Amazon has seen rapid growth from just being an “Everything Store” that served as a medium between producers and consumers, to becoming a well-known brand amongst most industries. Amazon’s hardware business has also seen remarkable expansion because Amazon has created a brand of new, cheap tablets. Going for less than $100, Amazon Fire Tablets have competed directly with other premium tablets such as iPads and Samsung Galaxy Tabs. Amazon also offers Amazon Prime, a subscription-based service that gives subscribers quicker shipping time and access to a large library of streamable media content.
Another major Amazon device that has been popular since its release, the Amazon Echo, has become one of Amazon’s most desired products. The Echo is Amazon’s voice-controlled home automation device, setting a precedent for the “smart” home industry that has slowly been gaining momentum. On top of that, Amazon constantly looks for any improvements that could drastically change the impact of the Echo.
Recently, sources familiar with Amazon’s Alexa Strategy announced that it has been developing a feature that would give the voice assistant that actually powers its Echo line of speakers the ability to distinguish between individual user voices, potentially allowing different users to have access to different commands.
So far, none of the mainstream voice-enabled smart speakers could differentiate between users through voice recognition. Amazon’s new feature would verify a person’s identity through a special “sample” that only that person would say. A primary account holder, such as a parent, would be able to set restrictions on the commands, such as using a credit card as a payment method or use a “smart” appliance.
According to the sources, Amazon has been developing “Voice ID”, since the summer of 2015. Although the underlying technology has been compiled, the launch date of the feature is not known. The main issue is the actual integration process into the Echo products according to the sources.
There are several factors that could delay the release of the feature, such as privacy, that have become a concern for officials at Amazon. As the Echo offers voice recording up to an extent, Amazon faces a dilemma when being asked to release the Echo’s personal voice records in order to investigate a murder that took place in Arkansas in November. The main argument against giving the Arkansas police department access to the Echo recordings was that it violated the First Amendment.
Amazon’s Echo technology has seen increasing popularity since its release in 2014. Amazon and third-party developers also have the ability to create “skills,” or other features that integrate various services like Uber and Capital One. Today, Echo has access to over 10,000 skills, and there is a positive trend in production. In September, only 3,000 skills were supported; this number increased to 7,000 skills in January.
Amazon already allows Echo users to have multiple profiles, but voice recognition allowed unrestricted to all skills. Adding Voice ID would reduce incidents in which someone with restricted access has the ability to use restricted skills, potentially having detrimental effects. Having Voice ID would be beneficial mostly for households that have multiple Amazon accounts. But, the Voice ID technology may be better equipped for Google Home owners since Google’s apps are more efficient for key services, such as calendar and email services. Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, said that “Amazon doesn’t have much of a profile on you beyond your shopping habits.”
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