A layperson’s exploration of all things voice

Monthly Archives: April 2020

April 30, 2020

How to Use Google Assistant Around the House

I definitely cover more Amazon Alexa items on this blog than ones pertaining to Google Assistant. So I thought I’d share this article with some basic tips about how you can leverage the Google Assistant with your tasks at home. Nothing earth-shattering, but I’m emboldened to start trying to take notes more often by voice. Here’s the excerpt related to that:

Jot down notes – Use the Google Assistant to quickly jot down notes when you are in the middle of other tasks. With a change to the app settings at the end of 2019, you can now not only use your voice to make notes, but you can also choose between a few different note-taking apps. You can choose from Google Keep, Any.do, AnyList, and Bring. Just say, “Hey Google, make a new note called video idea.”

April 28, 2020

Sirius XM Streaming Free on Alexa Until May 15th

One cool thing – Sirius XM’s premium service is streaming free thru May 15th. I just added a XM skill to Alexa for this that works well. No credit card required…

April 23, 2020

Spotify May Be Building Its Own Voice Assistant

I’m a big music lover – so I was excited to see this voicebot.ai piece indicating that Spotify might be building voice activation into their service. Here’s an excerpt:

The screenshot shared by Wong shows a new Voice sub-menu in the Spotify app where users grant permission for Spotify to use their microphone. Spotify will apparently only listen for the wake word when the app is open on the screen. That’s a big hint as to how Spotify might envision people using the voice service. The only time people are likely to keep Spotify open on their device is when they can’t hold it, such as when they are driving. The voice assistant may also be tied to the device for playing music and podcasts and cars that Spotify announced it was working on a year ago.

The extent of the voice assistant isn’t known, but presumably, it will include search and playback controls. Spotify has yet to share any information about its plans for a voice assistant publicly, so there’s no timeline either, but the foundation is there in the app.

April 21, 2020

Your Bad Memory Limits Voice’s Possibilities (At Least With Today’s Tech)

Recently, I blogged about this podcast, in which Voicebot.ai’s Bret Kinsella talks with John Kelvie from Bespoken about how “domains” will replace voice apps. I enjoyed John’s blog about this concept so much that I wanted to excerpt again from the blog:

Most of what is written above hinges on just a couple of key observations:

– Users do not remember invocation names

– Multi-turn dialogs sort-of work – in some cases they are useful and appropriate. But for the most part they annoy users and should be avoided.

If you accept these observations, everything else I’ve laid out follows fairly naturally. Of course, someone might come up with (or perhaps unbeknownst to me, already has) how to (a) improve users’ memories (b) remind them of phrases and experiences without annoying the love out of them, and/or (c) miraculously, markedly improve the state of the art of speech recognition. But assuming none of the above occur in the next 12-18 months, I believe most of what I have written is inevitable. At least, it is if we want to have a vibrant ecosystem for third parties.

April 16, 2020

Free “Curbside Service” Chatbot for Small Businesses

As noted in the Voicebot.ai article, the “Rain” agency has set up a free chatbot that faciliates the ability of small businesses to offer curbside service. Here’s an excerpt:

Curbie is relatively straightforward for businesses to set up. They register a phone number for the chatbot that customers can text when they arrive, then set up customized responses based on their location and what they want to tell the customers. RAIN has templates for ways to inform customers what they should text, whether its the parking stall they are in or what their car looks like so that the store can locate them when they arrive. RAIN is offering Curbie for free to any business that wants to sign up as a way of helping them without adding to their financial burden.

April 14, 2020

Alexa Works Overtime on Covid-19

This Amazon Alexa blog contains a host of resources related to coping with the coronavirus, including how to stay healthy, informed, connected and entertained. Here’s an excerpt about staying healthy:

– Two new Alexa routines can help you adjust to new schedules. The “Stay at Home” routine starts your day with a fun fact, notifies you to grab lunch and plan dinner. The “Work from Home” routine notifies you when it’s time to start work, when to get up and stretch, and when to start wrapping up for the day. Each routine can be easily enabled through the Alexa app.

– Using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, our Alexa health team built a U.S. experience that lets you use Alexa to check your risk level for COVID-19 at home, using just your voice. Ask, “Alexa, what do I do if I think I have COVID-19?” or “Alexa, what do I do if I think I have coronavirus?,” and Alexa will ask a series of questions about your travel history, symptoms, and possible exposure. Based on your responses, Alexa will provide CDC guidance given your risk level and symptoms.

– In Japan, you can also use Alexa to check your risk level at home. Based on your responses, Alexa will provide Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare guidance matching your risk level and symptoms.

– Customers in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, India, the UK, and the U.S. can now ask Alexa to sing a song for 20 seconds, and she’ll help you keep time while you scrub your hands with a tune.

April 9, 2020

Detecting Covid-19 Through Your Voice?

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

Identifying people infected with COVID-19 by the sound of their voice sounds far-fetched, but enterprise voice assistant developer Voca.ai has started collecting the data that could lead to one. The startup partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to launch Corona Voice Detect this week, soliciting people to record their voices for an eventual open-source dataset and potential voice test for the disease.

Corona Voice Detect at the moment consists mainly of a website where people can record themselves speaking a few sentences. Users fill in a few details about their location, age, how they are feeling, and if they have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. The information is then anonymized and added to a growing dataset for analysis.

“We ask people to use the platform and record themselves every day. They say if they have the virus and how they are feeling,” Voca.ai co-founder Alan Bekker told Voicebot in an interview. “In viruses like the coronavirus that harm the respiratory system, there’s a high probability we might find a pattern in the way a person speaks using voice biomarkers research. We only launched a few days ago and are getting thousands of recordings an hour from Italy, the U.S., Asia, Israel, and all over. There are 20,000 to 30,000 people who have recorded so far.”

April 7, 2020

Alexa Improves List-Making

Hat tip to the “Rain” agency for pointing out this c-net article about how Amazon has improved how Alexa can help you be a taskmaster. Here’s the intro:

Adjusting to a new schedule during quarantine is tough. You’re now at home, except for trips to the grocery store and other essential errands, you’re missing friends and family who you usually see weekly, and your days seem to run together. To help you better adjust, Amazon has released new features for its Echo speaker to help you maintain a balance.

For example, Amazon has created two new routines specifically for staying at home that can help you schedule the day. I’m looking forward to using this one because I personally lose track of time when working from home and forget that I need to stand up and stretch.