How do I install voice commands?

What are voice commands?

A voice command is a spoken instruction or request to a computer or smart device. When a user says a specific phrase or keyword, the device’s software recognizes and interprets that speech to perform a corresponding action or provide requested information (Voice Command Definition & Meaning, n.d.).

Common smart home devices that accept voice commands include voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri, and Microsoft Cortana. Users can speak requests like “Alexa, play some music,” and Alexa will respond by playing music from your connected services. In modern smartphones, tablets, smart speakers, and more, speech recognition software allows the user to interact through natural language instead of touch or typing.

Voice command systems rely on automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology to convert human speech into words and phrases that software can understand. Special algorithms analyze acoustic qualities like pitch, volume, resonance, speech rate, and more. Machine learning helps improve speech recognition over time as software is exposed to more spoken examples and feedback. Once the speech is converted to text, natural language understanding systems interpret the overall meaning to determine the required action (What is Voice Recognition?, n.d.).

Why use voice commands?

Voice commands offer convenience and hands-free control over devices and devices ([1] Instead of typing or tapping, users can simply speak out loud to activate features, open apps, search the web, and more. This allows for faster and easier control, especially useful when moving around or unable to fully interact with a device.

Voice commands also serve as an accessibility tool for those with disabilities that limit movement. Whether temporary injuries that restrict mobility or permanent physical limitations, voice control allows access and command over devices that may otherwise be difficult to operate ([2] It provides independence and confidence for those who wish to control technology and other products on their own terms.

What devices support voice commands?

Many modern smart devices now include voice command capabilities. Some of the most common types of devices that support voice commands are:

Smart Speakers

Dedicated smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home allow you to activate voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. You can ask questions, set reminders, control smart home devices, play music, and more using voice commands with these speakers.


Many smartphones now come with integrated voice assistants. For example, iPhones have Siri, while Android phones offer Google Assistant. You can access these assistants via voice or by tapping an icon on your phone.

Smart home devices

Increasingly, products like smart lights, thermostats, doorbells and more are gaining support for voice assistants. Popular picks like Philips Hue lights and Ring doorbells work with Google Assistant, Alexa and in some cases Siri.

Setting up a smart speaker

When setting up a smart speaker, the first step is unboxing and plugging in. Remove your smart speaker from its packaging and plug the device into an electrical outlet. Make sure your smart speaker is plugged in before continuing with the setup.

Next, connect your smart speaker to Wi-Fi. Open the companion app and find the section for adding or setting up a new device. The app will walk you through connecting your smart speaker to your Wi-Fi network. Enter your network password when prompted.

For smart speakers connected to the Alexa platform, make sure to download the Alexa app. Google Home smart speakers require the Google Home app. Follow onscreen instructions to create an account or sign in with your existing account. Apps like Amazon Alexa and Google Home help manage your smart speaker and enable voice controls.

Once connected to Wi-Fi, link your account to complete setup. In the app, choose to add a new device and select your smart speaker model. The app will detect the speaker and connect it with your account. This links your speaker so you can control it through the app and use features like voice commands. Now your smart speaker is ready to start using!

Activating a Smartphone Assistant

To activate the digital assistant on iPhones, go to the Settings app and tap on Siri & Search. Ensure the “Press Home for Siri” and “Allow Siri When Locked” options are enabled to allow access to Siri from the home screen even when locked. You can also enable “Listen for Hey Siri” if you would like the ability to invoke Siri hands-free by saying “Hey Siri” (Source).

For Android smartphones, the Google Assistant is generally the default option. Go to Settings > Apps & notifications > Advanced > Default apps > Assist app and choose Google. Then open the Google app, go to Settings > Voice > Voice Match and ensure “Access with Voice Match” and “Access with device locking” options are enabled. This will allow you to invoke the Assistant when your device is locked by saying “Hey Google” or “Ok Google” (Source).

For both iOS and Android, you will also need to grant access to the microphone when requested so the assistants can listen for your voice commands at any time.

