State of smart speakers: Past, present & future

Google, Amazon, and Apple are their own smart speakers, and now Samsung could also join the league

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  3. State of smart speakers: Past, present & future

Highlights

    • Google Assistant and Amazon Echo are in the league
    • Samsung could launch its own smart speaker

Voice-activated connected smart speakers have gathered a considerable amount of hype and attention after companies like Google and Amazon took Artificial Intelligence (AI) to a whole new level. Google as a search giant has always been playing its “Ok Google” card and integrating AI in all possible ways into its services. It has been working out great for the company so far. We will discuss shortly what makes Google’s own Home smart speaker possible.

Google and Apple were among the first few players to introduce AI and digital assistants in the market. However, they were not the first ones to put them into a smart speaker. In fact, it was Amazon which despite having lesser experience in the AI space emerged with the idea of smart speakers. Amazon integrated its Alexa digital assistant its Echo smart speaker line-up.

Google strives to make most out of AI
Google has a huge amount of data to feed Assistant, and it has come a long way since its early days as Google Now. Back then, Google did not expand its AI beyond smartphones. Google Now is still the same with just new branding and more functionalities. Putting it in the context of a connected world, Google Now was just considered as an app on Android and iOS, and the company did not want that to happen. As a result, Google rebranded Now to Assistant and integrated it into Pixel smartphones, Google Allo, and Google Home. The Assistant simply solved the purpose of a connected world for Google and offered the company a way to look up to its own future.

Google Home powered by Assistant
Google has become so important that it happens to be the first place where you go to find information. It is right there at your fingertips, on your computer screens, everywhere. Now Google wants to be in your Home and Google Home connected smart speaker is helping them do it. Google Home has been integrated with several apps such as YouTube, Pandora, and Spotify. Hence, in the event that you want to play songs from any of these apps, all you need to do is say “Ok Google,” and ask it to do the same for you. You can also cast audio to Google Home from your mobile and laptop.

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Google Home integrates seamlessly with Chromecast, allowing users to cast audio or video directly from the speaker to their TV screens. Additionally, it holds the ability to control other smart home connected gadgets such as Nest and Thermostat. One of the important features that probably stands Google Home apart from its competitors is the ability to identify the context in which questions are being asked. Google has finally managed to reach there, which makes it easier for users to ask related questions without getting into similar details all over again.

Also Read: Samsung Bixby vs Siri vs. Google Assistant

Amazon Echo powered by Alexa

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As mentioned previously, Amazon Echo is the e-commerce giant’s foray into the smart, connected world. A couple of years ago, Amazon unveiled a tall cylindrical speaker powered by the Alexa digital assistant, which you can control by your voice. Amazon Echo, with the help of Alexa Voice Service, is capable of playing songs, making calls, sending/receiving messages (something Google Home is still missing). Amazon Echo can also read news for you, offer information related to weather, traffic, and much more. Much like the Google Home, Amazon Alexa can also control several other Internet of Things (IoT) enabled garage doors, fans, lights, and more.

What smart speakers mean to Samsung Bixby voice assistant
Although Samsung successfully announced its artificial assistant Bixby along with the Galaxy S8 and S8+, the AI fell short of our expectations, and has a long way to go, introspect, and make the ecosystem ready to handle bigger, more advanced challenges. Meanwhile, a report published by The Wall Street Journal hinted at Samsung’s plans to mass produce its own smart speaker codenamed Vega, which will incorporate the company’s Bixby digital assistant. Since we have toured the current state of voice-assisted, connected smart speakers, Samsung must come up with features and functionalities that are on par with Google Home and Amazon Echo.

bixby

Most obvious challenge that Samsung is facing with Bixby is the lack of knowledge base. Unlike Google and Amazon, Samsung has not advanced much into the AI space, which may result in some difficulties at the company to address user queries and perform required actions. Secondly, Bixby is still developing, which means Samsung is unlikely to jump the gun and release the speakers with a half-baked AI. Once Samsung gets into a flawless AI, it could achieve a lot of things that people normally expect out of smart speakers. However, Samsung has an edge over Google and Amazon when it comes to controlling other IoT-enabled devices and home appliances. For example, Samsung has Family Hub refrigerator that has a camera that scans through what is being put inside or taken out.

If Samsung manages to find a way to bridge the gap between the multiple devices and home appliances it manufactures, Samsung’s yet-to-be-announced smart speaker could act like a hub for everything that is possible with AI.