During Amazon’s Alexa Live event on Wednesday, Verizon announced a new smart display, intelligently called the, with “Hey, Verizon” capability. This capability is powered by Amazon Custom Assistant, a “massive new solution that lets device manufacturers and service providers create intelligent assistants tailored to their brand personality and customer needs.”
The event was announced in January, and a number of brands went onboard, including global automakers Stellantis, Qualcomm, Garmin, as well as Electrobit and Continental. We saw Verizon’s smart display coming a few weeks agoAnd while today’s announcement isn’t unprecedented, it does mark the continued success of Amazon’s new business strategy of selling Alexa to other companies for customization.
Of course, it’s much easier than creating your own subsidiary for companies. Amazon provides the bones, and companies fill the accessory with their own unique traits and personalities. But where does it end?
When Subsidiaries Multiply
With Amazon’s new build-your-own voice assistant, our smart displays and speakers can start to sound spammy. Amazon is basically selling Alexa to companies, allowing them to put their own brand and select different levels of brand-specific functions. They then take that voice assistant and insert it into their device or integrate it into existing Alexa-enabled products.
On the consumer side, the question becomes: Are you ready to talk to all the brands in your house?
Sure, there are many ways this can be cute and fun. I’m not opposed to a conversation with Charmin the Bear or Tony the Tiger. In fact, I have some genuine questions I could have asked those crazy brand ambassadors. Managing multiple voice assistants for specific tasks? Remarkably less fun.
Like many people, I have more than one voice assistant in my house. I chose that lifestyle based on the products I want to use and how much information I want to give to certain companies. But asking Alexa to do one thing and Google to do another is a pain. I can’t see how adding more cooks to the kitchen makes anything easier.
At the very least, these new assistants should also be an option. Typical brand interaction should be far from a skill I choose to enable on my display or speaker, and purely for fun. If I want to order something, Alexa needs to be able to do it without giving me a brand voice.
The added complication of needing to speak to a specific assistant inside my assistant feels heavy. Is there a future where I need to address each brand by name to complete a task? If “Hey, Spotify” is just to start a playlist in my future, it changes the way I interact with my smart device. This is extra brainpower that I need to expend. Every time I want to do something, I have to remember who to ask. It reminds me of the annoying middlemen of some smart home skills that force me to remember to ask Alexa to do something to someone else (including Spotify, if you don’t set it as your default music player). We do).
different is not always better
Even if we can manage our new characters, who’s to say that the experience actually improves? Is there anything these assistants can give me that Alexa can’t? It’s hard to imagine any real reason to talk to a brand instead of Alexa, because any brand voice is built on the Alexa platform and Alexa can certainly do the task itself.
If, however, brands pay Amazon for exclusive capabilities, effectively removing Alexa from brand-specific tasks such as renewing memberships or ordering products, then we may soon find ourselves with a speaker. You will get to work with many personalities.
This is a marketing department’s dream. The ads will be filled with clever, funny clips that aim to increase the appeal of talking to your favorite cereal mascot or dog food brand. While chatting with Ronald McDonald sounds like a nice way to spend the afternoon, it could push us to an idiosyncratic level of brand worship and integration at home.
As for Verizon Smart Display, the device is scheduled to launch in beta this fall, with widespread distribution in 2022. It’s hard to get a real sense of what a smart display will do. we have, but no more at the time of this post.
Long article short, I doubt it. Look, I could be wrong about all of this. Simple skills can be helpful with brand voices providing specific information. We don’t know much about how these brand new voices will work in a real home. For now, I’m not ready to start a conversation.