As the hype that surrounded wearables has faded vis a vis disappointing sales and the lack of a "killer app" that supposedly will launch them into the mass market, another group of new technologies has quietly risen in popularity: the "hearables". From Siri to Alexa, voice controlled digital assistants seems poised to become a friendly presence in every house and next tech frontier.
Amazon's Echo was one of the hottest Christmas presents last year, and a few weeks ago Apple has announced the release of the HomePod ($349), which boasts a superior sound quality compared to the Echo.
However, this latest product release by Apple might be too little and too late, because Amazon is proving to be way ahead of the game. The Seattle-based ecommerce giant has recently expanded its line of voice-activated products with Echo Look and the Echo Show, both featuring visual integrations which bring the voice assistant game to a whole new level.
By providing all aspiring fashionistas with their own digital personal stylist, the Amazon Echo Look ($199.99, available by invitation only) is especially designed to strengthen Amazon reach in the fashion retail segment. It is a voice activated fully amplified mirror, a combination of voice assistant with a special depth-sensing camera, that includes built-in LED lighting and computer vision-based background blur to guarantee the best shot of the person in front of it. Through Echo Look, not only users can take ready-to-post photos and videos of their outfits, but with the artificial intelligence powered Style Check, they can also get the latest style advice from fashion professionals.
Most recently it was the turn of the Amazon Echo Show ($229.99) to debut. On June 28t, the well-liked Alexa finally got a video screen. This new addition to the line of popular hands-free voice-activated assistants allow users to video-chat with other Echo Show users, watch videos, monitor other smart home devices such as surveillance cameras, temperature controls just by speaking their command. Not to leave any stone unturned, the Amazon Echo Show is powered by Dolby to deliver a better sound experience.
The integration of voice-controlled digital assistants with different digital services is definitely the way of the future not only for domestic uses but also for business. With the upcoming Apple iOS11 update, Apple has announced the expansion of Siri into Business Chat. Since last year, chatbots have been one of the top emerging business technologies, especially for brands and retailers. Now Business Chat will transform messaging chatbots into speaking chatbots. It will be interesting to see how Facebook, which currently dominates the messaging field with its Messenger and Whatsapp, will respond to this.
Exciting changing times are definitely ahead for digital savvy consumers and brands.