It looks like Sonos is considering introducing its own virtual assistant for future smart speakers.
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The assistant, which would be activated somewhat unimaginatively by the phrase “hey Sonos,” would undertake the usual music-related duties that the likes of Alexa and Google Assistant perform. It would play tracks on demand, adjust volume, skip songs, pause playback and pass music from speaker to speaker.
The big differentiator would come in the form of speed and privacy, with Sonos explaining that all commands would be processed locally. Sonos promises “faster response times” and that “no audio is sent to the cloud, stored, transcribed, or listened to by anyone.”
This sounds an awful lot like the technology Sonos acquired when it purchased Snips for around $37.5 million back in 2019. In the press release (opens in new tab) announcing the move, Sonos described Snips as an “AI voice platform for connected devices that provides private-by-design voice technology,” and CEO Patrick Spence said that it would help “create an even more differentiated and immersive experience for customers” going forward.
While the focus on privacy may sound like a targeting attack on its rivals, Sonos interestingly doesn’t pitch its voice assistant as a replacement for Alexa and Google Assistant, which are already built into some of its current speakers. Rather, it suggests the assistants can live in harmony.
“Use Sonos Voice Control and Amazon Alexa on the same speaker,” the text reads. “Just ask Sonos to play a song, then ask Alexa to check the weather,” it continues, indicating that Sonos’ involvement would be limited to matters musical.
The survey notably only mentions Alexa, and while this could be for brevity, it’s also possible that the omission of Google Assistant is a sign of things to come. While Google’s virtual assistant has been introduced to some Sonos products, in 2020 Sonos sued Google for patent infringement (opens in new tab), and a judge has just ruled in the Sonos' favor (opens in new tab). As such, it’s possible that this is the end of the road for the companies’ cooperation.
After pitching the product, Sonos seeks the customer’s verdict, asking them to pick how interested they are on a seven-point scale ranging from “extremely uninterested” to “extremely interested.”
When asked by The Verge (opens in new tab) about the survey, Sonos gave a typically non-committal response. “We regularly put product and experience concepts in front of our customers to better understand what is important to them,” the company wrote. “We don’t have anything further to share at this time.”
Read into that what you will, but with both the Snips acquisition and very detailed description of the technology, it seems likely that this is something we’ll be hearing more about very soon – unless the survey draws an overwhelmingly negative response.
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