Your smart device could have Alexa and Cortana and Spotify—and a whole lot more

The Voice Interoperability Initiative could see multiple assistants living on a single smart device.

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Microsoft

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A cluster of digital assistants you’ve probably never heard of—plus Spotify, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana—are part of a new initiative enabling multiple wake words on a single device, including those running Windows 10.

Essentially, you’ll be able to ask a generic device for a particular service directly, such as telling Spotify to play a particular song. Today, assistants like Alexa serve as a concierge of sorts, requiring you to tell them to play a particular song using Spotify, as opposed to YouTube or some other service.

In fact, the new Voice Interoperability Initiative (VII) seems tailor-made for Windows 10 19H2, which includes the capability for multiple digital assistants to live on the lock screen. Originally, the target candidates were Microsoft’s own Cortana, of course, and Amazon Alexa, which went through a prolonged courtship before Alexa became integrated inside Windows 10. (You should be able to type or tell Cortana to launch Alexa inside the search bar right now. In 19H2, you should just be able to say “Hey Alexa” to trigger Amazon’s assistant.) 

The Voice Interoperability Initiative has similar goals. There’s a whole laundry list of providers and other technology companies involved: Amazon, Baidu, BMW, Bose, Cerence, ecobee, Harman, Logitech, Microsoft, Salesforce, Sonos, Sound United, Sony Audio, Spotify, and Tencent; telecommunications operators like Free, Orange, SFR, and Verizon; hardware solutions providers like Amlogic, InnoMedia, Intel, MediaTek, NXP Semiconductors, Qualcomm, SGW Global and Tonly; and systems integrators like CommScope, DiscVision, Libre, Linkplay, MyBox, Sagemcom, StreamUnlimited and Sugr.

Of those, Alexa, Cortana, plus smaller assistants like Orange’s Djingo, Salesforce’s Einstein, and Spotify’s own voice-guided navigation are all part of the VII, according to the member companies. Google and Apple are decidedly not part of the initiative, however—at least not yet.

The Voice Interoperability Initative sounds like a lot of effort on the back end, all for a deceptively simple goal on the front end: simplifying the way you interact with digital assistants and services. But will it be ubiquitous, with Apple and Google on board? Time will tell.

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