Voice technology has been all the rage for the past few holiday seasons. Amazon Echo devices were the first to became widely available followed by Google, Apple and others. From 2015, to the 2017 holiday seasons, we saw voice enabled devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home dominate the landscape. Now in 2018 we are starting to see a new interesting twist on voice technology, voice and video.
Voice enabled devices have always suffered from an adoption hurdle due to the lack of a visual interface. Voice may be natural, and our original form of communication, however, interfacing with a screen has been a part of our lives for decades now, and voice only devices seem limiting, in certain cases.
Voice and video integrated devices are not entirely new, Amazon’s Echo Show has been available since May of 2017. However now we have a two new entries into the market, the Google Home Hub and the Facebook Portal.
Below we give a brief overview of the three devices and highlight some of their similarities and differences.
Amazon Echo Show
Amazon was first to market with a voice and video device, and the design of the Echo show, good or bad, has set the standard that both Google and Facebook have followed. Amazon marketing states: “Echo Show is the kitchen companion that helps you get more done in your day. Voice control your smart home, and make hands free video calling and messaging.” This set the baseline for standard features in a voice enabled video device.
The Echo Show suffered a setback after its initial release of the Show when Google pulled the ability to watch YouTube on Echo Show devices. However, Amazon has shot back this year with the second generation of their Echo Show that allows you to watch live TV and sports with Hulu, make video calls and watch YouTube again via browser mode.
At $229 the Echo Show (10.1 inch screen) it is not cheap. Because Amazon was first to market the Echo Show has also set the medium price point for voice and video devices.
Google Home Hub
Google decided to make and interesting feature and design choice with their Home Hub, it does not have a camera. Google uses this decision to emphasize the increased security of their device because they do not have a camera. This decision shows that the standard features in voice and video device, have not been agreed to by the consumer base and time will tell what consumers really want.
Google markets their Home Hub as follows: “Jump-start your day with personalized routines. Control your connected home in one view. Get answers for any moment.” This messaging is very similar to the Echo Show.
Because of their decision not to include a camera, and the smaller screen size, 7 inches, the Home Hub has a lower price point of $149. This makes their device more attractive from a price point.
Facebook Portal takes a different approach then Google and markets the Portal as a communication device. Focusing on their camera and the ability to follow people as they move around. A design decision that has brought up privacy concerns for Facebook. The Portal may be a doomed product, as it was originally scheduled to be released earlier this year, but was delayed due to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Now the Portal faces additional challenges, due to inconsistent information from Facebook executives on the use of data collected, privacy and advertising via the Portal.
The design and functions in the Portal, again show the key features of a voice and video device are in flux, and it will take time for the public to drive what is acceptable and required.
Facebook markets Portal as follows: “Stay and feel connected to the people you love most. Portal feels less like a video call and more like you’re in the same room — even when you’re miles apart.”
Final point on Facebook, they are the first company to offer two versions, the Portal for $199 (10.1 inches) which has a similar design to the Echo Show and Google Home Hub, and the Portal+ for $349 (15.6 inches) that has a unique design that allows the user to rotate the video screen both horizontally and vertically on a larger 15.6 inch screen.
Voice and Video Summary
Voice enabled video devices will only grow in popularity over time. Exactly what features and functions will be included in each, as base, or standard functionality is still to be determined. The integration of voice into televisions as well, through Amazon Fire TV Stick and Google Chromecast, show that the lines are blurring between voice, video and TV. All of which will benefit us as consumers and improve our interaction with technology.