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Getting started with a smart home I Lived in a Smart Home for 20 Years. Here's What You Should Know. I Lived in a Smart Home for 20 Years. Here's What You Should Know. MakeUseOf spoke with one of our regular readers and commenters, Ben Stutt, of Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA, about his experiences living in a smart home. Read More is easier than you might think, and it won’t cost you much money either How Much Does a Smart Home Really Cost? How Much Does a Smart Home Really Cost? A smart home could change your life – freeing up time in your day and regulating your routine so you don't have to remember what needs to be done. But how expensive is it, really? Read More . In fact, the hardest part about having a smart home is researching and picking which projects to pursue!

And one of the coolest advancements in home automation is the growing integration of voice control Alexa, How Does Siri Work? Voice Control Explained Alexa, How Does Siri Work? Voice Control Explained The world is moving towards voice commands for everything, but how exactly does voice control work? Why is it so glitchy and restricted? Here's what you need to know as a layman user. Read More with all kinds of smart devices. Wouldn’t be cool if you could start brewing coffee or shut the window blinds with a single voice command? Well, it’s possible.

Here are a number of different options that provide ways to integrate voice commands with various products. Check them all out because they’re all unique – go with the one that’s best suited for your needs.

1. With the Amazon Echo

Amazon wasn’t the first one to introduce voice control to the home, but it certainly brought the concept to the masses with the debut of the Echo. Technically speaking, the Echo is just a “wireless Bluetooth speaker” — but what makes it awesome is its ability to interact with other smart products How Amazon Echo Can Make Your Home A Smart Home How Amazon Echo Can Make Your Home A Smart Home Smart home tech is still in its early days, but a new product from Amazon called "Echo" may help bring it into the mainstream. Read More .

The Echo is an always-listening device. For example, you can connect it to your Phillips Hue lights and turn them on or off just by saying, “Turn off the lights in the kitchen.” Other brands that the Echo can connect to include Belkin WeMo, Samsung SmartThings, Nest, Insteon, and more.

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You can also order additional units of the Echo Dot Amazon Echo vs. Dot vs. Tap: What Are the Key Differences? Amazon Echo vs. Dot vs. Tap: What Are the Key Differences? One common complaint against Amazon Echo was that it had too many features and cost too much. Amazon's response to that? Releasing two variations with smaller price tags: the Tap and the Echo Dot. Read More , which is a lite version of the Echo — it lacks the dedicated speaker (but allows you to hook up your own external) and thus costs half the price. All told, the Amazon Echo is one of the coolest products on the market right now.

Amazon Echo - Black Amazon Echo - Black Plays all your music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more using just your voice Buy Now At Amazon $179.99

Still not convinced? Check out these amazingly creative ways of using the Echo 7 Creative Uses for Amazon Echo and Alexa 7 Creative Uses for Amazon Echo and Alexa You’ve seen the ads starring Alec Baldwin, but you're still not sure what Amazon Echo does or whether you need one in your home. We’re about to find out. Read More to automate various aspects of your home.

2. With CastleOS

CastleOS isn’t an operating system in the common sense. It’s just a central “engine” that runs on Windows and connects to a whole host of smart devices, acting as the central “operator” between all of the smart devices in your home. Few people know about it, but it’s really awesome.

In order to use voice commands, you’ll need to hook up a Microsoft Kinect. I know, you probably don’t have a Kinect just sitting around your house, but once you realize that CastleOS lets you create custom voice C# scripts that can do almost anything, you’ll want to invest in one.

Kinect for Windows Kinect for Windows Utilize Kinect skeletal-tracking, sophisticated microphone array, and other sensor technologies Buy Now At Amazon $399.99 Xbox One Kinect Sensor with Dance Central Spotlight (Discontinued) Xbox One Kinect Sensor with Dance Central Spotlight (Discontinued) Command your Xbox and TV with your voice (examples include "Xbox On", "Xbox Watch TV", "Xbox Go to Amazon Instant Video", and more). Buy Now At Amazon $109.99

CastleOS supports every major smart home protocol right out of the box: Nest, WeMo, Z-Wave, Ecobee, X10, Sonos, Insteon, Lutron, and more. It’s also future-proofed thanks to its open architecture, meaning future protocols can be integrated later on without much hassle.

