Source: Microsoft

We’ve come a long way with voice-based interfaces in the last several years: They can find and play the music you like, tell you jokes, set timers, control your lights and help you shop, among many other things. But the battle lines were drawn from the start when it came to territory. The biggest hardware companies — Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung — have up to now built their own voice assistants, taking a proprietary approach to encourage growth of their own ecosystems of services around their devices.

That model limits consumer choice, however, and it limits the kinds of developments that might spring out of a more collaborative, cacophonous approach.

Now we are seeing small signs of how that might be shifting. This week, Amazon announced the formation of a new consortium called the Voice Interoperability Group, which aims to create a set of standards and technology for hardware to handle one voice service, with users able to trigger one voice over another by way of “wake words.”

“Multiple simultaneous wake words provide the best option for customers,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, in a statement. “Utterance by utterance, customers can choose which voice service will best support a particular interaction. It’s exciting to see these companies come together in pursuit of that vision.”

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