Big Tech mutes voice assistants
The Future. AI-powered voice assistants are losing their luster in the revenue-seeking halls of tech giants such as Amazon, Apple, and Google. While making money from products such as Alexa may be nice, human behavior dictates that they are better for information and as task machines than a way to buy products. But if Amazon, specifically, figured out a way to give users a “last look” on their phone before making a purchase through Alexa, users may feel more comfortable changing their buying behavior.
One day, Alex and Siri may not answer back.
- Axios reports that despite immense popularity when it was introduced in 2014 with the Echo device, Amazon’s Alexa has been deemed a “colossal failure of imagination” and a “wasted opportunity” by insiders at the company.
- Why? Amazon is set to lose $10 billion from the division this year, prompting the company to lay off a sizable portion of its team.
- That’s because Amazon believed people would order more products using Alexa, such as buying pizza on the fly or ordering a book sight unseen.
- But that really hasn’t happened, with people opting to use it (billions of interactions per week, by the way) more for simple commands and information.
But Alexa isn’t the only voice assistant to suffer this fate. Criticisms have been mounting on Siri for a while, Google cut back on its Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana and Samsung’s Bixby are pretty silent on the market.
Despite Alexa usage growing 30% last year, Voicebot Research found that fewer Americans are using voice assistants overall. What led to the decline?
- DataGrail found that 82% of respondents to a 2020 survey had concerns about data collection from tech such as voice-assistant-equipped devices.
- Bloomberg reported in 2019 that Amazon employed thousands of people to listen in on conversations recorded through Alexa.
- Also, in 2019, The Guardian uncovered that Apple shared some private conversations recorded with Siri with contractors.
While those revelations may scare off customers, voice assistants still have several meaningful use cases, including executing tasks while driving, making VR/AR headsets more intuitive to use, and powering connected devices all around the home.
Like most things in tech, there are tradeoffs.