3:25 pm - Monday February 19, 2018

HP says hello to voice-activated printing

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Virtual assistants dominated the headlines at CES 2018, promising to make the smart home even smarter by integrating artificial intelligence (AI) via voice commands into speakers, TVs and stand-alone displays that can do everything from keep your to-do lists, record your favorite TV shows and play your favorite tunes to dialing up your best friend and listing the contents of your fridge.Voice activation also cropped up in unexpected places, such as car dashboards, toilets and mirrors—but there’s one place it’s still largely MIA: the home printer.

HP believes the consumer printer market is ripe for voice integration, making it the first print hardware company to roll out voice support for its web-enabled printers via a skill for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana.

“Integrating voice into the home printer is an undeniably useful application of the technology,” says Anneliese Olson, general manager and global head of home printing at HP. “For busy families, the virtual assistant ecosystem makes a lot of sense and connecting a printer to it is a natural extension within the smart home.”

There’s different content available for printing on each platform (such as an Amazon shopping list or Google calendar), but it’s easy to see the convenience and utility of having the printer as part of the voice assistant ecosystem, according to Olson.

“We’ve developed printer skills to target the hands-free, busy parent on the go,” she says. “Our tests with customers show that they want to print whenever, wherever.”You can ask HP Printer skills and actions to print a shopping list, the kids’ weekly sports calendar, a sheet of graph paper, a Sudoku puzzle or even a blank coloring page of a favorite character.

The company plans to continue its leadership role by driving broader content access and universal experiences across voice platforms, Olson says. HP is uniquely positioned to leverage its scale around the world to lead in voice-enabled print.

Working with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana is only the first step toward a fully-voice responsive home office or business. Olson predicts that voice commands will, in the future, be integrated directly into printers without the need for an intermediary speaker device.

That would mean manual tasks, such as onboarding a new printer to your home network, checking the levels of ink or changing the print settings, would be streamlined with a simple voice command (think: “Print three copies,” “Am I low on black ink?”).

Also, in the not-so-distant future, voice services will become more proactive, using local sensors and cloud AI to understand users’ intents and needs and act on their behalf. For example, if you have a flight booked on your calendar, your printer will be able to automatically print the boarding pass and luggage tags.

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