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Even the slickest smartphone-linked light bulbs are impractical compared with simple, old school switches. According to gadget maker ActiVocal, the most intelligent interface between humans and their lighting is the spoken word. The company's new solution, the Vocca, promises to turn any ordinary light bulb into a device with electronic ears peeled just for you. Yes, instead of navigating through layers of phone menus just to turn the lights on and off, with the Vocca installed users merely utter a key word or phrase to control illumination.
In terms of abilities and physical form the Vocca sits somewhere between the infamous Clapper sound-activated gizmo of decades past, and today's fancy smart bulbs made by Philips and Lifx . Essentially it's an adapter, though admittedly a sophisticated one. At one end of the Vocca is a standard threaded cap built to screw into existing household E27 (standard in the US, and fairly common in the UK) sockets and fixtures.
On the other side you'll find a cavity which accepts a wide range of E27 bulbs spanning a number of common voltage requirements (110/220V, 50/60Hz). Also packed into the Vocca, claims ActiVocal, is all the hardware necessary for giving basic dumb bulbs the smarts to listen out for an all-powerful voice command. Specifically the Vocca will respond to the words, "Vocca switch light" to either power on or off its attached bulb.
In case you were wondering, ActiVocal sees a great many useful scenarios for a voice-activated light. These include beds (as in not having to get out of them), leaving or arriving home with your hands full, medical ailments, or simply being flat-out lazy. To extoll the virtues and potential uses of the Vocca, the company even created its own wacky video which tries to break down just what the Vocca is all about.
Additionally ActiVocal explains that Vocca owners will still be able to use their existing light switches if they want. ActiVocal has plans in the works too for a Vocca Pro model adapter, one which will be customizable and offer greater smarts than the basic gadget. In a nutshell, the Pro will support custom voice phrase commands and talk to Android and iOS mobile apps as well.
At the moment many important details for the Vocca remain murky. ActiVocal has not pinned a price for either the standard Vocca or Vocca Pro. The same goes for a target ship date to spotlight when or even where customers will conceivably see the Vocca on sale. That said, the firm, which is based in Tel Aviv, already currently hawks another device featuring verbal control, a line of voice phone dialers, so perhaps the reality of Vocca hitting the global market isn't unlikely.
Of course the Vocca will face some stiff competition from various quarters. There's the Emberlight , an alternative lighting solution which also separates the smarts from the bulb and accepts standard light bulbs. The Insteon smart home platform also plans to flaunt a strong connection to Windows 8.1 smartphones, plus interface with Microsoft's Cortana virtual assistant. And don't forget about Google and Apple's plans to fold smart home abilities into Android and iOS, courtesy of Nest and HomeKit, respectively.