Apple, Google, Amazon, and Samsung are looking to hearables — ear-based wearables like Apple’s AirPods — to broaden the reach of their voice assistants, according to Juniper Research.
Roughly 44 million hearable units will be in use by the end of 2017. About 66% of these, or 29 million units, will be embedded with AI-infused voice assistants; that share’s expected to reach 78% by 2022.
The hearables market is poised to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 45% through 2022, when 220 million hearables with support for voice assistants will be in use.
Hearables will help drive voice assistant adoption by extending the functionality of voice assistants outside of the home. Hearables enable the hands-free, voice-first aspect of human-computer interaction that’s popular with smart speakers in the home, but in a mobile format. The growing popularity of hearables presents an opportunity for major tech players in the space to expand the use of their respective voice assistants and profit from a new hardware line.
The race to develop voice-assistant-enabled headphones is in full swing, and Apple is leading the way. The market for hearables began to take off as smartphone vendors, like Apple and Google, started ditching the audio jack in a move toward wireless audio. Apple’s currently leading the market with its AirPods — wireless headphones optimized for Siri — which accounts for 85% of sales in the wireless headphone and earbud market so far in 2017.