Microsoft HomeHub: A step into smart households

Smart Homes are not a thing of distant future anymore. Artificial Intelligence and IoT together has become the key to turning your entire house into sentient beings that would bend to your command. Amazon stepped into this field with Echo, the smart speakers that could process user commands via its AI, Alexa. Now, it seems that Microsoft is ready to give some tough competition to Amazon.

Microsoft is currently working on introducing a HomeHub feature into the Windows 10 operating system. Instead of controlling hardware, the OS will instead aim to create a friendly environment for the users via connecting multiple apps to it. The company has been reluctant to announce what features would be included in this new addition, but many leaks over the time gave us a good approximation.

The biggest feature is the digital corkboard that will serve as a regular corkboard for all intents and purposes, except for being completely digital. This display will be always on and allow users to create to-do lists, quick notes and access basic apps like calendars and calculator. A new Welcome Screen has been designed specifically for its purpose. Like Alexa, all the commands will be processed via Cortana. However, Microsoft does not want it to look like an embedded smart home system; instead, it aims to let it remain as an extended functionality of its Windows 10 PCs.

However, this does not mean that Microsoft does not intend to cover home hardware. It is already looking to support controlling small appliances like Philips’ Hue Lights, and might soon cover a lot of other devices. Currently, Microsoft is trying to emulate Apple’s Home app, instead of copying Amazon’s Echo. It aims to cover voice search, calling and device control, but the primary objective remains to be considered a Personal Computer first.

But, the path for this is not easy. For starters, a lot of improvement needs to be done in Cortana for better response towards voice commands, something that could rival Google Now. This has been done continuously in the past few updates of Windows 10, but a lot more has to be achieved. A lot of smart devices need to be supported in order to fully harness the potential of the idea. For this, Microsoft is already working in order to support Hue, Wink, Nest and few other devices. Lastly, the biggest problem is the support of the necessary hardware in order to make this dream a reality. Microsoft is holding talks with a lot of Computer manufacturers over this, and it might be resolved in the upcoming convention in May. Already, Lenovo and HP are into the fold and are working on making the package PCs, which would both support the enhanced voice command of Cortana and the new Welcome screen.

While it currently focuses on small kitchens, the model (if successful) could soon cover entire households. With more and more tech giants jumping into the race, the day when your entire home will respond to your voice is not far away. The future is close enough.

Posted in Microsoft.

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