Google’s Time to Shine

Earlier this summer, news of a new Google smart speaker rippled through the internet, where the company confirmed that it would be released in the fall. At Google’s fall hardware event, the company announced its new Pixel 5, Google TV, Chromecast, Google Duo features, and smart speaker Nest Audio. This multitude of enhanced smart home products squares off with Amazon’s new collection of devices, amplifying the calls from consumers for smarter products that can connect to each other and provide a unified home experience. In addition, Google is rolling out new software attributes, including Pixel’s “Hold for Me” feature and Assistant’s Workday routines, to accompany the hardware in playing more active roles in our lives. Moving forward, the voice landscape may be significantly altered as new multi-assistant devices make their debuts, even as the big players try to outcompete each other.

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Welcome Back

Google Nest Audio, the smart speaker that was leaked a few months back, was officially introduced at Google’s hardware event last week. Compared to the Google Home it is replacing, the newly redesigned assistant—the mid-sized unit sitting between the Home Mini and Home Max—is louder, has stronger bass, includes new color options and is made out of 70% recycled plastic. The release also coincides with the launch of Amazon’s new spherical Echo smart speakers, continuing the competition between the two top voice assistants to create smarter and more attractive devices to reel in more customers. More on CNET

Baidu Makes the Big Bucks

Baidu, the Chinese technology giant, recently raised money for its voice assistant and smart devices business, which was valued at $2.9 billion. DuerOS, the company’s open-source platform that processes 6.5 billion voice queries per month, provides over 60 automakers and 40,000 developers with the tech to install Baidu’s voice assistant into hardware devices. Xiaodu, the company’s line of smart speakers, displays, and headphones, has 3.3 billion voice queries per month. This funding round speaks to the growth of voice not only in China but worldwide and points toward opportunities to monetize voice search and continuing voice integrations with appliances. More on VentureBeat

No More Backseat Drivers

Auto Mode, the Alexa app’s new feature for the car, provides drivers with a car-friendly mobile display when paired with Echo Auto, which didn’t have the full capabilities of the voice assistant. With the app’s Auto Mode upgrade, drivers can use voice commands and navigate four Mode-specific screens: Navigation for shortcuts to certain locations, Communicate for shortcuts to phone calls and announcements, Play for media playback, and Home for shortcuts to your most-used actions. As in-car assistants, both mainstream and white label solutions, take off, Amazon is making sure it stays ahead in the game. More on The Verge

Stats Don’t Lie  

65% The increase in customers using Alexa-enabled devices from April-June 2019 to April-June 2020. (data via WSJ)

46% of consumers use contactless payment methods. (data via PYMNTS)

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A Glimpse at the Future of Hospitality

In our latest blog, RAIN’s Nick Rovisa discusses some impressive results from RAIN’s partnership with Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Resort. In a pilot launched in early 2020, the hotels used voice tech to enhance the guest stay and optimize staff tasks with an in-room Alexa voice concierge. A behind-the-scenes account of the project and its results are here.