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Amazon's new initiative wants to make it easier to use multiple voice assistants

Alexa's creator is teaming up with a host of tech companies for its new Voice Interoperability Initiative. Just not Google, Apple or Samsung.

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Eli Blumenthal
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Eli Blumenthal Senior Editor
Eli Blumenthal is a senior editor at CNET with a particular focus on covering the latest in the ever-changing worlds of telecom, streaming and sports. He previously worked as a technology reporter at USA Today.
Expertise 5G, mobile networks, wireless carriers, phones, tablets, streaming devices, streaming platforms, mobile and console gaming,
2 min read
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Amazon's new Voice Interoperability Initiative will make it easier to call up multiple digital assistants like Alexa and Microsoft's Cortana from one device. 

Microsoft

Amazon wants to make it easier for people to use whichever voice assistant they want -- as long as it's not one of Alexa's main competitors -- and is teaming up with a host of major technology companies to make that idea a reality. But not Apple, Google or Samsung.

Called the "Voice Interoperability Initiative," the goal of the new alliance is to make it so that users can easily use a digital voice assistant like its own Alexa, Microsoft's Cortana, Salesforce's Einstein, and so on, without having to own multiple devices. Simply saying the appropriate wake word would trigger the proper assistant to respond. 

The group currently consists of over 30 companies, including Amazon, Baidu, BMW, Bose , Cerence, Ecobee, Harman, Logitech , Microsoft, Salesforce, Sonos, Sound United, Sony Audio Group, Spotify and Tencent. It has also signed up chipmakers such as Qualcomm, MediaTek and Intel , as well as telecommunication giants like Verizon and French telecom Orange. 

"Multiple simultaneous wake words provide the best option for customers," Jeff Bezos , Amazon's founder and CEO, said in a press release announcing the initiative. "Utterance by utterance, customers can choose which voice service will best support a particular interaction. It's exciting to see these companies come together in pursuit of that vision."

Of course, not all companies are on board with this vision. Google (which makes Google Assistant), Apple (maker of Siri ) and Samsung (maker of Bixby) are all notably absent. 

In a statement, Google says that it wasn't told about this program but appears to be open to it. "We just heard about this initiative and would need to review the details," the company tells CNET. "But in general we're always interested in participating in efforts that have the broad support of the ecosystem and uphold strong privacy and security practices."

The announcement of the new initiative comes one day before Amazon is expected to introduce a host of new Alexa-enabled hardware, including new wireless earbuds and possibly an Alexa-powered home robot.

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