Voice Activation Trends from CES

January 2018

trends from CES

Voice activation is going everywhere. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this month, tech and media companies showcased the many ways they’re making the voice activation technology found in home assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices and Google Home products accessible anywhere. 

As NPR CMO Meg Goldthwaite discussed during a CES panel with Amazon Director or Product Management Miriam Daniel, Google Director of Product Management Micah Collins and Edison Research Sr. VP Tom Webster, the “disembodiment” of smart speaker operating systems is moving us towards a day when voice-activation is systematically integrated into every part of life.

Smart speakers and voice assistants are a key area of focus for NPR in the digital space, and today when one asks for the news on most of these devices, NPR is instantly played. We’re excited about the continued growth of this category and the opportunity it creates for publishers and brands alike.

Here are some of news and voice trends from CES we’re starting to watch: 

Smarter Homes

trends from CES

Samsung’s Bixby enabled smart refrigerator. Photo Courtesy of

One of the most prominent trends from CES was the increasing incorporation of voice activation technology across home devices. At CES, NPR and Edison shared research showing that 38% of smart speaker owners planned to buy additional smart speakers in order to control smart home devices*. Many tech-makers at the show responded to this demand in inventive ways.

Samsung announced that its smart assistant Bixby would now be accessible from both televisions and refrigerators. Amazon revealed that its Alexa assistant, which can already control  light bulbs, cars, mirrors, and vacuum cleaners, is now being incorporated into new PCs from HP, Lenovo and Acer. Google also showcased collaborations with JBL, LG and Sony to bring their Assistant service to home displays


Voice Activation on the Go 

trends from CESThe latest survey data from The Smart Audio Report from NPR and Edition Research found that voice-activation in the home is fueling broader use of voice activation across people’s days:

  • 44% are using the voice assistant on their phones more since getting their smart speaker
  • 64% of current smart speaker owners are interested in having smart speaker technology in their cars*

At CES, tech-makers displayed new integrations of their voice-activated operating systems that will allow people to use this technology more beyond the home.

Google announced it would be working with Android Auto to bring its voice assistant to car dashboards. iHeartMedia shared news of a collaboration with Garmin to incorporate its services into a GPS running watch. And Amazon revealed that it would be bringing its Alexa assistant to voice activated smart glasses.


Check out some of the ways that voice activation technology is being used:  


Implications for Publishers & Brands

If these trends from CES are any indication, voice assistants and voice-activated tech are just gearing up. As Miriam Daniel said during the CES panel with NPR, “It’s day one. There’s still a long way to go.”

For publishers, this technology offers a new way for people to access content on demand, without friction, at any point in the day. With 71% of smart speaker users listening to more audio than before their speaker purchase, and 28% of these users listening to more news or talk*, this platform holds huge promise for the conversational audio programming NPR has created for nearly 50 years.

This technology and the way it’s changing consumer behavior also creates new opportunities for brands to connect directly with consumers, offer utility through Skills and other integrations across these platforms, and make the purchase experience more seamless. This comes with its own set of challenges for brand marketers, including finding meaningful ways to remain top of mind in an environment where screens aren’t always available and creating a distinct audio identity for the brand, which may largely be represented through visuals today. 

As an organization built around audio, voice has always been a primary element of brand creative across NPR platforms. Today, NPR’s sponsorship team at National Public Media is working with brands to help them find their unique sound and develop strategies for leveraging the audio format across platforms. 

We are also working with brands and agencies to share insights and knowledge about the smart speaker user behavior and audience through The Smart Audio Report, as well as information on where brands are finding success in connecting on this platform. 


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* The Smart Audio Report, Fall/Winter 2017. Nationally representative telephone of 1,010 persons ages 18+.