Why You Should Consider Two Voice Assistants for Your Home

Why You Should Consider Two Voice Assistants for Your Home

I taught my dog French, because people yell “sit,” “stay” and “off” at the dog park so often your dog tunes you out when you say it. Choosing a language or word only your dog knows means they’re more likely to hear and respond to you over the din of the crowd. The same idea, it turns out, is what can make multiple voice assistants work together, not against each other, in your home. I’ve had Google Home running in my home for years now, and I can’t count the number of times a day Google and I interact to turn on lights, start the coffee maker, water plants, lock doors or turn on the heater. I’ve recently invited Alexa in to join the party, and I’ve been delighted at how they don’t really interfere with one another, and ultimately, make my home more efficient and comfortable. 

Why you might need two assistants

Generally, it makes sense to choose one ecosystem for your hubs and voice assistant. If you’re an Apple person, you go with Homekit and Siri. On the Android side, you have Google and Amazon and which you go with has mostly been an issue of personal preference—most products that work with one, work with the other, too. But recently, I’m finding a number of products that work with Alexa, but not Google, like my Brilliant wall hub and my Amazon TV, and even my Samsung TV (which, I should note, comes with the Samsung voice assistant “Bixby,” which I did not enjoy, but you can switch to Alexa).

But also, each ecosystem likes their own products, and if you change products, you might find your hub less accommodating. I switched from Spotify to Amazon Music a few years ago for reasons, and my Google voice assistant does not care to assist me with this transition. However, Alexa would be only too thrilled to pick up the load there. It makes perfect sense to me that you might keep Siri and Alexa running at the same time, since so many products are proprietary to either Apple or Google/Amazon. 

Trigger words make the difference

Voice assistants listen passively for a key phrase or word to jump into action. My robot vacuum is listening for “Hello Rocky” and will accept no substitutes. Google demands “OK Google or “Hey Google.” Alexa just needs her name, “Alexa” or “Hey, Alexa.” The good news is that they don’t get confused. Not once have I called Alexa and had Google response, and vice versa.  If you’re feeling meta about things, you can ask Google to talk to Alexa, and it will engage the assistant to ask what’s up or another easter-eggy question. Alexa, on the other hand, is a master of passive aggression and will not engage back, and if you ask Alexa about Google, it will pretend it doesn’t exist. I find it entertaining. Really, the x factor in determining the success of multiple assistants in your home is user best practice—how well you remember to call the right assistant.

How to distribute functions between two assistants

Given the number of brands now forming their own multi-system hubs, and the proliferation of standards like Matter and Thread—which exist to enable cross-hub pairing—your home will likely house many multi-system hubs in the future. And in all cases, it might make sense to pair anything you can with every hub: That would provide backup in case an ecosystem or hub goes down, and multiple ways to access those devices. The same is true of the assistants that go with those hubs. So long as they don’t get in each other’s way, you can keep them separate. I call Alexa for music and TV in my home, and Google for most other things. The accompanying automations that each hub and assistant perform should be contained to only one hub, and to keep things straight, I still advise documenting that process. 

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