Smart Displays are keeping pace, here’s the social science and numbers behind why.

by | Mar 19, 2019

The numbers for smart displays confirm what humans already knew: conversation isn’t just verbal.

Often when people start learning about voice, they think voice is about devices speaking.  Which is true but limited in view.  Instead, voice is about the user’s voice.  The response back most often includes voice but doesn’t have to, sometimes it is just about executing a transaction.

The idea of multimodal interfaces can complicate the idea of having a voice experience, where the response from a voice assistant can include feedback for more than one sense; primarily the addition of sight.

There is a growing ecosystem of devices that not only offer a verbal response but also support the response with a visual component.  And if you think about it, this makes sense.  When I speak with friends, family and colleagues I don’t just use my voice.  Nor do I simply listen to what they say.

In fact, when people I talk to are doing something other than paying attention to me and providing visual cues, I can get annoyed (is that just me?).

The Social Science

When looking up components of conversation I came across a great article by an organization called Understood titled 4 Parts of a Conversation: How to Help Kids With Social Skills Issues Navigate.  Understood is dedicated to helping the parents of children with learning disabilities support their children with tools and understanding.

The key takeaway for me was this: in every kind of conversational challenge mentioned in this article, there is a component of visual skill or cue.

Sight, it turns out, is a key element of conversation. And though reading the social situation or body language isn’t intrinsic to engaging with a smart display device, these devices offer context and visual cues to meaning, intent and value.  Of course, brands or those owning the experience need to think through how to leverage the modality.

But the audience for this article (the one you are reading) is likely business oriented, so these social science discussions may be considered a softer rationale than hard numbers. So, numbers it is.

The Numbers on Smart Speakers

Earlier this year Voicify & issued the 2019 Smart Speaker Adoption Report.  One of the findings was device market share. Let’s take a look at what is happening.

 Considering the proliferation of smart speakers in homes and offices already, this is no small feat. In fact in 2018 Smart Displays outpaced Smart Speaker purchase by 558%, meaning 7.4 million smart display owners were added to the mix.

Another variable in this equation is cost.  Smart displays are more expensive than smart speakers.  In many cases Amazon and Google have been giving away their smart speakers in conjunction with other products to increase adoption and use.  And still, the smart display is making quick work of becoming a household device.

For instance, Google released its branded Google Home Hub in October 2018, two months before the survey for this report went out. In that time Google Home Hub experienced an adoption rate 1.3 times that of its speaker only counterpart.  All told, in its first 60 days on the market the smart display by Google took over 1% of the smart speaker market.  In 60 days.


In the end I think we will find that smart speakers were a training ground for more complex voice experiences that multimodality will bring to light. Eventually, and quickly, we will see nearly all our screen devices rendering voice assistant experiences.  You can do this now with Fire TV and Alexa and I would imagine Google Chrome Cast will be bringing Google Assistant on board as well.  Not to mention the OEM opportunities with TVs, cable boxes and all the appliances who opted to bring screen display to their hardware. To learn more about multimodality read our article: Understanding Multimodal interactions


Sources and equations.

  • Time on market – Wikipedia
  •  Market share – 2019 Smart Speaker Adoption Report
  •  Total Owners – market share X total market (66.4 Million)
  • Average new owners per month – total owners / number of months on market
  • Smart display v Smart Speaker monthly acquisition – Average new owners smart speaker / average new owners smart display


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