A new study from Juniper Research estimates that 66% of “hearables,” ear-based wearable devices providing aural content, will have voice assistants by the end of 2017. That figure will rise to 78% by 2022. This reflects a step-change in the earbud market transforming them from dumb to smart, connected accessories. It will also increase voice assistant usage on mobile dramatically.
“Juniper defines an ear-based wearable device, or ‘hearable’, as an ear-mounted device that supplies aural content or information to the wearer that is either generated by computations and data on the device itself or by an attached app. Note that this definition excludes simpler Bluetooth headsets…”
Juniper Data suggests that 43.5 million hearables units will be in use in 2017. This means 29 million people will be able to access their voice assistant through hearables this year.
How Can This Be So Big? AirPods are a driver.
It seems like a big stretch that so many earbuds will have voice assistants. However, Voicebot caught up with Juniper senior analyst James Moar to get more details. He commented:
We expect two-thirds (66%) of hearables to have voice assistants integrated to be in use at the end of 2017, rising to 78% by 2022. This is at the moment driven by Siri’s integration into AirPods, but we expect a more diverse ecosystem to emerge over time.
Hearables are wireless earbuds and have integration with smart applications which means they increasingly have access to voice assistants. AirPods made Adobe’s top expected 2017 holiday gift in the consumer electronics category. Pixel Buds also came in at number seven.
NPD Group data suggests 85% of wireless headphones sold in the first half of 2017 were AirPods. So, Juniper has some complementary research that suggests voice assistant-enabled hearables will in fact dominate the segment. While Apple delayed the HomePod launch until 2018, AirPods connected to Siri will keep the company’s voice assistant offerings relevant.
Hearables to Reach 285 Million Devices in 2022
Another notable finding from the Juniper study is that the hearables market will grow at a 45.6% compound annual growth rate through 2022. That growth will mean 285 million hearables will be in use in five years and 222 million will have voice assistant access. You can see from the chart that the figure leaves a lot of room for global growth even after 2022.