Amazon’s Alexa now has more than 7,000 “skills” (voice apps), according to a presentation given at CES (the Computer Electronics Show) by Amazon’s Mike George, who demonstrated an LG refrigerator with Alexa built in.
Alexa, like Microsoft’s Cortana, is making a push to be included in a broad range of third-party connected devices. Earlier this week, Lenovo introduced an Alexa-powered Echo-like speaker. In addition to Alexa itself, Amazon is making the full range of skills available to third-party developers and manufacturers as well.
Skills discovery is even larger problem than smartphone app discovery because there’s no good voice-based way to find skills, although you can discover skills via the Alexa app or online.
Not wanting to be completely overshadowed by Alexa in the digital assistant arena, Google announced that “The Google Assistant is making its way to Android TV in the coming months.”
The Google Assistant will search for and play media, but Google also sees the Assistant on TV as smart home controller and general search tool (like Home). Here are some of the example actions/commands for Google Assistant on your TV:
- Play content: “Play Stranger Things on Netflix.”
- Discover content: “Search YouTube for Jimmy Kimmel.” And you can also ask a follow-up if you’re interested in more videos by saying: “Play the second one.”
- Get answers: “Tell me about Jurassic Park.”
- Set the right mood: “Dim the lights.”
- Get ready for your day: “How long will it take to get to work?”
It remains to be seen whether the rumors about Apple introducing its own Siri-powered stand-alone device are true — though Apple risks being marginalized in the smart home if it doesn’t. What’s clear, however, is that with the introduction of these new third-party hardware integrations, we’re entering a dynamic period of competition for virtual assistants and voice search.