OK Garmin 955 Start my run? Voice Control 🎀 Unintended consequence of LTE?

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LTE on the 955 could pave the way for VOICE CONTROL

Whilst Google is very close to securing the multi-billion dollar acquisition of Fitbit and whilst Apple is teetering on the edge of launching its Fitness+ service, Amazon has joined the fray and is about to add an “Alexa, start my run” command to its Echo Buds earbuds.

The Echo Earbuds will also accept other voice commands during your workout and I am not entirely clear (or interested) on what those commands precisely are.

Garmin’s alternative and somewhat radical solution is to “press a button” whereas Apple just starts recording when it detects a sport-like movement.

Perhaps you can sense a degree of antipathy toward voice tech coming from me? Well, I’m perhaps not as cynical as you might think about this.

The PR info does leave me scratching my head a little. If instead, you view this innovation as the start of a new mini-wave of ‘sports’ tech then it might end up somewhere exciting or, at least, vaguely interesting.

I suspect there is a case of using tech for tech’s sake here and that the earbud doesn’t really need voice automation for fitness, especially when there are perfectly good alternatives for simple tasks like starting a workout. That said, let’s look at more complex examples like navigating to a destination. A few of you read my review earlier this week on the Bryton Rider 750. Most of you didn’t read it because it didn’t have the word ‘Garmin’ in the product name ;-), nevertheless, the Rider 750 does have a good dose of voice navigation and it works quite well. Like this

  • Press a button on the Rider 750
  • Say your destination (it is multi-lingual and uses the Google service)
  • Press another button
  • It recognises your voice and directs you on bike routes to your spoken destination

To me, THAT IS a good use of voice tech on sports devices. Imagine yourself in the cold of winter taking off your gloves in order to tap away at your Garmin Edge 830 for a new destination. Speaking is much easier in that scenario and I certainly use voice a lot for navigating when driving a car.

Yet for sports usage rather than navigational usage, are there many sensible use cases?

  • Safety..’HELP!’…perhaps that IS a good one.
  • ‘Take a lap’….maybe, if you are too tired to raise your arm
  • ‘Change up’ a gear on Di2 whilst sprinting (nah)
  • ‘Next set’ when swimming?
  • ‘What’s the weather?’, ‘When will it get windy?’, ‘How long til sunset?’…Yes. But there is no sporting-urgency in using those and I would class them as smart features not sports features. It would be just laziness to avoid a lift of the wrist to see a pre-configured screen.

 

Maybe you can think of a sensible sports case? Comment below, please.

Perhaps one line of thinking come back to one of my Garmin bug-bears. It really IS complex to navigate their menus. Garmin are improving the interfaces but they just have to cram too much complexity onto a small interface area (watchface). Perhaps VOICE is the way to simplify it all? ie to get straight to the function you want without navigating there through menus? Perhaps also there are peripheral use-cases when creating on-the-fly intervals, these are sometimes very hard to create on a watch or bike computer.

Sometimes tech just happens for tech’s sake. There doesn’t always have to be an existing need. Once in a while, a lucky and innovative tech gamble pays off and creates a need. So if we look at the possible Forerunner 955 LTE that might be coming in Q1.2021, then its LTE capability MIGHT include a microphone to permit voice calls. Equally, it might NOT include a microphone and just be enabled for sending and receiving data for data-enabled services. But if there is a microphone for a voice call then the only barrier remaining against introducing voice control is software-related rather than hardware. So, inadvertently LTE could relatively soon bring us voice-enablement to Garmin through the back door.

Of course, I already have voice automation on my Apple Watch 6 and Wear OS devices – and in my house and in my car.

There are real benefits for voice on smartwatches. I remain to be convinced if there is a similar need on sports devices (apart from navigation).

Of course, the Garmin Venu and Venu SQ are Garmin’s competitors for Apple Watch and Fitbit Versa smartwatches. Maybe the LTE/Voice tech will appear there?

Garmin Forerunner 955 (LTE) – detailed discussion of likely and unlikely new features

 

OK, you can get back to your shopping now. Thank you for reading. Go grab some bargains.

 

 

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Neil

For me the use of voice has to take over a function that is complex at the time when it is needed. This can be different in pre exercise compared to when in exercise. So for example, on Garmin, finding a stored route needs a few button strokes which could be simplified to “start route X”. Even more complex functions might then be possible (with LTE) such as “Create 10K running route from here”.
While exercising I would like to hands free ask to hear messages and make any dynamic changes to what I am doing. An example, after hearing from “she who must be obeyed” that I am needed at home by text (read to me after asking by voice) – “change route to go home directly”.

Raul V

I spoke to Garmin about vocal notifiers at least 5 years ago. They (OK, local EU representative) said that would never happen.
*Of course this should also be through BT audio. You won’t hear anything when you’re on a steep loose stones downhill. (and these are a big pita to walk up!)
I also don’t want to create aural ‘polution’.
*Text or beep at choice. After beep one has to check the screen.
*Text should be ‘military’: 50 right …. 50 right. (given at say 55 meters)
*Screen image at the same time, also when having voice instructions

On voice command I cannot think of many I would find useful. Navigation searches for sure, operational changing screen while in action.
I do have Edge RC for that.

The function should also be available on watches.

Rui Pereira

I’m hurt… I didn’t read Bryton review but at least I made sure to click the link and let the page load, that must count for something!

Justin

Oh there’s a plethora of privacy issues here with this that frankly, scare me right off the this.

If it’s recognizing verbal responses, is it passively doing so? Or, are they dedicated terms?
Are you training the device? Do other people’s words trigger the unit? Are others spoken words recorded? How is the data stored? How long is the data stored? Does the company sell aggregate data on terms you says for marketing purposes? Does the user only have access to the terms and can they delete history? Can the user turn the option off?

And yes, I am very well aware of these features on other products, some I even own. I have also taken painfully long steps to deny those features access.

GLT

Use the voice control on my Virb Ultra 30, and would on my Forerunner and Edge devices provided it controlled the right functions. In particular “Ok Garmin, Stop and Save” punching through all of the end-of-activity prompts would be great. Zoom-in and Zoom-out ripe for hands-free optimization. Triggering a GCIQ app via voice or Fenix hot key support would also be welcome.

ekutter

Totally agree. When I’m running on a trail, doing things like zoom in/out take way too much time and cognitive energy. There are a few things like this where I’ll press a couple buttons, pay attention to the trails for a bit, look at the watch to see which page it’s on and continue drilling through the menu’s a couple more button presses. Trying to do it all in one sweep pretty much guarantees I’ll land flat on my face.