Voice assistants may soon need to pay Wikipedia to find answers to some of the questions users pose. The Wikimedia Foundation, the umbrella organization that encompasses Wikipedia and its sibling wiki-projects, is launching Wikimedia Enterprise to start packaging and selling Wikipedia’s content to Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google, including their respective voice assistants, as first reported by Wired.
Amazon has introduced a new tool for companies looking to build a branded voice assistant. Here’s some insight from the “Rain” agency:
Although the voice ecosystem has long been dominated by the likes of Amazon, Google, and Apple, many brands are exploring the arena of custom owned assistants that give brands more control over data and user experience without a third-party intermediary. With Amazon’s latest announcement, the line is blurring between big tech voice assistants and brand-owned custom assistants.
A handful of companies have already created devices that allow for the coexistence of their own assistant alongside a mainstream assistant. European telecommunications companies including Vodafone Spain, Orange, and Deutsche Telekom have all taken this approach and released devices integrated with both their custom assistant and Alexa. By using Amazon’s Alexa Custom Assistant initiative, many more companies will be thinking about how they can leverage the best of both worlds, bringing a generalist assistant alongside a specialist.
Here’s an article from ‘voicebot.ai” about Amazon’s big announcement…
Here’s the intro from this voicebot.ai article: “Twitter has expanded the beta for its Spaces social audio platform to Android devices. The social media giant had previously limited Spaces to iOS devices, but people using Android can now apply to try out Spaces as Twitter pushes to refine the platform for wide release.”
Meanwhile, here’s a voicebot.ai podcast about the experiences of some experts with Clubhouse – the social audio app that I blogged about recently…
To-date the voice assistant landscape has primarily been driven by smart speakers and mobile assistants, but new devices are quickly taking hold. Brands have always sought to connect with customers on-the-go, and assistant technologies are now enabling a new way to provide value in their everyday lives. Smart hearables and wearables, including earbuds, watches and even glasses have all been embedded with Alexa and Google Assistant so that customers can easily ask for information and perform tasks anytime, anywhere. The most recent example of this is Amazon’s new Echo Buds feature focused on collecting fitness data. However, this trend has been maturing for some time now.
With voicebot.ai reporting that Clubhouse has surpassed 10 million members – I am among them – I put together this 12-minute video explaining how Clubhouse works and my ten cents about whether you should try it. With a few bonus tips if you do indeed give it a “go”…
The voice test for COVID-19 developed by Vocalis Health will accurately determine infection 81.2% of the time, according to the results of a major clinical study conducted by the Israeli startup in India last year. The test, named VocalisCheck, is being pitched as a way to augment the existing tests, saving the more traditional chemical tests for those who are at higher risk of infection.
The Vocalis diagnostic test, which runs on a smartphone or computer, asks the user to count from 50 to 70. The audio is translated into a visual representation of their voice, a spectrogram, made up of 512 features vocal biomarkers. Vocalis applies artificial intelligence to compare the spectrogram to a composite image from the voice of many people proven to have COVID-19. Vocalis has been gathering public voice samples since April and started coordinating with the Israeli Ministry of Defense to get spectrograms of those who definitely had been infected.
Amazon recently added a new feature to its Alexa voice assistant that lets you find the nearest place to get a Covid-19 test. It works on phones and through the Amazon Echo smart speaker. I think it’s best on a phone or on an Echo with a screen since it shows you a list of the nearby locations and how far each place is.
As part of Amazon’s long-term goal to make talking to Alexa more natural, a new “infer your intent” functionality has been built. Here’s an excerpt from this article from the “Verge”:
Finding new ways to use Amazon’s Alexa has always been a bit of a pain. Amazon boasts that its AI assistant has more than 100,000 skills, but most are garbage and the useful ones are far from easy to discover. Today, though, Amazon announced it’s launched a new way to surface skills: by guessing what users are after when they talk to Alexa about other tasks.
The company refers to this process as “[inferring] customers’ latent goals.” By this, it means working out any questions that are implied by other queries. Amazon gives the example of a customer asking “How long does it take to steep tea?” to which Alexa will answer “five minutes” before asking the follow-up: ”Would you like me to set a timer for five minutes?”
The annual list of predictions from experts for the voice industry from ‘voicebot.ai’ is always one of the more fascinating reads in this space. The predictions are organized by topic – my favorite topic is “voice moves to mobile devices of all sorts.” The topic of “personalization, emotion recognition & context” blows my mind. Check them all out!
And this “Voice Report” from ‘Rain’ lists the top 9 trends that agency is seeing…
Here’s a piece from voicebot.ai about how Amazon Alexa has a new functionality that allows for “taking turns” and preferences – see this excerpt:
There is turn taking today when conversing with Alexa. The user speaks then Alexa speaks. That is followed by the user and back to Alexa and so forth. It’s highly structured and doesn’t accommodate interruptions, tangents, or trackbacks very well. The current model is decidedly unlike how humans interact in conversation. Natural turn taking is definitely more accommodating to the vagaries of human conversation.
As good as the natural turn taking demo was, the feature that will probably have a bigger impact is the ability to teach Alexa your preferences. This is long overdue. For Alexa to be a truly personal assistant, it needs to know personal preferences. This knowledge can help make Alexa more useful every day. Prasad demonstrated this feature as well telling Alexa what he meant by certain phrases. However, the practical benefits of Alexa remembering your preferences are easily overshadowed in a two-minute demo by the scope of changes required to support natural turn taking.