I hear my father’s voice often. Sometimes it is inside my head and other times coming out of my mouth, but it is certainly him. And in thinking about it now, when I was a kid along with my four siblings, he definitely had voice control way before it was trendy. Or even invented.
Cleverly, the wake word would be the name of any of his children, followed by the command. “Tony, take out the garbage,” would result in the trash leaving the house. Similar commands existed for mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, and even cleaning a room.
He was also a leader in home automation, as I realized while putting together this issue’s stories on power management. “Turn out that light!” “Lower the temperature when you leave the room!” “Close the door — you’re letting the heat out!” (Or “in,” depending on the season.)
Of course, my dad was not the only innovator working on these advancements to residential lifestyle. “My father was the big energy monitor in my house,” said Savant president JC Murphy when we spoke about this month’s cover story. “He would say, ‘Shut the refrigerator door.” Right, that was another command frequently heard in my house.
In Orro CEO Colin Billings’ column on the environmental benefit of smart lighting, he opens with, “Most of us share a common childhood experience: being fussed at for leaving the lights on.”
I have often channeled my father’s pioneering work in energy management in my own home, which I would regularly walk into each night to find Every. Light. On. Even in closets. (Although mine was less voice command and more grouchily walking into each room and making a show of turning off the lights.) And as the last one to go to bed, I always lowered the heat and made sure all the doors and windows were locked (“Tony, Goodnight scene”).
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With the rapid progress and acceptance of automation in the home, it makes me wonder what fathers of the future will do with the free time gained from not having to shout basic commands at everyone. And will kids of the future appreciate the energy savings of having such a smart, hands-off home?
The answer to both, I suppose, can be found on the power management apps, which can clearly show the usage and the savings, are fun to look at, and can be one of those deep-dive, rabbit holes that you go in and stay in because it is fun to poke around. The family that saves energy together….
My dad passed some time ago, but I often wonder what he would think about today’s home technology. Any time I would show him things I thought were wondrous, like my first Macintosh computer, he would usually be unimpressed and say, “Eh, you still have to type. I thought they could do more.”
I would have loved to have taken him into a Josh.ai-controlled home and tell him to tee up one of his most common voice commands, and then shake my head as he asked, “Okay Josh, who ate the last of the ice cream?”