Sonos snaps up Snips – an AI startup working on “tailored voice experiences”

If you buy a smart speaker from Sonos, you typically have the choice of whether you use Google Assistant, or Amazon’s Alexa equivalent. It looks like in the long run, you might have a third way, as Sonos has just announced the purchase of Snips: a French company that specialises in “tailored voice experiences.”

According to the company, Snips on Sonos speakers won’t offer the same encyclopedic knowledge that Alexa or Google Assistant aim to provide. It’ll instead be focused on the basics: controlling music playback perfectly. 

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“We do not plan to replicate the big tech ‘ask anything voice services’ but expect this acquisition will add to our customers’ ease of use and control as we continue to differentiate an end-to-end Sonos experience for our customers,” Sonos wrote in a letter to its shareholders. “This tailored experience aligns with external research showing that the most popular use for voice assistants is to access music.” 

In the press release accompanying the announcement, Sonos is keen to emphasise the other key difference between Snips and its more bloated rivals: it keeps cloud dependence to a minimum. “Its full-stack solution is built with proprietary technology allowing for voice processing on the device,” the company explains. “This localised processing maximises accuracy, efficiency and privacy while minimising footprint and cloud dependency.” 

That should be good for people that like the idea of voice controls, but worry about the privacy connotations. Despite this, it can live alongside other voice assistants if that’s what the company’s customers actually want.

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The deal apparently cost Sonos $37.5 million, and it acquires a team of more than 50 engineers. “We are thrilled to join forces with Sonos, a company that shares our core values, to continue our work and take private-by-design voice experiences to a truly global audience,” said Joseph Dureau, Snips’ CTO. 

“We see an exciting future together as we integrate our IP and platform with Sonos, knowing it shares our dedication to building great experiences for customers without asking them to sacrifice privacy.”

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