What do Amazon, Apple, Comcast and Google have in common? Besides being household names, they're all racing to provide the best voice-controlled entertainment experience on the market.
Following the success of the Amazon Echo, these big-name companies have all ramped up their product development efforts in the area of natural language interface technology. Here's a sampling of the product news and rumors from just the last two weeks:
It was easy to dismiss voice-enabled interfaces as gimmicky early on, like the Clapper device from the 1980s that let consumers turn lights on and off just by clapping their hands. (And remember those creepy early Fire TV commercials with Gary Busey?) But the technology isn't just about controlling devices with voice commands. More importantly, it's about artificial intelligence, and creating interfaces that simulate natural human-to-human interaction.
Unsurprisingly, as consumer brands have started investing heavily in conversational interfaces, so too have vendor companies begun spotlighting their voice-enabled UI capabilities. In 2014, Rovi Corp. bought voice technology provider Veveo, which it then integrated into its program guide software. (See Rovi Snaps Up Veveo.)
Research firm Markets and Markets predicts that the natural language processing market -- including interactive voice technology -- will reach $13.4 billion by 2020.
Companies pursuing new entertainment interfaces are also experimenting in the smart home space. In a cross between personal assistant and home control terminal, the Amazon Echo connects with products like smart thermostats and services like Spotify, while the Google Home device is described as being used to turn on lights and set the timer on an oven.
Why all the interest in products that respond to our voices? Consider this: Whoever builds the best foundation today has a chance to control the user experience on a massive scale in the future.
And if the fight over basic TV guide software is any indication (think Rovi litigation, and the fights at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over unbundling video services from their navigational UIs), the battle for the mind and the voice of the home has just begun.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading