Amazon Wants Multiple Voice Assistants to Coexist on the Same Device


This week, Amazon’s Voice Interoperability Initiative (VII) welcomed 38 new partners, including Facebook, Garmin, Xiaomi, but didn’t attract its biggest rivals, Apple and Google. Can combining the power of multiple voice assistants deliver a more intelligent experience to consumers? What does this initiative mean for the booming voice industry?

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to talk to Alexa, Cortana, and Bixby on the same smart device? You may not have to ponder for long. Amazon plans to integrate multiple voice assistants and deliver an exceptional user experience. 

Over the last couple of years, the voice assistant industry has skyrocketed. From making calls and placing orders to providing directions and scheduling appointments, voice assistants have completely transformed our lives. 

There has been a rise in the demand for voice assistants in various industries, including automobile, retail, healthcare, and telecom. According to a Grand View Research surveyOpens a new window , the global speech and voice recognition market will swell to $31.82 billion by 2025. 

In September 2019, Amazon introducedOpens a new window the Voice Interoperability Initiative (VII) to offer users multiple voice assistants on a single, smart device. Amazon’s vision with VII is to interconnect popular voice assistants such as Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, its own Alexa, Samsung’s Bixby, and Microsoft’s Cortana, in order to deliver a seamless experience to consumers. 

More About Amazon’s VII

Amazon’s VII initiative requires companies to create smart devices that support multiple voice assistants, such as Alexa and Cortana, at the same time. This will enable consumers to directly communicate with any other digital assistant without the need for an intermediate skill. Leaders who are a part of this alliance include Microsoft, Intel, Qualcomm, Sonos, Tencent, Baidu, BMW, Logitech, Bose, Sony Audio Group, and others. 

This week, Amazon welcomed 38 new companiesOpens a new window to VII, including Facebook, Garmin, Xiaomi, and Dolby, bringing 77 companies on board in total. The e-commerce giant even released a multi-agent design guide that provides design recommendations to help manufacturers develop multiple voice assistants on a single smart device.

Unfortunately, even after a year, the Amazon-led initiative has not grabbed the attention of Alexa’s biggest competitors in the voice assistant market — Google’s Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Samsung’s Bixby. Possible reasons for this could include technical hurdles, voice data privacy, security concerns, or even the possibility of the rivals not wanting their voice assistants to coexist with others. 

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Is VII a Victory for Amazon?

When it comes to smart devices, Amazon continues to dominate the U.S. smart speaker market. According to an eMarketer reportOpens a new window , 70% of the U.S. smart speaker users are expected to use Amazon Echo devices by 2021. By comparison, 31.7% of smart speaker users will turn to Google-branded devices, and 18.4% will use other smart speaker brands, including the Apple HomePod, Harman Kardon Invoke, and Sonos One. 

Victoria Petrock, a principal analyst at eMarketer, saysOpens a new window , “We had previously expected Google and Apple to make more inroads in this market, but Amazon has remained aggressive. By offering affordable devices and building out the number of Alexa skills, the company has maintained Echo’s appeal.”

With Amazon’s strong foothold in the smart speaker market, this initiative seems like a big win for Amazon. The e-commerce giant can easily allow other assistants to work on its Echo speakers and continue holding a strong market position. 

As companies from different sectors, such as consumer electronics, automotive companies, telecom operators, and hardware providers come on board, VII is sure to advance Amazon’s mission to unify multiple voice products on a single platform. Moreover, VII can help address Amazon’s monopolistic image, as the initiative is an industry-wide collaboration that shares its voice platform even with its competitors. 

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Synchronization of Voice Assistants

There is proof that Alexa can coexist with other voice assistants. Facebook’s Portal smart displays support for both Alexa and Hey Portal, while French telecom company Orange’s Djingo smart speaker works with Alexa and its in-house Djingo assistant.

Before the launch of VII in 2018, Amazon and Microsoft collaborated to bring their digital assistants, Alexa and Cortana, to all Echo speakers and Windows 10 users in the U.S. The partnership aimed to integrate the strengths of two voice assistants and offer consumers with more choice and flexibility.

VII will also initiate collaborative research in conversation AI and create better NLP-based voice solutions with enhanced encryption to ensure voice data privacy and safety.

Sharing his views on voice assistant synchronization, Kevin C. Tofel, the founder at About Chromebooks and contributing writer at StaceyOnIoT, saysOpens a new window , “If there isn’t nearly complete parity in NLP and command fulfillment between digital assistants, having multiple choices becomes a bit of a guessing game as you try to remember who does what best. Or, even worse, you end up just going with the better one by default all the time, which essentially negates the entire benefit of having the choice between voice assistants.” In other words, it’s got to be done just right, or it’s more of a pain than its worth to users.

Come what may, for now, Alexa seems like a clear winner with Google Assistant nipping at its heels. While Samsung’s Bixby has seen a lot of investment, it hasn’t been able to catch up with Alexa’s innovations so far. 

If VII succeeds, other possibilities on the horizon include bringing an end to the one-assistant-per-speaker model altogether. Just like the search web is interoperable, in the near future, the voice market might witness peaceful interoperability of voice assistants. From the user perspective, VII might offer consumers with better choices and more flexibility, if done right. 

Can Amazon’s Voice Interoperability Initiative transform consumer experience in the voice assistant market? Comment below or let us know on LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window . We’d love to hear from you!