Voice Activation

Voice-Activated Tracker: Echo Show, The Speaker Who Would Be King

It’s official.

Amazon put an end to speculation last week as it announced its next-gen smart speaker — screen and all — called the Echo Show.

The online retail giant is set to release the Echo Show to the world on June 28 of this year. The company is already accepting pre-orders on its website. Given the market’s reaction to the Echo Show during the holiday season, it’s possible we’ll see the Echo Show sell out quickly as well.

The Echo Show retails for $229.99 and comes with a 7-inch touchscreen, stereo speakers and, naturally, voice commands capabilities. Amazon said on its website that with the device, consumers can watch video flash briefing, YouTube videos and view security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more.

The timing of Amazon’s latest release is a bit inopportune for new market entrant Microsoft, which just one day prior had announced a partnership with Samsung Electronics unit Harman Kardon to launch a smart speaker, called Invoke, powered by AI assistant Cortana.

Invoke, like its competitors, can play music, manage calendars and activities, set reminders, check traffic, and deliver the latest news via voice-activated command. It also comes with Skype integration, which enables users to make calls. Users can also control smart home devices using voice to do things like turn out the lights or control the temperature.

Where the Invoke may have a leg up is that Cortana is already used by more than 145 million people across a number of different devices. New entrants with a market presence and seamless interconnectivity will certainly have an advantage as the voice-activated device market becomes more crowded.

Still, there’s nothing quite like a head start (and a command of eCommerce to boot).

While Google, Lenovo, LG and others are already or soon look to hold their own in the burgeoning AI personal assistant market, new research from eMarketer indicates that it’s Amazon’s for the taking in 2017.

Alexa will likely command 70.6 percent of market share by year’s end, followed not so closely behind by Google Home, with 23.8 percent market share. The remaining 5.6 percent of the voice-activated device market will be split between Lenovo, LG, Harman Kardon and Mattel.

“Consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with the technology, which is driving engagement,” said Martín Utreras, vice president of forecasting at eMarketer. “As prices decrease and functionality increases, consumers are finding more reasons to adopt these devices.”

The research firm does expect that Amazon’s market share will decline slightly over the next few years as Google takes a larger piece.

And the market is growing fast. In 2017, eMarketer projects 35.6 million consumers in the U.S. will use a voice-activated device at least once a month — a 128.9 percent increase in usage from 2016 — driven primarily by millennial consumer adoption.

This data lends additional credence to industry data projections by Voice Labs from earlier in the year.

Outside of smart speaker hardware, eMarketer noted that virtual assistants in other capacities — smartphones, computers, mobile applications — will grow 23.1 percent year over year in 2017.

An estimated 60.5 million U.S. consumers will use Siri, Cortana, Bixby (when it arrives) or another virtual assistant at least once per month this year. This equates to 27.5 percent of smartphone users or close to one-fifth of the population.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, eMarketer’s data pegs consumers between ages 25 and 34 as the heaviest users of digital assistants — some 26.3 percent. Some 33.5 percent of all millennials will use a virtual assistant in 2017. By 2019, that rate looks to climb to nearly 40 percent.

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