Amazon Announces Voice Interoperability Initiative

Posted on September 24, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Amazon, Cloud, Mobile, Smart Home with 10 Comments

With antitrust regulators breathing down its neck, Amazon has extended an olive branch to other makers of digital personal assistants. It has partnered with the least successful of those competitors to create the Voice Interoperability Initiative, ensuring that users of future voice-powered devices can easily switch between assistants.

“Multiple simultaneous wake words provide the best option for customers,” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a prepared statement. “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.”

So far, the only notable voice assistant maker on board is Microsoft, whose Cortana assistant has failed with consumers. But there are numerous other companies in the initiative—including Amazon, Baidu, BMW, Bose, Cerence, ecobee, Free, Harman, Orange, Salesforce, SFR, Sonos, Sound United, Sony Audio Group, Spotify, and Tencent—and Google has confirmed that it was simply contacted too late in the process to join yet.

“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,” a Google spokesperson told Reuters. There’s no word if Apple, which makes Siri, or Samsung, which makes Bixby, were also contacted.

According to Amazon, the Voice Interoperability Initiative is built around the following four priorities:

  • 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.

Normally, one wouldn’t expect the market leader to open up its dominant product in such a way. But with antitrust regulators in both the United States and Europe now scrutinizing Amazon’s business practices closely, such a deal starts to make sense.

You can learn more a the Voice Interoperability Initiative website.

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