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The ascent of mobile devices and cloud computing spurred a new generation of startups that were mobile-first, or mobile-only, designing their products for smartphone users instead of desktop users. The same is happening for voice.

As more people equip their homes with smart speakers, displays, vacuums, and thermostats, a new crop of startups are racing to create apps for these voice-controlled devices. Others are testing the boundaries of voice computing with applications in cognitive neuroscience and early childhood development.

Startups are taking voice computing outside the home, with hands-free apps for the phone and voice-controlled games for the car. Paul Bernard, director of Amazon's corporate venture fund, Alexa Fund, said the rise of use cases that go beyond asking for the weather forecast or setting an alarm will help voice technology become mainstream.

"I've had my eye on the idea that Alexa would need to become untethered from the home at some point to fully manifest the vision of pervasive ambient voice computing," he said.

From new ways to shop to audio erotica, these are the voice-first startups to watch.

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