greatness It will launch a new voice assistant next month, which in its connected speakers will coexist with Alexa and Google Assistant. Although it’s a few years late, and despite being created by a much smaller company than Amazon and Google, the Assistant still manages to stand out, according to what I could see during testing before the service was launched.
Magician’s greatest strength greatness It is his own concept. Unlike Amazon, Apple, and Google that upload your recordings to the cloud for analysis, here voice recognition is done right on the speakerphone.
The recording is never stored, either locally or on Sonos servers. Only the names of songs, artists, albums, lists, or genres are sent to various compatible music services (such as Apple Music, but not Spotify at launch).
The privacy advantage is obvious, but it is not the only one. Thanks to local processing, faster identification is also possible, according to Sonos. “Speed is enabled by the fact that the processing is local, so there is no round trip to the cloud. We also process every bit of audio one by one, without waiting for the end of the sentence,” explained Alice Cook, Head of Machine Learning at Sonos.
In practice, the assistant seemed really fast to me, but it would be interesting to try it more thoroughly to determine the optimization.
Sonos’ Assistant’s special aspect offers another advantage: it allows listening for a few more seconds after the initial request, so that the user can make additional requests, without repeating the alert word (hello Sonos). “If we process the data in the cloud, we will be logging very long parts of the conversations. There may be privacy issues,” notes Alice Coucke.
Extended listening is not designed for this purpose, but can also be considered an accessibility measure. As a stutter, I often start a request again because Siri or Google Assistant has gotten impatient. An assistant that processes each sound one by one locally, and which records longer, can be a game-changer for people in my situation (and for kids, who also struggle to say sentences at the required times).
Technically speaking, the Sonos voice assistant will offer another feature, according to the company, which is to customize it to music. This can include additional requests for music, without having to worry about all the other requests, which increases its efficiency. It makes sense, but here, too, the Assistant will have to be tested for a longer period of time to gauge this improvement.
However, I would still like the Assistant to include some of the more important queries, such as the weather.
Stylish English voice
Voice is another big difference between the Sonos Assistant and those from Amazon, Apple, and Google. While the techno giants chose neutral and feminine voices in general, Sonos chose the voice of actor Giancarlo Esposito (Too bad, The Mandalorian).
His answers have style and are presented in an assertive tone. This isn’t the first time the Assistant has used a familiar voice (GPS navigators have been doing this for several years), but it’s still pretty cool.
Do I like it? We’ll see with time. So far, I’m more surprised than surprised.
What is the value of the Sonos voice assistant in French?
. voice assistant greatness It will be launched at 1Verse June in American English, then in French from France later this year.
Good news, even with my sharp French accent, the assistant had no problem understanding me when I asked him for songs in English. Out of curiosity, I also asked (in English) about songs and artists in French: in a split second, the assistant understood that something was wrong, and redirected me to the mobile app.
Preaching good news. It shows me that when French is added, the helper should be able to handle bilingual requests.
In other good news, the team responsible for developing the Assistant is that of the former French company Snips, which was acquired by Sonos in 2019. In other words, those who created and tested the Assistant during its development also speak with a French accent, as well as (I suppose) listening to French-speaking music in sometimes.
Unfortunately, adapting the Assistant to a new geography is a complex process, and it is clear that there will likely be many markets larger than Quebec to target before the Assistant is adapted to the language of Dédé Fortin and Kevin Parent.
It remains to be seen if we will still be able to make ourselves understood by then.
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