Amazon and Google both took to the stage in the past month to release new hardware for their voice assistants. For those developing in the voice ecosystem, the announcements provide insight into how the dominant voice services want consumers interacting with their products and services. From automobiles to a voice-enabled finger ring, this recap will dive into the details of the events and the opportunity it creates for voice-first developers.
Amazon’s hardware event | September 25th, 2019
Amazon’s hardware event has become an annual tradition for consumers to see what they have to look forward to for the upcoming holiday season. The event is specifically geared towards their voice assistant, Alexa, and the Echo product line. While it takes place in Seattle, the voice capital of the world, Amazon doesn’t livestream their event making it more exclusive to the attendees. Here’s our take on the event:
Key take-aways and announcements:
- Amazon announced over a new dozen devices ranging from existing hardware updates to new products and initiatives
- Amazon continues to push Alexa outside the home with a wide range of product announcements
- An example of this includes Amazon’s entry into the hearables category with Echo Buds - an always on Alexa-enabled device
- A tech-friendly feature of the Echo Buds includes the coexistence of Alexa and Apple Siri/Google Assistant/Samsung Bixby. This connection happens by default allowing the user to summon either Alexa or the default voice assistant from the connected mobile device.
- Amazon also showed their willingness to publicly experiment through the Day One Initiative. The two products announced for this, a wearable ring called the Echo Loop, and glasses with Alexa built-in called the Echo Frames, demonstrate Amazon’s ambition to be ubiquitous
- Amazon recognizes the friction involved in setting up third-party connect home devices and introduced a new program called “Certified for Humans”. The program aims to highlight products which pass a stress-free test for stress-free implementation
- Amazon took a moment to highlight eero, the mesh WiFi router with Alexa-enabled capabilities
- Alexa will soon have the ability to recognize the tone of the user. Pair this feature with recognizing voices to user profiles and personalization becomes a powerful tool for third-party developers
- Amazon highlighted the number of Alexa skills in the marketplace surpassing 100k+
Made by Google event | October 15th, 2019
Amazon doesn’t have a mobile presence and makes Alexa the front and center of their event. Google on the other hand does have a mobile presence with their Pixel line-up and uses the phone as the main event. Secondary to their announcement, yet still included in the event, is the newly rebranded Nest products. The Nest products doesn’t have an elaborate line-up for every use case but still takes full advantage of the voice service in the home department. While overall light on the Nest product announcements, the new hardware signals Google’s vision for its voice service:
Key take-aways and announcements:
- Pixel, the flagship phone made by Google, continues to highlight the voice service and the extensive abilities it has deep rooted into its operating system
- Google revamped their Pixel Buds and continued to uphold a premium price on the device. While this seems to be common with their pricing strategy (categorically higher than Amazon), it typically tends to level out with larger discounts when it comes to price-reductions during the holidays. The Pixel Buds are more prominently known for the always-on Google Assistant and ability to use actions such as live translate
- Google released an updated version of their hockey-puck sized Nest Mini with louder speakers and a wall-mount
- Google also released a new Nest WiFi, a mesh router with additional units called “points” to extend the network - all built in with Google Assistant
- The product announcement mirrors Amazon’s for eero - yet goes further with Google Assistant enabled in the hardware a user needs for the system to work
- Google didn’t make note of their third-party ecosystem or any growth numbers to Google Assistant’s voice apps called actions
While the hardware events focus on the consumer, the upcoming products of the companies provide opportunities and insight for voice developers. The key is to recognize both Amazon and Google have a vision of their products - to be ubiquitous. As voice technology advances, the product placement inside the home and on the go is becoming increasingly popular with varied use cases. Will voice assistants become familiar with a users routine and eliminate unnecessary tasks? How will emotion play into voice interactions? How will content creators take advantage of a ubiquitous interface? With more events and features yet to come, there’s plenty to be excited about in the coming months.