With the launch of Sonos One and later Arc and Beam, we finally had a smart speaker with a choice between Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant smart speakers. Go on for a few years and both systems are affected by some issues that the Sonos voice control system is designed to fix.
Available as the third intelligent assistant on any Sonos speaker with a microphone, the Sonos Voice Control is designed to control speakers and play music.
More control, no privacy issues
Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant have made headlines in recent years due to privacy concerns, with recordings stored and sometimes listened to by employees. No wonder some people are worried about having both systems in their homes.
Sonos voice control is designed to overcome this. As Paul Peace, an audio systems engineer at Sonos, explains, the voice assistant is “local to the player, don’t talk to the cloud, don’t remember.” This is a system that is designed to replicate the experience of the application using only voice.
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Sonos voice control also does not require the creation of additional logins or accounts.
The second problem that the voice assistant is designed to overcome is compatibility and control. Currently with Sonos Alexa Skill, if you start playing a song with a voice command, it is transmitted directly to the selected player, bypassing the Sonos application. This is not a problem when playing on one player, but it is a problem when you want to use a streaming service with another player in your home.
Through the app, you can use a single streaming account, such as Apple Music, to play different songs in different rooms; switch to voice control and you are limited to playing one song from one service in one room.
Hey, Sonos, play some music
Enabled with “Hey Sonos”, Sonos Voice Control is not a general purpose voice assistant, but is designed to play music and control the player. Sonos said the voice assistant is designed to understand natural language, not specific commands.
With Sonos Voice Control you can, among other things, play a song from a selected music service on the player of your choice; group and ungrouped players; play content you like; adjust the volume; skipping songs; and move the music from one room to another.
Compatibility and limitations
Sonos Voice Control will work with any speaker with microphones, including Sonos One, Sonos Arc and Sonos Beam.
Although the bandwidth, grouping, and volume options work with each source, you may want to play only a specific song or station from Sonos Radio, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Deezer, and Pandora. Other services, such as Spotify, will not support voice search at startup, so you will need to use the app instead.
Deployment will be slow, with Sonos Voice Control launching in the United States on June 1 and France later this year. Other territories, including the United Kingdom, will come later. We will tell you more about this as we have it.
Simple voice control is needed, but there may be too many limitations
Concerns about the privacy of great voice assistants, not to mention that skills seem to be constantly changing the features they offer, signal that it is time to have a simpler way to control music playback, and Sonos voice control is a step in the right direction . I’m worried that it’s not quite ready for prime time at launch: the system will only be available in the US, and the lack of Spotify support is a huge difference. This will probably make me switch to Sonos Voice Control, as Spotify is my default streaming service.
However, if Sonos can increase support for streaming services, it has a good chance of making its voice assistant a reliable alternative to Alexa or Google Assistant. In particular, the ability to group and switch music using Sonos Voice Control makes it an enticing alternative voice assistant.