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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Comments (10)

10 responses to “Amazon Announces Voice Interoperability Initiative”

  1. Usman

    On Azure there is a Custom Virtual Assitant service, I've been tinkering around with it, it's a roll your own Cortana but all the integrations you have to do yourself. It's what they're selling to automakers who can create their own Voice Assistant like BMW is doing.

    The part of the service that isn't live yet is the third party integration, which they never gave a timeframe for. I am guessing that this initiative is something that ties into both Azure and AWS custom voice assistant solutions, which will allow vendors assitants to failover to Alexa or Google if it doesn't know what to do with the query.

    There's a variety of cloud providers, bot makers, silicon partners and hadware device vendors on that list, hopefully that means there will be a lot more available to tinker with (currently only hardware with custom wake words is sold from a chinese odm)

  2. jchampeau

    The first assistant that wakes to the word "Hal" and will respond occasionally with "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that" will be the one I use.

    • wright_is

      In reply to jchampeau:

      Back at the end of the 80s, some wag changed the Ping error sound on my Mac Plus to play "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."

    • bleeman

      In reply to jchampeau:

      I also want the Big Red Eye on the wall. At least in my den, don't think I can convince the wife we should have them throughout the house. As for the "Dave speech", I always thought the best place for that would be with the garage door opener (Of course, I'd reprogram the garage controller to use the name "Pod Bay"):

      Me: Open the Pod Bay door Hal

      Hal: I'm sorry Bill, I'm afraid I can't do that.

  3. Daekar

    So... I still don't want to buy a choice assistant device beyond my phone, but this is incredibly promising. I will enjoy seeing where this goes.

  4. saint4eva

    I do not want my comments to be deleted- so i would not make any informed comments as they rattle the owners and moderators of this website.

  5. codymesh

    This is a winning strategy IMO. Google has been using Assistant as a way to get both Android and Google Maps into cars, and that doesn't sit well with automakers.

  6. czenisek

    The second sentence of this article made me laugh out loud.

  7. datameister

    Is this the "buy any voice assistant hardware and use it with any voice voice assistant backend" initiative? Or is it something less consumer friendly than that?

  8. scottkuhl

    Finally. I sure hope this works well and everyone gets on board. The fragmentation in voice assistances is painful. Alexa works great with home automation, Siri is well Apple stuff, Cortana works best with work calendars, and Google can actually answer random questions with some accuracy.

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