- Continued Conversation, a feature that allows for more natural conversation between users and Google Home voice assistants was rolled out yesterday after being announced at Google's I/O annual developer conference in May, according to a Google blog.
- Up to now, users of the home assistants from Google and Amazon had to say a "wake word" to bring the artificial intelligence to life before each question or statement, such as "Hey Google" or "Alexa." With Continued Conversation — and a similar technology expected soon from Amazon — conversations would hopefully flow more easily, with users able to ask follow-up questions, requests and statements for a short period where the device is effectively listening.
- It is expected that this will make the devices more attractive for people to use for information and entertainment, but it could also help facilitate greater use of the assistants for commerce. A recent study by Episerver found that while 39% of consumers now own voice assisted devices, 60% never browse using them, with even fewer using them to complete purchases. Continued Conversation, combined with video content, could encourage commercial use of the voice assistants as people become more comfortable speaking to them.
With each innovation, the potential of voice assistants for commerce seems to loom larger. Just earlier this month, Amazon announced the Fire TV Cube, which among other functions, simplifies the use of multiple voice enabled devices and entertainment options, and includes app-based shopping.
Google's Continued Conversation technology is similarly focused on simplifying the voice process, allowing users to make multiple statements to the device for eight seconds after saying the wake word, the company said in its blog.
While Amazon's version is still in the works, a suggested conversation on Google's blog post demonstrates the potential for an easier shopping experience through the channel: "'Hey Google, what's the weather today?' ... 'And what about tomorrow?' ... 'Can you add a rain jacket to my shopping list' ... 'And remind me to bring an umbrella tomorrow morning' ... 'Thank you!'"
And perhaps there will also be the need to order an umbrella, find shops along the way that sell rain gear, perhaps summon a car service — and don't forget coffee. That's but one suggestion of how more natural speech could help along voice commerce as a platform.
The move to enhance voice assistants also reflects the growing intensity of the competition between Google and Amazon. The two tech giants have been battling it out over video content, with Google making YouTube and YouTube TV available on its future "smart display" Google Assistants and pulling the content from Amazon video services. Amazon meanwhile is withholding search results for Google Home.
While the Amazon Echo devices took an early lead in the smart speaker market, Google Home is expected to gain share in 2018, according to Loup Ventures, and in the first quarter, shipments of Google speakers exceeded Amazon for the first time, 3.2 million to 2.5 million. Overall global shipments of smart speakers increased 210% in the first quarter, reaching 9 million units, according to Canalys. Google also has an early advantage over Amazon in the use of voice search for shopping, as it is more popular with 14% of respondents compared to Amazon's 9%.
Feeding off of the threat of Amazon's online dominance, Google has made deals to enable Walmart, Home Depot and eBay to use Google Assistant for voice shopping — alliances that could give Google Assistant more growing space than Alexa.
With Google's Continued Conversation, the option is turned off initially and can be turned on under "Settings," then "Preferences." It is offered for Google Home, Google Home Mini and Google Home Max, the blog post said.