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Josh.ai & Control4 / SnapOne


anon2828
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Looks like SnapOne / Control4 is making a push for Josh.ai to be used as the leading / high-end voice assistant for Control4:

https://www.control4.com/blog/627/meet-joshai

I've been curious about Josh since it was announced, now it seems like SnapOne/Control4 is really endorsing it (Josh is exclusively available through SnapOne now).  I see some positives in that it is advertised as a local/private voice ai solution compared to the privacy and outside the network concerns that exist on Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, although it is stated it won't work if there is an internet interruption which is somewhat odd.

The hardware side seems fairly obnoxiously priced and complex given the need for a hub, end points (the Micro and Nano), and a software license compared to the ubiquitous and fairly inexpensive voice assistant end points from Amazon and Google.

Josh.ai advertises an improved intelligent voice experience and deeper integration with Control4.  This makes me wonder if Control4 (though not solely responsible for the integration) will degrade or not pay as much attention to integrations through Amazon / Google going forward.  (I keep wondering when we will finally be able to say "open" or "close" shades as opposed to "turn on" and "turn off"...)

Just seems to me like there is so much more that could be done and done better with the existing voice assistants out there and this seems a distraction for all but the most high end installations.

Anyone have any experience with Josh?   Can you say it is heads and shoulders better than what is already available from Google/Amazon?  Worth the price?

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I've had Josh installed for just about 2 years in my home.  First started with 3 Micros as replacements for my T3 touchscreens.  The user experience between those that use touch interface of touchscreens versus those using voice can vary.  In our household, we hardly used the touchscreens at all and the only one that received regular use was the one in the mud room/garage entry to arm and disarm the house in place of the alarm panel tucked away in a closet.  We interface with the Josh Micros dozens of times per day and enjoy using it for its accuracy and privacy.  Through the Josh portal it’s also been a lot easier and quicker to setup custom scenes for morning, evening, afternoons, and holidays for the various end devices (shades, lighting, TV, thermostat, Christmas tree, locks, etc).  That scene creation is a lot more intuitive than the When>Then from Control4.  The ability to test the scenes and make quick changes to ensure you have what you want works great.

 

I’ve recently just upgraded to the Josh Core and 1 Josh Nano in my office and so far that works great with a get my day started command.  I’m expanding to 2 other rooms in the house in the summer and having the VoiceLink where the common goes thru my audio speakers so far works really well.

 

I’ve never used Amazon Alexa or Google so can’t speak to their efficacy.  On the videos I’ve seen it is not as natural in communicating actions you want but that may just be a perception thing.  Some may feel different, but for us we get for more utility/usage out of the Josh devices, app, and custom scene creation than the C4 touchscreens we’ve had.  We also have found that its stability for items like the Door Station (have a DS2 and not a Chime) and it has been far more reliable in the audible commands and notifications from Josh (the DS2 is a 2N device rebranded) than from Control4.

 

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Josh is a luxury product.
(they prefer Boutique, but fact is, it's an item that if you try to justify the cost, you'll struggle)

They're building hundreds of micros, not a hundred thousand alexas.
There is also dealer profit, see top statement. They're not giving it away to mine your data.

So you're going to pay quite a bit more than Amazon or Google products.

Is it better than the other options, by a long shot.
It's also private.
It's also more reliable for integration.
And flexible.
And software designed for the AV market.

As to micro vs nano. See top statement again. Nano is beautiful and discrete and slick. It needs a hub, because the wall part is so little, and no room for a speaker, so need for appropriate playback. Nano doesn't do anything that micro can't, except be sexy.

Control4 has not, at this point, made any concessions in software to accommodate Josh, frankly it's all on the Josh side currently. Josh built it really well to absorb from Control4, who was already done in a way that it makes a great match.

