Voice assistants in smart home devices are pretty useful. I use mine for setting kitchen timers, turning on and off lights, listening to order notifications from Amazon and playing music. I've even set up a few routines to combine some of these actions.
When I tell it to start my day, my speaker plays Chicago's Q101 and my desk light comes on. And when I say bedtime, it turns off my living room lights and sets the bedroom ones to a nice low level. It's not a huge amount of time-saving, but it makes me happy. What I don't like doing is having to swap between different voice assistants, as it confuses the hell out of me. Alexa, Hey Google, Hey Siri – you need to remember which one to talk to.
So when I heard that Sonos could be planning to launch its own voice assistant, a part of me inside died a little. Does anyone really want another name to remember when talking to their home?
According to The Verge (opens in new tab), a leak suggests that Sonos will introduce its new voice assistant on June 1st and it will run alongside Google and Amazon Alexa on its products. Using the wake word, Hey Sonos, it says the assistant will work with Apple Music, Amazon Music, Pandora, Deezer and its own Sonos Radio. Focusing on this more limited remit, there are claims it will be faster than using Google or Alexa.
If you have so far managed to avoid any other voice assistants in your home – first of all, well done – this might be of interest. But for those of us who already have at least two in the mix, it's going to get confusing.
When we were first shown a glimpse at how voice assistants would transform the way we interact with our homes, wake words never seemed to be a factor. The idea was that everything would work together, in one system. So you could just say, turn on the lights, or, close the blinds, and your integrated smart home would automatically know which thing to activate.
Google and Alexa go a long way towards this dream, as they are capable of controlling a wide range of home devices but introducing a new system that only controls one thing feels like a step backward. Unless Sonos wants to take on all of the functions that my Amazon system can then I'll stick to using Alexa to control my sound.