Everybody is talking at me, and not a single one of them can look me in the face.
There's Alexa, Amazon's friendly voice assistant that lives on my Echo devices and Portal from Meta. There's Apple's Siri, ready to set a timer on my Apple Watch or pipe up unexpectedly from my HomePod in the middle of my favorite Netflix show. There's Google Assistant that can tell me the weather when I squeeze my Pixel 3 XL. Or how about Bixby, the Samsung voice assistant that jumps to attention whenever I accidentally hit its dedicated button on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra?
That is a lot of digital assistants and voices competing for attention. What's one to do? I know, how about we add another voice assistant to the mix?
If the rumors are correct Sonos, maker of the truly excellent wireless Sonos sound system, is prepping something called Sonos Voice for a launch in June. You'll summon it on a variety of Sonos devices (anything with a microphone, I assume) by saying, naturally, "Hey Sonos." It will reportedly have access to most of your various song libraries across Apple Music, Pandora, Amazon Music, and Sonos Radio. Others, like Spotify, may or may not join the party.
(It'll likely run on the new Sonos Ray as well, a new gizmo from the audio company that's coming out in a few weeks.)
Wonderful. Another AI-based digital agent listening for a watchword that will likely sound a little too much like the word "Sound" or name "Sonny." Okay, sure, I don't know anyone named Sonny, but you get the idea.
I've had a pair of Sono Play:1 speakers in my house for years and I already control them with a digital assistant, namely Amazon Alexa. The speakers don't have a mic, but thanks to the Alexa integration, I can talk to any of my Echos or Alexa-enabled devices to control my Sonos music (which already includes connections to all my favorite music services).
To be clear. I do not need Sonos Voice.
Really, does anyone?
Samsung is still learning the hard lesson of how little people care about Bixby. It remains unused by virtually anyone I talk to. I bet most Samsung Galaxy S21 or S22 owners have no idea Bixby even exists.
Now shut up
The voice assistant race now boils down to three: Google, Amazon, and Apple. That's two too many by my count but at least each of them has a robust ecosystem that justifies their existence.
I do have a dream of one digital voice assistant to rule them all. Perhaps something like the AI in the movie Her. She controlled every aspect of Joaquin Phoenix's digital life and made it all feel seamless. Sure, things got a little out of control and maybe Phoenix fell in love with Her. On the other hand, if Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, or even Sonos Voice did all that, I might fall in love, too.
That's unlikely and, for now, I don't want or need the rumored Sonos Voice.
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A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.
Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.