Sonos and Google have not had the smoothest of relationships. It took Sonos far longer than it expected to integrate Google’s Assistant as an option on Sonos’ line of voice-enabled speakers like the Sonos One, Sonos Beam, and Sonos Move. And then in 2020, Sonos launched a lawsuit against Google alleging that the search giant had violated some of Sonos’ patents related to multiroom audio. That lawsuit is ongoing, but it looks as though Sonos is seriously considering whether it wants to remain at the mercy of companies like Google and Amazon for its speakers’ voice-command capabilities.
In recent days, Sonos has been gauging its customers’ interest when it comes to a potential new feature for the Sonos ecosystem. A survey posted to Reddit and noted by The Verge, purportedly from Sonos, asks users about their interest in Sonos Voice Control. According to the survey, Sonos Voice Control would be a partial substitute for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant in that it would let you use voice commands for a slew of playback functions and accessing your favorite content, be it artists, albums, tracks, or playlists.
Though Sonos’ voice function wouldn’t offer any smart home integration or features like setting reminders as you can do with Google and Amazon’s technology, it would be inherently more private. The survey suggests that Sonos Voice Control would work entirely on-device, meaning that none of your voice commands would ever be transmitted to the cloud or recorded by Sonos or a third party.
Digital Trends reached out to Sonos for comment. The company wouldn’t confirm or deny that it had published that survey, but a spokesperson responded by email, saying, “We regularly put product and experience concepts in front of our customers to better understand what is important to them. We don’t have anything further to share at this time.”
How close is such a feature to making its debut on Sonos speakers? It could be imminent. As The Verge points out, Sonos acquired artificial intelligence (A.I.) voice company Snips in 2019, which means it has plenty of time to work on a possible integration.
Curiously, in its description of Sonos Voice Control, it says that the feature can work alongside Alexa on the same speakers, but Google Assistant was notably absent from that statement. Could Sonos be considering blocking Google from its platform until its ongoing litigation is resolved one way or the other?
Some are keen on the idea of a Sonos voice assistant, especially if it offers greater privacy and better compatibility with Sonos functions. Right now, both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are great when you use them to control playback from streaming services, but they don’t give you access to your saved Sonos favorites. For instance, Alexa can’t currently set Sonos alarms and sleep timers or play songs, albums, or playlists from your Sonos music library. If a custom-built Sonos assistant could make up for these shortcomings, it would be a welcome addition indeed.
Sonos recently launched its most affordable speaker, the Sonos Roam, added a subscription HD-quality tier to its Sonos Radio streaming service, and updated the S2 version of its app and speakers to work with lossless music at 24-bit/48kHz.
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