Voice-activated personal assistants are everywhere.

And you don’t have to buy a Google Home or an Amazon Echo to command a computer with just your voice.

Everyone with a modern Mac, Windows PC or iPhone can use artificial intelligence to get things done.

Windows 10 machines have Microsoft’s Cortana already loaded, and of course we’ve all had a laugh getting Siri to beatbox on our iPhones and iPads (if you haven’t yet, just ask Siri if she can beatbox). But do these gadgets have any practical applications? Is there a case for using more voice-controlled technology in the average office? Let’s explore a few potential uses for voice-activated personal assistants, and consider if these are just gimmicks for entertainment, or genuinely useful productivity tools.

Encourage greater productivity

Productivity seems to be the central promise of digital assistants. They’re supposed to save us time by allowing us to verbalise commands instead of typing, swiping and tapping. But like any technology, they can take a little getting used to. With voice-controlled assistants, users need to know what they can achieve, and how. This might sound obvious, but it’s easy to waste time asking a digital assistant to do something it can’t achieve, using language it doesn’t understand.

If you want to encourage your employees to start saving time with Siri on their phone or Cortana on their PC, you could start by sharing a list of suggested tasks to get everyone started. Once you know a few effortless ways to use the technology, you’re more likely to use it for other tasks.

Entertain visitors

Instead of sticking a TV in a waiting area, why not give people a virtual assistant to chat to? You could set up an Echo or a Google Home so that guests can choose their own music, or check the headlines, while they wait.

Book meeting rooms

Corporations that use the Teem application to manage their meeting room bookings can now use Amazon Echo to manage rooms. Because the Echo is always listening, it can automatically release rooms that are unoccupied, making them available to others. Teem is planning to expand Echo’s powers so it can be used to activate meeting room AV equipment verbally.

Music on-demand

With streaming music and voice-activation, you can give everyone in the office shared responsibility over the office stereo. Of course, this could quickly go off the rails, with everyone shouting out their requests!

Re-order essentials

A digital assistant in the print room could be a quicker, easier way to order stationery and printer ink.

What do you think? Are voice-activated digital assistants a pointless gimmick – or are they the future of technology?