The cows blown by those smart speakers have not been realized so far

Smart speakers seem to have hit the ceiling. According to the "Monthly Sales Tracking Report of China's Smart Speaker Equipment Market" released by IDC, in the first half of 2022, the sales volume of China's smart speaker market was 14.83 million units, a year-on-year decrease of 27.1%, and the sales amounted to 4.2 billion yuan, a year-on-year decrease of 16.2%.

It is not a day or two since the domestic smart speaker market has fallen into a downturn. According to the IDC report, starting from the fourth quarter of 2020, domestic smart speaker online channel sales have experienced a month-on-month decline for six consecutive quarters. Even Xiaomi, Baidu, and Ali (MBA), which are in the top echelon, are under sales pressure. Strategy Analytics data shows that in the first quarter of this year, Alibaba, Baidu, and Xiaomi's smart speaker shipments fell by 25.6%, 23.8%, and 18.5%, respectively.

Today's smart speaker market is difficult to regain its former prosperity. In 2014, Amazon launched the smart speaker Echo, and then the wind of smart speakers spread all over the world. Tech giants such as Google, Apple, Xiaomi, Baidu, Ali, and a host of start-ups have joined the fray to launch their own smart speaker brands. By the second half of 2017, there were nearly 50 domestic companies making smart speakers.

Back then, tech giants insisted that smart speakers are a rising star after smartphones and tablets. Voice interaction technology is considered to be the core of next-generation human-computer interaction, and smart speakers are standard in homes in the era of 5G and the Internet of Things. In the vision of technology giants, smart speakers will become the entrance and command center of smart homes to link air conditioners, lights, curtains, and other household items.

In order to compete for this AIot "entrance", MBA and other companies have started a price subsidy war to reduce the price of smart speakers to less than 100 yuan. Long-term price competition has made it impossible for small companies to leave the field early, and large manufacturers generally lose money, but until today, smart speakers have not found a suitable position in the market.

As the freshness fades, the embarrassment of the smart speaker's own positioning, functional limitations, and privacy and security turmoil make it an object of rejection. Behind the huge 5G and IoT ecosystems, the logic of the track has quietly changed, the voice interaction technology will be presented in a richer media form, and the smart speakers themselves are blurring.

The "pseudo entrance" of smart home

Contrary to expectations, the development of smart speakers in recent years has not been satisfactory. Tech giants have drawn one big cake after another for smart speakers, but they have not been able to deliver, allowing consumers to take advantage of the excitement and return with disappointment. Tech giants once waved their hands and spent money in exchange for sales, but it was only a flash in the pan.

At its root, the concept of smart speakers as the "entrance" of smart homes has not met expectations, the so-called home intelligence revolution has not been realized, and consumers are shouting that it is a "scam".

Before the birth of smart speakers, the interaction of smart homes was realized by touch, and smart speakers equipped with voice interaction technology can use voice to manipulate devices, which is indeed more in line with the lazy nature of human beings and more interactive than hand control. it is good. Therefore, in theory, the logic of smart speakers as the entrance to smart homes is established.

Take Xiaomi's Xiaoai speaker for example. It supports all of Xiaomi's smart hardware. If a consumer has a "Home of Xiaomi", he can control all the devices in the house with a single word.

However, it seems that the smart high-end, hands-free home life is based on the fact that smart speakers and all smart homes in the home are from the same manufacturer, which is not very likely in daily life. Due to the lack of a unified standard, it is difficult for smart speakers to interconnect multiple devices.

The smart hardware devices in a family may come from multiple different manufacturers, and they fight against each other. It is difficult for smart hardware products from different suppliers and different ecosystems to work together, and there is a complex game of interests. To put it bluntly, only as a smart speaker at one end of the IoT ecosystem, it cannot get the manipulation authority of other smart devices.

And why does the entrance to the Internet of Things have to be smart speakers? From the perspective of voice interaction alone, smart speakers are not as good as smart bracelets, which do not have the problem of far-field interaction. For example, Xiao Ai Speaker Pro does not have a built-in battery and must be plugged into work. Users can only call Xiao Ai within a specific range.

More and more manufacturers are already using mobile phones, tablets, smart central control screens, etc. as smart home interaction portals, and the carrier of voice interaction technology can also be switches, TVs, washing machines, air conditioners, and other home appliances. With multi-entry, sensorless interaction, and active intelligent services gradually becoming the mainstream development trend, smart speakers are no longer the only entrance to smart homes.

