Technology: June 2006 Archives

If you're going to design a computer system that controls every aspect of a house's operation by voice command, maybe you should find a more reassuring name:

HAL software taps the power of your existing PC or PC device to control your home. Once HAL is installed on your PC, it can send commands all over your house using the existing highway of electrical wires inside your homeís walls. No new wires means HAL is easy and inexpensive to install.

HALís voice interface makes HAL easy to use. The user may pick up any phone in the home, press the # key, and then tell HAL to dim the dining room lights or close the garage door. Itís a two-way conversation, with HAL confirming that it has, indeed, performed the requested action.

HAL turns your PC into a personal Voice Portal. Is there an easier way to turn on the front door lights when youíre returning home late at night than to call ahead and tell HAL, "Turn on the front door lights"? With HAL, any phone -- anywhere in the world -- enables you to step inside your home and control it as if you were there. And you can ask HAL to read you your E-mail, give you a stock quote or a sports score or a TV listing -- because HAL automatically harvests Internet information for use when you want it.

Hopefully, this HAL isn't too intelligent. Can't you imagine? You're coming home in zero-degree weather in the dead of winter:

"Open the garage door, HAL."

"I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."

(WAV file via

This HAL (not the fictional, sentient, and murderous HAL 9000) has received some national attention for its use by "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" as a way of making homes more livable for those with physical handicaps.

HAL (the initials stand for Home Automated Living) offers an add-on to give the system a more human-sounding voice than the standard package. Four voices (combinations of male or female, British or American) are available, with more planned for the future. Maybe they'll offer celebrity voices at some point.

Wouldn't it would be cool, if a bit creepy, to have Douglas Rain's voice responding to my request to dim the lights? Or Stephen Moore: "Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to turn up the thermostat. Call that job satisfaction? 'Cause I don't."

I'd be even happier if HAL answered the phone with "KXXO, good evening."

BONUS LINK: The Case for HAL's Sanity. This writer claims that the HAL 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey didn't go insane; he committed premeditated murder. Isn't that reassuring?

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Technology category from June 2006.

Technology: February 2006 is the previous archive.

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