3. With Google Now

If you’re an Android user and you aren’t using Google Now yet, then you’re seriously missing out. It can do some amazing stuff, including a lot of hands-free convenience while driving Do Everything in the Car Hands Free With Google Now Do Everything in the Car Hands Free With Google Now You don't have to text and drive. In fact, you can do a lot with only your voice while driving -- even more than texting! Read More as well as the ability to control third-party apps with your voice Use Google Now to Control Third-Party Apps with Your Voice Use Google Now to Control Third-Party Apps with Your Voice Google Now isn't just limited to Google services; in fact, it integrates really well with a bunch of popular apps. Read More .

But what’s even more impressive is that Google Now can now automate your home life How to Use Google Now to Automate Your Home and Life How to Use Google Now to Automate Your Home and Life Google Now can serve as voice control for your smart home gadgets, posting to your favorite social media accounts, and even tracking your health. Read More . Not directly, unfortunately, but with a bit of IFTTT magic, you’ll be able to create all kinds of automated tasks and integrations that will make your home life easier and more enjoyable.

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Perhaps the best example is how Google Now can integrate with Nest Thermostats through IFTTT, and if you use it well enough, you could easily end up slashing your home heating bill in half every month 7 Nest Automation Tricks to Cut Your Heating Bill in Half 7 Nest Automation Tricks to Cut Your Heating Bill in Half If there were a Nest thermostat in every home, it would have the biggest single impact on energy consumption in history; and it could save you more money than you might imagine. Here's how. Read More . Other integration ideas include Fitbits, WeMo devices, SmartThings products, Wink appliances, etc.

Sure, Google Now doesn’t integrate with all of these things directly, but who cares? Not only is IFTTT amazing, but you’ll also be able to use IFTTT for hundreds of other ideas too, so you might as well learn it anyway.

4. With the Ivee Voice

Not many people have heard about Ivee, mainly because the company hasn’t made anything too noteworthy yet. If you look on Amazon you’ll find a few devices that never got much traction, like the Flex (voice-controlled radio) and the Digit (voice-controlled alarm clock).

Now Ivee is stepping up to the big leagues with the Voice, a voice-controlled home assistant that’s reminiscent of the aforementioned Amazon Echo. The Voice promises to connect and control all kinds of smart devices and services.

It actually looks quite promising, but the downside is that it’s still in the final stages of development and production. You can preorder one of these for $99 and receive it by April or May 2016, but there are only 54 units left for grabs as of this writing.

Or you can wait for mass production, which is currently on track to begin in September with the first public units shipping in October.

5. With the Nucleus

The Nucleus is an interesting product because it’s a unique device with a specific purpose — a “smart intercom” that facilitates better communication between friends and family members, not just within the same house but between multiple houses if necessary.

There are three big features to know about: room-to-room video, home-to-home video, and mobile-to-home video. It’s like a dedicated Skype or FaceTime device that’s surprisingly flexible with a lot of auxiliary features that you’ll probably like.

Indeed, the Nucleus can do a lot of other stuff. It works as a music player, a security camera network, a baby monitor, but most importantly, it can seamlessly integrate with Nest, SmartThings, and Insteon devices right out of the box.

Nucleus Anywhere Intercom with Amazon Alexa Nucleus Anywhere Intercom with Amazon Alexa Nucleus is a family communication device that connects you with the people you love, whether they're downstairs or across the country. Buy Now At Amazon $174.98

And because the Nucleus supports voice commands, this means you’ll be able to control those connected smart devices just by speaking.

Obviously there are better solutions if voice control is the main thing you need, but if you’re planning to get a smart intercom anyway, then this is a wonderful bonus feature to have.

6. With Microsoft Cortana

The Internet of Things is gaining in popularity these days The Internet of Things: 10 Useful Products You Must Try in 2016 The Internet of Things: 10 Useful Products You Must Try in 2016 The Internet of Things is ramping up in 2016, but what does that mean exactly? How do you personally benefit from the Internet of Things? Here are a few useful products to illustrate. Read More and a lot of companies are taking note of it. In fact, there are some big names working their way into the whole IoT trend, and one of those big names is Microsoft with its Cortana integration.

If you haven’t heard, Cortana will one day be able to connect to and control all kinds of devices around your house, including your refrigerator, washing machine, lights, and more — and you’ll be able to control all of it from a distance with a compatible Windows device.

