Facebook has been working on a voice assistant to rival Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri, according to anonymous sources in conversation with CNBC. A team in Redmond, Washington has been working on the voice assistant since the beginning of 2018 as part of a larger virtual reality group. Ira Snyder, Facebook’s director of augmented and virtual reality and Facebook Assistant, is leading the effort. Currently, the team is speaking to smart speaker supply chain vendors, according to the sources. It isn’t clear how Facebook plans to integrate their voice assistant into their website, app, and smart home products.
Amazon Alexa has the largest share of the smart speaker market, with 61% compared to Google Assistant’s 24%. In general, smart speaker ownership is on the rise, with an increase of 40% in the year 2018 alone, according to a report from Voicebot and Voicify. In the same vein, Amazon Alexa is the most trusted smart home, according to a recent survey from ExpressVPN. While Google Assistant came in second, Facebook Portal only received 11% of the votes. Many of the survey’s respondents expressed privacy concerns regarding Facebook, with 38% saying that they were concerned that Facebook listens to their conversations to capture data for targeted ads. Only 28% of the survey’s respondents expressed the same fear about Amazon Alexa. Nearly half of the respondents said that Facebook Portal was the “least trusted smart home brand overall,” compared to Amazon Alexa at 17%, Google Assistant at 15%, and Apple at 14%. In accordance, six times more respondents said they preferred Amazon to Facebook for Smart home products.
Facebook could be planning to use their voice assistant in Facebook Portal, their Oculus headsets or another, unknown product. Given the public’s privacy concerns, it remains to be seen how their voice assistant can compete with more trusted assistants from Amazon and Google.