Josh is foremost not positioning itself to be an addon, they would just as well prefer to be totally standalone home integration. The trouble is, there's a very small sandbox of players to make that happen and they need some outside processing to integrate the rest. And they benefit from a distribution partnership and dealer connections that Control4 can provide. It's a good relationship, but not a marriage, and not sure it should ever be more than really good best friends.

 

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2 hours ago, gregheard said:

I’ve recently just upgraded to the Josh Core and 1 Josh Nano in my office and so far that works great with a get my day started command.  I’m expanding to 2 other rooms in the house in the summer and having the VoiceLink where the common goes thru my audio speakers so far works really well.

 

How is the responsiveness / latency of Nano (with voice feedback coming from speakers connected to your matrix) versus Micro's internal speaker--- especially when speakers near Nano are off when you make your first request?  It sounded like Nano/Core were designed to use Sonos speakers for voice output (digitally) and I worry that analog-out ports might not be as fast/responsive (again, especially on first request).

Also, how does it work when you already have audio from Watch/Listen session coming out of speakers near Nano?  Does it do audio "ducking" (reduce volume when you  say trigger phrase)?   Does it pause/resume or mute/unmute smoothly?  Ideally (IMHO) it would reduce volume but keep other content playing throughout you "conversation" with Nano/Core and then ramp to prior volume (leaving other zones at their prior volumes without interruption).  But this implies mixing of Nano output with another source, which I assume it can't do (or can it?).

As of now, I plan to go ahead with Josh.ai as soon as my Control4 system is deployed-- but I do worry a bit that Alexa/Google/Apple might catch up in a few years and render my investment in Josh.ai seem silly in retrospect.  We shall see.  Always a risk with this sort of thing, I guess.

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I've only had vary rare occurrences of latency issues pre-Core installation.  If I had to put a number/percentage on it would be 2-3% tops and it is has typically been related to network/ISP issues in those cases.  The system has been frankly more reliable on common devices like the door station referenced and video matrix switching (AVPro Edge) than Control4 for notifications, switching, and speed which was surprising at first for sure and didn't require the multiple OS updates (at least 4 now) that C4 needed for the Door Station intercom.  Anyhow, I've only had the Nano/Core installed for a brief period in my office but has been very responsive.  I couldn't give you a clear conclusion on responsiveness comparisons just yet as the Micros are used in more high traffic areas compared to the one in my office at present.  By this summer I'll be pulling 2 of the 3 Micros to be put in other parts of the home and putting Nano's in those areas (Dining Room, Kitchen, Family Room).  By then I'll have the ability to give a better comparison.  

Upon first request of a command the speakers voice output in my office work every time for the lights, shades, scene setting, and TV/Soundbar.  I only use discrete commands for those and one for start of my work day and end of my work day voice commands that I defined a programmed response with their portal and used no coding.

The highest use area with a TV or music and Josh in the room is in my Family Room and Kitchen.  It does in fact 'duck' to hear me give a command as they advertise and showcase in their CEDIA demo from a couple years ago in Denver.  It reduced the volume in my case and the pausing of video sources and music works well from the TV sources, especially on the Roku more than the Apple TV but the Apple TV issues are a myriad of them beyond the Josh piece.  

As far as investment I am not worried about that and did budget accordingly for several months for the first purchases of the Micros' and again for the first Nano and Core.  It was a household decision seeing that we were not getting the utility out of the T3's and they were starting to become unreliable with the age/lifespan they'd been installed.  The cost I got for the 5 year license was not cost prohibitive IMO but that like all in this space is personal preference/decision.  I just know we get far more usage out of the Josh devices compared to previous so from a value perspective it was worth it for us.  That and being able to do a lot of the time triggers, compound commands with scenes, and other functions in the portal has made it well worth it.  I've 'invested' in other C4 controllers and devices similar to know I'll have to replace them and get a fraction of funds in return on selling them. 

 

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Great input and feedback.

Just curious - is the Nano wired?  If so, how?

The Micro looks to be wired, but is that only for power (like an Echo dot for example)?

