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Voice on Voice #138 
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Is the Future of Google Assistant Mobile?

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While Amazon Alexa leads in the smart speaker market, Google Assistant is strengthening its presence on mobile devices. Many Android phones come with Google Assistant already built in — bypassing the need to open one more app to get to the assistant. And with voice assistant usage on mobile devices growing, Google is well positioned to make the Assistant a core part of the mobile experience. This year, the company has consistently launched and tested new updates that seek to do just that: the Assistant can shut off your phone and pay for food, it may soon be able to provide suggestions based on information you’re searching, and save and find content. And last week, news revealed that Google is testing a host of updates for Duplex on mobile. Voice is becoming not only an interface for retrieving information, but it is also transforming how we complete tasks by becoming an orchestration tool. 

Duplex Evolves

Google is testing a variety of new Duplex-powered features for Google Assistant. First, within the Google app on Android, the Assistant’s ‘Fast Checkout’ feature confirms users’ contact, payment, and shipping information before automatically entering the details for them. Second, Duplex can add customers’ names to restaurant waitlists without needing to call the restaurant. The Duplex AI tech was originally introduced to book restaurant reservations on behalf of customers, but it has since expanded to automatically filling out payment information for food pickup via the Android Google app. With these updates and developments this past year, the company is making substantial headway in leveraging the Assistant to automate tedious tasks on mobile.
More on VentureBeat & Android Police

The Funding Continues

The fundraising for voice and conversational AI companies continues to heat up. Voiceflow, which helps developers and designers build voice experiences on Google and Alexa, announced that it raised $20 million. Voice restaurant startup ConverseNow raised a $15 million Series A round to augment its voice assistants that can take customer orders at fast food restaurants. And finally, search company Algolia, which offers voice solutions, raised $150 million for its Series D. This bustling fundraising activity comes on the heels of other notable funding rounds by Verbit, Cognigy, and ASAPP — indicating the potential that investors see in tapping voice for transcription, enterprises, and more.
More on Voiceflow, Voicebot.ai, & TechCrunch

Lost in Translation

Google released new updates to its language translation system Translatotron, which can translate someone’s voice into another language. While the AI could retain the voice of the user, it could also create speech in a different voice, opening up the doors for misuse by producing audio deep fakes. The update now mitigates the possibility of generating misleading synthesized voices by changing Translatotron’s voice retraining method. This new edition of the platform also has higher translation quality and cuts out unwanted pauses. Although voice clones and synthesized voices have grown in popularity, recent news, such as the new Anthony Bourdain documentary that used his voice for clips he has never spoken aloud, has raised deep concerns on how these recordings are used.
More on VentureBeat

By the Numbers

180%

YoY growth for Apple HomePod shipments in the last quarter. (data via Omdia)

$24B

The value that the global smart speaker market size is expected to reach by 2028. (data via Emergen Research)

Emerging Tech Stories 

  • AR(ay-ban). Facebook confirmed that its next hardware release will be Ray-Ban smart glasses, which will potentially have augmented reality capabilities. 

  • Do We Have More Eggs? Samsung’s Family Hub smart fridge is now integrated with Amazon Alexa.

  • Alexa on iOS. Amazon released an ‘Ask Alexa’ iOS widget for iPhone home screens, allowing users to tap to quickly talk to the assistant.

Why Voice Commerce Won’t Take Off Until Our Eyes Get Involved, Too

Large projections have long been hinting at the potential of voice assistants in carrying out purchases, but there are still significant barriers to overcome before consumers achieve confidence and fluency with voice transactions. In our latest blog, we describe how multimodality can help solve the voice commerce puzzle.
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