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Voice on Voice #130 
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The Hearable Awakening

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Apple’s release of the AirPods in 2016 has transformed the wireless headphone industry. The earbuds have enjoyed widespread success with over $12 billion in revenue (which is nearly equal to the revenue of Spotify, Twitter, Snap, and Shopify combined), and its integrated Siri capabilities for announcing message notifications, replying to messages, volume control, and playing music have set the stage for voice-enabled smart hearables. In just the last month, Amazon dropped the new Echo Buds, and Google debuted the Pixel Buds A-Series — pushing the boundaries of potential for what the assistants in our ears can do. Wayfinding has emerged as a viable use case, illustrated by Amazon’s demo of Echo Buds providing product location in a Whole Foods, and Foursquare’s Marsbot for AirPods offering “guided” audio tours. Additionally, companies are honing in on the fitness craze with fitness tracking features. With 43.7 million users tapping into the voice assistants in their hearables, these devices are only going to expand their capabilities.

Google On-the-Go 

Google launched its new Pixel Buds A-Series to take on the lower-priced hearables market. The earbuds sport a similar look as the Pixel Buds 2, but they are designed to be sleeker and more comfortable. They also include robust Google Assistant functionality — the Assistant can read out notifications and messages, adjust volume, provide weather information, and even translate 40+ languages when the user invokes the phrase “Hey Google.” As Apple continues to maintain its position leading the smart hearables market with AirPods, both Amazon’s Echo Buds and Google’s Pixel Buds are efforts to share in the growing potential of the segment.
More on Google

McAssistant 

McDonald’s introduced voice-enabled drive-thru ordering at 10 Chicago locations after acquiring voice ordering startup Apprente in 2019. According to the CEO of McDonald’s, the voice assistant is 85% accurate in taking orders, and employees have only needed to step in 20% of the time. With White Castle and Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken already leveraging voice ordering, it’s clear that major chains are looking to drive efficiency with emerging technologies. However, a group of McDonald’s customers recently brought a privacy class action lawsuit against the company because of concerns over the use of voice biometrics. Moving forward, companies need to develop a clear strategy around the application of this data.
More on CNBC

Synthetic Self-Serve

Voice AI company Lovo released the AI Voice Marketplace for voice actors to create and sell their own synthetic voices. After the creators record audio of themselves reading text provided by Lovo, the platform can then generate any audio clip in the voice of the actor. As creators and organizations look to create compelling content quickly, programs like this are attractive because they can instantly create specific audio clips rather than relying on someone to manually create the recordings in the studio. As a result, companies like Lovo and Veritone are reimagining the future of synthetic voices and content creation, ultimately building more opportunities for both actors and brands in the industry. 
More on Voicebot.ai

By the Numbers

$44 million

was raised by AI company Cognigy to expand its low-code conversational AI platform that helps enterprises build applications. (data via TechCrunch)

35%

YoY growth in global smartwatch shipments in Q1 2021. (data via Counterpoint)

Emerging Tech Stories 

  • Smarter Watch. Google is looking to revive its smartwatch business by combining its Wear OS software with Samsung’s Tizen wearable software.
  • Apple’s Teaser. One of Apple’s recent job postings referenced “homeOS,” potentially alluding to the company’s development of a unified smart home operating system.

  • Samsung Sam. Rumors of a Bixby replacement spread when social media users shared images of a virtual assistant created by a Samsung-owned marketing agency.

In the Intelligent Assistant Era, Voice Biometrics are the X-Factor

In our new blog, RAIN Strategy Director Dale LaRue shares how voice biometrics — attributes like pitch, tempo, and articulation — can transform how businesses serve us. By pinpointing emotions and even potential health issues, they can deliver hyper personalized experiences. However, exploring this uncharted terrain unearths privacy concerns that brands must address.
Read More Here
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