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There’s no doubt that virtual assistants and AI-based voice services are one of the next big things in the technology industry. Long the stuff of science fiction, voice-based computing represents the next leap in computer interface and usability paradigms. As a result, virtually all the major players are pushing ahead with development.

It should come as no surprise that Amazon, one of the biggest players in the voice-enabled market, has announced the Voice Interoperability Initiative. The initiative is an effort to standardize how voice-enabled products work and “is built around a shared belief that voice services should work seamlessly alongside one another on a single device, and that voice-enabled products should be designed to support multiple simultaneous wake words.”

Already, more than 30 companies have signed on to the initiative, including the likes of Microsoft, Salesforce, Logitech, Qualcomm, Libre, Intel, Spotify and others.

“Multiple simultaneous wake words provide the best option for customers,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “Utterance by utterance, customers can choose which voice service will best support a particular interaction. It’s exciting to see these companies come together in pursuit of that vision.”

While the initiative’s goals look good on paper, there are some challenges. Notably, the idea of having multiple voice services working on a single device may not fly with some of Amazon’s competitors. Indeed, Apple, Google and Samsung are noticeably absent from the initiative.

In the case of Apple, given their strong pro-privacy stance, it’s unlikely they will want to put Siri on hardware made by a competitor. Similarly, Google may be hesitant to give up the control that comes with their Google Home hardware.

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Whatever the outcome, one thing is clear: Voice-enabled services is shaping up to be another technological battleground between some of the biggest names in the industry.



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