Voice assistants tied to smartphones initially received praise as breakthrough technology, but soon showed a variety of technical limitations. Amazon then surprised the market with the astounding success of their Echo product, home to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, released in late 2014. The Echo’s success in the living room has caused smart home planners to look at voice as the leading candidate for the smart home user interface, whereas little more than a year ago, smart phone apps were believed to be the obvious choice.
Since its introduction, the Echo has added more than 1,000 “skills” or 3rd-party integrations that enable external services or home automation device control. And herein lies the true advantage of voice assistance – user interface consolidation. Consolidating access to varied and individualized consumer IoT services becomes even more critical as the scope expands beyond the home to include wearable devices, in-vehicle telematics services, and a host of more miscellaneous use cases, such as the tracking of pets or luggage. The development of AI-based, voice-enabled virtual assistants brings the benefit of a consolidated platform with the added advantage of greatly simplifying the UI design elements – everything reverts to natural language voice interaction.