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Brain injury blog by survivor

Brain injury blog by survivor



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Brain injury blog by survivor

Brain injury blog by survivor



Can smart home speakers help brain injury survivors?

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Technology is always progressing at an astonishing rate. Those incredible boffins of Silicon valley are always pushing the boundaries of what is possible. A few readers have asked me to review how smart home speakers, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home can help brain injury survivors. And as my partner James bought me a Google home mini as a valentines present, I am able to start giving you an answer. This isn’t designed to tell you which is better,  just to give ideas on what they could help brain injury survivors with. If you want a review comparing Amazon Echo and Google Home, I found a pretty comprehensive one here.

Smart home speakers are great for playing music on request, but what else?

Firstly I would like to point out that this technology is still developing, so whilst the adverts make it look plain sailing, it’s not. The main problem is how they understand language. Unless you phrase your request/command in a specific way, they struggle to understand. So you might find yourself keep saying the same thing in different ways to get the response you need.  This I think is the biggest thing that reduces their ability to support survivors.

I had envisioned them helping with word finding difficulties. Aphasia affects a lot of people, and is very frustrating. I hoped you could ask “what word means…. [enter short description]?” and get an answer quickly. But as these smart home speakers have their own language difficulties, this isn’t plausible yet.

However they are great for spelling. Even using spell check when typing you have to get close to the word for it to recognise what you are attempting to spell. In the first year of my brain injury there were times I couldn’t even work out what letter a word starts with. That meant spell check didn’t have a chance. but now I can just say “Hey Google, how do you spell… [enter word]?” and I have it spelt out aloud to me. No having to keep typing best guesses to get close enough.

You can connect to other smart home devices.

When smart home technology first came on the scene I did think it was was another example of how humans are becoming more lazy. But I was seeing this from the eyes of an able bodied person. Now that I know what it’s like to struggle to get out of bed, it has put a new light on it. Talking of light, if you have Phillips hue lights (or other smart bulbs)  you can ask Google to turn the light down or off when a migraine hits without having to move.

We have a Nest thermostat which I already thought was pretty clever to be able to control from my phone. But as I’m always losing my phone (thanks to my rubbish concentration)  having a smart home speaker has taken that to a new level. Now I just have to ask Google set the temperature to [insert desired figure].

Apparently you can also get smart locks for your home. Perfect for when you can’t remember if you locked the door and you are always having to get up to check. Using you smart home speaker you can ask it if and when you locked it. If it’s unlocked you can ask it to lock it (but they don’t unlock it for you for security reasons.)

In fact by  using a smart plug you can have some voice control over a number of home gadgets. Smart plugs use your standard power socket and then you plug your gadget into the smart plug.  This allows you to turn the item on using a voice command. For example that could be a fan or AC unit.

They can help you remember things.

You can set reminders for activities you need to do and timed alarms. So it could help you remember what appointments you have that day, and tell you when dinner should be done so you don’t burn it. Pretty useful when you struggle with a poor memory and don’t read the lists you leave for yourself (like me). But of course there are many phone apps which can do this and you might already be comfortable with using.


I feel it’s still very early to get much benefit from these devices as a brain injury survivor. If mobility is an issue for you it might be worth considering. But if you were hoping to have random questions answers, it’s very hit and miss still. However, I have no doubt that this will get better, and any updates can be downloaded to an existing device. So if you have the funds, by all means invest in one. Or if money is tight, perhaps wait a little longer until they are able to offer you more support for your brain injury struggles. My Google mini hasn’t changed my life yet, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.

Are smart home speakers as useful as we expect them to be? I've been looking into how devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home could help brain injury survivors and if you should invest in one.....

What would you like these devices to be able to help you with? Or do you have one and find it helps you with something specific?


2 replies on “Can smart home speakers help brain injury survivors?”

Hi Michelle, I’m not sure about these ‘helpful devices’, it’s all great if they can be set up easily and don’t need resetting if the power goes off, or your WiFi is down. I struggle with basic instructions, I’m not sure if I could manage it.
I get the ‘lights off’ instruction, that’s great when fatigue or a migraine has hit, you just get your heavy body and poorly head in a comfy position, and oppphs I forgot the light, that would be great.
I use my iphone, I’ve relearned how to use it again, it’s great for Siri, to ask it to set a reminder, or ask for the weather report.
Yesterday my daughter thought it was funny to tell Siri to call me ‘hot mamma’ when I asked it a question, she turned my settings name to hot mamma too, so emails changed to hot mamma too. I could not figure out how to change it back to Joanne, this was very entertaining for the family, when I asked Siri, ‘is it going to snow today Siri?’ ‘ yes hot mamma it will snow today, here is the weather report, hot mamma’.
These gadgets are great when you can find the right words in the right order for a request, that takes some figuring out.
Do you think all these gadgets de-skill us? Should we get the dictionary out and find a word to spell, write a reminder in our diary straight away ? Be more active, physically and mentally, or maybe it saved time and stress because it’s done, we can move onto the next thing. That is until the battery has run out or the power is off. Like our poor brains eh, only work when fully operational!

All good points Jo. I suppose that it’s very much put to the individual.
When my spelling was at its worst, even the dictionary wouldn’t have helped me as I didn’t know what letter to start with. So in that situation I needed someone or something to tell me. But at the same time I do believe in the saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it”’, so any tools need to be used to help retrain rather than replace.
Technology is the future and has been for some time. My Dad made computer programs for mainframe computers, but his business died a natural death when the PC exploded onto the scene. Just think, we wouldn’t ever be having this discussion if that hadn’t happened. So whilst it’s hard to adjust, what will be will be.

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