The 2016 Voice Assistant Awards

It is that time of the year where we can look forward to what we want in the future and to look back at how far we came over the past year.  The Voice Assistant Awards are a look at some of the best technology released in the Year 2016. 

Best New Voice Assistant

The clear winner here is Google Home.  Google has done a great job with hitting a good price point, making use of it's amazing search and natural language ability, and having a touch sensitive control pad on the top.  Google has created a great product that brings some excellent competition to an amazing genre of devices. 

Best Use of a Voice Assistant

The best use of a voice assistant goes to the implementation of Cortana on the XBox One.  This was released over the summer and provides valuable hands-free operation and a really useful way, controlling all of the aspects one would want to use a voice assistant on a game platform.

Most Waited on Platform to Have a Voice Assistant

The platform we have waited the longest time to see a voice assistant appear is Siri on macOS Sierra.  Although Siri has been around for over five years in it's mobile configuration, adding it to macOS is really useful (as well as a no brainer).  Not only does it support all the things you can do with Siri on an iPhone or iPad, Apple really thought about how they could engage Mac users by adding voice commands that are custom to the desktop.  Now, it is time for the rest of us who are so used to typing to get used to using voice commands instead. 

Best Open Source Announcement

Open source is a tough one, and this award is going to upset some.  There is so much great and innovative work going on in this area, there should be a whole set of awards alone.  However, we are focused on voice design and the best open source announcement is the ability for AWS Lambda functions to support .Net and the C# language.  This actually gives credit to first Microsoft for open sourcing .Net and C#, but also for Amazon for adding support to their AWS Lambda functions.  It is these Lambda functions which process most of the custom skills available on the App Store.

Best Voice Assistant Developer Support  

This has to go to Amazon which added support for streaming audio content to their Alexa Skills Kit (ASK).  This has allowed new skills to stream music, and has also let developers create custom Flash Briefings for Alexa.   We are still waiting on other vendors to make their public SDK available to developers, while Amazon is busy adding new features to theirs.  

Not only did they add streaming capability, they announced built in support for pre-built voice intents.  What this means is that it will be easier for third party developers to add voice support to their skills.  Voice User Interface development is still a relatively unknown area, and any help an SDK can give to making it easier to develop powerful and useful skills is great.  Previously there were 15 types of voice command content Alexa could understand.  After this update there are hundreds of types.

What's Next?

Are there any worthy awards I missed?  Do you think some of these are off the mark?  Leave a comment and let us know what you think. 

Here's to a great and innovative 2017!



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