Disney adopts Amazon's white-label voice assistant for hotels

The "Hey Disney" voice assistant is the first use of Amazon's white-labeled voice assistant in a major hotel chain. It will coexist with Amazon's "Hey Alexa" in Echo devices.

Disney has partnered with Amazon on a voice assistant that it will use at its theme park hotels to let guests ask for everything from fresh towels to directions to Epcot Center.

Starting next year, hotel guests will be able to activate an Amazon Echo device with the phrase "Hey Disney." The hardware will respond using the voice of a Disney character, such as Mickey Mouse or the Little Mermaid. Amazon and Disney announced the partnership last week.

Unlike its competitors in the voice assistant market Apple and Google, Amazon offers its voice assistant as a white label item.

"That means Disney can put the Disney brand front and center when consumers interact with its platform, rather than having consumers talk to Alexa all the time," IDC analyst Adam Wright said. "This is important in driving brand loyalties."

Disney hotel guests will be able to order room service and inquire about basic hotel needs, as well as ask questions about park operating hours and upcoming events. The assistant means hotel staff members will spend less time answering common questions.

Disney experimented with technology in its parks before, coming out with a wristband device in 2014 that let visitors access hotel rooms and pay for items without having to pull out a card.

And "Hey Disney" won't be only a hotel feature. It will be available to Echo customers for an extra fee and will do things like tell jokes and stories in the voices of popular Disney characters. Amazon has yet to say how much the feature will cost.

Voice assistants have become popular in the past few years. According to data from Insider Intelligence, about 128 million people in the U.S. used an assistant at least once a month in 2020, an 11.1% increase from 2019.

Gartner predicted that 50% of knowledge workers will use a virtual assistant daily by 2025, up from 2% in 2019.

R "Ray" Wang, CEO of Constellation Research, said the Amazon and Disney deal will not be the last of its kind. Google has refused to white label its Google Assistant used in its Google Nest smart speakers, and Apple refused to white label Siri. However, that could change if the Amazon-Disney partnership is successful.

"Because Amazon and Disney partnered up, you might see that Universal and Google decide to partner up," Wang said.

The deal is an example of content, network and technology platforms coming together, Wang explained. Disney provides the content while Amazon provides the technology, and the two combine their customer networks.

Maxim Tamarov is a news writer covering mobile and end-user computing. He previously wrote for The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C., and the Sun Transcript in Winthrop, Mass. He graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @MaximTamarov.

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