Virtual assistant

Sonos could launch a virtual assistant to take on Google and Amazon Alexa

Update: A new budget soundbar could be on the way in the form of the Sonos Ray.

Tired of barking “OK Google” or “Hey Alexa” at your smart speaker when you ask if dogs can actually look up or what the weather will be like? Then we have some good news, as Sonos might be working on an alternative.

According The edge (opens in a new tab), the audio and smart speaker specialist is set to launch its own virtual assistant in the coming weeks; at least through people who are supposed to know the company’s plans.

The smart assistant is apparently set to arrive on June 1 for US Sonos users, followed by an international rollout. The so-called Sonos Voice will offer a third smart assistant for use with Google Assistant and Alexa, which speakers like the Sonos One already support.

You might be rolling your eyes at the thought of another virtual assistant entering the world of smart home technology; after all, Samsung’s Bixby has received little critical acclaim. But Sonos Voice, as The Verge reports, appears to be much more private than Google and Amazon’s assistants, with the company apparently saying it wants to “make voice interactions completely private, more personal, and more natural,” in various Jobs. related to “Sonos Voice Experience”.

It’s unclear exactly what this means, but it could indicate that Sonos Voice will only collect and send limited data to external servers. And on future Sonos devices, the AI ​​processing needed for virtual assistants could be done on the smart device itself, without the need for external connections.

As for features, The Verge reports that the Sonos virtual assistant will respond to voice commands to play music and select artists or playlists, among other functions, but it’s unclear if the integration with other smart home devices would be included.

Keeping the assistant limited to specific Sonos tasks may seem like a virtual assistant. But it could also help with privacy, while allowing users to control a smart speaker to stream music. And keeping the assistant focused could allow it to react more quickly to specific commands.

Integrations with Apple Music, Pandora, Deezer and Amazon Music are apparently all on the way; Spotify and YouTube Music would be absent, however.

A cheaper Sonos soundbar could be coming

The Verge also reported that Sonos is working on an unannounced Home Theater operating system, which suggests the company is looking to lean more into software and services, perhaps creating an ecosystem of hardware and services rather than simple smart speakers and soundbars. If it manages to achieve that, it could end up being the center of future smart home entertainment setups.

Speaking of soundbars, The Verge added that Sonos may be set to reveal a new, more affordable soundbar, priced at $249 (around £200 in the UK and AU$350 in Australia). While Sonos smart speakers can be had at competitive prices, its soundbar doesn’t come cheap, with the Sonos Beam Gen 2 costing $449.

If Sonos can bring its powerful audio chops, plus some clever features, to a cheaper soundbar, then my ears will definitely perk up. But we may have a few weeks to wait to see if The Verge’s sources are correct and if Sonos brings new hardware and software to the audio world.