Top Voice Stories from Q1 and Why They Matter 

As we get ready to turn the calendar to April, we decided to look back at how 2021 has started for voice technology and what we’ve learned in the first quarter. In reviewing what stories and news you all have found most interesting and engaging so far this year, we are able to get an outline of where the industry is shifting and advancing. 

Top Q1 Story: Custom Assistants & Alexa’s Evolution

The top story so far this year was Amazon’s announcement of the Alexa Custom Assistant initiative in January. The offering allows car and device manufacturers to build branded assistants that house both Alexa and their own specialized assistant. As a result, features including custom wake words, features, and voices will work in tandem with existing Alexa capabilities. Custom assistants have gained strong momentum in the past few years with companies like Pandora, BBC, and Bank of America having launched their own voice assistants to serve the unique needs of their customers.

This trend is one we believe will continue to shift the center of gravity of the assistant landscape away from brands using solely big technology company solutions and towards developing owned experiences. However, the ultimate solution will likely include a balance between assistant operating systems. With this in mind, it’s encouraging to see Amazon tapping into this trend and broadening the use of its Alexa technology. 

Top Q1 Statistic: The Smart Home Gets a Pandemic Push

The top stat that caught your interest this year was from a December 2020 survey which found that 41% of smart home technology owners have bought at least one device or feature since the pandemic began, with smart speakers being among the most common purchases.

It’s no surprise that as people spend more time within their homes, they’re turning to smart technology for entertainment or information. However, the long lasting and ever-growing sales potential of smart speakers has been notable and shows a continued demand for voice-enabled devices. Just last week we reported on Edison Research and Triton Digital’s finding that 34% of smart speaker owners have 3+ devices in their households. Although use of these devices is primarily for music, entertainment and home utility, it’s telling that adopters want to have consistent access to voice-first control throughout their homes. We believe this sets a precedent for voice to become ubiquitous throughout more environments including the office and commercial buildings. 

Top Q1 Chart: Skill Status

Finally, the chart that we saw most attention from was Voicebot’s Alexa Skills by Country visualization.

There’s a lot to unpack here, but two significant takeaways give us an idea of the current market. First, less skills are being developed in mature markets like North America and the UK, which may be another signal that brands are shifting away from traditional voice apps and toward custom voice experiences as the skill market becomes more saturated. Second, emerging markets such as France, Mexico and Brazil are just starting to see more skills being built, which could help advance the maturation of voice technology overall for those users. 



Emerging Tech Stories

  • Peloton Phenomenon. Fitness bike maker Peloton recently acquired Aiqudo, a voice tech company that produced custom assistants for industrial and consumer use.
  • Perfect Memory. Google is testing a new feature for Google Assistant that will allow users to save content like links, screenshots, and pictures to the mobile app.
  • Haute Gaming. Burberry partnered with Chinese game developer TiMi Studios for new character skins that gamers can purchase for the Honors of Kings video game.

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