I would not be surprised to see SnapOne purchase Josh.  If they are doing things better than Control4 (for example a better ability to create scenes than the clunky When>Then) it may make sense.

The pricing seems to be pretty outrageous, especially the need to purchase a license, and this from someone that is not very price sensitive.  I get the privacy concerns, but I am not sitting around talking about anything illegal or embarrassing (for the most part), or putting together verbal plans to overthrow the government, so the fact that I may see an ad for something that I spoke of is more amusing than threatening to me.

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49 minutes ago, anon2828 said:

Just curious - is the Nano wired?  If so, how?

The Micro looks to be wired, but is that only for power (like an Echo dot for example)?

The pricing seems to be pretty outrageous, especially the need to purchase a license, and this from someone that is not very price sensitive.  I get the privacy concerns, but I am not sitting around talking about anything illegal or embarrassing (for the most part), or putting together verbal plans to overthrow the government, so the fact that I may see an ad for something that I spoke of is more amusing than threatening to me.

Nano is POE.
Micro is POE, or WiFi with USB C power plug.
Core is also POE.

It's so much more than privacy.
The experience of Josh is having a party and your best friend shows, Yo, play some tunes.
The other is when your obnoxious cousin shows up, you try to be polite but they're just so annoying that eventual you only talk to them when you really have to, and you think about how you're going to phrase it so they don't get all huffy and bring down the jam. Did they leave yet?

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2 hours ago, anon2828 said:

The pricing seems to be pretty outrageous, especially the need to purchase a license, and this from someone that is not very price sensitive.  I get the privacy concerns, but I am not sitting around talking about anything illegal or embarrassing (for the most part), or putting together verbal plans to overthrow the government, so the fact that I may see an ad for something that I spoke of is more amusing than threatening to me.

How much is the pricing - both initial and ongoing.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/9/2022 at 1:41 PM, anon2828 said:

 the fact that I may see an ad for something that I spoke of is more amusing than threatening to me.

That is such a bad way to view this - and exactly what the data miners want to hear.

Understand - if you're willing to forego privacy for cheap products, that's your call to make. IMHO, we've been selling our data for a cent on the dollar - I'm not 'afraid' they'll 'catch' me with anything at all - just feel like we're being ripped off.

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  • 2 months later...
On 2/9/2022 at 3:41 PM, anon2828 said:

so the fact that I may see an ad for something that I spoke of is more amusing than threatening to me.

Take off the tin foil hat as that literally does not happen, and if it does it's called a coincidence.

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56 minutes ago, SpencerT said:

https://arxiv.org/abs/2204.10920

It's not like data harvesting for targeted advertising is a new thing.

Yeah, when you're using it.  From your article directly: "Our results show that Amazon and third parties (including advertising and tracking services) collect smart speaker interaction data."  As in, if I'm constantly asking the score of the game, or when a certain store closes, then sure it's going to show me ads online for that.  I don't see anywhere in your link that says they always listen and provide ads.  It says they sometimes misactivate, such as if it thinks you said Alexa, but that's not the same as spying on you.  It's no different than using Amazon or Google and it building a profile of you, but that's not spying.

To each his own though, but there's no way I'd pay the cost of Josh just for a bit more privacy. 

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I'm not talking about spying. I'm talking about targeted advertising, which was the point you objected to in your earlier comment.

Your interpretation of "interaction data" excludes anything unintentional by Amazon (misfires, misconfiguration on the Amazon side, manually fed employee translation data entry, etc). My interpretation does not.

Neither interpretation makes targeted ad responses a pure "coincidence" or changes the fact that your voice data, on Amazon devices, is used for targeted advertising.

For the record, I have a dozen echo devices, a couple google devices and Josh. Alexa drives me absolutely nuts. There are things you simply can't disable. That was my push to Josh. And even on a full Josh implementation (which I'm not on), I would still have to keep Alexa around.

Not advocating one platform over another. 

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