Upshifting and Scaling

The success of voice assistants in the last few years has largely been because of low barriers to consumer adoption. Cheap speakers and cross-linguistic support. This week we see the volume being turned up on both these levers of scale. Amazon has rolled out its US market Spanish language capabilities, making the assistant far more accessible to millions of new users. In parallel, the Echo Auto team has partnered with Nationwide to release a million Echo Auto devices to its customers, an interesting channel partnership being supported by a national media campaign. And in the lead-up to their big product event this week, Google has been giving away Home Minis to YouTube Premium members and rolling out a new celebrity voice (take that, Samuel L. Jackson and Alexa). The two leaders in the mass market voice assistance race are only pouring more gasoline on their efforts to acquire and retain users, and we’ll be very curious what shots get fired by Google in today’s hardware announcement.

Alexa Becomes Bilingual

Amazon has enabled Spanish and multi-lingual support for U.S. Echo and Alexa device users. U.S. users will now be able to select Spanish as their language for Alexa or switch between English and Spanish with the multi-lingual mode. According to Amazon, the feature “includes a brand-new Spanish voice for Alexa, the local knowledge, hundreds of skills and more.” This effort to support Spanish speaking users and multi-lingual homes in the U.S is also being extended into Amazon Music where listeners will be “able to ask Alexa for a variety of new Latin music playlist in U.S. Spanish.”  More on Amazon.com

Celebrity Assistance

Following John Legend, Issa Rae is now the second celebrity providing her voice to Google Assistant as a “voice cameo” for users. By enabling the voice, her recorded replies will be triggered for a specific set of queries. For now, users wanting to hear John Legend or Issa Rae voices can access them for free, unlike Alexa’s upcoming launch of Samuel L. Jackson’s voice (see Stats Don’t Lie below for details). It is early days with only a few celebs entering the voice assistant world, but it is expected that many more will follow. More on The Verge

Hardware Handout

Voicebot has explored the implications of Nationwide’s announcement last month to give away a million Echo Auto devices to customers. To start, the amount of hardware being given out will double Amazon’s Alexa footprint in the automobile— highly valuable real estate for them given their app-limited smartphone presence compared to Google Assistant. Additionally, Nationwide has unveiled some car-specific features for their Alexa skill including roadside assistance access, the ability to check road conditions and a safety checklist function. More on Voicebot.com.

Stats Don’t Lie

23% – Walmart’s Columbus Day Google Home Discount (data via Digital Trends)

$.99 in 2019 ($4.99 after) – The cost of Amazon Alexa’s Samuel L. Jackson’s Celebrity voice (data via The Verge)

Chart of the Week

Voice Smart Speaker Adoption in Europe
(data via Voicebot)