Consumers love AI home assistants, but app developers seeing little reward

24 Jan 2017

The Amazon Echo. Image: Peppinuzzo/Shutterstock

The proliferation of AI home assistants in the past year has reached new levels with devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, but third-party app developers are not seeing any of the benefits so far.

Internet of things (IoT) devices in the home, such as smart thermostats and electrical sockets, remain something of a niche consumer product, but last year saw a rapid surge in interest in AI home assistants.

This was largely down to the release of the Amazon Echo, which saw millions of people purchase the device that allows the user to ask get Alexa, Amazon’s AI assistant, to arrange their calendars and order their groceries, among other tasks.

new report published by VoiceLabs into the future of AI assistants shows that by the end of this year, there will be an estimated 24.5m voice-activated devices shipped, bringing their total global numbers to around 33m.

For developers however, a real problem lies in the years ahead. When we look at the market for Amazon Echo apps – referred to as ‘skills’ – there is a huge number of apps that are quickly dropped by users.

According to the survey, of the 7,000 apps on the Amazon store, 69pc of them have a customer review indicating that many are simply never used.

Alexa skills

Image: VoiceLabs

When expanding this to include other AI home assistants like Google Home, the research found that as little as 3pc of voice control apps will survive a second week of use for the average person.

These types of apps are commonly referred to as ‘zombie apps’ – they are as good as invisible to consumers.

Race is on to establish market dominance

“A big reason for the quantity versus quality discrepancy lies in the capabilities that platforms currently offer to third-party developers,” the VoiceLabs report said.

“In any high-growth platform, we see common requirements around identity and communication that application developers utilise to create killer apps.”

The race is now on for Amazon, Google and the many other companies announcing AI home assistants to become the dominant force in the market, but Amazon’s head start has assured the likelihood of reigning supreme.

As with many of these new app ecosystems, not one has managed to successfully monetise itself. However, the report’s prediction is that by the end of this year, at least one of the major platforms will have deployed a winning monetisation method.

The Amazon Echo. Image: Peppinuzzo/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic