Big hoopla about voice control


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Hi everyone,
I've been a Sonos user since 2008 and currently own:
2x Play:5
1x Play:3
1x PlayBar
1x BRIDGE
I've also owned connects etc., which I retired as I didn't need them any more.

My typical use for Sonos is to listen to music - what a surprise. I utilize Deezer and a few internet stations. I usually select one of the following options:
- a certain artist (an album) and then whilst listening add other ones to the queue
- my Deezer favorites and let Deezer do the work
- use Deezer to provide random music
- use a radio station and let it play

Of course I use my PlayBar to watch TV, at which point I don't use the controller at all since it works flawlessly and without intervention other than the TV remote.

I own an Echo dot and tried it at the beginning and don't find any use for it, noting that I don't have any home automation installed - so it is now sitting unused.

The only place where I currently see use for voice control is inside the car. I use it every day.

At home, I really don't see how it would make it easier for me to listen to music - I can use the controller app and my wife does too (which is a big thing as she isn't into tech).

I also have my doubt that any voice control would work properly when music is playing at elevated levels or when others are having a conversation at the same time.

I've been reading all those excited posts about the echo and the new home pod.

What am I missing? ?

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26 replies

What you are missing is the hundreds of posters who specifically came here to request to participate in the Alexa private beta. This is something which has never been seen before, not even with Apple Music. So no matter what one's personal opinion of voice control, there is an unprecedented amount of people who are looking forward to it.
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They use it to set a timer and ask about the weather.
I don't care for any of the pedestrian things it can do.

However I am looking forward to truly smart implementations. AI offers the potential to educate and leverage vast amounts of data we could not possibly remember or process as humans.

The day we can have a conversation with one of the girls (they all sound terrible btw, Cortana is not bad and Siri in iOS 11 has gotten better) to learn about a topic, prepare for a presentation, keep up with the news in a smarter way, stay in touch with the whereabouts and concerns of loved ones etc. then it'll be something people ought to clamor for.

I can't believe Amazon's success. Admittedly, I am not a good predictor of popular demand.
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I suspect some people will love voice control, others will have little use for it. Which, of course, is pretty much the way the world works. I own Echo Dots and find them to be fascinating gizmos, but they don't usually suit my music needs. That's because I tend to not know what I'm in the mood for at any given time until I do a little exploration. That's a big part of the fun of listening for me--finding something new--so I'm probably not going to spend a lot of time issuing specific "play this" instructions. At least I haven't so far. However, if the Sonos implementation allows "play xxx in the bedroom," " play through airport express on the Play 5 on the veranda," or even "send music to all speakers" I'll be overjoyed. I'm weary of the multi-step, overly complex Sonos visual interface and the fact that choosing which speakers play what can be a pain.
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Part of it is the 'instant gratification' generation I think. I personally don't have that big of a need for voice control of music, but my kids absolutely do. They have their own phones and such but don't really want to mess with Sonos. They love the echo(s) since they can ask for a song and get it immediately. They don't have to ask me, or do anything, it just happens.

I also think that people who haven't experienced Sonos, really aren't that techy, will like this. My mother loves to listen to Pandora on the Echo, but would have no interest in Sonos. She has very little need and wants it very easy, so it's the right way to go for her.

I'm looking forward to it partly because I want my kids to enjoy music in the house better, and little bit for my own need. I probably will listen to music more as opposed to turning on the tv. I actually think my personal greatest use will be outdoors. I have sonos playing through outdoor speakers and have a DOT with an attached battery pack. Much of the time I'm outside, I don't want to pull out the phone to change the music. Being able to do voice control would be fantastic.

I would say though that if I didn't have home automation, I probably wouldn't use my DOTS much either. I do use timers, ask about the weather, and using shopping lists...but 50% of my use is to turn on and off lights.
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Good points, particularly about younger users. I use my Dots for lights, temperature control (Ecobee), door control (August) and a bunch of other things. And I amaze my friends in Brasil by telling Alexa to turn on lights in my place in Canada while they watch a video feed of the Canadian living room, lol. For that kind of stuff, I love Dots.
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@melvimbe I am interested in learning and better understanding the decision process behind the way people do things.

