Those products proved to be one of the most popular presents last Christmas and the market for them is experiencing rapid growth. Are they the latest goldmine?
These devices, which host virtual smart assistants, are quickly becoming more prevalent in our homes and in society at large. They are also being billed as the trendiest electrical product at the 2020 CES (the international consumer electronics trade show) in Las Vegas. These little speakers designed by the likes of Amazon, which was first to market with its Echo device in 2015, and Baidu in China, are becoming the cornerstone of the rapidly growing smart home market. That’s not the full story, though.
The main reason they are selling so well is that these virtual assistants capable of understanding and speaking our language have become such a big part of our daily lives. Their sole purpose is to make our lives easier. Just by giving a simple voice command, you can find out from your fridge whether you have enough eggs to prepare tonight’s dessert, control the temperature in your bedroom or set the robot vacuum cleaner to work.
The art of dialogue
Our voices are the new way in which we interact with technology. This is a paradigm shift that is ushering in a new era.
At the end of 2019, when we met with iFLYTEK, the Chinese specialist in speech processing and comprehension whose virtual assistant, Lingxi, can purchase train tickets through a simple voice command, the management team talked about the complexities involved in voice AI, which functions through artificial neural networks: the huge databases allow powerful algorithms to learn and develop so they can understand our voices and the meaning of what we are saying.
The added value of this enhanced connectivity should prove to be a significant growth driver for the sector, just like for voice shopping, a market that was worth USD 40 billion in 2019.
Voice AI is booming
The proliferation of these little digital robots gives us ample scope to rethink how we communicate with technology in the AI era. The AI in these speakers opens new doors not only in the smart home market but also the shopping industry. Interfaces will evolve in all areas and revolutionise how we consume products and services. In 2021, there are expected to be more virtual assistants on the planet than people! And pretty soon we will be trying to remember what life was like before they existed.
 7-10 January 2020 (350 exhibitors from France, making it the third-most-represented country)
 OVUM, Key trends in the smart home market: April 2019
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