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Sunday, September 26, 2021

A Sonos survey suggests the company might build a voice assistant of its own


According to a customer survey spotted by VoiceBot.ai, Sonos may be working on a voice assistant alternative to Alexa or Google Assistant for its speakers. The survey, which was shared on Reddit by a Sonos customer, describes an on-device voice control system that would improve user privacy by not routing questions and commands through the cloud.

Sonos writes in the survey (pictured below courtesy of Reddit user EdmundFitzgerald29) that its “potential new product offering” would use the wake word “Hey Sonos” and allow users to control playback, search through songs, and move music to other speakers with their voice. According to the survey, the assistant will be able to respond faster because it will be processing everything on the device rather than relying on an internet connection and sending queries to a server.

When The Verge asked for comment on whether the survey was real, Sonos said:

We regularly put product and experience concepts in front of our customers to better understand what is important to them. We don’t have anything further to share at this time.

There are some reasons to believe Sonos would work on such a project. In 2019, Sonos acquired Snips, its own AI voice-platform. Snips’ privacy-focused technology, which does all processing on the device, sounds a lot like the feature Sonos is now reportedly pitching to customers. Sonos has another reason to want to provide an independent voice solution: it has a public feud with Google, one of its voice control partners.

Sonos claims that during a Google Music partnership in 2013, Google stole some of its multiroom audio technology. During multiple Google Chromecast and Home speaker launches, the company apparently warned Google that it was infringing on patents, but Google did not listen. Now, the conflict is being played out in a legal battle that Sonos initiated in 2020.

It’s unclear when or if Sonos plans to launch its own voice control system, but based on the survey, which emphasises compatibility with Amazon’s Alexa rather than Google Assistant, it appears that Sonos wants Google to play a smaller role.


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