Pandora Introduces Its Own Voice Assistant for Mobile Apps

Streaming music service Pandora is the latest to announce an in-app voice assistant. Users of the iOS or Android app can simply say “Hey Pandora” and make a request to play specific podcasts or music based on artists, albums, radio stations or playlists. According to Pandora, the creation of its own “Voice Mode” feature was inspired by the millions of users who have been activating the service via smart speakers such as Amazon Echo devices. “Voice is just an expected new way that you engage with any app,” said Pandora chief product officer Chris Phillips.

The new feature “will also be capable of delivering results customized to you when responding to vague commands or those related to activity or mood,” reports TechCrunch. “For example, you’ll get personalized results for requests like ‘play something new,’ ‘play more like this,’ ‘play music for relaxing,’ ‘play workout music,’ ‘play something I like’ and others.”

Voice Mode, which initially launched to about a million iOS and Android users this week, is designed in a way that provides recommendations based on each user’s listening habits and tastes. Users can also use voice commands instead of pressing buttons for functionality such as rating tracks or adding songs to a playlist.

“On the mobile app, we’re doing more than just your typical request against the catalog… asking: ‘Hey, Pandora,’ to search and play or pause or skip,” Phillips explained. “What we’re doing that we think is pretty special is we’re taking that voice utterance of what someone asks for, and we’re applying our personalized recommendations to the response.”

Pandora is “combining natural language processing and machine learning it licensed from Soundhound with its own music genome data to match up even vague requests with the right soundtrack,” explains Variety.

Competitor Spotify also offers deep personalization in addition to a voice mode option, although only Premium users can access the voice control. Pandora is offering its Voice Mode to all free and paid users.

“For free users, the feature will work in conjunction with an existing ad product that allows users to opt in to watch a video in order to gain temporary access to Pandora’s on-demand service,” notes TechCrunch. “While this option is not live at launch, the plan is to allow any user to use the ‘Hey Pandora’ command, then redirect free users with a request to play music on demand to instead play the opt-in ad first.”

Voice assistants were a major trend at CES in Las Vegas last week where Amazon and Google announced numerous partnerships for CE, automotive and smart home devices that now support Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.