Sonos is about to introduce its own voice assistantEngineering360 News Desk | May 05, 2022
Sonos is preparing to introduce its own voice assistant service within the next few weeks, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. The voice functionality will let customers play and control music on Sonos’ whole-home audio platform.
The Verge reported it will be part of a forthcoming software update set to arrive first to customers in the U.S. on June 1, with an international rollout to follow. Sonos Voice will serve as an alternative to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, which Sonos already supports on its smart speakers and voice-enabled soundbars. All Sonos products that run the company’s S2 software will support Sonos Voice Control.
Sonos has stated through recent job postings that its ambition is to, “make voice interactions fully private, more personal, and more natural.” The debut of Sonos Voice will mark a pivotal moment in Sonos’ expansion into services as the company seeks to augment its hardware business. The offering will provide core conveniences that are similar to existing competitors, allowing Sonos product owners to play specific songs, artists, or playlists with voice commands, among other functions.
At launch, Sonos Voice will work with Apple Music, Amazon Music, Pandora, Deezer and the company’s own Sonos Radio. Spotify and Google’s YouTube Music aren’t yet on board. In keeping with Sonos’ interest in privacy, the feature will not record user audio commands or relay them to the cloud for processing. “Hey Sonos” will be the wake word for Sonos Voice Control, and the company’s internal tests show it to be quicker than competing assistant services at core music tasks.
Voice services have been a point of contention in Sonos’ rift with large tech companies including Google and Amazon. Two years ago, Patrick Spence, Sonos’ chief executive officer, told U.S. lawmakers that Google refused to allow its Assistant service to operate simultaneously with Amazon’s competing product on the same device. Amazon wasn’t as restrictive, Spence has said. Sonos, Google, and Amazon continue to work together as partners despite Sonos publicly accusing both of unfair pricing tactics and patent infringement; it successfully sued Google over the latter, forcing minor changes to multi-room audio playback and volume controls in some Google software.
Sonos' stated goal of making voice “fully private” could be another key way of differentiating itself from Alexa and Google Assistant, both of which heavily rely on cloud computing. Amazon says Alexa is designed with “multiple layers of privacy and security,” and Google offers similar assurances.