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The Smart Display Gains Traction

Although screenless smart speakers lead the market for voice-enabled devices, the popularity of smart displays is climbing. In Q1 2021, 38% of worldwide smart speaker sales were those of smart displays. With Amazon’s Echo Show and Google’s Nest Hub displays, it’s not difficult to imagine the allure of such products. The ability to view content and stream videos is compelling, especially during the WFH era as consumers turn to their smart devices more frequently. Amazon is tapping into this opportunity by building a large Echo Show to mount on the wall, and Apple is even exploring the development of a smart display attached to a robotic arm. This week, Verizon is entering the market with its own Alexa-powered display. As these devices make headway, companies must create a thoughtful plan for how their displays integrate with their core services while fitting into the broader smart home ecosystem.

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Hi Verizon

Verizon is currently developing a 4G smart display using Amazon’s Alexa Custom Assistant offering, according to FCC filings. The device has an 8-inch screen and camera, similar to Amazon’s Echo Show. But with 4G connectivity, consumers will be able to use the display without Wi-Fi, and it’ll have its own wake word phrase: “Hi Verizon.” With both Alexa and the custom assistant, the display will provide access to standard Alexa functionality as well as Verizon features, such as the video conference platform BlueJeans. Verizon has already begun its voice strategy — Verizon Fios is integrated with Google Assistant — so the new device will help the company expand its smart home offering. More on Protocol

Storytime With Alexa

Amazon launched several updates to make Alexa more kid-friendly. First, voice profiles — which can detect which user is speaking — can now provide customized voice experiences for children. Second, ‘Reading Sidekick’ is the company’s reading tutor that leverages Alexa to help children master their reading skills. The child can ask “Alexa, let’s read,” and the Sidekic, the assistant, and the child can take turns reading the selected book. Amazon already has Alexa speakers specifically targeted to children, along with additional Alexa features packaged with Amazon FreeTime. This week’s new releases will help build on Amazon’s goal to make Alexa an entertainment and educational companion for children. More on Voicebot.ai

Hands-Free Future

Headphone and earbud company Skullcandy partnered with audio software company Bragi to build voice-enabled Skullcandy earbuds. The upcoming products will provide hands-free experiences to consumers, who will be able to use voice commands to accept and reject calls and more, even without internet connection. Although major voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, and Bixby are already embedded on their companies’ own smart earbuds, Skullcandy is a leader in the inexpensive earbuds market. As a result, the collaboration is indicative of the growing potential for voice-enabled earbuds, especially for consumers looking for lower-cost options. More on PR Newswire

By The Numbers

31% of people use voice assistants daily with almost half using them at least once a week. (data via Vixen Labs)

55% of UK smart speaker owners said they used their smart speakers more during the pandemic. (data via Voicebot.ai)

Emerging Tech Stories

  • Closed Captioning. Zoom acquired a translation startup to potentially incorporate real-time translation to its video meetings.
  • Huddle Up. Slack launched Huddles, its audio channel that employees can use to drop in for quick audio meetings at any time.
  • Sneak Peek. Wear, Google and Samsung’s combined smartwatch platform, gave a preview into what the One UI Watch software looks like.

Introducing the Voice Consumer Index 2021

Our partner Vixen Labs released the Voice Consumer Index 2021 in collaboration with the Open Voice Network! The new report includes findings on how US, UK, and German voice users interact with voice assistants across multiple surfaces — insights that can help you craft your voice strategy.

Read the report.