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“How can I help?” Global spending on VPA-enabled wireless speakers to top $2b by 2020

By Ashton Young
Wed 5 Oct 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

As we continue to make rapid advances in technological innovation, people worldwide have been rapidly embracing the virtual personal assistant (VPA).

According to Gartner, end-user spending for the worldwide VPA-enabled wireless speaker market will reach a whopping $2.1 billion by 2020, up from a comparatively meagre $360 million in 2015. What’s more, 3.3 percent of houses around the world are projected have a VPA-enabled wireless speaker.

Gartner research director, Werner Goertz affirms the VPA speaker market essentially revolved around the Amazon Echo last year, a wireless speaker with an array of embedded microphones to capture and respond to users' far-field voice commands for Amazon's VPA — Alexa.

“Later, Amazon introduced the Tap and Echo Dot," says Goertz. "By 2020, competitors' products and third-party implementations of leading VPAs (Google Assistant, Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Cortana) will likely have ramped up."

According to Gartner, VPA speakers allow for multiple devices to be owned by a household and installed in a home. The value comes from the ease-of-use and the seemingly natural, intuitive interaction model. Ultimately, this will drive the need to have access not just in one room, but throughout the entire house.

"A significant number of households could therefore have more than one unit, or even one per room," says Goertz. "With smaller form factors, price erosion over the years and potential subsidisation models, we expect that 75 percent of households with VPAs will have one, 20 percent will have two, and five percent will have three or more devices by 2020."

While today’s VPAs are limited in vocabulary and contexualisation, in the very near future they will improve. There have been considerable advancements in speech-to-txt conversion, but it is the actual semantic interpretation of the spoken word that needs work.

Gartner has predicted that these necessary optimisations for a natural language will be made by 2020, which will drive the demand for VPA interaction – especially in commercial environments – and consequently the unit sales for VPA speakers.

Goertz says the widespread adoption of VPA speakers could result in a significant number of online shopping orders being initiated from a VPA speaker, rather than a laptop or mobile device.

“Vendors that are able to create an intimate, familiar relationship with the user will be able to contextualize ordering to the extent that preferred products will be proposed, and processing details will already be captured. As a result, the user's propensity to purchase products and services using VPA systems should increase, transactional friction could be reduced and the overall user experience would be improved,” Goertz concludes.

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