Chattanooga Chatter

Dozens of startups and agencies (RAIN included) rubbed shoulders with big tech and big brands at the first ever Project VOICE event (formerly the Alexa Conference) this past week in Chattanooga, TN. Teams from Google Assistant, Alexa, Bixby, Soundhound, and Microsoft made unique arguments for why their platforms will own a large slice of the voice-enabled future, while a new wave of voice startups and tool providers, from Botmock (conversational prototyping) to Jargon (voice CMS) to Resemble.AI (speech cloning) filled out a new wave of ground-up innovation in the ecosystem. Beyond the conference, voice made further in-roads in disrupting the web as we know it, integrating new functionality into two of the more prominent browsers of 2020 – Chrome and Firefox

Google’s Search Shift

Google is expected to bring Google Assistant into their Chrome experience to service voice search queries. The updates will change the previous speech-to-text driven experience to one handled via Google Assistant on browsers as well as create a more integrated assistant experience on Android devices. These updates are anticipated to take place later this year. More on 9to5Google.

Firefox Finds Its Voice

Mozilla’s Firefox browsers has launched its set of voice controls in beta. The browser extension tool currently works on desktop and allows users to speak questions or instructions to navigate the web. Aside from answering queries, the voice control features are fairly advanced compared to what we have seen so far. Voicebot reports that the voice control feature “can manage the browser’s tabs and control media playback. For instance, it will start or stop a YouTube video and adjust the volume. Firefox Voice also understands requests for maps and translations and can even copy and paste text.” More on Voicebot AI

Transformative Transcriptions

AI transcription and captioning service startup Verbit announced that it has raised $31 million in a series B funding round. The company uses a mix of AI and human transcription to ensure accuracy. According to TechCrunch, “Verbit’s AI-based tools get to about 90% accuracy, but it also works with about 15,000 human transcribers who make revisions as necessary in order to get to 99% accuracy.” The company plans to use the new funding to expand to new categories of service and increase language support. More on TechCrunch.

Stats Don’t Lie

60 MM – Apple AirPods sold in 2019 (data via 9to5Mac)

135% – Growth of smart speakers in US households over the past two years (data via NPR and Edison Research)

Chart of the Week

Alexa Skill Count January 2020
(data via Voicebot AI)