Revamping Work From Home 

Although working from home has been welcomed by many employees who are tired of long commutes and hours at the office, the experience hasn’t been completely smooth. Employees have reported feeling burned out these last few months, bombarded with meetings and stuck at home. However, voice has emerged as a productivity booster for work. Not only are smart speakers and voice assistants great for entertainment, but they can be used to schedule meetings and set reminders. Alexa for Business is targeted to the workplace, and Microsoft is positioning Cortana to enhance productivity with its Office software, so the home office is quickly becoming a space where voice is utilized to improve tasks and promote efficiency. Elsewhere this week, a startup wants you to audio chat with your employees throughout the day and TikTok taps Alexa.

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Hey Google, Join My Zoom Call

You no longer have to take your video call from the laptop in your makeshift office. Zoom announced its arrival on Echo Show, Google Nest Hub Max, and Facebook Portal, starting this fall. Using this integration prioritizes Zoom over the native video chatting capabilities of the tech companies’ devices, but creates convenience by allowing users to utilize the smart display devices as an alternative to connect to Zoom calls. Google Assistant and Alexa customers will be able to use voice for existing calendar functions like joining a meeting, but the new integration will not launch with additional voice commands. This absence leaves room for future  voice command functionality to be developed. More on The Verge

Back to Office Banter

However, the Zoom fatigue is real. Riff, a London-based startup, raised $1.5 million in seed funding for its voice-led chat tool. The company wants to translate the spontaneous experience of asking a quick question to your colleague in-person to a remote world where you can easily discuss projects over audio instantly rather than video or chat communication. Users will be able to choose between sending short, discrete voice messages or participating in an “open channel” where teams can leave their mic on to talk as they work. While Zoom video meetings are more formal and can be draining, and messaging apps like Slack can be overwhelming with endless notifications, Riff is seeking to strike a balance. More on TechCrunch

Alexa, Play Renegade

Alexa wants you to become a TikTok influencer. Using the Alexa mobile app, users can utter voice commands to launch TikTok, search for sounds, music, and content and record videos. As TikTok continues to attract people of all ages, more efficient in-app experiences will allow creators and users to easily browse and create videos. However, because many phones don’t have Alexa as their built-in assistant, opening the app manually may be easier for many mobile users. As other social networks including Snapchat and Twitter are experimenting with building voice capabilities directly into their apps, it remains to be seen which approach to mobile app voice integration will be most successful. More on

Stats Don’t Lie

100M downloads of Google Assistant’s Android app from the Play Store. (data via 9to5Google)

38.6% of smartphone users who are Baby Boomers will use a voice assistant this year, vs. 49.0% of Gen Xers and 53.1% of millennials. (data via eMarketer)

Chart of the Week

Bespoken Voice Assistant NLP Benchmark