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article imageAudio IoT? Video is set to dominate: Interview Special

By Tim Sandle     Apr 24, 2018 in Technology
A visual aspect to IoT gadgets is imminent, based on industry developments. This means the days of just a smart speaker assistant will be over. Aaron Emigh, CEO of Brilliant looks into the new trends for Digital Journal.
A visual medium is now seen by many developers as a vital component of ambient computing, and it will soon be what consumer want. This is the reason why the company Brilliant is seeking to combine all interaction methods of ambient computing (voice, touch, and motion control) directly into devices for the smart home.
In addition technology firm Qualcomm has designed new chipsets for IoT gadgets together with a Vision Intelligence Platform to help companies design applications more easily.
To understand what these means for the growing IoT arena, Digital Journal spoke with Aaron Emigh, CEO of Brilliant about this development and the future of the smart home.
Digital Journal: How important will AI be for the home?
Aaron Emigh: AI will be extremely important for the home. We're still in the early days, with the emergence of simple voice assistants and speaker recognition, and some basic image recognition for security. These first steps are already overwhelmingly popular, which is a sign of things to come. As AI edges closer to human level comprehension of our situations and needs -- and let's be clear, we are a very long way from that -- its capacity to help us increases dramatically. The next couple of decades will see a revolution in how technology can help us, and nowhere more than the home.
DJ: Are consumers keen to move on from voice AI assistants?
Emigh: We are still very much on the upswing of adoption of voice assistants. This adoption will continue, because speech is an essential mode of communication that is very natural for many interactions. However, when you use a voice assistant, you quickly realize that there are many interactions for which they are not well suited.
For example, when you have a lot of information to sort through, like choosing what music to listen to from all of your playlists, or looking over a long term weather forecast, it's far more efficient to do that visually. When you want to perform a very simple action that is close at hand, like turning on a light when you walk into a room, it's much faster to do that with a physical gesture than a verbal instruction. When you're adjusting something interactively, like the volume of music or the dimming level of a light, it's much easier to do that with an on-screen slider than with a series of verbal commands.
So while consumers are not moving on from voice assistants, they are realizing that voice is only one aspect of what is needed for home control, and that you need screens and touch as well.
DJ: What is ambient computing?
Emigh: Ambient computing refers to the idea that anyone in a physical space can access the capabilities of that space, just by virtue of being there, as an ambient capability of the place. This contrasts with mobile computing, in which a user brings their own computer which is largely unrelated to where they are.
Mobile technology is well suited to situations in which restriction of access to authorized people is key. Remote control of a home, for example, is such a case -- you wouldn't want everyone to be able to unlock your front door. But ambient computing is better suited to enabling people to use the capabilities of a location, and for that reason it is ideal for enabling whoever is in a home to be able to use the home fully.
DJ: How significant is the news that Qualcomm has designed new chipsets just for IoT gadgets?
Emigh: Qualcomm has a wide range of IoT offerings, from bare bones chips for simple, low power devices up to modern smartphones. Their most recent announcement is the QCS60x line, which includes AI coprocessing, and is especially well suited for machine vision. This is significant because it's a meaningful response to the rapid shift in the use of processing power toward AI applications.
I view it as similar to the incorporation of GPUs into personal computers, in that this was a response to the consumer demand for more AI functionality in the same way that GPUs responded to a similar demand for computationally intensive graphics processing. This type of coprocessor also may have privacy ramifications, in that it holds the promise of enabling more AI processing to be done locally, rather than streaming raw data up to servers for processing as is more commonly done on IoT devices today.
DJ: What does a vision of future IoT for the home look like?
Emigh: I think the biggest gap today is in the relationship of people with their homes, which is being strained by the introduction of technology that lacks an appropriate user experience.
First generation smart home devices relied on smartphones for their user experience. So if you're sitting on your sofa and you want to dim the lights or adjust your music volume, you have to get your smartphone, authenticate yourself, launch one of a dozen home control apps, navigate some menus, and finally get to a slider you can adjust. This is terrible, but it's even worse for house guests, who don't have the right apps, or kids, who don't have a smartphone at all—so lots of people really can’t use the house they're in.
The second generation is voice controlled appliances. These provide an ambient computing capability, but it's limited because there are many things that voice is not good at, and because homeowners don't want to clutter up their tabletops and counters throughout their homes.
The third generation of IoT for the smart home solves the problems of the first two generations, by providing ambient computing capabilities throughout the home that combine all of the disparate devices into a unified touch and voice interface and makes it part of the house itself. In the future, we won't think about "smart home" as a distinct category -- all homes will be smart, so it's only natural that the control for the intelligence will be part of the home itself, just as it is now for fundamental capabilities such as heat and light. This will enable a much more natural interaction between human and machine.
DJ: What advantages will visual technology bring?
Emigh: Countless advantages. The first applications we've seen are in security and in inter-person communications. We'll see these improve, we'll see new categories of services open up, and at the same time we'll see more and more machine vision driven analysis of what people are doing in the home. That understanding will be used to understand people's habits and intents, so we can offer up information and services that are tailored to people's individual needs and preferences at the moment they are wanted.
DJ: How about motion control and sensors?
Emigh: These already play an important role in security applications. What is coming is to wire them into a unifying platform that develops intelligence about how the house is being used and can help tailor the home environment based on that usage.
DJ: What is Brilliant working on?
Emigh: Our vision at Brilliant is to bring unity to the home. We are removing the strain of interacting with all of the smart home devices that increasingly are in your home. The Brilliant Control is a touch and voice smart home controller that replaces an existing light switch to give you control over all of your smart home systems, such as light, music, climate, doorbells, locks, etc. There's a built-in video camera that can be used for things like video intercom and baby cams.
Amazon Alexa is built in, so you get voice control over your home as well as all of the Alexa functions. In addition, the Brilliant Control provides visual responses to spoken commands, without cluttering up your tables and countertop with appliances.
The light switch is a natural place for the next generation of smart home control for four reasons. First, there's one in every room, so you can control everything in your house from anywhere in your house. Second, it's already the home control that you use most often, so it's natural to extend its capabilities.
Third, there's power running to it, so there are no new batteries to replace, and, fourth, smart lighting is a fundamental smart home system, so replacing the light switch with a smart home control that has native smart lighting capabilities built in solves multiple problems at once.
DJ: Do you have any information on pricing and availability?
Emigh: Brilliant Controls start at $249. They come in six colors in four models (replacing a single switch, 2 switches, 3 switches, and 4 switches) and include dimming and compatibility with standard three-way lighting circuits. They'll ship this summer, and you can sign up for a pre-release discount on our website.
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