Voice Enablement Hitting Its Stride

As Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant continue to dominate market share of US voice assistant usage, some companies have decided they want in on the action for themselves. Instead of having to broker data and user exchanges through a tech company owned portal, a few companies have taken a “native” strategy and elected to create their own voice assistants or experiences for the products and services they own. A few notable examples from the past year include Mercedes-BenzBBC, and Oracle. This week, we see Sonos and Salesforce join those companies and expand their efforts with voice. Whether driven by the desire for consumer privacy or more control over their experience, we anticipate more and more companies beginning to voice-enable their products with internally-built assistants in 2020.

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Sonos Takes Control

High-end speaker company Sonos has acquired AI voice platform Snips in a $37.5 million deal. Sonos has said that they intended to use Snip technology to create a better voice-driven experience specific to music navigation and listening behaviors. While they don’t intended to compete with full-featured voice assistants from providers like Amazon and Google, they do believe consumers will respond positively to “An always-on smart speaker that only processes music data locally” and is more private than other assistants. Although Sonos will continue offering products with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant available, this new voice control technology provided via Snips will likely become a more standard feature in future products and become an option for consumers who do not wish to have an Alexa or Google Assistant device. More on The Verge.

Enhancing Einstein 

Salesforce has expanded the functionality of their Einstein Voice product with new assistant capabilities as well as Einstein Voice Skills which allow account holders to create customized voice app for their corporate needs. In terms of the assistant capabilities, Salesforce has said that “it can be “taught” to recognize jargon, acronyms, and slang in an organization’s lexicon.” making it more personalized and custom to an organization’s way of operating. The Voice Assistant can now help with a range of tasks including: updating records, creating tasks, navigating dashboards and retrieving data. The skills toolkit will also allow creators to control “how information (e.g., next steps and follow-up tasks) is read back and the channels and devices on which apps are accessible.” More on VentureBeat.com.

Tricks and Tix 

Google’s Duplex, which was last seen interfacing with Google Assistant to place restaurant reservations over the phone on a user’s behalf using an AI voice, has taken its next step forward. Last week, Google announced that Duplex is now learning how to move through webpages and book movie tickets. Users can watch as the assistant goes through the web and fills in necessary information from a user’s saved data. As arsTechnica describes it “We’ve had autofill for some time, and this is like autofill plus auto-navigation.” Google has shared that car rentals will be the next application for Duplex usage.  More on arsTechnica.com.

Stats Don’t Lie

1 MM+ – Orders placed and paid via Tmall Genie’s voice-shopping feature during Alibaba Group’s Singles Day (data via alizila)

71% – Consumer preference for human voices over the synthetic alternative. (data via Voices.com & Voicebot AI)

Chart of the Week

Voice Favorability Study
(chart via Voicebot AI)