So-called smart speakers. What to do with them?

Hi. I ask you llllllllines people because you think about gear, sound and other things day in day out: are there any factual or potential use, musically speaking, for so-called “smart speakers”?

Do you have one? What are you doing with it?

PS. I am personally terribly prejudiced and dismissive against these devices; I find them socio-culturally appalling and æsthetically insulting. Am I mistaken?


I have a Google Home. I use it for timers, weather, turning smart lights on and off, and sometimes music. It’s handy but I could definitely live without it.

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They are extremely useful for certain accessibility needs — my grandfather-in-law lost the ability to see late in life, and he finds them quite useful in being able to play music, podcasts, audio books, check the weather, send messages etc independently (and without having to learn new screen-reader tech).


Ooh i can see i was unclear!! Apologies! I meant to enquire you, good folks, about what musical, artistic, or sonic use these gizmos might have in your musicing setups, factual or fictional? I mean they don’t have MIDI, CV, OSC or even audio in. As computers they are not “smart” enough to run PD or Max, thi have no EQ, mixer or effects. As sound systems they are unimpressive. I wouldn’t know if they would algorithmically generate music if you asked them…

Perhaps: “Google, play ten hours of bird song from YouTube” and then record using a microphone, sample and mangle on modular?

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I saw someone play a set once where they had a smart speaker playing all their backing tracks. I can’t remember if the speaker had an aux output or if it was mic’d but the tracks ran through the PA! It worked with the vibe of the show which was kind of in the vein of PC music hypermanufactured pop. It was fun!


Implement custom commands that include saying the wake word. Try to get a conversation going.

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My paranoia put smart speakers in the category bugging device. I see the benefit for people with special needs.


Cool, thanks for sharing. I hope to hear something like that use.

I think I may have misunderstood the scope of “smart speakers” slightly and agree with reservations about privacy given up relative to utility gained, but when I saw the title of the thread I got excited by the opportunity to talk about an idea I’ve had for a few years that I haven’t tested yet, which is using a few cheap Bluetooth transmitter devices (I won’t link any as I can’t speak to the effectiveness of any specific models) in conjunction with matching Bluetooth speakers to create a portable and battery powered multichannel speaker setup. Given how common these Bluetooth speakers are, this seems it could be useful for performances or installations, although latency might make the former use case difficult…

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If they were more open, I think it’d be really cool to build generative music “apps” for them.

These apps could either be output-only (like one of Eno’s various smartphone apps), or semi-interactive - responding either to voice commands (“busier”, “sparser”, “buzzier”, “smoother”) or the environment (sparking a burst of musical activity when someone walks past, almost like a digital windchime).

I could even imagine versions which sample and playback recordings (with privacy safeguards) - perhaps using a detection algorithm to capture recordings of specific things (birdsong, rain sounds) and play them back at a later date. Maybe they interact with web APIs, or even capture individual words or phrases they hear and turn them into poems.

Unfortunately smart speakers tend to be so locked down (for justifiable privacy reasons) that most of this would be impossible :frowning:


Now we are talking.

The smartest and most interesting “smart speaker” i know of is Teenage Engineering OB-4.