Assistance All Around

Amazon’s announcements last week have laid out a clear and expansive vision for voice: omnipresent assistance. While the goal has always been to have Alexa everywhere, Amazon’s new hardware and partnership announcements are now bringing that to life. From smart home security to GM cars to Echo Buds to the unexpected and questionably useful Echo Loop (a ‘smart ring’ with Alexa inside), Alexa users now have even more options to use the voice assistant within and beyond the home. Furthermore, their newly launched Voice Interoperability Initiative represents an aggressive move to secure “play-nice” partnerships with everyone that isn’t Apple, Google, and Samsung. Amazon continues to take a “more is better” approach to its hardware, waging an all-out price war on competitors, and simply seeing what sticks. One sure bet is that this holiday season, Amazon will be moving a lot of voice-enabled products into new and existing customers’ lives.

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Clocks, Glasses, Ovens, Rings and More

Last week Amazon released a dizzying amount of new Alexa-powered technology. They have not only upgraded existing devices, but introduced new lines of Alexa tech including wearables (earbuds, glasses and a ring). Oh, and a smart oven too, probably because the Alexa-enabled microwave just so happened to become the best-selling microwave on Amazon last year. In addition to all the new hardware, Amazon also announced new privacy controls for users (all the more important as its device onslaught continues), a first-of-its-kind partnership with GM, Alexa celebrity voices (starting with Samuel L. Jackson), and much more. More on TechCrunch.com.

A Multi-Assistant World

Amazon did more than just share new devices last week, they also announced the formation of the Voice Interoperability Initiative. While this news was drowned out by all the new device launches, it’s a big deal. According to The Verge the initiative is “a statement of intent from over 30 different companies that they will strive to ensure devices will work with multiple digital assistants at the same time.” So far, significant companies have signed on including Baidu, Microsoft, Salesforce, Sonos, Spotify and more. However, Google, Apple and Samsung are notably absent. Time will tell if they decide to join up with Amazon et al for a more open voice assistant landscape, but the initiative already shows major players interested in ensuring a multi-assistant world comes to fruition. More on The Verge.

Siri Integrations?

Apple’s new iOS 13 is giving Siri a larger role, opening up the voice assistant to third-party apps for the first time with a new Spotify integration. Some users have been beta testing the integration and the reactions have been positive, even if the UX is still a little clunky (as Digital Trends notes you have to remember to tell Siri you want them to play “on Spotify”). This integration is important as it is the first Siri-focused integration for the tech giant and may signal that the assistant is ready for more. With the huge iOS user base (including AirPods), Siri could increase its value to users significantly via voice control integrations. More on Digital Trends.

Stats Don’t Lie

46% – Percent of smart speaker owners that are 45 or older. (data via Edison Research & NPR)

15 MM Units – Expected 2019 smart speaker shipments in China, 36% Growth YoY. (data via Voicebot)

Chart of the Week

worldwide smart speaker shipments
(data via Voicebot)