Why do you think you took the time and the effort to "learn" to use SONOS?
Whereas you notice your kids actually know the title of the songs they want to play (how many do they really listen to and are those the most popular?).

They are training people into thinking tech should come to them at this point.

The exploration is half the fun for me!


@Toolio do you change the temperature in your home manually? why? Isn't it on a schedule?

I could see the use for lights if your hands are full or you are not near the switch (to save yourself the walk/ flight)...
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I didn't buy the Dot to control temperature. I installed the Ecobee before I purchased Dots, and they just happen to work with the Ecobee. Yes, the thermostat is on a schedule, but I often like to change the temperature to suit my preferences at any given time. I also travel constantly and live in two countries, so as it turns out I can control the temperature in one country by speaking to a Dot in another country (or, of course, by using the Ecobee interface on a tablet, phone or PC). Or I can switch it from heat to air conditioning remotely when seasons change. If I need to adjust the temperature to better control humidity, I can do that through a Dot from afar. When I'm away I also need to change the temperature 12 hours or so in advance of my arrival because the house in the other country requires some time to warm up or cool down, depending on the season. The light thing is handy any time. No reaching for light switches, for example. It's easy to turn on the basement light before getting to the basement. I can dim the lights by speaking instead of using a switch. I can change the color of the lights by speaking (Philips Hue). If I hear a suspicious noise at night I can turn on all lights in the house with one voice command. Etc..

...I also think that people who haven't experienced Sonos, really aren't that techy, will like this. My mother loves to listen to Pandora on the Echo, but would have no interest in Sonos. She has very little need and wants it very easy, so it's the right way to go for her...


Related to this I have also noticed that when things go wrong people get less upset with Alexa than they did with the Sonos app. I used to get an earful when something changed or stopped working in Sonos but with Alexa I find folks just get amused at the funny mistake she just made. This difference in attitude alone is worth the paradigm change to voice control.
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@melvimbe I am interested in learning and better understanding the decision process behind the way people do things.

Why do you think you took the time and the effort to "learn" to use SONOS?)...


Because I enjoy music and higher quality audio, as well the relative ease of the whole thing. I work in IT and have decent aptitude for such things, but can understand why this may not be a desirable or simple for other people.


Whereas you notice your kids actually know the title of the songs they want to play (how many do they really listen to and are those the most popular?).


I should say that it's not that my kids aren't capable of using Sonos, they just don't want to mess with Dad's stuff. It's got my music collection on it, my stations, etc. I have tried to include them in it, but they felt better leaving it alone and listing to their ipod/iphones instead. I don't really blame them for that since I wanted my own stuff as a kid as well.

When Echo came along, they didn't feel like it was messing with Dad's stuff anymore. They preferred listening to a dot in the family room over the Sonos system in that way. I actually put Echo's in their rooms for Christmas last year. There music choices have surprised me a bit. They go from playing some rap song I've never heard of, to Green Day, to Johnny Cash. They aren't just playing songs they heard of before either. They heard 'Walk the Line' before and want to know what other songs they like from Johnny Cash.


They are training people into thinking tech should come to them at this point.

The exploration is half the fun for me!


They explore what is theirs and leave Dad's stuff alone as I said before. My kids troubleshoot their own ipod/iphones and use tablets at school. My son says he often helps out the other kids with issues. My son will tell me how to use the xbox properly. Heck, I have a nephew that built his own computer. The kids that want to explore will do so, while those that don't want bother.


@Toolio do you change the temperature in your home manually? why? Isn't it on a schedule?


I know, not directed at me and I don't even have a smart thermostat. I want one though. I'd rather use my phone interface then the thermostat interface. I do have a schedule set, but I find myself making minor adjustments often, depending on the weather, my schedule, how many people are in the house, etc. I'd also like it to stay on if I decide to stay home from work or holiday, simply because my phone never left the house.


I could see the use for lights if your hands are full or you are not near the switch (to save yourself the walk/ flight)...


My morning 'alarm' consists of my kitchen and bathroom lights turning on, along with Pandora playing in the bathroom, bedroom, and family room. All of this will shut off an hour and half later as well. My exterior lights come on and off automatically at night as well. My kitchen light comes on when I get home from work. I can give echo a command to turn off several lights at one time. I can set the color of the lights. If I'm watching something on tv and don't want to get up to turn off the light, I don't have to.

