Pandora’s voice assistant launches for everyone


Pandora’s tens of millions of monthly active users will soon be able to queue up tunes with their voices, the SiriusXM-owned company announced today. This morning marks the broad rollout of Voice Mode, Pandora’s bespoke voice assistant, to Pandora app users on all platforms following a January launch on roughly a million iOS and Android devices.

You’ll find a shortcut to it in the upper right of the Pandora app screen.

“Pandora is the leader in personalized audio entertainment, and millions of our listeners are already loving the experience we’ve created on smart speakers and other voice-enabled connected devices,” said Pandora chief product officer Chris Phillips. “With Voice Mode, we are introducing an even more natural and conversational way for listeners to discover new music and enhance their experience directly in the Pandora mobile app, like getting recommendations from a friend who really knows you.”

Pandora Voice Mode

For the uninitiated, Voice Mode is an assistant styled after Alexa, Cortana, and Siri that affords hands-free control of Pandora’s mobile app. It’s summoned with the wake phrase “Hey Pandora,” and it responds to a range of requests including those for personalized playlists, specific artists or songs, and more. Voice Mode can answer basic questions about tracks on deck (try asking “What song is this?”) or add music to your library and start stations tailored to tastes, moods, and activities (e.g., “Play something for my workout,” “play music for relaxing”). It’s even smart enough to surface podcasts, albums, and singles by who appeared in them as guests.

Here’s a list of supported requests:

  • Control requests to change stations, control volume, skip or pause music, and other basic navigation commands.
  • Open-ended requests like “play something different,” “play something I like,” or “play more like this.”
  • Basic requests for a specific artist, song, station, or podcast like “play new music by…”
  • Directional requests like “add this song to my party playlist” or “I like this” to give a thumbs-up.
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Pandora says Voice Mode is chiefly enabled by an in-house curation team and the company’s Music Genome Project, a data set containing millions of recordings, each with hundreds of attributes. SoundHound’s Houndify platform provides the natural language understanding and personalized machine learning search algorithms.

Spotify offers a feature comparable in Spotify Voice, which provides access to music, podcasts, and videos and allows users to search for your friends. However, it’s only available to Premium users.

Surveys show that music playback is among the top categories of assistant requests. Adobe reports that 70% of smart speaker owners have streamed music using an intelligent assistant, and that half do so daily. And in 2017, the most popular request of voice search services was to play music.



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