Since 2014 the VC community in Silicon Valley has been forecasting that voice technologies are going to be huge. Numbers like $20B were being bandied about by the analysts at Kleiner Perkins and those numbers have continued to grow. Statista currently forecasts smart speaker sales revenue to reach $17.5B by 2022, with enterprise opportunities like automotive, conferencing, retail, and more unaccounted for. This is being driven, of course, by the continued hype coming out of Amazon, Google, and Apple, but it is also being driven by the overall utility of the technology.
The idea of voice-activated computers has been around since the science fiction of the 1940s, but until the past few years, it remained firmly in the realm of fiction. The accuracy of speech transcription and the processor time required to process speech created both user experience and cost barriers. That changed with the rise of machine learning and the massive parallel processing enabled by modern graphics processors. Adoption is now accelerating even faster as these technologies become less expensive and the expertise required to deploy them becomes more readily available.
The question now is: how will the artificial intelligence market in general and voice technology market in particular get divided up? Will Big Tech once again dominate or will there be room for smaller players?
To me the answer is clear. Big Tech will continue to play an important role, but there is room for a variety of players in the market. Edison Research and NPR are reporting that the market has already tripled in the last twelve months. Canalys predicts that by 2022, there will be more than 300 million smart speakers in the world. Of those, 21 percent, over 60 million devices, will be provided by companies other than Amazon, Google, and Apple. That’s 60 million opportunities for smaller players to provide privacy-focused and niche options to consumers.
Furthermore, the business case that Big Tech is pursuing is incompatible with many use cases. Offline access, private instances, highly customized agents – all of these approaches break the overall model. There is also the question of monetization. Voice services from the Tech Giants are free today, but will they be in the future? I remember when Youtube was nearly advertisement free. Now? The ads are often longer than the videos. Amazon is already running promotions on Alexa. More is surely coming.
Big Tech’s business case makes room for smaller players to become a significant part of the future of AI. Smaller players can provide customized solutions. We can provide voice assistants that protect user agency. We can provide voice agents that run on premises, protect privacy, and better represent both users and companies. There will be millions of opportunities and billions of dollars in revenue. Voice? It’s going to be huge. Don’t miss your chance to become an early investor in Mycroft. Join us as an investor today on StartEngine.
Mycroft’s First Officer, a serial entrepreneur and Air Force Officer, Joshua brings more than 15 years of leadership experience to the Mycroft team. He is a strong supporter of the open ethos, net neutrality and consumer privacy. Joshua lives in Holualoa, Hawaii with his wife and co-founder Kris Adair.