What you need to know
- Amazon, Microsoft, and several large tech companies announced the Voice Interoperability Initiative.
- The initiative will help several voice assistants work alongside each other.
- Google, Apple, and Samsung are not part of the initiative at this time.
Amazon, Microsoft, and several large tech companies announced the Voice Interoperability Initiative, which will help users access a wide range of voice assistants on devices. The initiative aims to have multiple voice assistants work next to each other on devices, rather than having customers have to lock themselves into one voice ecosystem.
Several major players in the tech industry are part of the initiative, including Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce, Sonos, Sony Audio Group, and Spotify. Additionally, telecommunication operators, including Orange and Verizon, as well as hardware makers, including Qualcomm, are part of the initiative.
One of the major goals of the initiative is to have a single device support multiple assistants on one device without adding a complicating interface. Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO stated, "Multiple simultaneous wake words provide the best option for customers. Utterance by utterance, customers can choose which voice service will best support a particular interaction. It's exciting to see these companies come together in pursuit of that vision."
The four priorities of the initiative are outlined in the press release from Amazon:
- Developing voice services that can work seamlessly with others, while protecting the privacy and security of customers
- Building voice-enabled devices that promote choice and flexibility through multiple, simultaneous wake words
- Releasing technologies and solutions that make it easier to integrate multiple voice services on a single product
- Accelerating machine learning and conversational AI research to improve the breadth, quality and interoperability of voice services
The core of the idea is simultaneous wake words. Devices will support the option to have a user state any wake word and have the corresponding digital assistant respond. For example, a user could call for Alexa to control their Ring Doorbell or Xbox One and then call on Einstein to aid with a CRM-related task. The press release states that "The initiative is built around a shared belief that voice services should work seamlessly alongside one another on a single device, and that voice-enabled products should be designed to support multiple simultaneous wake words."
This is a natural evolution for some of the companies involved. Microsoft's Cortana and Amazon's Alexa can already call on each other to perform tasks. With this new initiative, this extends even further and makes the interface less clunky for users because they can just call for a single assistant by name. Sonos has taken steps in this direction as well by creating Sonos speakers that support both Google Assistant and Alexa.
Notably, Samsung, Google, and Apple are not part of the Voice Interoperability Initiative. In a statement to CNET, Google stated that they did not know about the initiative until recently "We just heard about this initiative and would need to review the details, but in general we're always interested in participating in efforts that have the broad support of the ecosystem and uphold strong privacy and security practices."
Regardless of the participation of Google, Samsung, or Apple, the new initiative has several major players and will result in a streamlined process of interacting with digital assistants and provide more options to users.
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