None of this is really necessary, but it does make life a little easier, and it's fun to do (for me anyway)
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Related to this I have also noticed that when things go wrong people get less upset with Alexa than they did with the Sonos app. I used to get an earful when something changed or stopped working in Sonos but with Alexa I find folks just get amused at the funny mistake she just made. This difference in attitude alone is worth the paradigm change to voice control.


I've seen that too. People (my kids anyway) seem to think of Alexa more like a person then machine. So if Alexa gets the song wrong, my kids think Alexa just isn't smart enough yet, as opposed to it being a machine that doesn't work right.
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They use it to set a timer and ask about the weather.

Too funny! I do those things also on my phone and I don't know why it would better to do them verbally.
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Good points, particularly about younger users. I use my Dots for lights, temperature control (Ecobee), door control (August) and a bunch of other things. And I amaze my friends in Brasil by telling Alexa to turn on lights in my place in Canada while they watch a video feed of the Canadian living room, lol. For that kind of stuff, I love Dots.

That is amazing, however again I question: Why is it better to do this via voice command when it is already possible via buttons / screen on any type of controller device? I'm just curious (or maybe I'm the boring guy:-))
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it feels more "natural" to speak than process and coordinate iterative tasks with your eyes/ hands which also require you pause all other activities/ perception while you do that.
That one sec task turns into a 10 sec one because you don't find the Clock app, is it in this folder, I could have sworn I had it on the 2d page here...

I know, I know....

Perhaps people enjoy bossing another person/ persona around.
Can you imagine if Siri had a sultry voice (I wish it did, I'd ask her about the weather).... lol
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Thanks to all for your insightful replies. It looks like it isn't really NECESSARY to do all those things via a voice interface, but it seems that at this point it is more about the "coolness" / novelty factor than a real need... at least that's my gist of things so far.
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This is all about behavioral experiments. The tech companies are in a unique and powerful position to influence entire populations on several levels.

Not only because they have our data.
The smartphone usage has impacted the way people feel, stand, (don't) interact with others etc, in the markets where its use is preponderant.

Ditto with voice. It's just a matter of time. It will be everywhere once it gets really good. It's in its infancy now.

We are not a good sample. We are on a tech related forum.
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I bet people were asking the same thing when digital clocks started showing up. There are still people out there that don't see the point of smart phones. In some ways the 'life improvement' is so small that you have to ask if it matters. It may not matter now, but it also could be step towards something that really will matter.
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In my case it's probably pertinent to mention that I've been fascinated by technology from childhood through what is now middle age. I'll be the first to acknowledge that there may not be any real "need" for many of the gadgets I currently own or have purchased in the past. Just, I suppose, as there is no real "need" for music or television. However, I derive pleasure from experimenting with new technology, and an equal amount of pleasure in investing the time to understand how it works. I was around when computers were new technology, and when the Internet emerged (and long before either). Thanks to an inquisitive nature, and the occasional professional purpose, I'm one of the small percentage of the population who knows more about tech, networks and internet-related matters than their kids or their neighbours' grandkids. What starts as a novelty often morphs into useful knowledge. I'm sure there are plenty like me in this group. As for music...well my children (now grown) will probably tell you I know nothing, lol. But, then again, they grew up where I didn't. Their home is Brasil, my childhood home was Canada.

Ditto with voice. It's just a matter of time. It will be everywhere once it gets really good. It's in its infancy now.

I agree.

But I can also see immediate uses for voice - when cooking with both hands in the mixing bowl for example. Or for people with disabilities. Even today, I suspect an Echo in a not too large kitchen is a better idea than Sonos if Amazon Music caters to all if the user's listening preferences, which it probably does.

I too was surprised when Sonos had its Iceberg dead ahead moment a year or so ago about voice. Someone then pointed me to the Echo sales numbers and review count on Amazon that was an order of magnitude higher than that for play 1 that is the highest selling speaker in the Sonos range.

