Amazon Echo and Google Home, signs of the Star Trek computer user experience


When I was a kid I used to watch Star Trek on tv, in 1998 when I was in the middle of my computer engineer career, I was expecting to have computers able to understand humans within natural language, like in the tv show, Star Trek Generations. A user interface combining the touchscreen and voice commands. Star Trek show to us a non-thinking computer, incapable of understanding what the persons are trying to achieve, instead, compute queries, execute complex operations, do simulation experiments, shows visual results and do forecasting on demand; becoming an accurate and fast assistant for the humans. To be honest, I was visioning those tools by 2050, but many things have changed since 1998.

Voice commands enablers like Siri, Cortana, Google Now and smart watches became popular. To consider; the 37% of information workers are using voice commands, 41% of adults in the USA made at least once search a day using voice services. I pick two very interesting products, Amazon Echo and Google Home, smart speakers offering:

– Accurate voice and language detection
– Cloud voice service
– Continuous learning, AI
– Big Data, correlating user information against location, behaviors and preferences

Echo and Alexa voice service, provides music entertainment to your home, manage your calendar, executes food delivery queries, do calls and more. As IoT enabler, Echo interact with home devices such as lights, switches, and thermostats with compatible WeMo, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, Nest, and others smart home devices.

In another hand, Google Home share similar features, allow users to play music, manage the calendar, book flights, handle food delivery services, weather, sports, control smart home devices and much more. Connects to google now and google search, permitting a rapid growing of new voice command services.


Google Home has a lack of API, which means, create new services and tasks requires a workaround over other Google tools. Amazon Echo provides the Alexa Skill Kit, enabling software engineers to implement new services, tasks and workflows controlled by voice commands.

These products are market mostly for home usage; but they can perform more complex tasks for industries such as healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, transport, tourism; imagine to complete tasks such as send emails, fill supplies orders, execute payments, sign contracts, change your website content, send documents to print, manage appointments and bookings; gracefully executed as people speak during the day.

Those devices are IoT enablers, many people confuse IoT with just connected devices to cloud services, but the real IoT involve big data, forecast, context information, real-time information, and first class service infrastructure to finally make human life easy, accurate, fast and reduce their mistakes.

UX experts has their challenge too:

– What kind of tests drives the conclusion to use voice commands
– Required users training?
– How the usability tests are going to be performed without coding
– How to address security risks during interaction
– Which standard use to represent voice commands in UX results report
– How hybrid or hands-free work tasks are going to be perform

Definitely, there’s a lot of pending research and work to do, but this is a good time to start using this technology for more sophisticated tasks.


Rodrigo Nuñez

Rodrigo has served as Professor of the School of Computer Sciences at the InstitutoTecnológico de Costa Rica since 2000 and in various positions in private companies since 1999. Rodrigo\'s 6+ methodology identify the best of best recently graduated professionals from the university to recruit them for Akurey or to recommend to partner companies.\r\n\r\nSpecialties: Business Development, Design Thinking, Systems Integration, Solutions Designer, Big Data, Internet of Things, Distributed Applications, Databases, Performance, Quality Assurance, Recruiting 6+, Fast Data Access, High Volume Processing, Embedded Systems, Sound Synthesis, Software Development, Innovation Management, Cloud Technologies, Augmented Reality, Recruiting, Writer, Music Techno-Artist