By Chuck Martin
Voice assistants are coming in a big way this year.
Last year, 7 million voice-first devices, most notably Amazon Echo and Google Home, hit the market. That was up from only 2 million the year before.
This year, 25 million devices will be shipped, bringing the total number of voice-first devices to 33 million in circulation, based on a new study by VoiceLabs.
One of the major predictions in the study is that one or more companies will enable direct person-to-person communication.
“Direct communication fuels growth,” said Adam Marchick, CEO of VoiceLabs, a company whose voice analytics are used for developers of Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
Marchick described the person-to-person voice assistant communication as a modern version of the walkie talkie, so that a family member in one location could speak to a distant relative via a device in each location.
No one yet has introduced such a feature, but Marchick predicts it will come this year, most likely from Google or Amazon.
The VoiceLabs study comprised an analysis of consumer voice-device receipt data from thousands of consumers, conducted through the InfoScout panel, a qualitative survey of U.S. residents VoiceLabs conducted via Google Surveys and usage data from users of Amazon Echo and Google Home.
At CES in Las Vegas, voice assistant introductions were everywhere, especially with Amazon’s Alexa being made compatible or included with countless products.
Voice assistants can play music, search the Net for information, turn lights on and off and order pizza, among other things.
Voice is becoming the major interface for all things IoT related.
Another finding in the study is that once a household buys into one platform or the other, only 11% will buy a competing device.
Voice applications also seem to have something common with mobile apps. When a person starts using a new voice application, there’s only a 3% chance that person will be active in the second week.
The study also projected where companies will excel with voice this year: Google at providing intelligent responses, Amazon at commerce, Microsoft in gaming and Apple in Apple TV.