Exclusive: Sonos is about to introduce its own voice assistant
Sonos is gearing up to introduce its own voice assistant service in the coming weeks, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. The voice feature will allow customers to play and control music on Sonos’ whole-home audio platform.
It will be part of an upcoming software update that is expected to arrive first to customers in the US on June 1, with an international rollout to follow. Sonos Voice will serve as an alternative to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, which Sonos already supports on its voice-activated smart speakers and soundbars. All Sonos products that run the company’s S2 software will support Sonos Voice Control.
Sonos recently posted job postings related to “Sonos Voice Experience”, with the company saying its ambition is “to make voice interactions completely private, more personal and more natural”. The debut of Sonos Voice will mark a pivotal moment in Sonos’ expansion into services as the company seeks to increase its hardware business. (Sonos Radio and the higher-quality pay-TV Sonos HD Radio were the first such forays into the services.) The offering will offer basic amenities similar to those of existing competitors, allowing owners of Sonos products to play songs , artists or specific playlists with voice commands. , among other functions.
At launch, Sonos Voice will work with Apple Music, Amazon Music, Pandora, Deezer and the company’s own Sonos Radio. Google’s Spotify and YouTube Music aren’t on board yet. In keeping with Sonos’ interest in privacy, the feature will not record user audio commands or transmit them to the cloud for processing. “Hey Sonos” will be the buzzword for Sonos Voice Control, and the company’s internal tests show it’s faster than competing assistant services for essential music tasks.
Sonos declined to comment for this story, citing its policy of not commenting on rumors or speculation. But through various vacancies for the voice product and an as-yet-unreleased “Home Theater Operating System,” the company offered a glimpse of a future where it puts a lot more emphasis on software and tries to s establish as a central hub. for streaming entertainment – potentially going beyond audio to also incorporate video. Sonos CEO Patrick Spence has hinted at these goals in interviews. “You always invest ahead of the curve,” he said on the decoder Podcast. “We’re hiring people in software to go into new areas that we’re not in today. Looking back, it’s easier to understand that a company worked on all of these great things. We just didn’t see it then.
Voice services have been a point of contention in Sonos’ rift with big tech companies such as Google and Amazon. Two years ago, Spence told US lawmakers that Google refused to allow its Assistant service to run concurrently with Amazon’s rival product on the same device. Amazon wasn’t as restrictive, Spence said. Sonos, Google and Amazon continue to work together as partners despite Sonos publicly accusing both of unfair pricing tactics and patent infringement; he successfully sued Google over the latter, forcing minor changes to multi-room audio playback and volume controls in some Google software.
Sonos’ development of its own voice feature hasn’t exactly been a well-kept secret. The company has shown interest in customer surveys, and last year the first details about the service were discovered in the Sonos mobile app (as reported here by Protocol). At the time, screenshots indicated that it would be possible to use the Sonos voice service alongside Alexa, with customers able to use either by saying the respective wake word. But the footage showed that the voice offering of Google Assistant and Sonos can’t be paired in the same way – another sign of Google’s tight control over how and where its services can be used. Blogger Carsten Knobloch recently posted a few more screenshots of Sonos Voice, but its launch date and supported services weren’t previously reported.
The Sonos Voice Experience will stick to the basics at launch. But if people can use Alexa at the same time — Sonos calls this feature “voice competition” — they’ll be able to give the Sonos offering a chance without sacrificing smart home integrations or other features more varied than the Sonos voice service. may lack.
Sonos’ stated goal of making voice “completely private” could be another key way to differentiate itself from Alexa and Google Assistant, both of which rely heavily on cloud computing. Amazon says Alexa is designed with “multiple layers of privacy and security,” and Google offers similar assurances. But some consumers remain inherently wary of voice technologies and big tech using voice interactions for advertising purposes.
Last month, The edge reported that the next new hardware product coming from Sonos is a budget soundbar priced at around $250. That device, the Sonos Ray, will also be announced in the coming weeks. Unlike the company’s more expensive Arc and Beam soundbars, however, it won’t have built-in mics for voice commands.
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