New voice assistants protect privacy, streamline shopping, and more

2017 has been a big year for voice assistants. As their capabilities continue to grow, so too are expectations from consumers—particularly Gen Z consumers, who have grown up turning to Siri and Alexa for information the way older generations turned to adults. In response to such cultural shifts, more players are entering the space, improving upon common pain points and even championing basic human rights along the way.


72% of young consumers in the U.S. are comfortable sharing basic personal info with brands in return for perks, but recent hacking concerns combined with a growing awareness of the massive value of their data has them increasingly favoring privacy. Paris and NYC-based Snips is protecting their privacy without sacrificing the convenience that comes with voice assistants by letting them embed their own directly into their devices. Users sign up, choose bundles like Quantified Self Tracking, Weather, and Music, and then download their customized assistant. Unlike Siri, which stores information remotely on Apple’s servers, Snips avoids remote or cloud-based servers and stores info locally, meaning not even the company’s employees can access it.


To help online retailers battle Amazon, Irish startup Voysis launched a voice assistant specifically designed for ecommerce. The company wants to be a direct competitor to services like Alexa and Google Assistant by giving users a better mobile search experience. Users describe the product they’re looking for using natural language, and Voysis reportedly helps them find it up to 10 times faster and with higher accuracy than traditional text search. The assistant remembers what was said and where shoppers were at in their journey so they can follow up their initial search with further refinements to locate and purchase the product.


SF-based startup Fin is the latest voice-powered assistant trying to take down Alexa, Siri, and Bixby. Like other assistants, Fin can call, email, text, schedule, research, book, and purchase for users, but the company also boasts its supposedly superior voice transcription and contextual awareness, which allows it to learn the user’s preferences and handle nuanced requests, improving over time. Whether that promise of improvement will be enough to justify the cost remains to be seen; the service is a minimum of $120 per month and approximately $1 per minute that Fin spends completing requests after that.