Smart Speakers Can Keep Families Connected, Bring Easy Access to Common Tasks and Information

A Google Nest Audio smart speaker sitting on a table next to a folder and a plant

Smart speakers, also known as voice assistants, are changing the way people interact with the internet.

“Voice assistants have really enabled those with vision impairments to remain independent by utilizing their voice and hearing to assist with daily living tasks,” says Council Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Brent Perzentka.

A smart speaker can even be programed by a family member in another location, helping the owner by setting up reminders, updates, to-do lists and more. Some smart speakers offer another plus for families—they come with a video screen, allowing for video calls.

There are many other benefits to having a smart speaker. Setting alarms can keep a person on schedule with medications. Voice commands can update shopping lists. Checking the weather is as easy as setting your location on the voice activated Alexa app. If you want a weather report first thing in the morning, you can set up a daily routine to hear it.

Other applications include:

  • Getting the news. The user can, as with the weather, hear the news with one simple command. The user can also program their favorite news source.
  • Using smart plugs. This allows a voice command to control the on-off function of other electronics in the house, like lamps and other interior and exterior lighting.
  • Thermostat control. Voice commands to a smart thermostat allow the owner to control room temperature.
  • Calendar management. You can ask your voice assistant to add things to your calendar, and have it tell you what’s happening daily.
  • Listen to the radio. One command can bring up a favorite radio station.
  • Listen to streamed music through services like Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music or Apple Music. Even if you don’t have a subscription the voice assistant can still play whatever genre of music you prefer.
  • Listening to books. You can access reading material through Audible or Kindle on your smart speaker with one command.

There are three main brands of smart speakers currently on the market: Amazon Alexa, Google Nest, and Apple Home Pod. Depending on the brand and model of speaker you purchase, prices range from $25-$300. They all have similar functions, but features can vary. For example, some models have screens and the speaker quality is better on some of the pricier devices.

In addition to the speaker itself, you need a few other things to set up a smart speaker: You need a wireless internet connection, some kind of electronic device like a personal computer, tablet or smart phone, and an email address on file with the smart speaker maker (Amazon, Google or Apple).

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