DC firm says we like Alexa. But we’re not pushing her

WASHINGTON — Artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home are growing in popularity, now owned by 27 percent of U.S. consumers, but people embracing the technology are using it for mundane tasks.

D.C.-based business-to-business research firm Clutch says the most common function personal assistant owned are using them for is playing music and podcasts, cited by 66 percent of consumers surveyed.

Almost equally popular is setting alarms and reminders (56 percent) and getting news updates (48 percent).

Like most new technology, consumers tend to start small.

“I remember when people first started using internet on their smartphones. It took a little bit of time to get used to relying on a little device to do the same thing you used to do on a computer. It’s the same thing,” Grayson Kemper at Clutch told WTOP.

“After you’ve established a base level of comfortability and trust that they can accomplish those simple tasks is probably when you are moving into more complex-use cases.”

Only 6 percent who currently own a virtual assistant have connected it to other devices, but it is getting easier to interconnect devices. Apple HomeKit, for example, now allows people to connect devices by scanning a bar code.

Most owners in the Clutch survey said they don’t experience challenges with their virtual assistant, though there are complaints.

“The most common challenge that we did find through our research was with connectivity, which makes sense. Obviously you need some sort of internet connectivity to make these devices do something for you,” Kemper said.

With adoption of voice command searching, businesses need to keep up to date, according to Clutch.

“Businesses depend on Google search results to bring clients in or to raise awareness of their brand and they need to be prepared for when people start primarily using natural voice to command devices to do things,” Kemper said.

“Those devices will pull results that align most closely with what the voice search is, and businesses need to be prepared to have their content optimized for that kind of language.”

Amazon is the most popular brand of virtual assistant, with 66 percent market share, with Google Home at 40 percent.

Google and Apple are catching up with Amazon though. Google has its assistant embedded in more than one billion devices.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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