The downside is that Microsoft isn’t exactly known for its care of user privacy (as evidenced by all the privacy issues in Windows 10 Windows 10 Is Watching: Should You Be Worried? Windows 10 Is Watching: Should You Be Worried? Since its release, Windows 10 has been dogged by rumors concerning user privacy. Some of these are accurate, whereas others are myths. But where does Windows 10 stand on privacy, really? Read More ) so if you’re worried about smart devices tracking your personal data How Much of Your Personal Data Could Smart Devices Track? How Much of Your Personal Data Could Smart Devices Track? Smart home privacy and security concerns are still as real as ever. And even though we love the idea of smart technology, this is just one of many things to be aware of before diving... Read More then you’ll probably want to stay away from this option.

7. With Siri + HomeKit

For those who don’t know, Apple actually has a framework for smart devices called HomeKit, and with it you can integrate and control said smart devices Philips Hue Works With HomeKit: How To Make The Most Of It Philips Hue Works With HomeKit: How To Make The Most Of It Philips has finally gotten round to integrating HomeKit into their Hue lighting platform, and it's amazing. Here's what you need to know. Read More using an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch. In fact, you can even control HomeKit devices with Siri!

The tech is relatively new, but we’ve already started experimenting with it. For example, check out how to create a Siri-controlled Wi-Fi light How to Make a DIY Siri-Controlled Wi-Fi Light How to Make a DIY Siri-Controlled Wi-Fi Light In this guide, you're going to learn how to create a Wi-Fi controllable light, and control it with Siri. Read More . Or take it one step further and create a Siri-controlled Sonos sound + lights system How to Use Siri to Set the Scene for Romance How to Use Siri to Set the Scene for Romance Yesterday we showed you how to create a Wi-Fi light; today we're going to build on that knowledge to make Siri to work with Sonos, then put it together in a romantic scene. Read More . It’s pretty cool what you can do.

But as you can see from the instructions, the process is pretty advanced and not exactly user-friendly. The sad thing is that even though HomeKit has been out for a few months now, there still aren’t many HomeKit-compatible devices Future Proofing Your Smart Home for Apple HomeKit Compatibility Future Proofing Your Smart Home for Apple HomeKit Compatibility Read More , so the possibilities are quite limited at the moment.

For now, you’d probably be better off with one of the other options in this post or foregoing the voice control in favor of IFTTT-based smart home integrations Clever IFTTT Smart Home Integrations For Your Life Clever IFTTT Smart Home Integrations For Your Life The future of the smart home is now. And thanks to online websites like IFTTT, creating a smart home is easy and more impressive than ever. Read More instead.

How Will You Voice Control Your Home?

These aren’t the only options out there, but they are the ones that are most exciting and show the most potential for mainstream adoption. However, if you’re more of a DIY person and want to try something more complex, check out Jasper and VoxCommando.

On the whole, remember that smart home automation isn’t expensive 6 Types of Home Automation You Can Actually Afford 6 Types of Home Automation You Can Actually Afford Are you ready to join the smart home revolution but worried that it's beyond your budget? Smart homes aren't that expensive, and there are plenty of components that the average homeowner can afford. Read More and is simple enough that anyone can get involved. Not sure where to start? Try these smart home products that are well worth the money Attention Homeowners: 5 Smart Home Features Worth the Extra Cost Attention Homeowners: 5 Smart Home Features Worth the Extra Cost Which smart home features are worth it? Which ones can be safely tossed aside and ignored? Let's take a look at a few that are actually worth the money. Read More , and when you explore further, stick to these reputable smart home brands 9 Reputable Smart Home Brands With Products You Can Trust 9 Reputable Smart Home Brands With Products You Can Trust The modern world is moving toward all kinds of smart home automation, and the longer you hold out, the more difficult it's going to be when your day of conversion finally comes. Read More .

Are you going to set up voice control in your own home? If so, which of these solutions appeal most to you? If not, how come? Share with us in the comments below!

Image Credit: Voice control by VSForever via Shutterstock

  1. fcd76218
    April 19, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Does voice control work only with designated voices or does it accept commands from anybody?
    How accurate is the word recognition? Dragon Naturally Speaking is hit or miss, requiring editing afterwards. The text display when you mute your TV leaves a lot to be desired.

    How successful are speech recognition algorithms in handling heavy accents and speech impediments such as lisp or stuttering?

    How secure is speech control? Do the 'always-listening' devices use the mothership to interpret the speech or do they do it locally?

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