Alexa, Cortana, and other AI assistants will work 'seamlessly alongside one another'

Cortana and Alexa
Cortana and Alexa (Image credit: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

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.

How to use an Amazon Echo with Xbox One for voice commands

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.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

8 Comments
  • Well it's a start I have 3 homes one echo and cortana on my pc. Getting them all to work would be a dream.
  • Meanwhile on Android: "Hey Google, open Cortana" --> "Hey Cortana, Open Alexa" -- > "Hey Alexa, get stuff done".
  • Pay no attention to the live microphones in your home. Just get distracted and enjoy the new shiny object.
  • Pay no attention to the live microphones on your phone. Just get distracted and enjoy your new shiny (or possibly older) object. In all seriousness, I still cannot believe that people knock smart speakers when phones and PC's have been listening for how long now? Decades I think is the answer.
  • Agreed. I care about privacy, but voice assistants are more secure and private than phones, and we all carry those without thinking about it.
  • While i use mostly Cortana, but have Alexa support on the PCs and Xbox...i have had no issues.
  • Hopefully Bixby is a part of this so I don't have to use Bixby. Nvm, just read that Samsung won't be a part of this. I don't understand why. I've never heard of anyone using Bixby.
  • Google, Samsung and Apple should know better. But they suck.