Harman today announced new additions to its speaker range. JBL Authentics which integrate Google Assistant and Alexa, the first devices on the market to do so.
The Authentics 200, Authentics 300 and Authentics 500 models, all with automatic autotune, Bluetooth and multi-room playback, will be available from September 17th.
For years, Google has refused to allow manufacturers — at least outside of Sonos — to develop smart speakers with Google Assistant and Alexa support. That has prompted Amazon to step up the pressure.
While Alexa has a respectable install base — around half a billion devices as of the start of this year — Google has long benefited from the Google Assistant’s presence as the default assistant on Android phones. In 2019, Google said the Google Assistant was available on more than a billion devices.
That’s why Amazon launched this in 2020 Language Interoperability Initiative, a program designed to ensure voice-enabled products such as smart speakers, smartphones and smart displays allow users to choose from multiple voice assistants. Google declined to join, as did Samsung and Apple. But now the search giant is changing its mind.
Google Assistant and Alexa work interchangeably on the new JBL Authentics speakers. For example, users can ask Alexa to set a timer and when it rings, ask Google Assistant to stop it (and vice versa).
This is thanks to Universal Device Commands (UDCs), a functionality based on Amazon’s Multi-Agent Experience Toolkit, which grew out of the Voice Interoperability Initiative.
With UDC, a user can ask Alexa and the Google Assistant to stop certain tasks — like music, timers, reminders, and alarms — without having to remember which assistant started the request, or have the request transferred to the other assistant .
And what is just as important The participants will not try to talk about each other. Authentics speakers automatically switch “audio focus” at the right time, for example to prevent Alexa from speaking through a Google Assistant.