 Xiaomi's smart ceiling lamp has two voice control methods, one is Xiaoai speaker and the other is Siri. That is to say, if there are any Apple products such as iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, etc., there is no need to buy additional Xiaoai speakers for voice control.

Therefore, from the current market situation, it is almost impossible to realize the smart home scene through a speaker.

Inconsiderate artificial "intelligence"

In the years when smart speakers were hot, there was a saying that smart speakers could become the companions of single young people who live in a foreign land and rent alone and provide them with spiritual comfort. On a larger scale, smart speakers seem to be able to bring companionship services to anyone with emotional needs, such as the elderly and children.

The ideal is very full, and the goal is very clear, but the reality is hard to describe. Until now, users still need to wake up with keywords such as "Xiao Ai" and "Xiao Du Xiao Du" when using smart speakers. Smart speakers can only passively accept instructions, which is far from "warm companionship".

Users hope to achieve "dialogue" communication with smart speakers, but most of the time it is chicken-and-duck talk. Smart speakers cannot understand complex language scenarios, and can only perform simple functions such as playing music, telling stories, and checking the weather. Sometimes even the most basic instructions go wrong. Basically, all smart speaker users have experienced "mentally retarded conversations" with smart speakers.

For example, "Xiao Ai, turn on the table lamp." "You have several lamps. Tell me which room you want to control first?" "Turn on the table lamp!" "I don't understand." Or "Xiaodu Xiao" Du, sing SHE's Ring Ring." "I guess you want to listen to Gong Linna, "Wei Wei"." "Xiao Du Xiaodu, sing SHE's Ring Ring." "Okay, a SHE song "Half" "Sugarism" for you."

There is a movie called "The Machine Butler". The protagonist of the story is the robot Andrew. He is not only a housework machine but also a member of the owner's family. He understands human customs and emotions and can share laughter and sorrow together; Although the artificial intelligence system, Samantha has no specific form, her humorous, gentle and considerate character gradually allows her to enter the heart of the protagonist and become each other's, spiritual partner.

Although highly intelligent artificial intelligence will also generate a series of ethical issues, it is certain that basically, no user will obtain the satisfaction of "accompanying" a speaker.

After experiencing similar incidents, users often throw the smart speaker into the corner to eat ashes, or automatically downgrade it to an ordinary speaker with AI technology and use it as a content player.

In fact, after recognizing the situation, even manufacturers have developed smart speakers for high-quality audio. For example, Xiaomi's Sound and Huawei's Sound X both use sound quality improvement as their main selling point. Xiaomi Sound has adapted functions such as UWB music relay, while Huawei has continued its cooperation with Devialet. The price of smart speakers has also increased from tens of yuan to hundreds or even thousands of yuan.

Embroiled in scandal

Smart speakers have neither achieved the "entry" of smart homes, nor can they do companion artificial intelligence, and are also faced with other difficulties to persuade consumers.

Two years ago, some media exposed that the smart speaker products of technology giants such as Amazon, Google, and Apple have turned into "bugs" to collect negative news about users' voices. Amazon has a team of thousands around the world listening to recordings of all the commands users give to its voice assistant Alexa, citing improved software. Apple's Siri team and Google Assistant team have taken a similar approach to human listening.

Smart speakers are often used in private spaces, and if they become eavesdroppers, the user is almost "streaking" under the sun. In this unsafe situation, consumers naturally lose confidence in smart speakers.

Not long ago, some netizens reported on the black cat complaint that the Tmall Genie they purchased often performed late-night "Psycho". This smart speaker sings almost every day in the middle of the night, and it will turn up the volume by itself, and reset it by itself to no avail. My children are often frightened by the sudden sound while playing, so now they only dare to turn on the phone during the day.

Smart speakers not only failed to bring convenience to users' lives but also brought a series of troubles. So what's the point of buying smart speakers? To some extent, smart speakers are "disappearing". The voice interaction technology behind it is being integrated into the smart ecology of each home in the form of a voice assistant, and the smart speaker itself is getting closer to the "sound". Perhaps in the future, smart speakers will no longer exist independently as a hardware devices.

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