Smart speakers are for music, but that’s not only good news for Apple

You can read a German version of this article here.

The majority of people in the U.S. who own a smart home speaker use the device for a limited number of trivial tasks. That is a result of a recent study conducted by the consulting firm Activate (original presentation, see chart #30). Listening to music, asking general questions or getting the weather, as well as using alarm and timer functionality are dominating use cases. More than three quarters of the respondents own a device belonging to the Amazon Echo product line. Eleven percent use a Google Home.

A few months ago, PwC published the results of a representative survey among owners of Amazon Echo in Germany. Even here, music consumption ranked as the most common use case, with 52 percent saying that they listen to music over the device. 30 percent expressed at least theoretical willingness to use a smart speaker to control other smart home devices. Continue Reading

Talking with the machine: The race to create “Samantha”

You can read this article in German here.

A few days ago I returned from the South-by Southwest Interactive conference (SXSW) in Austin. This year, the unofficial slogan of the SXSW might as well have been “The event about the science fiction film ‘Her’”.

During many of the panels and keynotes that I attended, one of the speakers eventually made a reference to the 2 1/2 year old movie in which a shy man falls in love with his voice-controlled, Artificial Intelligence-powered personal assistant “Samantha”.

My impression that “Her” was ubiquitous at SXSW certainly had been influenced by the fact that I specifically chose sessions and talks focusing on topics related to Artificial Intelligence (AI). However, AI nowadays is one of the most crucial aspects of many, if not all IT and technology disciplines. Even more “mainstream”-like SXSW keynotes such as the outstanding and entertaining talk between Slack CEO Steward Butterfield and the NYT journalist Farhad Manjoo did not miss out on the opportunity to mention the movie. Steward Butterfield actually asked Manjoo if he had seen it, to which Manjoo surprisingly responded “no”. Continue Reading

Siri is not ready to take over the smart home yet

As I explained in my recent critical take on the Apple TV box, I was nevertheless curious about the next generation of the device. It was presented a few days ago on Apple’s big product event and pretty much reached up to my expectations, without exceeding them.

From my perspective, the new Apple TV is not a milestone or a big deal, but there is one aspect that I am excited about: the voice control capabilities powered by Siri.

Unfortunately, based on the information from the press release and early reviews, Apple falls short of actually adding a smart personal assistant to the Apple TV box. Instead, Siri’s focus lies on voice search for TV shows and movies across an initially very limited number of content providers (= apps). So at least for now, Apple TV users won’t be able to rely on the device as a full-fledged smart assistant that greets them in the morning with a friendly “Hello Martin, how do you feel? What can I do for you today?”. Although apparently asking about the weather will work. It’s also a bit sad to learn that initially, the Apple TV version with Siri will only be available in 8 countries. Continue Reading

I want a smart home personal assistant, but not from Amazon


I was just sitting on my couch with my notebook in my lap, when I heard an unexpected, but familiar voice: “Jambox is ready to connect”. Familiar, because this one of the typical spoken comments my Jambox bluetooth loudspeaker is capable of. Unexpected, because I had not done anything at that moment to turn Jambox into pairing mode. For a second I was surprised, then I reminded myself of that Jawbone’s relatively popular bluetooth loudspeaker occasionally develops a life of its own. And shortly after it hit me: I want that. I want a smart speaker that interacts with me when sitting at my couch, kitchen table or elsewhere in my apartment. Continue Reading