The Years Ahead

Last week we celebrated Alexa’s 5th birthday and Google Home’s 3rd birthday. We don’t quite know how to compare voice assistant years with human years in terms of maturity, but suffice to say we’re past infancy for the major voice assistants, but probably nowhere near puberty. With the early years behind us, we are now starting to see the gap closing between voice assistant aspirations and the reality of their capabilities. This week we see tech companies continuing to nurture their AI offspring, with Alexa seemingly eyeing the fitness companion space, Google enabling smarter responsive design through ultrasound technology and Cortana enhancing its abilities to make office work simpler.

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Your New Workout Buds?

During testing of the new Amazon Echo Buds, CNBC has discovered what they are speculating could be a forthcoming feature for the voice assistant— fitness tracking. When wearing the new Echo Buds, a ‘hidden’ fitness tracking feature was found to be present in the Alexa companion app and, after walking around with the feature toggled on, CNBC discovered the device does indeed track movement time and distance. Although no biometrics such as heart rate monitoring were seen to be present, if Amazon were to formally roll out a health tracking feature for their headphones, that would potentially put them in greater competition with Google and Apple in terms of fitness tracking. More on

No Camera Needed

Google has updated their Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max devices to utilize the previously announced ‘ultrasound sensing’ capability. This feature allows the devices to know where users are in a room without leveraging a camera. As described by Engadget, “…using high-frequency sounds, the smart display can tell whether you’re in the same room as it is, in addition to your approximate position. It will then use this information to adjust its interface. For instance, when you’re farther away from the Nest Hub, it will increase the size of its fonts to make them more legible.” This feature is available now. More on

The Apple of Cortana’s Eye

Microsoft’s Cortana assistant is now available on iOS devices via the Outlook app. As Voicebot reported, “By adjusting the settings on the phone, users can get Cortana to read out emails and schedule notifications by making requests to the voice assistant. Once they’ve heard the email, people can label or archive them by voice request to Cortana.” This move helps focus Cortana usage on Office applications and grow the user base by creating more access points. The company additionally plans to roll out the assistant to Android devices in 2020. More on Voicebot AI.

Stats Don’t Lie

30% – Reduction in user defect rate due to Amazon Alexa’s self-learning system (data via VentureBeat)

52% – Consumers who would like to employ a voice assistant for health care use cases (data via Voicebot AI)

Chart of the Week

(data via Voicebot AI)