Pandora Surprises Everybody With Its Own Twist On Digital Voice Assistants


Popular music streaming provider and app-maker Pandora has decided that linking up with third-party AI ecosystems isn't ideal and launched its own native helper called Voice Mode. The assistant will begin by rolling out in a limited trial. That means some users on both Android and iOS should start seeing the update arrive today, with wider availability to follow "soon."

Voice Mode works similarly to Google Assistant or Amazon's Alexa and even activates with the phrase "Hey Pandora." As with those other services, that phrase triggers listening via natural language processing algorithms, allowing users a variety of controls starting with the basics such as changing volume and stations, going to specific playlists, controlling playback, or navigating the app. Requests can be made based on music genre, mood, artists, preferences, moods, or activity too.

Pandora has taken matters further by going above and beyond with the usual interactions with more intuitive voice commands, allowing for more natural engagement. Users can ask the app to 'play something different' or go even more abstract with 'play more songs like this.' If the app plays something they like, users can ask for details about the tune, add it to a playlist, or hit the thumbs-up button without ever picking up their phone.


Pandora's Music Genome Project

Voice Mode isn't Pandora's first work with AI by any stretch of the imagination but the company's newest service surprisingly isn't built with that work as its basis.

Pandora's service has been centered around predictive algorithms collectively referred to as the Music Genome Project for years. That's a combination of complex user data including listening history but also an analysis of the songs included in the service itself. In effect, it breaks down user preferences and the rest of that information to provide accurate recommendations and fill out playlist.


The streaming music provider went a different direction for Voice Mode and partnered with fellow sound company SoundHound Inc., using that organization's Houndify AI. The proprietary solution utilizes 'Speech-to-Meaning' and 'Deep Meaning Understanding' techniques to enable more natural interactions with AI while retaining speed and accuracy.

A split to be better

Pandora has been around since 2000 and has held onto its following by focusing on music and recommendations as well as accurately populated automatic playlists. SoundHound's focus has been on conversational AI. By splitting up the workload on the AI front between the two, both companies are essentially able to focus on what they do best without getting in the way of the other.


The application and service's interaction with other AI implementations isn't going away at this juncture either so there's no need to worry about losing that capability. Instead, the new Voice Mode is intended to be a native solution that creates a degree of separation between Pandora's existence on Google Home, Amazon Echo, or countless other devices. It also serves as a middle ground for those users who aren't ready to go all-in with a smart home since it enables the same functionality — and a few improvements — on any smartphone that has the app installed.

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Daniel has been writing for AndroidHeadlines since 2016. As a Senior Staff Writer for the site, Daniel specializes in reviewing a diverse range of technology products and covering topics related to Chrome OS and Chromebooks. Daniel holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering and has a background in Writing and Graphics Design that drives his passion for Android, Google products, the science behind the technology, and the direction it's heading. Contact him at Dani[email protected]

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