Amazon and Google are considering adding phone calls to their home speakers, the Amazon Echo and Google Home, people familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal, according Telecompaper. A launch could take place later this year, allowing users to make and receive calls over the artificial intelligence-powered home speakers. While this is considered the likely next step in controlling the digital home, the effort is hung up over concerns about privacy and providing access to emergency services and other telecom regulations, the report said.
Other concerns include the awkwardness of calling over a speakerphone, and potential consumer anxiety about speaking on a device that has the ability to record conversations. The Echo and Google Home already continuously record audio locally in blocks of a few seconds at a time, overwriting the audio file until they hear their activation word—such as 'Alexa' for the Echo. The devices then transmit that audio to the cloud for answers. The companies also store and analyze the data to train their artificial intelligence.
Amazon is reportedly considering multiple options for how the phone feature could work, the WSJ's sources said. The Echo could get its own phone number. Call forwarding could enable calls to that number to be answered remotely on a mobile phone, and vice versa. Another option is to sync a user’s existing phone number and contacts with the Echo. Incoming calls would ring on the user’s mobile phone.