Update: A new budget soundbar could be on its way in the form of the Sonos Ray.
Do you get tired of barking “OK Google” or “Hey Alexa” at your smart speaker as you ask it whether dogs can indeed look up, or what the weather will be like? Then we've got good news — because Sonos could be working on an alternative.
According to The Verge, the audio and smart speaker specialist is set to debut its own virtual assistant in the next few weeks; at least going by people supposedly familiar with the company’s plans.
The smart assistant is apparently set to arrive June 1 for U.S. Sonos users, with an international rollout following after. The so-called Sonos Voice will offer a third smart assistant to use alongside the Google Assistant and Alexa, which speakers like the Sonos One already support.
You might be rolling your eyes at the idea of another virtual assistant entering the world of smart home tech; after all, Samsung's Bixby has hardly won critical acclaim. But Sonos Voice, as The Verge reports, looks set to be a lot more private than Google and Amazon’s assistants, with the company apparently saying it wants to “make voice interactions fully private, more personal, and more natural,” in various job openings related to the “Sonos Voice Experience.”
What that means exactly isn't clear, but it could indicate that Sonos Voice will only collect and send limited data to external servers. And on future Sonos devices, the AI processing needed for virtual assistants could be carried out on the smart device itself, with no need for any external connections.
As far as functionality goes, The Verge reports that the Sonos virtual assistant will react to voice commands to play music and select artists or playlists, among other functions, but it's not clear if integration with other smart home devices would be included.
Keeping the assistant limited to specific Sonos tasks might seem like nobbling a virtual assistant. But it could also help with privacy, while still giving users the ability to order a smart speaker to play music. And keeping the assistant focused could make it faster at reacting to specific commands.
Integrations with Apple Music, Pandora, Deezer and Amazon Music are apparently all in the works; Spotify and YouTube Music are reportedly absent, however.
Cheaper Sonos soundbar could be coming
The Verge also reported that Sonos is working on an unannounced Home Theater OS, which suggests the company is looking to lean more into software and services, perhaps creating a hardware and service ecosystem rather than just smart speakers and soundbars. If it manages to nail this, it could end up being the center of future smart home entertainment setups.
Speaking of soundbars, The Verge added that Sonos might be set to reveal a new more affordable soundbar, priced at $249 (around £200 in the U.K. and AU$350 in Australia). While Sonos smart speakers can be had at competitive prices, its soundbar aren't cheap, with the Sonos Beam Gen 2 costing $449,
If Sonos can bring its strong audio chops, as well as some smart functionality, to a cheaper soundbar, then it’ll certainly see my ears prick up. But we may have a few weeks to wait until we see if The Verge’s sources are correct and Sonos brings new hardware and software to the audio world.
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