Amazon has a plan to make multiple voice assistants work together on the same product, so you can say “Alexa,” “Hey Cortana,” or maybe even “Yo Spotify” and get different responses accordingly.
Details on the so-called Voice Interoperability Initiative are thin right now, but the goal is to create a secure and simple way for voice assistants to coexist on smart speakers, earbuds, car dashboards, and more. Amazon already has more than 30 partners on board, including Microsoft, Spotify, Intel, Qualcomm, Sonos, and Sony.
Conspicuously absent from that list are Apple and Google, whose own all-purpose voice assistants compete directly with Amazon’s Alexa. Amazon says it invited both companies to participate, though it may not have given them much time to mull it over.
“We just heard about this initiative and would need to review the details,” a Google spokesman said in a statement, “but in general we’re always interested in participating in efforts that have the broad support of the ecosystem and uphold strong privacy and security practices.”
Privacy could also be a concern for Apple, which recently announced plans to stop storing recordings of Siri voice commands without explicit opt-in permission. Google and Amazon both save recordings for their respective voice assistants until users delete them. (Apple has not responded to a request for comment on Amazon’s initiative.)
Even now, voice assistants do coexist in limited ways. Facebook’s Portal smart displays support both Alexa and “Hey Portal” voice commands, and Amazon has worked with French telecom firm Orange on a speaker that works with both Alexa and Orange’s Djingo assistant. Some smart speakers from Sonos, Bose, and others also support both Alexa and Google Assistant, but not simultaneously; users must instead use a mobile app to switch between the two.
That’s the kind of friction Amazon is now trying to eliminate.