Speaking voice commands

When giving voice commands to your smart assistants, there are several guidelines to follow for the system to better understand you:

Use the wake word (e.g. “Hey Google” or “Alexa”) before each command – this alerts your device that you want to activate it. For example: “Hey Google, what time is it?”

Speak clearly and concisely – annunciate your words and phrase your sentences directly. Chewing gum or eating while giving commands can garble the audio.

Give enough context in each command – don’t assume it knows what you want to do. For example, “Play the Beatles on Spotify” instead of just “Play music.”

Some common voice commands include:

  • Setting alarms and timers
  • Getting weather and traffic updates
  • Controlling smart home devices
  • Asking questions
  • Dictating messages and notes

Check your device or assistant’s help section for a full list of capabilities. You can discover new voice commands to try out over time.

Customizing voice assistant settings

To get the most out of your voice assistant, consider customizing some key settings to personalized it to your needs:

Changing the wake word

The default wake words on most voice assistants are “Hey Google” for Google Assistant and “Alexa” for Amazon Alexa. However, you can change the wake word phrase to better suit your preferences. For example, with Alexa you can change it to “Echo” or “Computer” (Source 1). Changing the wake word can make activating your assistant faster and more convenient.

Improving speech recognition

You can train your voice assistant to better recognize your voice and speech patterns to improve response accuracy. On Siri, you can improve speech recognition by enabling “Hey Siri” and adjusting Siri’s voice feedback (Source 2). With Alexa and Google Assistant, you can also go through speech training exercises.

Setting up voice match

Enabling voice match links your voice assistant to your specific voice profile. This allows the assistant to tell voices apart when there are multiple users in a home. Voice match can improve personalized results and privacy. Activate it by training a voice sample on Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri.

Best practices for voice commands

To get the best performance from voice commands, follow these best practices:

  • Speak clearly and directly into your device’s microphone. Enunciate words and avoid mumbling or trailing off.
  • Use simple phrasing in your commands. Avoid long, complex sentences.
  • Add a user name for personal requests like checking your calendar or playing music. Say “Hey Siri, what’s on my calendar today?” or “OK Google, play my driving playlist“.

Following these tips will help voice assistants understand your requests accurately. Check the Apple and Google support sites for more voice command best practices.

Privacy considerations

When using voice assistants, it’s important to consider privacy risks and how to minimize them. Voice assistants can record conversations without the user’s knowledge. To reduce these risks:

Disabling mic access when not in use is critical. Go into device settings and ensure the microphone toggle is off when you don’t need the assistant listening. You can toggle it back on when you want to issue a voice command.

It’s also important to review and delete recordings that contain private conversations or sensitive information. Most voice assistants let you access and permanently erase previous recordings through the companion app or web interface.

You’ll also want to limit the personal information that voice assistants can access. Disable features that allow it to scan your contacts, calendar, or online accounts. Carefully review the capabilities before enabling any integration.

While voice assistants provide helpful hands-free conveniences, protecting privacy requires proactive precautions on the user’s part as well. Following these best practices can help minimize risks.

Troubleshooting voice commands

Sometimes voice commands do not work as expected. Here are some basic troubleshooting steps to take:

Check your internet connection

Make sure your smart speaker or device is connected to your wifi network. Voice assistants require an internet connection to process voice commands. Reboot your router or device to troubleshoot any connection issues according to MakeUseOf.

Update software and firmware

Your device may need a software update to fix bugs or problems. Check your device’s settings or app to see if any updates are available, and install them. Make sure to also keep the smart assistant app (like the Alexa app) updated as well.

Restart the device

Sometimes simply restarting your smart device or smart speaker can resolve issues. As noted in LifeWire, issues with Alexa and Echo devices can often be temporarily fixed with a reset.

Contact customer support

If the previous troubleshooting steps do not resolve the issue, you may need to contact the device manufacturer or voice assistant customer support for further help.

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