Understanding the Nuance of Modality Across Voice Assistants

by | Feb 12, 2020 | Content management, Insights, Voice technology

The landscape of support across voice assistants is changing monthly.  Below is context against the leading voice assistants and how they are positioning themselves.

Google Assistant

Google Assistant’s support for audio experiences is consistent across modality.  For those that work extensively with SSML, you may find that Google adheres to documented standards better than some of the other platforms.  Screen based displays handle images but offer limited layout templates such as simple foreground image support.  Their Interactive Canvas feature which offers a high level of screen display customizations is only supported for apps within the Interactive Games category.  Video support is limited to references to YouTube videos.  

 Amazon Alexa

Amazon Alexa’s support for audio experiences is consistent across modality.  They offer the ability to leverage playful SSML effects and a selection of voices to use other than Alexa’s standard option.  Screen based displays handle images, layout templates and customization via Amazon’s Alexa Presentation Language (APL).  Alexa supports the option to incorporate native videos in a variety of formats.  As one of the first to enter the auto market, Amazon has multiple integrated audio products and an in-dash screen experience coming soon by some major auto manufacturers.  

Samsung Bixby

Samsung Bixby has a core focus on integrated audio and screen experiences.  It’s speaker will release in the near future and it is expected that audio support will be consistent across modality.  Screen based displays are designed for devices already within the Samsung ecosystem.  Bixby is fully supported on mobile devices and will release 3rd party app support on appliances and TV’s in the near future.  Image and video support on these devices are similar to Alexa in terms of file types and native display.  

 Microsoft Cortana

Microsoft is in the midst of a shift from end-consumer support to a business-user focus.  As such, their smart speaker support is getting phased out in favor of Windows 10 OS devices and wearables.  Within Windows 10, apps support audio, images and layouts in a manner similar to Amazon Alexa and Bixby.    

(since the writing of this post MSFT has removed the ability for 3rd party applications to be deployed to Cortana)


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