If you haven’t bought into the whole digital-assistant-smart-speaker-thing just yet, prepare to change your tune very soon. According to reports like this one from Tech Radar, one in six Americans own one and the UK smart speaker ownership has doubled in six months.
AI advancement in the home continues to scare, amaze and get even smarter, with 2018 pushing these limits further. As the competition heats up, on the face of it, it’s still very much a two-horse race on who you will grant access to your home between giants Google vs Amazon.
As that war continues to rage on, it’s left many other competitors in the digital speaker market by the way side, having to accept a smaller piece of the pie.
Since the start of the new year, both major players have hit strong figures with the success of their respective primary speaker, Amazon Echo and Google Home, collectively bringing a round total number of more than 45 million devices.
A fresh injection of lower-budget ‘mini’ speakers, Mini (Google) and Dot (Amazon), has them double-dipping to scoop up an extra nice portion of ‘fence-sitters’ who were otherwise cautious about jumping into the smart speaker game right away.
It goes without question that Amazon is far and away the leader in the category right now, but the company saw its market share plummet during the first quarter of 2018, based on the number of shipments in that three month period.
Although it does appear that even Amazon simply won’t be able to compete with Google’s virtual assistant over the next few years, with recent hype around the Google Duplex announcement earlier this month.
What is Google Duplex?
Basically it’s the next phase of injecting more personality and human-like behaviour into its AI Assistant. The new technology is able to conduct natural conversations to carry out “real world” tasks over the phone.
Duplex is a completely automated system, interacting through Google Assistant, that places calls on your behalf in the background, complete with a natural-sounding human voice instead of a robotic one.
According to a statement on Google’s blog;
Duplex can carry out sophisticated conversations and completes the majority of its tasks fully autonomously, without human involvement. The system has a self-monitoring capability, which allows it to recognize the tasks it cannot complete autonomously (e.g., scheduling an unusually complex appointment). In these cases, it signals to a human operator, who can complete the task.
The announcement came at Google’s annual developer conference, where the company previewed Duplex, saying that a long-standing goal of human-computer interaction has been to enable people to have a natural conversation with computers, as they would with each other.
Imagine asking your Google Home to put the iKettle on in the kitchen downstairs and then proceed to have it schedule a dinner reservation and book a weekend getaway all before the kettle is boiled!
Either way, Google has risen the bar to a new level with its latest offering, the new technology is causing quite a stir throughout the developer community.
And what happened to Apple HomePod?
Many thought that it would get really interesting once Apple got seriously involved in the smart speaker battle. However despite so much hype for Apple’s HomePod, it didn’t quite make a big splash it intended.
Since launching in February, reports suggest that Apple’s creation might even be considered a ‘flop’, as it has cut back on production orders from half a million per month to 200,000.
With such a massive following of legacy consumers, Apple, may have chased away many with its $349 HomePod price tag.
Another big issue that many have identified with HomePod is lacking the vast amount of third-party-developed skills like Alexa or Google boast which takes time to accumulate.
So will Siri ever be able to boil the iKettle?
In short, yes we definitely hope so!
Here at Smarter, we have made big strides on our new generation consisting of the iKettle and Smarter Coffee both directly compatible with any Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant devices.
Although Smarter is still yet to add direct integration with Apple’s equivalent, HomeKit, requiring Apple to make several updates including software authentication on its servers for this to be possible.
Once HomeKit’s software is updated to allow this it means that many third-party smart home manufactures like Smarter won’t have to develop new hardware and products to enable HomeKit functionality.
So it’s far from over for HomePod, with vast integration potentials with Siri, Apple Music, iTunes, HomeKit (to control connected home devices), and iCloud it’s an obvious move to announce a ‘HomePod Mini’ low-cost solution to claw back potential customers that remain loyal to the brand.