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Is Google's Answer To The Amazon Echo A Fuzzy Toy Bear?

Mike Wolf Google Patent UI

I've written about Google's fairly prolific IP filing behavior before, but this one is pretty interesting and, well, strange.

The BBC discovered a patent application from Google that includes an anthropomorphic device - read child's toy - as a user interface for a home media or smart home network.

The patent application describes the device as a smart device that can take and process user commands such as voice commands and "social cues" such as eye contact and simple gestures.

In other words, think Amazon Echo, but the teddy bear version. 

The language shows that Google is envisioning this approach as an alternative to traditional remotes for interfacing with a media or home automation system.

From the patent:

"...in recent years, the use of home automation systems has also proliferated. These systems allow the centralized control of lighting, HVAC, appliances and/or windows curtains and shades of residential, business or commercial properties. Thus, from one location, a user can turn off the property's lights, change the property's thermostat settings and so on."

It then goes on to describe how such a device could be a more approachable way to control complex media or smart home systems.

"...modern remote controls off add to, rather than reduce, the complexity of home entertainment and home automation systems. One possible way of mitigating this complexiity is to have a remote control that responds to voice commands and/or social cues."

It describes the use of the anthropomorphic device (read fuzzy animal) where it would interact with the human through recognizing social cues and then control the home system.

In a way, it's a bit crazy, but like many of Google's experimental approaches, it may be crazy like a fox. That they are thinking about alternative ways to interface with the smart home is interesting, and I think the idea of gesture and voice recognition as an alternative to complex remotes is one of the large mega-trends we'll see in user-control for smart homes over time.

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