Magenta Voice Assistant Gets Simpler Wake Word, Adds Apple Music, Arrives in MagentaTV Mobile App

It’s the holiday season which means Amazon and Google are out pushing their smart speakers to everyone everywhere with big discounts and new models. Apple even stepped up its game for 2020 with the new, lower-priced, HomePod Mini. In the midst of this battle among the global tech giants, Deutsche Telekom continues to invest in its Magenta voice assistant and smart speaker platform.

Faster, Simpler Activation

Earlier this year, Deutsche Telekom introduced an entry-level smart speaker, Magenta Mini at €50, half the cost of its flagship device which debuted in 2019. Just a couple of weeks ago, the company announced that it had simplified the way consumers interact with the devices. Previously, the smart speakers would only wake up if users said, “Hallo Magenta.” This is a similar formulation as “Hey Google,” or “Hey Siri.” As of this month, the company’s smart speakers will activate when users simply say “Magenta.” This makes it more similar to Amazon’s model where a simple, “Alexa” will wake up the devices.

Reghu Thanumalayan, SVP of the Magenta Voice Program commented on LinkedIn, “The change might look simple but folks who work in the voice domain will understand the complexity of fine-tuning the machine learning models to reduce the number of false activations while keeping the sensitivity of the model to variations in voice, background noise, white noise, etc.”

The shorter activation is harder to execute in part because the wake word engine has fewer data points to work with to determine if it is being summoned. However, Magenta has an advantage over Google and Siri. The word has three syllables similar to Alexa. Google and Apple added the “Hey” in their wake word phrase in order to get their invocation up to three syllables where the models perform much better with fewer failures and false activations.

Magenta Adds Apple Music Via Alexa Integration

Apple Music has also recently been added to the music options for Magenta smart speakers. While Apple Music has been available through Amazon Echo smart speakers in Germany since August 2019, the feature was not available through the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) until recently. AVS is the integration kit used by third-party device makers to add Alexa to their products. It is an easy way to add Alexa capabilities to devices but it doesn’t support all of the features of Amazon’s own products. Apple Music was one feature absence in Germany until recently. Now that AVS supports Apple Music, Deutsche Telekom is offering it to Magenta users. “This makes Deutsche Telekom the third smart speaker provider after Amazon Echo and Sonos to make Apple Music available on Alexa in Germany,” according to a company announcement.

Deutsche Telekom made a notable decision when launching the Magenta smart speakers. Instead of trying to match Amazon Echo or Google Home (aka Nest Home) smart speaker feature-by-feature, the company decided to offer both Alexa and its own in-house voice assistant Magenta operating side-by-side on its devices. This allows Deutsche Telekom to focus on features related to its services and media while also enabling users to connect to a variety of services that already support Alexa.

Magenta Voice Comes to the MagentaTV App

The Magenta Voice assistant has also arrived in Deutsche Telekom’s MagentaTV app. MagentaTV provides bundled media services such as streaming services, video on-demand libraries, and conventional linear television programming. The services could previously be accessed via voice through the Magenta smart speakers but only by touch in the mobile app. The app update brings the full Magenta voice experience from the smart speaker into the mobile app.

It may appear that the smart speaker market is now a duopoly dominated by Amazon and Google. However, companies such as Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, and Comcast are delivering their own independent voice services that are user-friendly extensions to their core media product offerings. While Orange recently abandoned Djingo, its own smart speaker initiative, other companies are finding ways that voice assistant technology can enhance their customer experience. Once you have invested in building the core voice capabilities, they can be quickly extended to other device surfaces providing added value from your investment.

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