While Google is doing its impression of a petulant child, storming home from the park with its football tucked under its arm by barring Amazon Echo Show access to YouTube, Amazon has drafted a host of reinforcements for its Alexa offensive, reports Telecoms.com (Paybefore’s sister publication).
For the most part, the majority of the news which has been swirling around the Amazon factory is hardware related. It has released a new speaker, the Echo Plus, which has a built-in smart home hub, a new variation for the Echo family, the Spot, which looks like an alarm clock, and also a new TV, but we’re going to try and focus on the more interesting stuff.
From an artificial intelligence (AI) perspective, Alexa seems to be getting pretty smart. The voice user interface is stepping up its game, and by the looks of it, digging in between the sofa cushions for the remote will soon be a thing of the past. Alexa now has the power to search for particular TV shows or genres for you. And if you’ve bought into the Amazon revolution completely, it can be done from any of the Alexa-enabled devices around your home.
Whether Amazon’s foray into the world of hardware continues remains to be seen, but the bigger picture is becoming quite clear. Amazon wants Alexa in everything. It isn’t a case of hooking up your speaker, or pairing a couple of devices with your smartphone, it is everywhere. Whether it’s your alarm clock in the morning, the speaker in your kitchen, or the phone you’re carrying around everywhere, you will have Alexa with you at every point in your day.
And that might soon extend into your car as well. Alongside these announcements, Amazon has slipped in a partnership with BMW to get Alexa its drivers licence. The aim here is from mid-2018 onwards, Alexa will be available in BMW and Mini vehicles, without having to download any apps.
“We are excited to work with BMW to bring the Alexa experience to their drivers,” says Ned Curic, vice president of Alexa Automotive. “Voice is a big part of the future, especially in cars. Using your voice to enjoy content and interact with your car makes a great driving experience even better. We can’t wait for BMW customers to try this out.”
This is another area which could hold success for the Amazon team, as the voice UI is perfect for the autonomous driving arena. Considering how complicated infotainment systems have become in cars, the safety advantages of interacting with your car with your voice are huge.
Google and Amazon have been steadily trading blows in the virtual assistant world for the last couple of months, with each leap-frogging the other with every update. And while Amazon is spreading its footprints throughout every aspect of our lives, perhaps another question worth asking is why this is becoming such an obvious two-horse race? What are the rest actually doing or have they simply resigned to the fact they won’t catch Google and Amazon?
Google still has an advantage in its Android operating system; this is essentially a welcome mat into every smartphone for its virtual assistant, but it’s difficult to argue against Amazon leading the race right now.
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