Digital Assistants Seeing Greater Usage, Adoption

HomePod White WWDC 2017
HomePod at WWDC 2017

The digital voice assistant is having its moment. Between Amazon’s Echo with Alexa, Google Home, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana, major tech firms are giving consumers the chance to interact with their very own A.I. But two new studies suggest that, while these devices are popular, digital assistants may not be as ubiquitous as we think (yet).

According to the study from applet-maker IFTTT, 70 percent of those with a dedicated home assistant have had one for less than a year. Some 60 percent use them more than four times per day, while 29 percent say they’re using them more than seven times each day. A full one-third say their kids interact with A.I. regularly, too.

Amazon’s Alexa is the frontrunner, with 70 percent using it in lieu of – or in addition to – other services. Eight percent of those surveyed by IFTTT use both Alexa and the Google Assistant. (IFTTT reports that most people use their in-home A.I. towers to stream music.)

Happily for these big tech firms, 91 percent of those with digital assistants say it will make them more likely to buy additional connected devices. A full 95 percent of respondents in IFTTT’s survey plan to keep their A.I. around for more than five years.

Another study by analytics firm Verto found that Siri is the most popular digital assistant, although usage has dropped off dramatically. Users on the Verto network are saying “Hey, Siri” some 15 percent less, representing a loss of 7.3 million monthly users. Those who were using Siri had longer sessions with it compared to other digital assistants, but still only use it about 14 minutes per month, or about 0.1 percent of total app usage.

It’s worth noting that Apple’s voice-laden HomePod has yet to launch, so Siri may yet see its market expand. At WWDC 2017, Apple also announced improvements to Siri’s voices and contextual interactivity. You can, for example, ask where a location is, then say you’d like directions “to it,” and Siri knows you’re talking about the restaurant or store you queried earlier. (This feature is already popping up for some users.)

For the connected home, Amazon’s Alexa is still king. That’s thanks in large part to partnerships with other companies and developers; because to those, Amazon boasts over 15,000 ‘skills’ for Alexa, most via third-party apps and services.

Google will make itself at home in your home with its powerful search engine, and Cortana is probably a perpetual distant fourth in all of this. What we can’t foresee is dominance: Siri has an inroad via Apple’s extensive mobile footprint, but Alexa’s low price barrier may give it the eventual lead in consumer A.I., with Google picking up users where it can.