Retail

Voice-Activated Tracker: Google Home Gets Personal

Ready or not, here they come … marketers, that is.

Everyone’s itching to get on the smart speaker monetization train. Burger King — rather than wait for Google to roll out advertising options — recently took matters into its own hands by leveraging the “dollhouse method.”

In a TV spot, Burger King directly addressed Google Homes across America: “Okay, Google. What is the Whopper burger?”

Smart speakers across the nation, triggered by its wake words, then listed the burger’s ingredients. That was the hope, at least.

Google itself had nothing to do with the ad. Within hours of the televised debut, Google put a stop to the fast food chain’s smart speaker play. Google Home no longer responds to the ad’s prompt. Users can still access information on Whoppers when they themselves request it.

Still, the ad was live for a few hours, giving folks on the internet more than enough time to work some mischief. Pranksters edited the Whopper’s Wikipedia entry, meaning that a few unlucky Google Home owners got a nasty surprise. A few notable edits to the Whopper’s list of ingredients included “toenail clippings” and “rat.”

Wikipedia has since locked the entry for editing.

This short-lived play marked the first time in history marketers had purposefully leveraged Google Home in a campaign (though in a roundabout way). And this is the second time the internet got riled up over the smart speaker’s advertising potential. The lack of ads on Google Home isn’t for lack of anticipation.

Last month, users thought Google Home had started playing ads after the smart speaker told users that the “Beauty and the Beast” reboot was soon coming to theaters.

While the spot was actually part of the “My Day” feature, Google said, the event generated a lot of excitement from Wall Street and other industry players. Advertising on smart speakers, Google- or Amazon-made, could result in a significant new revenue stream.

In Google Home news actually initiated by Google, the smart speaker could soon have the ability to support multiple user profiles.

On top of a more personalized experience, multiple profiles would allow for deeper integration with Google’s suite. As of now, Google Home devices are publicly accessible and aren’t able to leverage personal data.

Multiple user profiles would come with increased authentication measures. With these in place, Google Home could securely access a user’s broader Google data. The smart speaker could then support features like setting reminders, creating calendar events and making voice-activated calls.

Reports also suggest that Google may soon look to merge its smart speaker device with its branded mesh networking Wi-Fi router. This would allow Google Home to boost Wi-Fi signals in users’ homes.

While Google works to build out functionality and fend off rogue advertising departments, Amazon is opening Alexa up to even more third-party players. Recently, the online retail giant announced the launch of a combination hardware and software developer kit.

While Alexa’s software is integrating into devices across a number of industries, the latest developer kit looks to push out the voice-activated assistant’s far-field microphone array available to third-party device makers.

“With this new reference solution, developers can design products with the same unique 7-mic circular array, beamforming technology and voice processing software that have made Amazon Echo so popular with customers,” Priya Abani, director at Amazon Alexa, was quoted as saying.

The mic array development kit will only be available to commercial device manufacturers via an invite-only program.

Finally, while Siri has sat on the back burner as the competition for voice-activated supremacy heats up, Apple’s recent move into the self-driving space has us wondering if Siri could soon be the voice of navigation in the future product.

Last week, Apple secured a self-driving road test permit from the California DMV. The new permit will reportedly allow Apple to test the technology in three Lexus RX 450h models, a luxury hybrid SUV.

Apple joins 29 other automotive and tech companies who have received test permits in California for self-driving technology. But it’s only one of two with a voice-activated AI assistant in its arsenal. (The other, of course, is Waymo via Google).

Apple and Google both have voice-activated assistants and a long history of mapping functionality. Amazon’s Alexa is already in a number of smart vehicles; so are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capabilities.

Now that Apple looks to have officially joined the self-driving technology space, the stage is set for the voice-activated battle to move onto the road.

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