Of the four voice-first devices on my desk, three of them have some type of physical button for interfacing. All of them handle volume control very differently.

For the Ubi, we only provided a physical mute button that only controlled the microphone input. This was to give a sense of privacy (it couldn’t be remotely un-muted) but it couldn’t control volume. This could only be controlled by voice command, through the web portal, or the app.

For the Homey device, this has no physical buttons at all but goes into setup mode when flipped upside down. It’s a little bit of a odd ball device (pun intended).

Then there are the two titans…


Google Home’s volume input is a bit unwieldy even if it is cool. There’s a latency in the touch response the sound of the volume change seems to be tuned to some resonant frequency of the device to give some haptic sensation (it sounds like a geiger counter). The mute button is the most tactile one but it’s location at the back of the device means a bit of fishing. The “Microphone Off/Microphone On” announcement could be jarring… why not just show the LEDs?

Then there are the two titans…

The Echo and the Echo Dot have different experiences with volume control. The Dot uses nice springy buttons for volume control. The sound is gentle. For the Echo, the slip ring gives a solid feel and also doesn’t make a sound when pressed. The mute/un-mute sounds are also gentle.

What interests me in looking at these different devices is that there still isn’t a convergence for how to handle volume setting changes or even add physical inputs to voice devices. What we’ll likely see over the next year is that all AVS or Assistant enabled devices behave the same for physical input.

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