As would be expected with all of us home, voice is being used more now than ever (see this “pandemic use” article). Meanwhile, the latest Voicebot.ai annual stats show that voice on smart speakers is up a third in a year. Here’s an excerpt from their article:
– The U.S. smart speaker installed user base is now 87.7 million adults, up 32% over a year earlier
– This equates to a population adoption rate of 34.4%
– Smart speaker user base growth rate slowed in 2019 over 2018 despite adding more than 20 million new users
Here’s the intro from this Voicebot.ai article:
You may hear that voice assistant use depends on context, but you rarely see data that backs up those statements. The In-car Voice Assistant Consumer Adoption Report 2020 breaks down 15 consumer use cases and shows that “making a phone call” is by far the most common activity while driving. Seventy-three percent of voice assistant users in the car say they are making phone calls by voice followed by asking for directions at 49.7%, and sending a text by 38.9%. The fourth and fifth most common use cases were “playing a streaming music service” and “playing the radio” with 27.0% and 14.0% respectively. These results are from a nationally representative sample of 1,090 U.S. adults in January 2020.
Meanwhile, this piece explains how voice plays a role in buying a car for 60% of car buyers…
In this podcast, Modev’s Pete Erickson and Score’s Bradley Metrock talk to Voicebot.ai’s how this virus could impact their voice events this year. No bueno for in-person events but they do have some online events that will continue regardless…
RAIN has posted its list of predictions for this year – including this one:
On the heels of Beeb, Erica, and Hey Mercedes, 2020 will see brands in many industries seeking more control over their voice assistant footprint – spanning data and the customer experience – in the form of creating “owned” voice assistants in their brand’s image. There will be another set of major brands – from automotive to consumer electronics, financial services to QSR – that introduce their own voice agents, with their own personas and voices, in the year to come.
The Voice Interoperability Initiative will begin to connect these more disparate, specialist assistants with more generalist intelligences like Alexa, so as to make them more useful in more places.
In this podcast, Voicebot.ai’s Bret Kinsella talks with Matt Ware of FIRST (up to the 24:30 mark) to get the perspective of how voice is progressing in Asia and Australia. Here are some of the points made:
1. The Chinese government’s emphasis on becoming the leader in AI leads them to work closer with large tech companies in that country, sharing data with them, providing financial support & taking into account their needs in international diplomacy.
2. Large Chinese companies – like Baidu, Alibaba – have made inroads into many non-anglo countries by building out infrastructure upon AI will depend upon. This is particularly true in India and Africa.
3. By figuring out how voice works for a complex language like Chinese – which tends to more complicated sentence structures than the English language – it makes it actually easier for them to then handle “easier” languages in voice.
4. In Australia, there is a significant segment of the population that is Chinese. These Chinese ex-pats help to make Chinese technology the norm in that country.
5. Matt believes that the privacy initiatives in the US & Europe might only temporarily slow the development of AI & voice there since the transparency those initiatives provide to the general public might make the lack of privacy acceptable (eg. the opt-in rates under GDPR so far). Matt acknowledges that others view the situation more dire.
6. At the 20-minute mark, Matt & Bret discuss the challenges of discoverability – at the 23-minute mark, Matt gives his thoughts about whether China can be the first to fix that problem.
As noted in this Voicebot.ai article, the growth rate of U.S. Alexa skills was 25% in 2019 compared to 120% growth in 2018, a big drop on a relative basis but the nominal decline was also sharp. New Alexa skills per day in 2017 was 51.3 and rose to 85.0 in 2018, but fell to only 38.2 last year. So while the Alexa user base is growing quickly, developer activity appears to be shrinking. Here’s an excerpt from the article explaining perhaps why this is the case:
Much of this decline is likely attributed to less aggressive promotion in 2019 for new Alexa skill launches and a reduction in both the number of contests and rewards programs. Amazon has historically offered many incentives to developers ranging from t-shirts to smart displays for launching new skills. In 2019, these were curtailed compared to 2016-18 and Amazon started asking developers to focus more on quality than quantity of skills.
Amazon also didn’t run many contests with monetary prizes and began reducing payouts in the developer rewards programs in the U.S. These were both tangible incentives for developers to invest in building new skills for Alexa. The contests could deliver immediate payouts and the rewards program might lead to a recurring check for successful skills. Some Alexa developers have shared privately with Voicebot that they have reduced their activity on the platform or stopped working in the ecosystem altogether because of these changes.
Sarah Andrew Wilson of Matchbox.io thinks that the hobbyists are no longer experimenting with Alexa skills and that is invariably reducing new skill introductions.
