Each week the team at RAIN curates and shares the most important news on voice culled from leading publications in the technology and innovation space. From new platform features to tech company developments and acquisitions, we take a broad view to help you stay informed. If you’re looking for cutting edge insight on conversational AI, this is the podcast briefing for you.
The Rise of Audio Chat
Digital conversations with friends and colleagues have traditionally revolved around text - typing on our keyboards or phones to communicate messages. Although the pandemic has created new demand for video conferencing, screen fatigue has started setting in, leaving space for a new kind of communication platform driven by voice. Several companies have started to populate this new audio ecosystem, trying to leverage voice conversations for personal and professional use. From Discord to Clubhouse, these kinds of voice-driven platforms are becoming more common, and now we’re seeing mainstream platforms like Twitter recognizing value here as well (more below). As many of us continue to work remotely, audio chat is emerging as a unique way to maintain human connection and rapport.
Scratching the Surface of Voice
As a nascent space, voice technology’s full potential has not yet been realized. But in the last few years, assistants have made large strides in the quest to be smarter, seamlessly providing user experiences that quickly answer increasingly complex queries with comprehensive responses. For example, Alexa Conversations—released in July— enables the devices to understand more nuanced requests. With new Amazon and Google features, users can utter commands to perform tasks within mobile apps. Devices across the spectrum are integrating voice tech, forming a connected ecosystem that shares information. Not only do these software improvements push toward a future that centers on ambient computing, they are opening up new opportunities for brands to make their mark before others as the field continues to advance.
100 Weeks of Voice Innovation... What’s Next?
Today marks the 100th edition of this newsletter, and we’re so grateful to all our readers for staying with us each week as we’ve analyzed the rapid maturation of voice AI.
For a technology that’s eclipsing even mobile in adoption rates, it makes you wonder: What’s the equivalent of one “voice year” in human years? Perhaps we’ll never know, but it’s clear that this industry is just getting started, and the future looks bright.
This week, rather than our usual voice news roundup and analysis, we’re pleased to exclusively offer our Voice on Voice readers the first look at our latest report: The Dawn of Brand-Owned Virtual Assistants. Get it here: https://ova.rain.agency/
Voice Is Going on a Worldwide Road Trip
We’ve all had to handle an important incoming phone call from the confines of the driver’s seat. These situations, where hands-free interactions are necessary for ease and safety, have reinforced the role of the voice assistant in the car. In fact, nearly 130 million people in the US use in-car assistants. Automobile brands from Buick to Nissan to BMW have embedded Amazon Alexa into their cars, and others have turned to custom voice assistants to cater to driver needs in a more personalized way. Cerence, the voice AI company for cars, even released a feature to customize your wake words. With these new experiences, and with the growth of connected car commerce, voice technology will soon be able to handle more advanced tasks while users are on the road.
P.S. if you're a U.S. reader, today is election day. Please don't forget to vote!
Google’s Time to Shine
Earlier this summer, news of a new Google smart speaker rippled through the internet, where the company confirmed that it would be released in the fall. At Google’s fall hardware event, the company announced its new Pixel 5, Google TV, Chromecast, Google Duo features, and smart speaker Nest Audio. This multitude of enhanced smart home products squares off with Amazon’s new collection of devices, amplifying the calls from consumers for smarter products that can connect to each other and provide a unified home experience. In addition, Google is rolling out new software attributes, including Pixel’s “Hold for Me” feature and Assistant’s Workday routines, to accompany the hardware in playing more active roles in our lives. Moving forward, the voice landscape may be significantly altered as new multi-assistant devices make their debuts, even as the big players try to outcompete each other.
Fall: New Products and New Beginnings
Amazon’s annual fall hardware event unveils its latest collection of smart products. In 2019, the newest Echo smart speakers along with Echo Buds, Echo Frames, Echo Loop, Alexa Smart Oven, and more made their first appearances to the public, inching toward an integrated Alexa-enabled ecosystem. Last week’s annual hardware event advanced this vision even further. The arrival of revamped smart speakers, smart security appliances for the home and car, a cloud gaming program, and assistants customized for children and the elderly is a progression in the company’s “ambient home” strategy, also supported by Project Connected Home over IP and its Interoperability Initiative. But as updated features and new security products are introduced, many remain concerned over just how far Amazon is willing to go to be ingrained in our lives.