Showcasing the benefits of multi-assistant experiences, featuring the Alexa and Google Assistant integration announced for Harman’s new JBL speakers

Staff Writer Aug 30, 2023
Alexa Built-in VII Voice Interoperability Initiative

Today, Amazon announced the simultaneous availability of Alexa and Google Assistant on Harman’s new JBL Authentics 200, 300, and 500 speakers. This new industry-first integration built in collaboration with Amazon, Google, and Harman lets customers access two of the world’s most renowned voice assistants, Alexa and Google Assistant, from a single device.

Amazon has long supported building and deploying multi-assistant experiences—whether it’s through the Voice Interoperability Initiative it founded in 2019, developer tools such as the Multi-Agent Experience (MAX) Toolkit, or key collaborations announced like the one we’ve now unveiled with Google and Harman. Amazon is rooted in the belief that customers should have the freedom to choose their preferred assistant for any task, and this announcement demonstrates a key milestone for this vision.

Amy King, Senior Product Manager, and Eric Olason, Senior Business Development Manager, explain the significance of this multi-assistant experience and how device makers can leverage Amazon’s developer tools that were used to build this integration.

Two voice assistants on one device

With the Alexa and Google Assistant multi-assistant experience, JBL customers no longer have to purchase multiple devices to use more than one assistant.

“Personally, the whole reason why I became passionate about building multi-assistant experiences is because some of my family and friends have limitations using certain assistants due to lack of language support and availability,” said King. “Our whole goal with this integration is to make it easy for people to access different assistants with their voice, based on their preferences and needs, as easily as they can switch between apps on their phone.”

With both assistants, customers can get seamless access to the voice commands and services they know and love. For example, a customer can get a delivery notification from Alexa on their JBL Authentics device, and add a reminder about their package delivery to their Google Calendar through Google Assistant.

“All customers have to do is say the corresponding wake words for Alexa and Google Assistant,” says Olason. “Both of these assistants can be registered on the same JBL device, and you can use either one any time.”

This integration does more than just provide access to two voice assistants. It amplifies the utility of voice through smart, multi-assistant interoperability. For King and Olason, usability was crucial. “We did a lot to alleviate the amount of work that goes into developing multi-assistant experiences so that the JBL devices, for example, are as simple to use as single-assistant devices,” says King.

For instance, Amazon and Google leveraged the MAX Toolkit to implement audio focus software so that Alexa and Google Assistant would not speak over each other. Let’s say a family is using the speaker as a communal device in their living room. Someone might ask Google Assistant to set a reminder to pick up dry cleaning in 10 minutes. Another person might ask Alexa “who is Lewis Carroll” right when the Google Assistant reminder is scheduled to go off. The MAX Toolkit manages the audio focus so that Alexa and Google Assistant are not speaking at the same time to the customer.

Additionally, the MAX Toolkit was used to enable universal device commands (UDCs) to simplify voice interactions, particularly in multi-user households. With UDCs, customers can ask either Alexa or Google Assistant to play music, as well as set timers, reminders, and alarms, and then ask the other assistant to stop these requests. This feature received positive feedback during Amazon and Google’s beta trials. For instance, some noted they don’t always remember which assistant they engaged with for a request. Others noted there were instances where another member of their household initiated a request while they were out of the room and they would then have to ask that household member which assistant they engaged with. Most appreciated that UDCs eliminated the expectation to remember or know which person made the initial request in order to stop the experience.

Advantages for device makers

In addition to the new collaboration with Google and Harman, Amazon has announced a number of multi-assistant integrations that deploy the power of multiple assistants on a single device or system. For example, during Alexa Live 2022, Amazon announced a collaboration with Skullcandy and Native Voice that allows customers to activate Alexa and “Hey Skullcandy” voice commands simultaneously on Skullcandy’s Push Active and Grind Series.

These types of integrations have become very useful for customers and they are advantageous for device makers in a number of ways:

  • Greater customer choice: Device makers can stand out by offering more capabilities to their customers. Customers can access the unique functionalities that each assistant offers, providing a more seamless, richer experience. “Our partners share our obsession for customers,” says Olason. “Like us, they want to do whatever they can to maximize choice for their customers.”
  • Growth in the customer base and assistant engagement: “Offer customers the ability to do more with their devices, and they will do more,” says Olason. “We all know smart speakers or televisions are more useful than passive speakers or televisions. The device becomes a more meaningful piece of technology that the customer can interact with and improve their life with on a day-to-day basis. With the addition of multiple assistants, we see this benefit multiplying, not just being incrementally added to.”
  • Global expansion: Distributing multiple voice assistants on devices facilitates engagement from a greater number of customers globally. These devices can support various languages, offer different features, and can be launched in various regions. “We work with global manufacturers like Harman so that more customers can access the voice experiences that companies have worked hard to build,” says King.

Getting started

The Amazon team has introduced comprehensive tools for interested device makers who want to build multi-assistant integrations. In addition to the MAX Toolkit, Amazon has released a Multi-Agent Design Guide and various whitepapers, including one recently published with Voice Interoperability Initiative member Panasonic Automotive titled "Multiple Voice Assistant Dialogs and Arbitration". The new whitepaper discusses the benefits of multiple voice assistants on a single device and how dialog turn-taking and cues make multi-assistant interactions seamless and simple.

To learn about integrating multi-assistant capabilities into your device, contact your Alexa Business Development (BD) manager.

Related Links

Amazon-Panasonic Automotive whitepaper on multiple voice assistants on a single device
Alexa and Google Assistant in action on Harman’s new JBL speakers