Long after Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Bixby and a half-dozen others, Pandora has finally launched a 'voice assistant' helper of its own called Voice Mode for its iOS and Android apps that will begin rolling out to devices starting today.
Voice Mode was unveiled at CES earlier this year, and entered into early beta with a small percentage of users having access to the update. Now it's available to everyone.
Voice Mode, which is really a set of specified voice commands rather than a robust assistant in the vein of Siri or Alexa, can be activated by saying “Hey Pandora” while the app is open. Powered by SoundHound's Houndify Voice AI platform, Voice Mode is designed to play a specific artist, album, radio station or playlist when asked to, but it can also be used to match your mood when you give it commands like “play music for relaxing” or “play workout music”. This request is then personalized by Pandora's algorithm and you'll then hear a personalized result that's tailored to your music tastes... sometimes.
In our short time playing around with the app, results were hit or miss. Some requests went smoothly (asking “Hey Pandora, who is this?” was a useful feature when we weren’t right next to our phone) while others - like “Hey Pandora, give this song a thumbs up” or "Hey Pandora, play today's latest hits" - didn’t really work as intended. Don't worry, Siri, you're safe for now.
Putting the 'personal' back in personal assistants
What separates Pandora’s Voice Mode apart from the other umpteen competing helpers already on the market is that it will return personalized results. Ask it to play new music, for example, and it will play new music that it knows you’ll like, rather than feeding you the same new music playlist it feeds everyone else.
If you've been using Pandora's app to listen to podcasts, you'll even be able to apply the service's patented personalization algorithm to get its assistant to recommend new podcasts based on what you've already heard.
Rolling Voice Mode out to iOS and Android is really just the first step for Pandora’s 'virtual helper' – it could really come into its own if Pandora decides to deploy it on smart speakers sometime down the road.
If you want to check out the Pandora personal assistant for yourself, download the Pandora app and press the search icon in the top right-hand corner.
Editor's note: This story was updated on July 23 to reflect the news that the service is now available to everyone.
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Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.