This voicebot.ai article notes that Apple has reduced its prices dramatically for smart speakers, coming out with a “HomePod Mini” for $99. As someone who spent a bundle a decade ago for a home stereo system from Sonos, it’s amazing to see how prices have dropped. Not to mention the dazzling array of features these smart speakers have. Love the intercom feature so that you can talk to others in another room. No more shouting upstairs for your partner…
Category Archives: Hearables
According to this voicebot.ai article, Amazon has done something interesting with its foray into the wearable fitness market – it’s new “Halo” wristband judges your tone of voice – but yet it’s not powered by Alexa!
In this FutureEar podcast, Dave Kemp talks with Valencell’s Ryan Kraudel about how PPG sensors in wearables & hearables are ushering a whole new way of keeping track of your health. Here’s an excerpt from Dave’s blog about this topic:
One of the biggest shifts that these type of biometric-laden wearables will usher in is the ability for people to start assembling their own, individualized longitudinal data sets for their health. Previously, metrics such as heart rate and blood pressure were captured during the few times of the year when one visits the doctor. AirPods, Hearing Aids, Apple Watches and so forth, might soon be able to collect these type of metrics on the minute, every hour that you’re wearing the device. So, rather than having two or three data points in your data set for the year, the user would have tens of thousands, painting a far more robust picture of one’s health and creating individual benchmarks that machine learning algorithms can work off of to detect abnormalities in one’s health.
For decades, we’ve largely treated our health in a reactionary manner; You go see your doctor when you’re sick. Now, we’re entering into a phase that offers much deeper biometric insights from massively proliferated consumer wearables, allowing for a more proactive approach. Each individual would have their own baseline of metrics that are established through the constant usage of consumer wearables outfitted with biometric sensors. The user would then be signaled whenever there’s a deviation from the baseline.
I learned a lot about the state of hearables in this Voicebot.ai podcast hosted by Bret Kinsella with Dave Kemp & Andy Bellavia. Here’s some things I learned:
1. There will likely be a tech disruption to the traditional high-end headphone market. Will Bose, etc. get bought? Or live on to be just a high-end niche player in the intelligible hearable space? It is likely that the high-end headphone companies will take much market share from the leaders in intelligible hearables (which already have pretty nice fidelity).
2. Apple will likely continue to dominate the IOS echosystem as Apple’s Airbuds have a very high satisfaction rating from customers (98%). However, the Android echosystem is more wide open and
3. So far, air buds pretty much get used the same way that smart speakers are used (egs. phone calls, texts, music, podcasts, audiobooks, setting alarms & timers). How will that vary going forward? At the 49-minute mark, there is a good discussion about how geolocation offers opportunities for hearables such as in-store purchases (eg. in a retail store, can tell you where to go for a specific product; can help upsell or cross-sell) or catching a train. There will be more interactivity with apps using hearables.
4. At the 54-minute mark, Bret notes that only 20% of Airbud users have used the voice assistant feature in them. That surely will change soon enough as they become more comfortable with using voice and they then explore new modalities that voice offers.
Way back when our kids were young, we had a policy of limiting our kids to a half hour of screen time per day. That probably wouldn’t be doable in this era – but back then, most kids didn’t get a mobile phone until they were in high school. Now, nearly all of us could use some kind of hard cap on our screen time.
Enter “Voice.” This article links to an interview with Daniel Rausch who helps run Amazon’s Smart Home unit – here’s an excerpt from the article:
The comments come off the back of the launch of a number of new devices from the company that allow people to stay even more connected to Alexa not only in the home, but when out and about. The company recently launched Echo Buds, a pair of wireless in-ear headphones to compete against the Apple AirPods amongst others, as well as a pair of connected glasses and even a smart ring you can wear on your finger. “You might be wearing the Echo Buds, or one of our Day One Edition frames and these keep you fundamentally connected to the world around you using AI,” adds Rausch.
The reason for the upbeat attitude even those Amazon’s previous efforts to take on the phone industry dramatically failed back in 2014? Because Rausch believes by using our phones, we become disconnected, not more connected with the world around us. “I don’t know about you, but I fundamentally disconnect from the world around me when I pull out my phone. I love my phone, I accomplish lots of things with my phone, but it also disconnects me. The more we [Amazon] can offer through that ambient interface that is with you on the go, the better off our customers will be.”
The key message from Rausch it seems, is that Amazon wants to be part of every element of your world, but not your whole world.
Dave Kemp really knows the hearables market. His analysis always runs deep – here’s an excerpt from his latest about Google’s Pixel Buds 2.0:
Given the meteoric rise of the hearables market, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Amazon, Microsoft and Google are joining (Google, re-joining) Apple and Samsung in the hearables arena. While the market might be big and swelling, it’s also due to become increasingly cut-throat as the market fills up with more and more offerings. So, how exactly will Pixel Buds look to stand apart?
The most obvious answer to this is Google Assistant, which is arguably the most intelligent and capable voice assistant on the market today. I recently wrote a post pondering which of these new hearables will ultimately become the “Android-ecosystem AirPods” and there’s a case to be made that Pixel Buds’ path to becoming an AirPods-like hit for the Android ecosystem, runs squarely through Google’s ability to articulate the increasing value of having its voice assistant reside in Google’s own hearable.
There are parts of this announcement that are a tad bit concerning, however. As Bret Kinsella pointed out, waiting until spring of 2020 might be a mistake. The reason being is that the 2019 holiday season is incredibly important for the new entrants in the hearables space to gain initial market share and momentum as the hearables’ market begins to become crowded. As Nick Hunn mentioned in his recent piece, these new entrants are not likely to poach from Apple as the consumer satisfaction rates of AirPods is too high, and therefore will likely be incremental sales, largely catering to the Android market.
By foregoing this year’s holiday season, Google is essentially ceding the early market to Amazon’s Echo Buds due out later this month (along with Microsoft, Samsung and other hearables manufacturers too). Given that Amazon is Google closest VoiceFirst competitor, this seems like a poor decision, especially as Google owns such a dominant position on the on-the-go voice assistant market through its Android handset ecosystem. This might ultimately open the door for Amazon to gain the Alexa foothold it so desperately needs outside of the home, via Echo Buds targeting Android users.