Voice’s Next Gen Ecosystem

Rounding out Q1 of this year, we’re seeing voice technology integrations take the leap into advanced hardware. Last week we saw Apple launch the next iteration of their wildly popular AirPods, now with “hands-free Siri access” and Poly announcing a fully Alexa-integrated product for business use. These new products continue to remove friction for users looking to engage with AI assistants and are setting the path toward where voice-enabled devices have always been heading— ambient assistance available everywhere. While Apple and Poly have made strong strides in the consumer and B2B spaces, the rest of 2019 is sure to see more useful integrations and service enhancements as the ecosystem’s maturation continues.

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Hands-Free Hearables

Apple’s Generation 2 AirPods have arrived. Along with expected features such as improved battery life, faster Bluetooth connection time and a new wireless charging case, the headphones now include hands-free “Hey Siri” access. Previously users would have to tap their AirPods to summon the assistant, but now all they need to do is speak “Hey Siri” to access the assistant. This ease of access was enabled by a new device chip which allowed the hearable headphones to be able to continuously listen for the “Hey Siri” command. More on Forbes

Conference Call’s Comeback

Poly, the makers of popular conference phones and other business communication technology, have announced two major Amazon Web Services integrations— Amazon Chime and Alexa for Business— for their Trio conference phone product. These integrations will allow users to leverage “new voice commands to manage meetings and activate third-party devices.” Additionally, Poly is integrating Alexa into their Voyager 4200 UC headset. The company press release states that Integrating with Alexa like this will allow employees to “access all Alexa for Business skills to start and end meetings, and book rooms, as well as build private skills for their own meeting environments.” These integrations help to bring the promise of Alexa for Business to the forefront, enabling employees to be more productive and outsource tedious call and meeting management tasks to the voice service. More on Poly

Game On

Recently, Tom’s Guide spoke with Paul Cutsinger, Amazon’s head of voice design education about the current state of Alexa and gaming. He outlined three use cases he sees currently existing in the voice gaming landscape— single-player Alexa gaming, Alexa as a companion to games, and Alexa integration with “real” (physical) games. Although the AI assistant has permeated the gaming space in a variety of ways, Cutsinger still sees the opportunity to utilize new interaction formats and create a breakout skill that will redefine what voice-led gaming can be. More on Tom’s Guide

Stats Don’t Lie

45% Millennials (23-37 years old) using voice assistants while shopping (data from CouponFollow)

$15MM USD Alibaba’s recent R&D investment in Chinese dialect recognition research for smart speakers (data via Radii)

Chart of the Week
Most popular voice assistant among millennials for shopping-related research



A Different Tournament…

If you’re feeling burned by your March Madness bracket or just want an excuse to try your luck at a different tournament, might we suggest Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock? The RAIN Labs team has now updated the game to include leaderboard functionality so you can keep track of your score and prove you’re the best. Each month we’ll announce the top 10 best players.

If you want to play, enable the skill at the link below and just say Alexa, open lizard Spock. Thanks for playing!

Lizard Spock Skill