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Voicebot market growing faster than ever, but here’s a realistic take

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Voice technology that power devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home is the next frontier for tech companies. Facebook’s announcement to launch ParlAI recently only intensified the industry’s ambition to reach the ultimate goal of having meaningful conversations with computers by voice. But let’s hold our horses; we’re not there yet.

At my company, we’re receiving increasing requests from brands eager to explore this emerging utility, and at the same time, working with engineering and product teams to understand exactly what it can do. As it stands, we still have leaps to make, but one thing is sure: voice activated tech is set to get smarter, faster.

Recently, I was speaking with a top executive at a leading global consumer products company and while watching TV, he saw an interesting ad for a similar product to his own. This prompted him to test Alexa. He asked what the best brand for the product category was. Alexa promptly responded with a list of competitors. Later, one offered to send him a sample, and the other listed best prices. This goes to show that while we may not yet be having meaningful conversations, voice activated tech is rising and so too are opportunities for brands to embrace it.

The good, the bad and the promising

A recent study shows the US market for voice-activated assistants has grown nearly 130% since 2016.

Today, Amazon Echo (Alexa) and Google Home — which differ from Apple’s Siri and Google Now in that they’re independent, stationary devices — dominate the market. Their main function is to provide a “smarter home” by calling up music, reminding you of your agenda, and even answering trivia questions.

One of the biggest benefits of voice-activated tech is saving time. Speaking is more natural than writing, and because you don’t have to take out your phone, it’s faster too. It’s also more accessible for those who, for one reason or another, aren’t able to use keyboards or screens. Enthusiasts such…

Why the next Amazon Echo and Dot will have a screen

2017 is already going down in history as the year that voice computing went mainstream.

Amazon leads the pack, selling well over eight million Echos and Dots in just two years, and leveraging their Amazon Voice Services (AVS) platform to get Alexa into everything from refrigerators to dancing robots to Ford F-150’s (the #1 selling vehicle in the US for 40 years).

Combined with other voice computing products like Google Home and the potential launch of an Apple Siri speaker this summer, it’s not out of the question that over 25 million more voice devices will ship this year. Despite this growth, voice computing is already showing some core problems in user retention and discovery. According to a new study by Voice Labs, new skills/actions will lose 97% of their users in just two weeks, while less than a third of the 10,000 Alexa skills have more than one review. But this isn’t because voice computing is failing. It’s because voice is only a part of the coming ambient computing revolution.

“Ambient computing” refers to making the capabilities of a place, such as a home, directly accessible to anyone present, without the need for an intermediate device like a mobile phone or computer. If you have ever stood in your kitchen and asked Alexa to play music or turn on the lights, you’ve used ambient computing. (Incidentally, these are the two most common uses of Alexa, each comprising 30% or more of Alexa requests). If you’ve ever had lights with motion sensors turn off when you aren’t in the room, or armed your security system using a wall keypad, you have also used ambient computing. Voice computing is just one of many ways that you can interact directly with your environment.

Voice computing works well for direct interactions when you know exactly what you want, such as asking for a weather forecast, but is critically lacking in other interactions, such as choosing from a list of options, reviewing information, or discovering what capabilities are available. General purpose ambient computing devices will have a range of interfaces adapted to relevant…

How to Find Out if a Smarthome Device Works with Alexa, Siri, or Google Home and Assistant

Now that voice assistants are becoming extremely popular, many users who want to outfit their living spaces with smarthome products are probably wanting these products to be compatible with their voice assistant, whether it’s Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant (and Google Home). Here’s how to find out whether or not a smarthome device works with these platforms.

Look for the Badge on the Product Box

Perhaps the easiest and quickest way to see if a smarthome device is compatible with the voice assistant of your choice is to take a look at the product’s packaging and look for the badge that says what it supports.

Somewhere on the box you’ll find a small badge that says something like “Works with Apple HomeKit” or “Works with Amazon Alexa”. You may also just see the Amazon Echo logo, which also tells you that it works with Alexa.

However, keep in mind that some product boxes won’t have these badges printed on them even though they fully support Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant. Philips Hue boxes, for instance, only have the HomeKit badge, even though they’re natively supported by Alexa and Google Assistant as well. Because of that, you may want to look for a second source.

Visit the Product’s Website

If the product box doesn’t mention anything about which voice…

Google published, and then pulled, an I/O action for Google Home

Google appears to have launched a voice app to talk to you about its annual I/O developer conference, set to take place May 17-19 at the Shoreline Ampitheatre in Mountain View, California. Unfortunately, the conversation action made by Google for its assistant on the Google Home smart speaker didn’t work.

Repeated attempts by VentureBeat to speak with the Google I/O 17 action about the I/O keynote speech, the date, and location — questions the action tells you to ask it on Google Home app — were met with silence.

Around 2 p.m. PT Monday the action was pulled from the Google Home app and could no longer be called upon when speaking with the Google Assistant on Google Home.

Based on news and activity in recent months, a broad range of potential announcements could be made at Google I/O as it relates to the Assistant and the Google Home smart speaker, both of which made their debut at I/O last year.

Perhaps Google could release its own smart speaker with computer vision to compete with Alexa’s new Echo Look.

Or, instead of going for fashion and computer vision, the next-gen Google Home could go for utility and quality. Last month The Information…