Home automation with speech - my vision

In my last post I mentioned that I will be using Speech Server in my own home to help automate it.  In this post I will explain what I mean by 'home automation' and what my plans are for this application.  This is not really a 'vision' because there are already quite a few companies and examples of this out there.  This is more of my 'opinion' about what it will look like.

Until now our interaction with computers has been for the most part voluntary.  Largely successful efforts have been undertaken to make computers more useful in the past years.  For instance, people now use their computers to play games, work, chat, and socialize.  However the basic idea still stands - when we want to use the computer we turn it on and start whatever program we desire.  What I see as the eventual goal is computers will come to us instead of us coming to them.  There are already products that blur these lines - for instance computers in cell phones, PDAs, and Microsoft Media Center.  What I see however is computers moving from being entertainers, informations centers, and communicators to being facilitators in our lives.

This is already ongoing on a small scale.  I have heard of houses where each person in the household wears a tag similar to an RFID tag.  When the person walks into a room the ambience of the room is automatically changed for the person.  For instance a flat panel TV is located in each room and as you walk into each room the TV changes to your channel and the TV in the previous room is turned off.  Although this is certainly very cool technology I'm not sure how I would put the tag on my 1 year old without fear of him pulling it off and eating it.

The same affect can be had by using trip lasers and cameras with image recognition - it is just a bit trickier to implement.  In both of these examples however, the principle is the same.  The computer read data from the person coming into the room without the individual making any conscious decision to interact with the computer (OK, some argument can be made that the individual made a conscious decision by wearing the tag).

In a similar way, enabling speech communication within the home can be considered the computer "coming to" the person. While the person did make a conscious effort to 'use' the computer, the person did not need to seek out the computer in any way.  Sitting in his/her living room, the individual can say something like 'what is the weather outside' and the computer responds.  This same technology is already in use in some car models.

I think that is enough for today.  In my next post I will describe my goal for an automated home.