I still think that just voice control for music is a gimmick, but could be very useful if part of a home control environment that has voice as an active element. The other thing is that while many of us here will disagree, many already find the sound quality of Echo to be perfectly adequate and given a choice between a play 1 of today, pick it for its feature set.
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I for one was an early adopter of the Echo Dot as I saw potential to integrate it into my Sonos system through line in. However the work arounds I had to do to get it working the way I liked in the rooms I wanted was inconvenient. I was elated to hear of proper integration between Alexa and Sonos.

In any event I too became a bit skeptical of the eventual impact of voice control to the average Sonos user. Particularly after playing around with the echo dot for several months now. I think the typical Sonos user has a profile. We are deep music lovers - we are explorers. In light if this I think Alexa is not going to fundamentally alter the way we interact with Sonos. The kind of engagement I fundamentally want with my music cannot be done with voice control. Voice control will allow for great convenience in certain settings and essentially with your "favourites". I want to explore new artists, playlists, stations etc. The Sonos app is a much better place to do that. The tactile and visual is more appropriate.

Also it still feels a bit unnatural for me to speak to a device. I honestly think it's the sci-fi coolness of voice control that enraptures all of us. It just seems like something we must try and experience. I am just skeptical on its real value within the context of truly engaged music fans.

I think it's better in the overall context of how it's marketed by Amazon as an assistant for all life's routine things. Making them easier. But as ppl have already mentioned clearly there is HIGH excitement about its integration into Sonos. Excitement like we have never seeen. I just think it wouldn't have the impact we expect from a music exploration standpoint.
I tend in the same direction; IMO there is a Sonos user whose requirements are different from those that buy the Echo/Show. I doubt that the Alexa integration of 2017 will do much to change that state of affairs on either side. Perhaps as or if it gets deeper over time, this may happen.
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The best music exploration investment I've ever made is Roon. I bought it for use with my DACs and headphones, and when Sonos functionality was announced it became even better. Plus, it allows playing of high-res files on Sonos. Not cheap, but IMHO well worth it. I have no connection with Roon other than being a satisfied lifetime subscriber. They have a free trial for anyone who wants to experiment.
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I tend in the same direction; IMO there is a Sonos user whose requirements are different from those that buy the Echo/Show. I doubt that the Alexa integration of 2017 will do much to change that state of affairs on either side. Perhaps as or if it gets deeper over time, this may happen.

I find myself interested in both, but perhaps I could be the exception. Regardless, I think there is also the point to make that a household could easily have 2 different user profiles living there. One who wants to explore high quality music and one that just wants it quick and dirty, so to speak. It seems to be a common situation here where a man is looking for the slickest system while his wife insists that it have no complexity whatsoever.

Regarding getting used to voice control, it does take some getting used to. In many ways, it requires some retraining. It does seem to feel more natural with practice, and I have no doubt that AI side will get better with time as well.
I think folks are overlooking the Alexa app and Amazon Music in this discussion. Lately I have been building playlists and exploring music within the Alexa environment to ensure I have enough stuff set up to do a proper test of the integration when it is released and this has had me controlling my Echos from within the app rather than with voice control. I think folks sometimes forget that Alexa is not "voice only" but also has app and hard button remote options so you can pick the type of interface that is most appropriate for what you are doing.
Alexa is not "voice only" but also has app and hard button remote options so you can pick the type of interface that is most appropriate for what you are doing.
So hopefully, in Sonos this will mean using Alexa+Sonos app and not the Alexa app...
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I think that functionality within the Alexa app is rather new. I don't recall seeing it before the update to include the call feature. Regardless, the ability to build playlists with your Amazon music is easier in the Amazon music app I think. It definitely is useful to be able to control the music selection at a specific Echo from the Alexa app...even remotely. I also like the history feature, so I can see what music my kids are listening to. Alexa doesn't allow you to set music alarms as far as I can tell, and certainly no grouping.

I would not want any sort of blended App between Sonos and Alexa though. I want them to remain two separate systems for the most part, just that they integrate at certain parts. I want echo voice control to be able to control sonos. If you did some sort of deeper integration, I think you'd pretty much have to make it all one ecosystem, to the point where a stand alone echo could be it's own Sonos zone. Or Alexa (app) recognizes sees a stand alone sonos zone as the equivalent of an echo for control purposes. I think that would be a little too friendly for my tastes.