Apple Patents A Siri Dock For An Always-On Digital Assistant At Home

Siri

Apple has applied for a patent (via AppleInsider) for a dock that lives at a user’s home, designed to work with an iOS device’s Siri function and make them into an always-on assistant with smart home potential. The dock would essentially work by giving an iOS device a larger touchscreen interface, speakers and a microphone for at-home use, effectively turning it into a car-style infotainment system designed for domestic use.

The dock would in theory operate like current iterations, but with the difference that it could be always listening for voice commands from a user. So you could set up a prompt (the patent makes this user controlled), such as a finger snap or specific word to start Siri listening and issue commands. Might I suggest “Okay, Siri”?

This would allow people to casually add events to their schedule, phone people, look up things or do whatever else you may want to accomplish with Siri, but while in the kitchen making dinner or in front of the TV relaxing with a book. The dock may not even require a phone to be physically connected: The patent includes provisions for a wireless feature that would make it a sort of remote speaker/interface (you can imagine using AirPlay for screen functions, too) and there’s even one incarnation that uses inductive wireless charging for a device placed on top.

Siri input has been rumored for Apple TVs, both those that exist and those that are merely fictional, in the past, but this invention would arguably be better since it could work with existing setups and transform your home into a Siri-powered smart control center in one step. Plus, with Apple’s iOS in the Car initiative, it would allow for seamless transition from mobile, to auto, to condo, which would really help Apple amp up the data capture and service improvement on Siri, and help users get more from the personal assistant. As with all patents, this one may never see the light of day, but it does present a piece of the puzzle that seems to fit with Apple’s larger strategic goals.

Control Your Lumens via Phone with Philips Hue

Philips, a global leader in lighting solutions, launched Hue at the end of last year which proves to give a whole new take on lighting automation. Usually when we think of home automation we envision complicated computer systems built into the wall. But in reality, with the growth of smartphones and tablets, wi-fi and home networking are enabling more remote control of everyday items. Philips Hue looks to provide personal lighting to meet your changing needs – wirelessly via your home network and smartphone/tablet. After the launch of Hue we received a set to evaluate. The light in our lives has never been the same.

SETUP:

The Hue system packaging elicits thoughts of color variety with a functioning color wheel, which doubles as easy set-up instructions on the inside of the box. Each set contains three LED bulbs and the controller/hub – the brains of the system – and run for $199.95. Additional bulbs are available at $59.95 each. Note that bulbs are standard Edison type (“screw-in”, E26 or E27). Double check the sockets where you intend to use Hue as you may have to get a converter. Using the included hub power cord and network cable, hooking the controller to the home router was a piece of cake but yes, that does mean you need an available port on your router. Before you go further, download the necessary control app. We easily loaded it on both an iOS and Android device. Syncing with the hub was a simple push of a button. Another step you may want to take before getting started is the remote access. Log in on the Hue website to enable the feature. You still control lighting from your device, but remote access gives permission for you to adjust your Hue system from anywhere in the world.

APP & FUNCTIONS:

Scenes within the app

Philips built in more than a dozen ‘scenes’ in the app, which migrate the bulbs to specific color combinations that prompt memories of environments. “Relax” and “concentration” give you what you expect. But others like “ski” (bright whites and blues) emulate the lighting you could encounter in those situations. Hundreds more scenes have been created by Hue users and are available on their website when logged into your account. A very creative app feature is the ability to produce and save scenes based on photos. Check your library to find a favorite moment. Hue will analyze the photo and bring out the colors in it. So if you are in a nightclub having a great time with friends take a photo and emulate that environment when you get home. Scenes were easy to call up and create. And setting an alarm for a scene to turn off or on was just as easy – whether on the network or away from home. For example, I found it helpful to have the office lights turn to bright orange about the time I was due to fall asleep on my keyboard. It made me get up and leave. And yes, we have managed to mess fellow CG staffers while away from our network. Believe it or not the toughest thing to do on the app was simply assigning a color to each bulb. Although we eventually figured it out, making all the lights red or yellow or color of our choice proved not quite as intuitive as using or creating scenes.

Philips did think ahead on the technology and made Hue open platform. Anticipate developer details later this year which may lead to options like strobe or rotating colors. Imagine having rotating red and green during your Christmas party!

LIGHT:

The light exhibited from the LED bulbs was worthy of mention. Each gives off 600 lumens and uses about 7.5W. Conversely, the equivalent lumens in an incandescent would require approximately a 50W bulb. So you will save by simply using LED. The color combinations are as endless as LEDs allow. And when turned off at the source the Hue bulbs return to white light which proved better than our bulb predecessors. Up to 50 Hue bulbs can be controlled per hub.

CONCLUSION:

Philips is not the first to get in the wireless-ly controlled bulb game. But with their expertise and resources they will certainly make the biggest splash. Do we need a $200 set of bulbs that change color? Perhaps not, but with the mounds of research showing how our moods and work is impacted based on our surroundings, there does exist plenty of reason. Plus, it is fun! If you enjoy mood lighting, travel (and want to deter mischief) or simply like to control your life through your phone/tablet pick up a Hue system via Philips, Apple, Amazon or other retailers.