One of the more interesting developments at CES 2018 was the migration of voice assistants from electronics to household fixtures. Voice assistants seem like a logical addition to many electronic devices such as speakers and TVs. Adding voice interaction to appliances such as ovens and washing machines is less obvious, but there are clear benefits and these are devices you expect to have electricity. Bathroom mirrors, shower heads and toilets with voice control represent a new stage in voice assistant expansion.
Kohler Introduces Voice Interactive Smart Mirror
The Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror includes a microphone, speaker and Alexa voice assistant access. There are two microphones and a splash proof speaker. The marketing literature for the product has this to say:
“Improve your morning experience by listening to weather or traffic info while you’re putting on makeup with the right lighting. Add lipstick or shaving cream to the shopping list with a simple voice command.”
Having Alexa in the mirror simply means you don’t need to have a standalone smart speaker. The Verdera Mirror is nice and includes embedded LED lighting, but it is pricey. CNET reports that they range from about $800 – $1300 depending on their size. Unlike other “smart mirrors,” the Verdera line does not project any visuals onto the mirror surface so it is strictly a voice and audio only user experience. Kohler also has a new smart toilet but it appears you must use a mobile app for that although it does claim to have some voice command capabilities.
Moen Introduces Voice Interactive Shower
Kohler rival Moen had its own Alexa-driven fixture with the U voice controlled shower. You can start and stop the shower using Alexa, change the water temperature and create personalized settings. Moen’s implementation requires you to own an Alexa-enabled device and have it available in the bathroom. So, you don’t have direct access to Alexa skills through the shower system itself, but you presumably have those needs covered with an actual device.
The Bathroom and Smart Speakers
Edison Research in its semi-annual Smart Audio Report sponsored by National Public Media asked consumers about where they are placing smart speakers twice in the past year. Bathrooms don’t show up as a category.
Presumably, bathrooms are incorporated into the “somewhere else” category. However, just because consumers haven’t yet placed smart speakers in the bathroom doesn’t mean they won’t migrate there eventually. It used to be common for radios to be in bathrooms and music listening is consistently the number one smart speaker use case. There may be a challenge determining where to place the device and Kohler’s embedded smart speaker fits that need. The bathroom is a good place for voice interaction and audio content because hands and eyes are typically busy in grooming activities.
Once a smart speaker is present, asking it to change the lighting brightness or starting the shower represent a logical progression of the smart home. The level and pace of consumer adoption is another matter, but the desire for music and news while getting ready in the morning are likely to move this along faster than many of us originally thought.