How I've longed to be in a position that when I speak, people say "Yes, master."Being a business writer doesn't command that sort of reply so I guess I'll have to be satisfied with other people being called "master," especially those who have "Butler in a Box," a computerized device that can turn the ordinary home into automation heaven.
Butler in a Box is the brainchild of Gus Searcy, Los Alamitos, Calif., a magician who was asked by people in the audience why he didn't turn off the lights with magic-the way he made coins disappear.
Shortly after getting a start on his invention, he met German Franz Kavan and within six months had developed a rudimentary voice interactive computer system. In 1984 the Searcy-Kavan combine organized Mastervoice and in 1985 the company received $2.3 million in venture capital that allowed them to establish a research and manufacturing plant in Los Alamitos.
Searcy was in Salt Lake City in April 1988 demonstrating Butler in a Box at the Western Rehabilitation Institute showing that one of the device's applications is for the bedridden so they can turn on lights and the television without getting out of bed.
Last November, Ross Eveson purchased a distributorship from Searcy and formed Olympus Automation at 2614 Green St.. He is trying to develop the home automation industry in Utah that he says is almost nonexistent. He is talking to builders and designers about the possibilities of installing the automation system in new houses, but believes the big market is retrofitting Butler in a Box into existing homes.
To demonstrate the Butler in a Box in his house, Eveson named his "Friday." He said many people like to name their unit after their boss because "there is a certain amount of pleasure in hollering that name and getting a reply of `yes, master,' " Eveson said.
"Friday," Eveson barks at the device. "Yes master," comes the reply. Sometimes for variety, "Friday" answers, "You called?" or "May I help you?"
"Light," Eveson says. "OK" is the reply and two seconds later a floor lamp comes on. He does the same thing with the television set. Eveson said "Friday" awakens him every morning and turns on his wife's curling iron, the lights and the television.
Either by remote control or voice command, Butler in a Box can be programmed to control all lights and appliances in and around the house; time pools, hot tubs, sprinklers, fish tanks, heating and air conditioning units and landscape lighting; turn television sets off at designated times each night; and have the outside lights come on at sunset.
It also can automatically control electric blinds or draperies by voice or remote, arm and disarm alarm systems and turns a cordless telephone into a mobile controller to operate any function while walking about the house or yard.
Depending on which one of the Butlers in a Box purchased (there are three), the owner programs the device to respond only to that person's command. In the Series 2, which is the top-of-the-line Butler, four people can activate the lights and appliances.
One of the most important functions Butler in a Box can perform is acting like an anti-intrusion device. Through the timing mode, the unit can turn on lights, the radio, a television or the sprinklers to give would-be burglars the impression that people are home.
If a burglar isn't convinced the house is empty, Butler in a Box will give the thief a good reason to run. The device is equipped with a sensor and when placed in a strategic location for the burglar to walk by, your "Friday" will say, "May I help you?"
If "Friday" doesn't receive an answer in an approved voice within a few seconds, a radio or light in another room is turned on, loud alarms could be set off and an alarm company can be notified automatically. Eveson said Butler in a Box doesn't replace "hard wire" alarm systems, but it might be enough to scare intruders away.
The ultimate in convenience from the device is its ability to turn on the hot tub after receiving a message over the telephone. How nice it would be to have the hot tub just the right temperature so you can slip in after a hard day at the office.
If I made the telephone call and told "Friday" to turn on the hot tub, I would probably get the reply, "But master, you don't have a hot tub."