Internet of Things

Voice Activated Tracker: Growth On The Horizon

This week’s Voice Activated Tracker starts off with a bang as new research from Gartner Consulting projects big things for the voice-activated space as part of a larger growth trend across all “supplementary connected devices.”

Analysis from Gartner projects flat growth for worldwide device shipments. The firm predicts that combined shipments of PCs, tablets and mobile phones will total 2.3 billion in 2017, the same as 2016 estimates. Both the PC and the computing devices markets could actually drop a bit in 2017, according to Gartner’s estimates, with mobile growth in emerging markets picking up the slack. Gartner doesn’t project any growth in traditional computing devices expected until 2018.

Gartner Consulting Research Director Ranjit Atwal was quoted as saying: “We’ve done the market growth part in terms of those core devices. Now, it’s a case of what other more dedicated devices do we build around that? And the ecosystem to enhance those capabilities across the board.”

The firm cites head-mounted displays, virtual personal assistant speakers, VR/AR tech and wearables as the tech candidates most likely to see major growth as consumer need and interest in core devices plateaus.

By 2020, Gartner projects that some 20 percent of an estimated $700 billion total spend on all devices will go toward supplementary connected devices. And that’s just on the hardware — not included in this figure is the potential sales revenue that could be raked in by purchases consumers will make using supplementary devices as a payments platform.

Alexa’s voice ordering capabilities, though perhaps a bit underutilized at the moment, are ready to be joined by a whole host of other platforms awaiting user dollars. And speaking of Alexa — a new third-party integration means Alexa and its 6,000+ skills are now mobile.

This time around, Alexa is coming to Bluetooth headsets. Sensory Inc., a Silicon Valley tech company that develops and makes speech technologies on both hardware and software platforms for consumer products, is bringing Alexa to Bluetooth headsets` — effectively enabling Alexa on-the-go.

The integration works on three fronts. VoiceGenie allows access and control of Bluetooth devices, as well as voice commands directed toward smartphone assistants. It also allows, via the VoiceGenie mobile app, a connection to Alexa without needing to be in proximity to an Amazon Echo device. Previously, Alexa required a Wi-Fi connection to fully function. Sensory’s VoiceGenie mobile application will be available on Android and iOS.

LG debuted its next smart fridge iteration at CES. This latest iteration of its Smart InstaView fridge comes with an Amazon Alexa AI assistant integration (perhaps to the chagrin of Samsung, who also showed off its voice-activated smart fridge, the Family Hub 2.0, at CES, but without Alexa). Owners will be able to reorder groceries using their voice (and their membership to Amazon Prime).

Consumers can knock twice on the external touchscreen to reveal a clear window inside the fridge to browse their selection without opening the door. The model also allows users to mark food ownership and track expiration dates on InstaView’s accompanying smartphone app.

The Smart InstaView wasn’t LG’s only foray into voice-activated tech at CES. It also revealed its new voice-activated smart home hub robot, the aptly named “Hub Bot,” which also incorporates Alexa’s voice assistance platform. If that isn’t enough to convince you anymore, Hub Bot sings, dances and has an adorable digital display face. If anything, Hub Bot wins in the cuteness category hands down.

So, as Alexa continues to venture out, joining the international smart home party, she and the other AI assistants better be keeping an eye out. Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant might also have to prepare to welcome another new player in the voice-activated AI smartphone assistant space.

Finnish tech company Nokia is rumored to be developing its own AI assistant, named Viki. Nokia recently filed a request for trademark protection in the European Union. Viki is reportedly described, in the product section of the filed trademark application, as a software with a voice-based interface that will be used to create and monitor mobile and web assistants. No official word has come from Nokia on Viki’s status, development or potential release date.

Eager technophiles will have to wait a bit longer for more information on Viki and confirmation from Nokia. Still, it’s not unlikely that Viki will soon be another AI assistant if Gartner’s industry projections hold true. Any tech company with a stake in mobile or other IoT and connected devices will probably at least be considering a voice-based project soon if they haven’t started already.

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