Every week we bring you a selection of the most buzzworthy headlines on voice-first and related topics. Here's the news roundup for March 30 - April 4, 2019.

Amazon: Introduces HIPAA Compliant Healthcare Alexa Skills, To Launch Alexa-enabled Earbuds, Will Release Conversational and Knowledge Data Set

Thursday morning Amazon commanded the voice-first morning headlines with the announcement of its new HIPAA compliant health skills.  Six skills were released with the expectation that the number will grow as we continue to see collaborations between the voice-first and healthcare spaces. The six companies launching skills are: Express Scripts, Cigna Health Today, My Children's Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS), Swedish Health Connect, Atrium Health, and Livongo. This is a significant step both for Amazon and healthcare providers, as it means voice app developers who follow HIPAA guidelines can now create skills for Alexa. (Tech Crunch). Also see Introducing New Alexa Healthcare Skills in the Alexa Blogs.

Thursday was a huge day for Amazon, just a few hours after announcing their healthcare skills, they also announced that they'll be launching their first Alexa wearables: wireless earbuds with built-in Alexa. They would directly rival Apple's AirPods with a similar look and functionality, but strive to produce better audio quality. This is huge news for the voice-first and hearable communities. (Bloomberg)

Amazon will release a conversational and knowledge data set of more than 4 million words. "The Topical Chat dataset will consist of more than 210,000 utterances (over 4,100,000 words), making it the largest social conversation and knowledge dataset available publicly to the research community, supporting the publication of high quality, repeatable research." Read more at Topical Chat Dataset Helps Researchers Address Hard Challenges in Natural Conversation. (Alexa Blogs) Also see Venture Beat's article on this topic.

Applications for the 2019 Alexa Accelerator powered by TechStars are due this Sunday, April 7th!

Alexa Live, Free Conference for Voice Developers, line-up has been announced. Pencil in the date: May 2, 2019. Sign up now!

Google: Walmart Joins Forces with Google, Google Assistant Features Voice of a Legend

In a strategic move, Walmart joins forces with Google, adding Google Assistant voice shopping as they position themselves to become major players in the voice-space. Starting later this month, pickup for voice orders will be available at over 2,100 Walmart stores and online delivery at more than 800 Walmart stores. The service will learn and adapt to your shopping habits. (CNN)

Google Assistant: Now Featuring the Voice of John Legend. Google Assistant has launched its first celebrity voice cameo with John Legend. Legend’s voice is only available for select content, including some "Easter eggs." To launch simply say, "Hey Google, talk like John Legend." (Google)

Voice First: Voice-Controlled Digital Home Assistants on the Grow in the UK, Global Smart Home Market Expected to Grow into Double-Digits, How Voice Computing Will Change Our Lives

EY's annual digital home survey of 2,500 UK consumers finds 22% of UK households own voice-controlled digital home assistant. This doubles the 11% figure recorded in 2017. (Advanced Television)

Double-Digit Growth Expected in the Smart Home Market, Says IDC. The global smart home market to grow 27% year over year in 2019 , according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Smart Home Device Tracker.

“The holy grail,” says Ashwin Ram, who led the artificial intelligence (AI) research team for Alexa and now works at Google, “is being able to interact with machines the way we do with each other, which is through voice.”
Innovators like Ram envision today’s computers—perched on desktops or tucked into pockets—fading in importance as chatty AIs become the primary gateways to all that can be done digitally.

Writes James Vlahos in Talk to Me? How Voice Computing Will Change Our Lives. Breaks down the voice technology and AI transforming the world. (Consumer Reports)

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