Sonos might be developing a voice assistant alternative to Alexa or Google Assistant for its speakers, according to a customer survey spotted by VoiceBot.ai. The survey, shared by a Sonos customer on Reddit, describes an on-device voice control system that would improve user privacy by not routing questions and commands through the cloud.
In the survey (pictured below thanks to Reddit user EdmundFitzgerald29), Sonos writes that its “potential new product offering” would use the wake word “Hey Sonos” and let users control playback, search through songs, and move music to other speakers with their voice. The survey claims that the assistant can respond faster because it would be processing everything on device, rather than relying on an internet connection and sending queries to a server.
Sonos’ survey asking for customer input on a new voice control system.Image: EdmundFitzgerald29
When The Verge asked for comment on whether the survey was real, Sonos said:
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.
There’s some reason to believe Sonos would work on a project like this. Sonos acquired its own AI voice-platform in the form of Snips in 2019. Snips’ privacy-focused tech — notably doing all processing on device — sounds a lot like the feature Sonos is now reportedly pitching to customers. Sonos also has a reason to want to provide an independent voice solution — it’s had a public falling out with Google, one of its voice control partners.
Sonos claims Google stole some of its multiroom audio tech during a Google Music partnership in 2013. The company apparently warned Google that it was infringing on patents during multiple Google Chromecast and Home speaker launches, but Google didn’t listen. Now the conflict is playing out in an ongoing legal battle started by Sonos in 2020.
It’s not clear when or if Sonos plans to introduce its own voice control system, but based on the survey, which highlights compatibility with Amazon’s Alexa and not Google Assistant, it seems like Sonos would like Google to take less of a central role.