LTE on the 955 / 945 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 comes 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).
OK, you can get back to your shopping now. Thank you for reading. Go grab some bargains.