Hands On: VoicePod Voice Commands for Control4
A hands-off approach to home control.
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March 07, 2013 by Grant Clauser

For me, VoicePod made sense for some uses more than others. It was convenient for turning my system on and selecting my video source as I was settling down into my seat. I also liked using it to turn the whole system off (by using the “Room Off” command). Not having to pick up a remote or tap a touchscreen made it feel like I had an invisible butler assisting me.  I also liked VoicePod for turning on the lights. In a whole house control system, I can imagine VoicePod being perfect for a nighttime all-off command or for arming a security system. For navigating around Blu-ray and Roku menus I preferred using the Control4 remote.

One especially nice thing about the product is that it will give you voice feedback so you know it understood your instructions. For instance, if you ask it to raise the room temperature to 70 degrees it will answer with something like “Temperature now set to 70 degrees.” You can also ask it to report on a system’s status, such as your security system, and it can tell you whether the system is armed or not.

VoicePod can be used in conjunction with other automation devices, such as a motion sensor or door trigger. For instance, a when the door to your theater opens VoicePod can automatically ask you if you want to watch something.

Like any voice-control system, it takes some adjusting on the user’s part to know what kind of inflection and voice volume works best, but it’s not so picky that most people couldn’t master it. When I first demonstrated it to my wife, she quickly figured out that you shouldn’t address the system with the inflection you’d use if you were addressing a real person. Don’t say “Hello VoicePod” as if you were really greeting it, but rather say the words flatly, as if they were just words. Ambient noise in the room also makes a difference. If you’re watching a movie with the volume raised, you probably won’t be able to get VoicePod’s attention. Device placement probably also makes a difference, and an installer will suggest the best place to put it.

While we’ve seen several DIY attempts to use voice control in the home, mostly by tying Apple’s Siri into a system, this is the first of its kind available to the public. People looking for more convenience out of their Control4 system (or just more cool) will like the potential in VoicePod. People with disabilities which make using remotes or touchpanels difficult will also find a solution in VoicePod. For most people, the device will be a supplement, not a replacement, to a remote or app control, but it’s the most interesting supplement I’ve ever experienced and think anyone considering a new Control4 system should try it in at least one room. The devices will become available through professional integrators around May.

Here’s a video demonstration of VoicePod from the 2012 CEDIA Expo:

VoicePod
$650

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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.


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