- Google Home is set to gain share in the smart speaker market in 2018 despite Amazon’s early domination of that sector, according to a list of technology predictions for the year ahead that was compiled by research-driven venture capital firm Loup Ventures.
- Loup also predicted that the hype around artificial intelligence will continue to grow across many industries, and that we will begin to hear more about the development of artificial general intelligence — the ability for a machine to think like a human — as Google’s Deepmind initiative and other efforts evolve.
- The firm also forecasted, among other predictions, that untethered virtual reality devices will start to appear, and that bitcoin may take a step back, but stay on track to play a role in the future of commerce.
The race is on for the best smart speaker, and while the Echo was the clear leader in 2017 — Alexa earned Amazon Retail Dive's Technology of the Year award — Google Home is set to gain speed this year.
This may be a somewhat safe assumption given all the energy Google has been putting behind Google Home in recent months as it has, among other efforts, forged partnerships with Walmart, Home Depot and eBay that give Google Home greater utility as as a retail shopping tool.
At the same time, Amazon has a pretty big lead in the smart speaker market, with as much as 75% market share according to Loup (or around 68% according to Strategy Analytics), and it hasn’t exactly been resting on its laurels. The e-commerce giant announced new Echo smart speaker products just a couple of months ago, and it aggressively priced its Echo devices during the holiday shopping stretch — not the typical behavior of a market incumbent with a big lead.
Also, new players, including Apple, Samsung and others increasingly will make their presence felt this year in the smart speaker market, and there is an argument to be made that Google and all the rest will be fighting for market breadcrumbs. Still, it's early in this market, and Google certainly has the wherewithal to keep pushing its Google Home message to both consumers and potential retailer partners.
Among Loup's other predictions (including a shocking guess that Amazon will make a move to acquire Target this year), the ongoing growth and expansion of AI will continue to play a major role in retail. Retailers are not specifically the ones investing in advancing AI technology in new directions, but we have seen over the last year how AI is creeping into everything from chatbots to cashierless stores, and studies have shown that retailers are confident AI will be an important technology for them in the near term.