Facebook Messenger Aloha

First Sighting of the Facebook Aloha Voice Assistant Appears in Messenger Along with Voice Messaging in Instagram

Jane Manchun Wong, a developer with a penchant for reverse engineering and finding hidden features in applications before official release, has a Tweet this morning that purports to show the first evidence of the Facebook Aloha voice assistant in the wild. Manchun Wong told TheNextWeb that she found the code in a new version of Facebook’s Messenger app for Android.

The demonstration depicts Manchun Wong launching the Aloha Voice test app in Messenger saying “new feature much surprise very shocking,” while a bar in motion at the bottom of the screen appears to be a visual cue to indicate it is capturing her speech. After this an error is displayed and the app resets. TheNextWeb reports that “Manchun Wong hypothesized that Aloha’s full features are only available to those who can authenticate with a Facebook employee account.” She also shared the icon related to the Aloha voice feature.

It Looks Live Facebook is Also Bringing Voice to Instagram

As if the Messenger discovery wasn’t big enough news, Manchun Wong also revealed that Instagram appears to be planning on supporting voice messaging. She found code that says, “Voice message, press and hold to record,” but said the feature was non-functional today. This is common. When you decompile code from apps they often have some elements of future feature releases included as preparation for a subsequent launch.

Two of Facebook’s most popular apps now appear to be starting the process of implementing voice. That is news regardless of whether the company ultimately launches a device later this year.

Aloha Smart Displays Rumored for October 2018 Launch

Facebook made news earlier this year on rumors that it would bring two smart displays to market in early 2018 and then later would delay their launch until October due to publicity challenges in the U.S. as CEO Mark Zuckerberg was called to testify before the U.S. Congress. With the extra time Facebook was supposedly planning to add new privacy controls and might limit the rollout to markets outside North America.

Voice assistants have achieved popular adoption inside of smart speakers with over 50 million consumers in the U.S. having access to a device as of May 2018 and an estimated 100 million worldwide by year end. Smart displays are a much smaller segment of the market with only about 6% of smart speaker owners opting for a screen. However, that was when the only device available was the Amazon Echo Show. Lenovo launched a Google Assistant-powered smart display in July and both the Amazon and Google ecosystems are encouraging developers to take advantage of the visual elements. Facebook’s properties are showcases for visual media so it makes sense they would want a smart display to bring that content to consumers.

Even if the voice-activated smart display strategy is successful, getting consumers to purchase and adopt a new device to interact with Facebook or Instagram feeds will take some time. The company had 1.3 billion monthly active Messenger users and 800 million on Instagram in late 2017. Aloha voice can have a far greater impact with these current users than by the company selling a few million smart displays. Any smart display would also be likely to include both Messenger and Instagram access. Including voice features in the apps for testing now makes sense to support an October device launch.

Facebook’s Voice Future is in Messenger and Instagram

I suggested in late 2017 that Facebook would likely try to launch a voice-activated device, but would eventually abandon the plan to simply become the most heavily used voice app on all platforms including voice assistants, smart speakers and mobile. This would be similar to Facebook’s flirtation with launching a smartphone and then later focusing on becoming the most popular mobile app across all platforms instead. There are plenty of reasons why Facebook will want to have device platform, but it’s real asset is a ready-made audience across all digital channels favored by consumers. Keep and eye on Messenger and Instagram. That is where Facebook’s voice future will be realized.


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