Voice-operated digital home assistants could revolutionize the way we interact with technology and potentially any element of the smart home. However, for the moment at least, their appeal appears to be very limited, as is how they're being used.
There's a lot of conversation around voice-activated home assistants, however, according to new data from GfK, there is currently very little conversation actually with devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home.
People's comfort levels when it comes to consciously talking to a device have never been higher. Thanks to Apple's Siri and Google Now, 69% of US consumers aged between 13 and 64 say that they have used voice commands to operate their smartphone and 21% use the feature on a tablet.
However, when it comes to the new generation of smart home assistants that are being aggressively marketed by Google and Amazon, only 11% of GfK's 1,012 respondent sample said that they currently owned one. Even though they've been on the market for almost two years and are very affordable devices -- the Amazon Dot costs just $49.99 in the US -- uptake is slow. The current split finds Amazon devices five times more popular than Google's and with just 3% of those surveyed indicating they had a strong intention of buying a digital home assistant (DHA) over the next 12 months, it appears as if Google won't be closing the gap in 2017, at least.
Yet, even with comparatively low consumer penetration, trends are already beginning to emerge. Despite being a hands-free connection to potentially any element of an individual's digital life, the most popular use for DHAs is currently playing music (63%).
Other popular uses include checking weather and traffic information, keeping up to date with sports results and operating other smart appliances such as lights and thermostats. But within the top 10 list of current uses, ordering products from Amazon is in 10th place, something that is potentially troubling to the online retailer who has a track record of selling devices at cost or even for a small loss in order to earn revenues from a device's connected services.
Nevertheless, even at this very early stage of the DHA's life, nearly half (46%) of owners say that they're already using them regularly and 19% claim they use them "all the time".