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VPA Monogamy Overrated! Ready for Tiered, Multi-VPA Voice Interactions?

by Werner Goertz  |  September 7, 2017  |  Submit a Comment

Alexa-Cortana interactions mark the beginning of a trend for Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs) to leverage each others’ strengths. Rather than fighting over dominance and exclusivity, cooperation is key (tell that to my two male alpha dogs forever fighting over pack leadership!). At the dawn of the digital business age, collaboration trumps domination! Gartner’s concept “Economics of Connections” explains “creation of value through increased density of interactions between business, people and the Internet of Things (IoT)”. Users will experience more complex, more satisfying and more valuable voice interactions when VPAs combine forces. No single VPA today is the “pack leader” among alphas, none can claim “superiority”, regardless of size (of their knowledge base). Each has unique areas of competency, skills and know-how. Complementing each other works better than fighting.

So, what’s stopping integration? The devil’s in the details: does a peer-to-peer interaction between Alexa and Cortana mean that labor- (i.e. processing-) intensive functions such as voice sampling, speech-to-text conversion, semantics,… are performed twice? That’s stupidly redundant and only exacerbates the latency problem that’s bugging connected home applications today (“Amazon found every 100ms of latency cost them 1% in sales” – https://www.gduchamp.com/media/StanfordDataMining.2006-11-28.pdf). What makes more sense: a hierarchical, tiered architecture as implemented by Openstream’s EVA assistant (www.openstream.com/eva.html): using either Alexa or Google Assistant as initiator, EVA’s core competencies in enterprise integration are invoked, either by the user directly (“OK Google, ask EVA to look up my work calendar”), or over time, machine learning will be able to interpret users’ intentions and automatically call on EVA.

Think the VPA space is saturated by the big guys (Amazon, Microsoft, Apple) and their big daughters (Alexa, Cortana, Siri)? Not so fast: there’ll be room for subordinated, tiered VPA plays in specialist areas:
– Geographical focus with lots of cultural context. See: Sherpa (www.sher.pa) in Spain
– Vertical domain focus. See: Atos (www.atos.net) for call center applications
– On-prem or in-device solutions. See: Speechmatics (www.speechmatics.com)

What we haven’t worked out yet is that minor little detail: monetization! How can the process-to-process handoff of a customer be made rewarding for all VPAs involved? Here again, the Economics of Connections can point to strategies and concepts for sustainable, recurring revenue models across the entire voice ecosystem.

Reference: “Unlock Digital Business Value Through the Economics of Connections”. Analyst: Don Scheibenreif

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Tags: alexa  amazon  apple  artificial-intelligence  cortana  echo  google-assistant  google-home  siri  voice-assistant  vpa  

Werner Goertz
Research Director
1 years at Gartner
21 years IT Industry

Werner Goertz is a Research Director within Gartner's Personal Technnologies team, where he covers personal devices (smartphones, PCs/Ultrabooks, tablets/ultramobiles and wearables) and IoT. A special emphasis of his research lies in the Human Machine Interface (HMI) and multimodal I/O technologies: voice/speech processing and recognition, facial recognition and eye tracking, biometrics and motion/gesture control. Read Full Bio




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