Gaming Goes to the Next Level 

Worth tens of billions of dollars in the US, the gaming industry faces no shortage of innovation and technology that are poised to scale the experience. And as more users flock to their smart speakers and displays for new modes of entertainment, brands are leveraging voice’s potential. Several voice-led gaming companies have raised money from Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant’s funding arms, and the tech platforms themselves are creating voice-first versions of high-profile tabletop games like StarfinderHowever, voice-activated games aren’t only catered to passionate gamers—these activities are capturing all audiences interested in engaging (and often educational) multimodal experiences. RAIN has even adapted Age of Learning’s ABCmouse to Google Assistant to help kids master the alphabet. As companies continue to monitor voice and smart displays, gaming will continue to level up with new features native to smart devices.

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Words With Google

Zynga Inc., creator of popular mobile game Words With Friends, is rolling out new games on Google Nest Hub and Google Assistant-enabled devices in an effort to attract smart device owners and nongamers. New release Daily Word Wheel is an anagram puzzle for Nest devices where users spell words from five letters using a combination of their voice and touch. This isn’t Zynga’s first smart device game (Word Pop for Alexa devices was introduced in June 2020), suggesting the company saw strong enough engagement to merit continued investment. With smart speakers and display devices becoming important channels to reach consumers, companies are exploring new ways to adapt their content for voice-first engagement to attract new audiences. More on Bloomberg

Pepper Upgrades Your Seat

Indian airline company SpiceJet recently unveiled a bilingual customer service voice assistant, built by Nuance Communications, named Pepper. In English or Hindi, Pepper can assist customers on phone calls by providing responses to their questions from a database or directing them to the right agent for additional concerns. As companies, especially travel and transportation providers, receive a surge of customer support requests, voice assistants like Pepper are alleviating the burden on human employees and providing customers with quick and helpful answers to their issues. While Nuance has been ramping up enterprise support, SpiceJet’s Pepper is a high profile example of voice technology being integrated as an enterprise solution to drive efficiencies. More on

Building an Inclusive Voice Assistant

Accenture Labs and CereProc, a Scottish text-to-speech technology provider, partnered to create Sam, the first non-binary voice assistant that can be built into any software solution. Surveying members of the non-binary community, the two companies analyzed the data to model Sam’s speech patterns, pitch, intonation, and more to accurately represent non-binary individuals. Gender bias and stereotypes are persistent issues within voice assistants, perpetuated by the default female voices in mainstream platforms and how people interact with them. However, the introduction of Sam along with the work of initiatives like Project Q seeks to challenge conventional assistants and usher in a new era of inclusivity for voice. More on AIThority

Stats Don’t Lie

72% of listeners who listened to more streaming audio during COVID did so for screenless moments caused by screen fatigue—either for themselves or the entire family. (data via Spotify)

35.8M smart speakers were shipped worldwide in Q3 2020, generating wholesale revenue of $2.5 billion. (data via Strategy Analytics)

Chart of the Week



ICYMI: What Will 2021 Bring for Voice?

2020 broke the surface of voice technology as the pandemic spurred the use of smart speakers and smart devices. In our new 2021 report, we bring you nine growth areas to watch in voice as well as our predictions. From advertising to gaming, innovation in voice is moving fast, and the best time to get ahead is now.

Read the report and vote up the trends you think will be the most impactul in 2021.