Once a novelty reserved for Hollywood blockbusters and top fiction, voice activated light switches are now a reality. Available in a variety of designs and able to be customized to suit any voice tone, a voice activated light switch can add flair and flavor to an otherwise bland room. Many are built as part of the light switch itself, while others are simple plug-in accessories available for any outlet.
There are two primary types of voice activated light switch available. The first is a complete switch, which is able to connect with a home’s standard lighting system and switch it on or off based on the sound of a room. The other is a significantly less complex device that plugs into an electrical outlet, delivering light from its own enclosure in a similar manner to that of a normal children’s nightlight.
Let’s look at the first type, as it’s by far the most common for standard home lighting installations, particularly those in newer homes. Homes that use ‘smart wiring’ – a system that includes cabling for digital television and security systems – often include dimmer features in their light switches as a standard feature. These dimmers, as with other light switches, can be controlled using the voice.
How? By using a simple voice activated on-off light switch. These switches use the same style of relay as a normal electrical on-off switch, controlling a light’s access to electricity based on audio cues. For example, a voice activated light switch may be configured to respond to any increase in audio intensity, which would allow it to switch on and off based on any sudden burst of noise.
The obvious downside of this system is that it allows for any noise – even accidental noise – to trip the on-off switch and activate or deactivate a room’s lighting. Because of this, most voice activated light switches use a pitch or tone-based system to differentiate between lighting cues and accidental noise. This allows the light switch to control lighting based on a particular tone or vocal sound.
Configuring these voice activated light switches, which are often known as ‘sound relays’ is fairly simple. First, a sample sound is required. This is generally recorded into the device before system features are configured. For testing purposes, this sound could be anything from a ‘lights!’ sound to the pre-recorded noise of a gun firing – whatever is required to switch the lights on and off.
Secondly, this audio cue needs to be assigned to a specific action. Most sound activated light switch units use a simple on-off relay circuit to control their lighting, resulting in either an off function or a switch ‘on’ function. In this case, the sound itself will switch the board both from on to off, and from off to on, allowing it to give power to the lights and take it from them when a certain sound is made.
These voice activated light switches generally need quite a lot of configuration before use, although they’re quite valuable as they can be installed inside a wall and appear to be a normal light switch. A plug-in voice activated light switch, on the other hand, requires very little in the way of installation, configuration, or any specific electrical knowledge beyond how to plug in a standard room light.
Plug-in voice activated light switches are rarely light switches exclusively, merely devices that can send power to and from a device based on audio cues. They’re similar in appearance to the adapters many people use on vacation, with just a small outlet on their bottom side and a power light on the top. These switches generally include a small microphone for detecting sound and voice intensity.
The most obvious downside of these simple voice activates light switches is that they can only be used to power plug-in lighting sources, not lighting that’s installed within a room’s ceiling. Due to this, these voice activated light switches are best used in bedrooms and other smaller areas, which can be easily and effectively lit using a smaller plug-in lamp, a desk light, or a small reading light.
Picking the right type of voice activated light switch depends on both your room’s size, the level of light that’s required to fill your room, and of course, your electrical knowledge. While smart wiring systems allow for greater control of both your home’s lighting – such as dimming and increasing a single bulb – their advanced installation makes them a poor choice for electrical beginners.
Similarly, the simple nature and limited capabilities of plug-in voice activated light switches makes them a difficult choice for advanced electronics experts. As with any consumer product, it’s best to pick the ideal type of voice activated light switch for your home. Think about what your room, and in many cases, your home, required from a voice activated light switch, and purchase accordingly.