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Top 2012 Trend: Voice, Gesture & Alternative Controls

Touchscreens and remote controls are passe; alternative input technologies such as speech recognition, gesture control, NFC and RFID provide easier access to technology.


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Every year, the Consumer Electronics Association picks 5 Technology Trends to Watch. For 2012, the organization included “alternative input technologies,” and we couldn’t agree more.

But while CEA spends considerable energy on the “emerging” trend of touchscreens (yawn), we believe 2012 could be a break-out year for other, newer technologies - especially voice control, but also near-field communication (NFC), gesture-based control, biometrics and RFID.

Is it finally time for voice control?

Speech recognition has been available for quite some time, and has been implemented in many DIY-type automation systems for at least a decade. It’s not that the technology is/was no good - indeed, it’s come along nicely over the years - it’s that voice recognition devices were not ubiquitous, people felt silly talking to their home control system, and it wasn’t all that necessary. Touchscreens and remote controls could do the trick.

Today, however, voice recognition devices, e.g., mobile phones, are everywhere. People are accustomed to barking commands at a GPS, phones, automated customer service systems and games, to name a few. Furthermore, there is so much we can do today with home technology that it becomes increasingly complicated to navigate through countless menus to find the right TV show, music artist or HVAC zone.

How much easier would it be to tell your mobile phone, “Record Dexter”? It’s just as easy to “Call the office” or “Find Starbucks,” as so many of us utter today.

All of these factors have been ramping up the case for voice-enabled control for the last 10 years or so, but we think 2012 will spur the movement for one overarching reason: Siri, Apple’s new OS that includes a well-received speech-recognition engine.

“When Apple enters the living room with a product [Siri] other than a hobby, our industry will be changed forever,” says integrator Steve Ambrogio of Home Theater Systems Inc., Carlsbad, Calif.

Despite developments, though, do integrators really want to be blamed for one more home system snafu? As one integrator notes in a CE Pro survey on the subject, “With HDMI creating more headaches, the last thing I need is one more ‘new’ technology integrated before it is ready …”

Voice control is only one of several intriguing new alternative input technologies. Also getting a boost this year is gesture-based control, which gained traction in 2011 with Microsoft’s Kinect. And so many of us are now accustomed to pinching and swiping and tapping on our tablets right now, that it wouldn’t be a stretch to bypass the screen and gesture into thin air to control things such as motorized shades, lighting and TV volume.

Also poised to make a splash in 2012 is near-field communication. The home-control industry got a good glimpse of it at CEDIA Expo 2011, where Yale/Assa Abloy showed us just how compelling it is to hold a cellphone to a door lock to unlatch it. NFC gained notable visibility in 2011 with the launch of Google Wallet and other mobile payment platforms. So it is certain we will see prices drop and popularity increase for NFC in 2012.

Not to be ignored, biometrics and RFID will continue to make inroads for home applications, especially security.
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Article Topics

News · Product News · Home Automation and Control · Control Systems · Voice Control · Gesture Control · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

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