet connection as your commands are recorded and processed through an internet server and the response will be an answer to your question or the activation of a smart device or service
  • When using the voice activation on your phone, speaker, or smart hub, it will ONLY record and respond to your commands when activated by a recognised ’wake word ’e.g. “Hey Siri”
  • The voice-activated virtual assistant will alert you if your command has not been interpreted or if it is unable to find the answer or activate the device or service. You can then rephrase your question or speak more loudly or more slowly
  • Voice-activated virtual assistants can interpret most spoken instruction, but if your voice is quiet or your speech varies or you have an unusual accent, make sure that the voice assistant can accurately interpret your requests before you purchase
  • Be aware that voice assistants may respond to other voices at home. If you are using your voice assistant for online shopping it is advisable to use a device with password confirmation for voice purchases to avoid mistakes or misuse
  • Using voice activation or voice-activated virtual assistants is free of charge, but some services you connect to may require a subscription e.g. music streaming
  • If you are considering installing a voice-activated virtual assistant system for someone you care for, ensure that they understand how the equipment will work and the data sharing implications of a web-connected installation and that they can give informed consent for this to be set up at home