The latest report from Edison Research/NPR shows that voice assistants continue to be the fastest-growing technology of all-time. 60 million people own a smart speaker – and for households that have them, they own an average of 2.6 of them. That shows that once someone owns one, they typically find them of value and obtain more of them to use in multiple rooms.
Of those who use voice assistants, 24% say they use the technology daily. And over half of the US population has used a voice command technology at least once. These are all staggering numbers…
In this podcast about voice trends, Voicebot.ai’s Bret Kinsella talks with Milkana Brace, CEO of Jargon, Ravi Lal, CEO of Voxly Digital, and Eric Schwartz of Voicebot.ai. Here are some of the points made:
1. Distribution Growth – Voice devices are proliferating. Think beyond smart speakers to include mobile phones, cars, wearables and more. Bret thinks this ubiquity of voice is the story of the year. For example, Amazon alone launched 16 new products that are voice-enablers.
2. Changing Market Share for the Big Players – There was a shuffle in market share for the largest voice device providers. Baidu rose up the ranks to #2 behind Amazon in the global smart speaker market. Google fell to third – with a negative surprise in their 3rd quarter numbers.
3. Bets by the Larger Voice Companies – Like Google, Samsung hopes to leverage its advantage of having a sizable market share for non-smart speaker devices that offer voice. Google & Samsung have phones. Samsung has TVs and hotels. Samsung announced a third-party marketplace for Bixby in the middle of the year, so it has some work to do as it starts from the ground floor. Apple may have their own third-party marketplace ready by the end of 2020.
4. Contrast in Google & Amazon’s Voice App Approach – Google focuses more on the utility of its own voice apps, while Amazon has used superior marketing to be the leader. Amazon tends to focus more on its users consuming media & having fun with its speakers. In other words, Amazon is better at encouraging third-parties to build skills whereas Google tends to care more about improving its own voice functionality right now.
5. Amazon’s Skills Growth Slows – Amazon’s library has more than 100k skills now – but the growth rate in that library really tailed off after the first quarter of 2019. Perhaps because some third-parties built skills just to try it out – but haven’t gone back to build more. Skill quality perhaps is a better metric – but we don’t really know if quality is improving.
6. Automated Systems Still Require Human Help – Google Duplex is a good example of how people may be more interested in the product than the product’s ability allow (Duplex allows you to make a restaurant reservation without speaking to a human). Meaning that call centers with humans are still necessary to fix the inevitable errors that currently exist in automated systems that use voice. But the potential is there for these automated systems to be the next killer apps since they are an obvious use case for voice (the first round of killer apps include music, list-making, asking simple questions, weather). Voice with chatbots make a good combination to try to eliminate the cost of speaking to a human to fix errors.
7. Multimodal is Coming – The ability to use voice to supplement visual experiences (or vice versa) should grow , mostly on phones and TVs. Examples are Food Network’s recipes or watching Jeopardy (ie. seeing the questions on a screen). Voice could be the key to unlock the promise of augmented reality and virtual reality, which really haven’t taken off yet.
8. Who “Owns” Voice Within Bigger Brands Goes Mainstream – Ravi noted that within large companies, voice projects have moved from experimental to mainstream as the departments within these organizations that “own” the projects have moved from R&D to marketing, etc.
9. Many Tools Available to Ease Voice App Building – Eric noted how this year saw many developer offer easier ways to code voice apps.
10. First Companies Building Their Own Proprietary Voice Assistants – Milkana noted how a handful of companies have invested in building their own voice assistants, including BBC, Mercedes, Capital One, Oracle and Salesforce.
This VoiceFirst.fm podcast hosted by Bradley Metrock includes NPR’s Noelle (LaCharite) Silver (she left Microsoft a few months ago) and Pitch Publicity’s Amy Summers. Here are a few nuggets:
1. Noelle explained how Amazon started off with the sale of its smart speakers as a way to get the word out about the possibilities of voice, not really looking to make profits. But that now, the number of sales inevitably leads to greater profits. She explained that she sees this trend of big holiday sales continuing because many people are discovering voice for the first time each year. That is likely to continue. And even seasoned voice users will buy new devices as their functionalities evolve.
2. Noelle told the story about the early days of Alexa and how if someone used the term “please” during an inquiry, the experience would be “broken” – so an Amazon engineer went back in and reconfigured all the code so that being nice to a smart speaker wouldn’t be a bad thing.
3. Amy had a great skill idea – the “Santa Fact Checker” – so that you don’t have to lie to your kids, you let Alexa do that for you. And yes, Google has added the “Santa Tracker” to its assistant.
The folks over at Witlingo have created this evolving “glossary of terms” for those that want to get up-to-speed in voice. Check it out!