This isn’t the first time we’ve looked at an alarm clock that not only speaks the time but understands when YOU speak. No, two years ago we reviewed the Moshi Travel Alarm Clock, and before that we took a look at the bedside version of it. Despite some limitations both worked fairly well. Yes, voice commands were limited, but once you learned HOW to speak to the clocks they did respond properly most of the time.
Fast forward two years, and a new batch of voice-controlled alarm clocks are hitting the market. They come from a company called ivee and are now referred to as “personal assistants”. ivee claims they are a huge step forward, but in a Siri-powered world that is a tall order. Let’s take a look.
ivee is one of the most advanced and intelligent speech recognition devices available. She listens and responds to your verbal commands, telling you the time, date, temperature, and much more. To get started, simply say “hello ivee” and she’ll take it from there.
ivee needs no training. Thanks to her Natural Language Processor (NLP), she’s ready to talk and understand right out of the box. Want to set an alarm for tomorrow? Just say “Set Alarm 1.” Want ivee to activate her night light? Let her know.
ivee is equipped with the latest generation NLP with speed and accuracy never before seen in a product like ivee. The NLP’s processing power allows for quick and accurate recognition of commands. You’re never kept waiting. It just works.
The entire process the product goes through in order to “understand” what you say and deliver the proper response is rather interesting. Here’s how the company explains it.
1. Listening: ivee is smart. So smart, she understands you the first time she hears your voice. To start, say “hello ivee” She’ll greet you, then ask for a command. Now you can say, for example, “Set Alarm 1”
2. Conversion: ivee converts the sound of you speaking into digital audio data (similar to a CD or MP3). This A2D (Analog-to-Digital) conversion also filters out ambient noise, like the sound of an air conditioner or other people talking. Unlike many speech recognition devices, ivee doesn’t need a perfectly quiet room to understand you.
3. Build: ivee analyzes the digital signal, looking for “phonemes.” A phoneme is a sound that makes up part of a word. Just as letters together make up how a word is written, phonemes together make up how a word sounds. For example, “alarm” would have the phonemes of “uh,” “ll,” “ah,” “r,” and “m.”
4. Compare: The phonemes ivee hears are compared to a grammar list. Using what’s called a “Hidden Markov model,” ivee determines the most probable word given the phonemes you spoke. In our example, this means understanding “uh,” “ll,” “ah,” “r,” and “m” are likely “Alarm.”
5. Parsing: Based on the phonemes, ivee decides what words you spoke. These words are then analyzed for meaning.
This process, called parsing, helps ivee figure out what you’re asking her to do.
6. Action: Having determined what you’re asking, ivee responds.
All of this in just a fraction of a second.
As you can see from the video, the clock works as advertised. The voice used is pleasant, the commands work… most of the time, and the clock responds quickly when the proper request is made. At the same time, unless you are visually impaired I’m not quite sure exactly what you gain from having your alarm clock speak to and understand you. Add in the fact that there are certain activities such as setting the date that require you to use the buttons (GASP!!!), and the ivee Flex is a mixed bag. Still, it is cool and does make for a bit of fun when you first turn it on. You can learn more or order yours directly from the company.
What I Like: Nice voice; Cool tech factor; Very solid; Works as advertised (most of the time)
What Needs Improvement: Voice commands sometimes were not accepted; Strangely requires the use of buttons for some activities