Strengthening the Ecosystem

Last week’s news of Alibaba putting forth a $1.4 billion USD commitment specifically to enhance voice has made waves in the tech community. From the communications around the investment, it is clear that they are seeing voice technology as far more than devices and apps. They are building a connected commerce ecosystem ensuring that voice is the common interface across all their properties. As is often the case, China is ahead of other markets when it comes to technology adoption and voice is no exception. Whether it’s Baidu’s focus on the car, Xiaomi’s investment in new voice-enabled hardware or Alibaba’s latest commerce connectivity plans, the region is rapidly showing how far voice can go.

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Alibaba’s Voice Ecosystem

Chinese technology giant Alibaba has announced that they will be investing $1.4 billion USD to develop the infrastructure around their voice AI and Tmall Genie smart speaker platform. To kick off these efforts, existing lightweight applications available on Alibaba’s payment platform, Alipay can be integrated with Tmall genie as of July 1st. Additionally, their live-streaming retail video platform Taobao will become available to view through Tmall Genie smart display devices. South China Morning Post reports that “the investment will [also] see more AIoT technologies developed in-house, including an IoT operating system, edge computing, and visual and voice AI.” As Alibaba continues to be in close competition with Baidu and Xiaomi for voice device market share, this investment shows they are committed to the technology as a core driver of their future business. More on South China Morning Post.

Cortana Teams Up

It appears that Microsoft will be shortly integrating their Cortana assistant into their Teams software. This move follows their strategy to turn the assistant into a productivity layer as part of their existing business apps. So far the assistant has been brought into their Outlook software to help users navigate email management. According to the leaked screenshots related to the Teams integration, Cortana may be able to make calls, join meetings, and facilitate voice-enabled document sharing. More on Voicebot AI.

Chilling with Google Assistant

Google has added two new device types eligible for Google Assistant support in their developer documentation: freezers and air coolers. These join Google’s growing list of connected device support alongside routers, smart refrigerators, TVs and remotes. As Google continues to target the smart home space and promote these opportunities to the developer community, they continue to make progress in their battle against competitors. More on 9to5Google.

Stats Don’t Lie

500 milliseconds – Speed at which Facebook’s voice synthesis AI generates speech. (data via VentureBeat)

$100 MM – Valuation of Clubhouse social audio app. (data via CNBC)

Chart of the Week

Capgemini Consumer Preference for Voice Interfaces During the Pandemic and Beyond
(Capgemini)