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Amazon is catching up to Google on voice recognition

amazon echo installed base
amazon echo installed base

(BI Intelligence)

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Amazon is rolling out a new feature to its Echo smart speakers that will let users train the Alexa voice assistant to distinguish between the members of a household, according to The Verge.

Google added this feature, dubbed “Voice Match,” to its Assistant this past spring and again highlighted it at its recent hardware event, and Amazon catching up could be critical to maintaining its lead in the smart speaker market.

By reading 10 phrases aloud to an Echo, users can give the voice assistant the ability to tell who’s speaking to it. This is a key advantage for a smart speaker for a number of reasons:

  • It will allow personalization of news and music choices. Since the voice assistant can determine who is asking for an update on the news, it can choose the sources based on that person’s individual preferences rather than relying on device-level settings. This is even more relevant with music — the service is compatible with Amazon Music Unlimited to start — where people can choose from their own playlists or personalized recommendations.

  • And it will enable a better shopping experience, which is key for Amazon.Members of families with multiple Amazon accounts will be able to use a smart speaker to easily reorder from their own history rather than only from the primary account. With a screen-equipped device like the Echo Show, it will also be useful to allow the smart speaker to show recommended products based on the individual user. This could help Amazon to increase Echo-based voice purchasing, which just nine percent of voice assistant users have tried according to exclusive data from BI Intelligence.

Whether Amazon’s implementation of personalized voice recognition will match Google’s remains to be seen, and could determine the impact this new feature has on the smart speaker market. Google Assistant’s voice recognition and response have outpaced Alexa’s thus far, though that hasn’t impacted overall device sales greatly. With Google introducing new, lower-priced devices like the Google Home Mini, though, it could be in a position to challenge Amazon’s installed base advantage. Improving Alexa is key in maintaining its position atop the smart speaker market, and this addition an important step in that direction.

Smart speakers — Amazon's Echo, for example — are the latest device category poised to take a chunk of our increasingly digital lives. These devices are made primarily for the home and execute a user's voice commands via an integrated digital assistant. These digital assistants can play music, answer questions, and control other devices within a user's home, among other things.

The central question for this new product category is not when they will take off, but which devices will rise to the top. To answer this question, BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, surveyed our leading-edge consumer panel, gathering exclusive data on Amazon's recently released Echo Show and Echo Look, as well as Apple's HomePod.

Peter Newman, research analyst for BI Intelligence, has put together a Smart Speaker report that analyzes the market potential of the Echo Look, Echo Show, and HomePod. Using exclusive survey data, this report evaluates each device's potential for adoption based on four criteria: awareness, excitement, usefulness, and purchase intent. Finally, the report draws some inferences from our data about the direction the smart speaker market could take from here.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • Amazon's new Echo Show is the big winner — it has mass-market appeal and looks like it will take off. The combination of usefulness and excitement will drive consumers to buy the Echo Show. The Echo Look, though, seems like it will struggle to attract that same level of interest.

  • Apple’s HomePod looks likely to find a place in the smart speaker market but won’t dominate its space like the iPhone or iPad did.

  • The smart speaker market will evolve rapidly in the next few years, with more devices featuring screens, a variety of more focused products emerging, and eventually, the voice assistant moving beyond the smart speaker.

In full, the report:

  • Showcases exclusive survey data on initial consumer reactions to the Echo Look, Echo Show, and HomePod.

  • Highlights the aims and strategies of major players in the smart speaker market.

  • Provides analysis on the direction this nascent market will take and the opportunity for companies considering a move into the space.

To get the full report, subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >> Learn More Now

You can also purchase and download the full report from our research store.

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