Digital-world butler to your rescue

I wish I could have a butler who will do all my assigned household chores so I can be a 21st century couch potato. In the real world, I am "Tak who does windows [grudgingly]" but I'm more comfortable cleaning "Windows" in the digital world, i.e. the operating system from Microsoft for the computers.

In the digital world, though, I already have butlers and that probably goes for you too. We don't have to be millionaires and the only requirement is that we own a computer, smartphone, tablet, or any wired or wireless (Wi-Fi) gadget that connects us to the digital world.

The latter is basically an electronic object prefixed with the word "smart," like "Smart TV" or "Smart Speaker." All smart gadgets connect to the internet, aka the cloud, and can be controlled by the owner (Smart Plug for example) or stream content, i.e. TV shows, movies, music, etc. like what Smart TV does for our enjoyment.

I'm certain many of you use these butlers, aka digital assistants, already. Names such as Siri (Apple), Alexa (Amazon), Google Assistant, and Cortana (Microsoft) are at your service. You can ask questions such as "When does the Westlake Porter Public Library close today?" or give commands like "Call the Bay Village branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library."

Digital assistants did evolve over the past nine years since Siri first arrived on the fifth iteration of Apple's smartphone (iPhone 4S) in 2011. By itself, their core competency is literally to assist you. For example instead of googling "where is the closest ATM?" into the small virtual keyboard on your smartphone while driving, you can summon your digital assistant verbally by a trigger word/phrase such as "Alexa," "Hey Google," "Hey Siri," or "Hey Cortana" followed by your query and it will fetch your answer.

The true power of a digital assistant is realized when it works in conjunction with other apps or smart devices. In the above query example, if you had an Android smartphone, Google Assistant will not only tell you the closest ATM but also ask you whether you want turn-by-turn directions using the app Google Maps on your smartphone.

Another example might be to tell your digital assistant to increase the temperature on your Smart Thermostat which is a smart device that falls under the Smart Home umbrella.

Like Oscar's Best Picture winning movie which not only has a fine plot but a great leading actor/actress and a superb supporting cast, digital assistants work well with other apps and smart devices to accomplish things asked by the owner. If you haven't already, you may want to explore what digital assistants can do on their own and with other apps and smart devices. Just be cognizant that, explicitly or implicitly, they are collecting your usage data and many privacy advocates often question these digital assistants always listening for the trigger word/phrase.

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with over 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation

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Volume 12, Issue 21, Posted 9:26 AM, 11.03.2020