Sonos already has its own voice assistant. And unlike Google or Amazon, this one is completely private.

  • 1

Sonos has always gone their own way. And now she proves it again with his latest project: his own assistant to be able to manage his speakers with his voice. An addition presented together with the new Sonos Ray, which will be available next June and will work with any Sonos product that has a microphone. We have been able to hear it in action and talk to one of its managers to tell us how it works and what differentiates it from Alexa, Siri or the Google Assistant.


All speech processing is done on the device. Through the command “Hey Sonos” we can activate the ‘Sonos Voice Control’ and ask it to play a certain song via streaming, to increase the volume or to play our playlist. The difference with other voice assistants is that in this case all the processing will be done on the device itself.

David Leroy, Director of Machine Learning and Voice Experience at Sonos, explains that “all the processing is done on the speaker, without the need for the smartphone at any point.” The company explains that this assistant offers unparalleled privacy and they flatly state that “no audio transcripts or recordings are sent to the cloud, stored, heard or read.”

The origin is the Snips company, bought by Sonos in 2019. Sonos didn’t create a voice assistant overnight. To understand this movement, you have to go back to 2019, when Sonos decided to buy the French company Snips AI.

Photo Interviews

Leroy, VP of Machine Learning at Snips and one of his first employees tells us about his work. Created in 2013, Snips developed an automatic language recognition system to be able to integrate into devices. That is, the natural processing that voice assistants usually carry out in the cloud, but miniaturized so that the device itself can manage it.

“We saw that there was room to create a voice assistant built from the ground up with a focus on privacy,” Leroy explains. At the time of purchase, Snips had about 50 employees, mainly engineers and scientists.

The “trick” is that it is an assistant focused on music. The very name of this assistant says so: ‘Sonos Voice Control’. It is true that the prospect of better privacy is there, but its capabilities are also more limited. While Alexa or Siri allow you to answer all kinds of questions, the Sonos assistant is focused on music control. This has allowed them to concentrate their efforts in this area.

Still, there are millions of ways to request a song. The Sonos team explains that the names of the most popular songs and artists have been specifically trained to facilitate understanding. During the presentation, from Xataka we were able to listen to some tests and the operation was quite fast and natural, practically the same as in any other voice assistant.

snips

Except for Spotify, which they describe as a great ally, or YouTube Music, the assistant allows you to play songs from different streaming services (Sonos Radio, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Deezer and Pandora). We can tell you the name of the song, the style, the artist, focus on the service, choose the specific speaker where we want it to sound or go to a certain playlist.

We can chain commands, with a lack of 6 seconds. Activating the assistant will require the “Hey, Sonos” command. But there is an added advantage and that is that for 6 seconds, the wizard remains active so we can add other commands. For example, if we say “play AC/DC” and the first song is not the one we are looking for, we can say “next”, “next” or “play it in the main room”.

In the few minutes that the demonstration lasted, the range of specific commands that the assistant understood was quite high, with the advantage of being able to “have a short conversation” with the assistant, without having to repeat the word command every time.

We remind you that you need a speaker or sound bar with a microphone. Sonos has 11 devices with a microphone, with the Sonos Roam being its cheapest model. Even so, if we have, for example, a Sonos Roam and then a sound bar without a microphone, like the recent Sonos Ray, we can take advantage of one of them as a receiver and send the sound to the other device.

Sonos Roam, analysis: the cheapest Sonos speaker is already one of the new benchmarks among Bluetooth models

With the voice of Esposito, but new voices (and languages) will arrive. To inaugurate its assistant in English, Sonos has chosen the actor Giancarlo Esposito, known for participating in series such as ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Better Call Saul’ or ‘The Mandalorian’. It sounds very special. With a slightly serious and calm tone. Something different from what we may be used to but quite attractive.

From Sonos they explain to us that at the end of the year it will be available in French, although at the moment they have not confirmed if there will be any specific French-speaking actor or character. They do assure that they are already working on having a female voice.

“The different languages ​​are extremely different. And it takes a huge amount of work to adapt the wizard to each of them,” Leroy explains.

Sonos Voice Living

Sonos doesn’t want us to ask about the weather (for now). “It’s not a question of architecture, but of approach,” says Leroy when asked why they work on the device and not with the cloud. “The moment we connect to Apple Music or Sonos Radio to play a song, there is a connection there,” he says. However, when it comes to playback and music they don’t think anything else is needed. That is why it is not an assistant as such, since to answer certain information, such as what the weather is like, it should connect to the cloud.

Beyond the music controls, the assistant is able to answer “how much battery is left” and “what time is it”, since these data are maintained by the device itself. Through a software update, Sonos devices will have a new life thanks to this new voice assistant. A somewhat more limited assistant, but with the advantage of greatly enhancing privacy.

Sonos has always gone their own way. And now she proves it again with his latest project: his own assistant…

Sonos has always gone their own way. And now she proves it again with his latest project: his own assistant…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.