Earlier this year, a report from Consumer Intelligence Research partners (CIRP) pegged the sales of Amazon’s Echo at more than 3 million units.
Echo of course uses Amazon’s cloud based AI “Alexa” to answer questions, play music/games, control smart devices including home automation systems and of course re-order products off Amazon.
More importantly, awareness of this device and others like it continues to accelerate.
In fact, according to CIRP, awareness of Echo more than doubled though the course of last year from 20% in March 2015 to more than 50% by year’s end.
While an aggressive and memorable ad effort featuring Alec Baldwin, Dan Marino, and Missy Elliot may have contributed to Echo’s increasing awareness and popularity, its value proposition, robust and growing functionality and perceived promise are ushering in a new era – the AI, Machine Learning and voice UI era.
Here are a few trends and predictions to look for as we prepare for this exciting wave which will most certainly become ever more present in our everyday lives and tasks.
Trends in intelligent assistants
Listening to Amazon’s Charles Kindel at the Eniac M1 Summit confirms, Amazon has big plans for its cloud based omnipresent AI technology.
Those plans include how this intelligent assistant can be integrated into and can interact with other IOT devices and services be it your smart phone/watch/home, gaming/music systems and even cars, as is the case with Ford SYNC.
Clearly Amazon believes Echo and “Alexa” is so much more than just a product, it’s a framework and platform that will be open to a growing number of outside developers.
Expect tens of thousands of developers to jump on the bandwagon in the coming years as they look to integrate Alexa into their own products as this technology moves quickly into the mainstream.
But don’t be fooled, Amazon won’t be alone and it’s not the only game in town.
Both Apple with its Siri, Microsoft with its Cortana and Google with the Google Assistant and Google Home offering will compete aggressively here, particularly given their dominance on the mobile/smartphone OS front.
Given that advantage and footprint, it will be particularly interesting to see how Amazon will explore ways in which Alexa can be more deeply integrated into Apple, Google and Microsoft powered smartphones.
It should also not come as a big surprise if Amazon looks to both acquire and build solutions to support the continued adoption of its intelligent assistant Alexa.
The company’s strong track record to continually experiment and innovate remains part of its culture. Bigger and bigger successes, such as AWS and Echo/Alexa, will only fuel bigger bets and experiments, and rest assured, Alexa-related investments and innovations are forthcoming.
Finally, because these voice UI’s and intelligent assistants continually listen for key words and are collecting more and more info about its users to be helpful, privacy concerns have arisen.
Hopes and fears
While each company has assured users the data is not stored or shared, the always listening and learning capabilities can be unsettling.
Look for greater notice, data access and controls to be integrated into all solutions as our intelligent assistants become an increasing part of our lives.
We are on the threshold of a new era lead by AI, NL and machine learning and the emergence of the voice UI somewhat depicted in the Spike Jonze movie HER is yet another step closer to reality.