VoiceReallyMatters.com

A layperson’s exploration of all things voice

December 1, 2020

Twitter Introducing Voice Chatrooms

Here’s the intro from this article from “The Verge”:

Twitter plans to take on Clubhouse, the invite-only social platform where users congregate in voice chat rooms, with a way for people to create “spaces” for voice-based conversations right on Twitter. In theory, these spaces could provide another avenue for users to have conversations on the platform — but without harassment and abuse from trolls or bad actors, thanks to tools that let creators of these spaces better control the conversation.

The company plans to start testing the feature this year, but notably, Twitter will be giving first access to some of the people who are most affected by abuse and harassment on the platform: women and people from marginalized backgrounds, the company says.

In one of these conversation spaces, you’ll be able to see who is a part of the room and who is talking at any given time. The person who makes the space will have moderation controls and can determine who can actually participate, too. Twitter says it will experiment with how these spaces are discovered on the platform, including ways to invite participants via direct messages or right from a public tweet.

November 23, 2020

Nearly Half of Consumers Want Voice in Their Apps

Here’s the intro from this Voicebot article:

Voicebot’s biannual Smartphone Voice Assistant Consumer Adoption Report considered new questions in 2020 around consumer interest in and experience with voice interaction within mobile apps. A key finding is that consumers have strong interest in voice interactivity within mobile apps and more experience with these features than many people realize. Just over 45% of consumers said they would “very much” or that “it would be nice” to have voice assistant features within their favorite mobile apps. This figure compares to just 25% that said they were not interested.

November 17, 2020

Tackling the Voice App Discovery Problem

I used to blog more about the challenges of building skills – and how to make it easier for skills to be discovered by folks once you launch them. Here’s a nice piece about skill discovery from voicebot.ai, along with this excerpt:

Zevenbergen’s good fortune to rise to the top of the search results for “What’s my horoscope?” would not be wasted. He had already built user retention elements into his Google Action. First, Zevenbergen wanted to fulfill the intent of the user very efficiently. He had a goal of giving the horoscope as quickly as possible. For new users that simply required determining their birthday. Not only was there a target of delivering the full horoscope within 10 seconds, the Action tells new users that they will receive their horoscope within 10 seconds. It sets expectations and removes a potential concern about how much the user may be committing to with this particular voice experience.

Second, he found that shorter, more concise horoscopes were leading to more completed sessions. There may be an opportunity to convey many paragraphs worth of horoscope goodness but that’s often the opposite of what people want when interacting on a smart speaker. They want the facts. Ensuring users heard the entire horoscope before abandoning the session also gave him a captive audience that was still around when the Action offered to add “What’s my zodiac sign” to a routine or notification. “What’s my zodiac sign” is now getting about 5,000 opened notifications from Google Assistant each day. If you compare that to the DAUs for the Action you will conclude that nearly 85% of daily user sessions are driven by this single technique.

October 28, 2020

Alexa Can Allow You to Print Stuff & Other Commands to Take Action…

Here’s the intro from this voicebot.ai article:

Amazon’s new Alexa Print feature extends the voice assistant into the physical realm with a slew of new commands that allow the AI to offer a physical response to a question or request. Alexa can print calendars, coloring books, recipes, and puzzles by voice command, a third dimension to the digital audio, and screen responses available on smart speakers and smart displays. The update also allows voice app developers to augment their Alexa skills with printing commands, first promised by Amazon a year ago.

October 20, 2020

The “Smart Speaker” Space is Heating Up…

This voicebot.ai article notes that Apple has reduced its prices dramatically for smart speakers, coming out with a “HomePod Mini” for $99. As someone who spent a bundle a decade ago for a home stereo system from Sonos, it’s amazing to see how prices have dropped. Not to mention the dazzling array of features these smart speakers have. Love the intercom feature so that you can talk to others in another room. No more shouting upstairs for your partner…

October 13, 2020

Using Alexa to Pay for Gas

You can pay for so many things by voice now that blogging about it seems a little silly. But it’s pretty cool that so many gas pumps are now Alexa-enabled – “Alexa Fuel” – as noted in this voicebot.ai article. Here’s an excerpt:

Drivers can now ask Alexa to handle fuel payments at more than 11,500 Exxon and Mobil gas stations in the U.S. The program, first previewed by Amazon at CES in January, skips the need to use a card or touchpad, relying only on voice commands and some access to the voice assistant.

Getting Alexa to pay for the gas just requires a driver to have some way of communicating with Alexa. That can include cars with Alexa built-in, an Echo Auto device in the car, or just the Alexa app on a smartphone. When they park the car at the pump and ask the voice assistant to pay for gas, Alexa will determine what gas station they are at and the pump number, activating the pump remotely, so the driver simply has to insert the nozzle and start refueling their car. The transaction uses a customer’s existing Amazon Pay account, so there’s no extra sign-in needed, although the user can add a voice PIN if they want. Financial tech giant Fiserv supports the underlying communication between Alexa and the pump and facilitates the actual digital payment.

October 6, 2020

WalMart Launches Own Voice Assistant (For Employees Initially)

Here’s the intro from this TechCrunch story:

Walmart is expanding its use of voice technology. The company announced today its taking its employee assistance voice technology dubbed “Ask Sam” and making it available to associates at over 5,000 Walmart stores nationwide. The tool allows Walmart employees to look up prices, access store maps, find products, view sales information, check email and more. In recent months, Ask Sam has also been used to access COVID-19 information, including the latest guidelines, guidance and safety videos.

Ask Sam was initially developed for use in Walmart-owned Sam’s Club stores, where it rolled out across the U.S. in 2019. Because of its use of voice tech, Ask Sam can speed up the time it takes to get to information versus typing a query on the small screen. This allows employees to better engage with customers instead of spending time on their device looking for information.

September 29, 2020

IBM’s Watson Virtual Assistant Answers Voter Questions

Here’s the intro from this voicebot.ai article:

U.S. voters confused about the logistics for the November 3 election may get their answers from IBM’s Watson AI. IBM has created an election-focused version of its virtual assistant to handle questions of that nature using its natural language processing to understand and respond to voice and text queries about where and how to vote. IBM is offering a version of the virtual assistant to states for free until after the election.

September 22, 2020

Apartments Powered Entirely by Amazon

Here’s the intro from this TechCrunch article:

Amazon wants to bring Alexa to property managers. The company this morning launched a new service, Alexa for Residential, that aims to make it easier for property managers to set up and maintain Alexa-powered smart home experiences in their buildings, like condos or apartment complexes. At launch, IOTAS, STRATIS and Sentient Property Services will be among the first smart home integrators to use the Alexa for Residential service.

The idea is to make Alexa a tool for smart home management, even for those without their own Amazon account. The way the service works, new residents won’t have to purchase their own device or set anything up to get started. Instead, they can just speak to Alexa to control the various smart home features available at their residence and use basic Alexa features. like timers, alarms or getting information like news and weather.

Property managers can choose to create custom Alexa skills for each unit, allowing the residents to submit maintenance requests, make amenity reservations or even pay their rent via Alexa.