A layperson’s exploration of all things voice

Category Archives: Types of Use

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.

July 22, 2020

Going Into the Office? Use Voice to Avoid Touching Surfaces

Hat tip to the “Rain” agency for pointing me to this article that describes how employees heading back into the office can touch as few services as possible. Here’s the intro to that article:

Logitech Solutions for Zoom Rooms will integrate with Alexa for Business as a move to make meeting rooms contactless. Alexa for Business is a service that enables businesses to schedule meetings, reserve rooms and start video calls easily. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a need to reduce the need to touch conference room surfaces as employees head back to the office in hybrid remote work arrangements.

June 23, 2020

Using Voice in the Workplace

One area that I like to ponder is how voice assistants will eventually be used in the workplace. This article from “Small Biz Trends” has some ideas – here’s an excerpt:

Voice assistants like Cortana and Siri can be very helpful in analyzing data. Businesses can use voice assistants for task tracking, as well as time management. You can use voice commands to build analytical queries over large data stores helping you to easily crunch data thus saving you valuable time.

For example, Siri can help you analyze data by using voice commands. You can help build analytical queries over large data trove, dividing data by date ranges or functions by simply using your voice. Voice assistants also help you not only interpret the data but also provide visualization as well.

“One way we use Voice AI specifically at Beyond Key is through automatically recorded Zoom meetings. These recordings are then transcribed, speakers identified, minutes tagged, and keywords flagged. The entire transcription becomes searchable, so you can find any action items”, added Goel on the tasks voice assistants are already making.

Advanced voice assistants are also changing the way we do business. They can now help employees use voice commands to make service requests. They are then transformed into service tickets that are addressed by support staff. This helps expedites the processing of requests and putting job orders in the system with little effort. It can be handy for businesses working in food and beverages, supplies, cleaning or maintenance.

June 17, 2020

Voice Biometrics Will Be Mainstream in 5 Years…

This press release claims that voice biometrics will be mainstream by 2026, driven by the need to protect our accounts and thwart hackers. Of course, voice biometrics has already started – this Voicebot.ai article notes how Google Assistant allows you to make some purchases by using your voice with its “Voice Match” service…

On an unrelated note, Google has made the completed the branding transition from “Google Home” to “Google Nest”…

May 19, 2020

Smart Speakers Can Be Smart

This NY Times article describes the many uses of smart speakers that often aren’t taken advantage of – here’s an excerpt:

All the major smart speakers can connect to your phone and be used as a speakerphone. Even in the most well-wired offices, it’s often hard to be heard and understood on conference calls, and your smart speaker may be able to help. Using a HomePod, Google Home speaker, or Echo device as a speakerphone has two main advantages: It likely has a louder speaker than your smartphone and, often, an array of multiple microphones designed to pick up hard-to-hear speech from different angles of a room.

Each manufacturer has instructions on how to turn its smart speaker into a speakerphone (here they are for Apple’s HomePod, Google Home and Amazon’s Echo devices). Each device has its own way of connecting to your phone and contacts. Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers connect through their apps, while Apple iPhones can connect to HomePods over AirPlay or automatically just by holding it near the top of the speaker.

This might not be ideal in a large corporate setting, but for smaller offices or remote settings, having a multipurpose speaker that can be used for music and other tasks, as well as a conference call speakerphone other times might be just the ticket to beat the bad call quality that comes with other speakerphones.

February 5, 2020

Enterprise Marketing Moves Towards Voice

In this podcast, Voicebot.ai’s Bret Kinsella talks with Jeff McMahon, Voicify’s CEO about how voice – and chat bots – can be used by enterprise marketers. Here are some of the points made:

1. Try to think of voice as a way to unlock existing content. Companies tend to have a lot of content buried deep on their sites that aren’t discovered much. Or maybe even not that deep but tend to be the kind of companies whose sites aren’t visited (eg. utilities & customers researching their usage).

2. We all will soon enough be digging into dynamic content more easily because voice is so frictionless. For example, the ability to easily access your own healthcare records.

3. At the 24-minute mark of the podcast, there is a discussion about leveraging your existing CMS, as content is more easily discoverable.

4. At the 32-minute mark of the podcast, there is a discussion about how commerce will soon be flourishing by voice – this year. Jeff gave some examples and noted how stored credit cards are now easily accessed by voice, which solves the problem of how to pay. Both Amazon Pay & Google Pay now permit third-parties to make transactions using their services – this is a game-changer. At the 51-minute mark, Jeff delves deeper into examples of what companies are doing now.

5. Jeff predicted an eventual boom in the use of voice for commerce, similar to how it has evolved for the Web (lots of doubters at first, then some slow movement – and then eventually more than most would have thought possible). Some although some companies might start with voice for engagement purposes, they eventually will likely migrate to voice commerce too.

6. Jeff noted how many of us want human-like interactions, but not with an actual human. Ain’t that the truth!

January 14, 2020

Samsung’s “Ballie”: A More Functional Robot

A few years ago, I was in Tokyo and saw a Jibo robot. It was freaky. This Voicebot.ai article describes Samsung’s new robot. It’s a ball that can follow you around – as opposed to prior robots that were stationary – and interact with you. It has more functionality than prior home-oriented robots, as this excerpt illustrates:

Samsung is also looking beyond simple request-and-response interactions of earlier social robots and smart speakers. Demonstrations of Ballie show it identifying problems in the home such as spilled food and a tipped over plant. In both cases, Ballie proactively called a robot vacuum or air purifying system to the location of the problem. There was no requirement for the homeowner to take action or even know an issue had taken place.

Another example involved Ballie observing a demonstrator watering a household plant. The woman’s task list for that day included, “Water Plants” and Ballie automatically checked off that task as complete. These are examples of virtual assistants with agency. That means they are granted authority to take actions on behalf of the user even without an explicit command. Google Duplex and the forthcoming Ring Doorbell Concierge are other early examples of voice assistants with agency. This is clearly a feature set that the leading voice assistant providers assume will be important and beneficial to users.

December 13, 2019

Law Firms: Using Voice to Track Billables

Being a lawyer, the first “grand” idea I mustered when thinking about voice is how convenient it would be as a tool to keep track of billables. Law firm lawyers typically despise having to fill out time sheets. So much so that some lawyers need to be constantly hounded to do so. Anyway, I wasn’t surprised to find that I wasn’t the first to have this idea – and that in fact, more than one legal vendor is offering this type of thing, including Tali, Thomson Reuters Elite and Case.one per this blog.

The one sticking point for me was the privacy one – no law firm (nor client) wants the outside world to know this type of information. So security issues would have to be addressed…

September 26, 2019

How to Best Play Music on Your Voice Assistant

Playing music is huge for voice. Particularly in the car – the #1 type of use there. But it’s big outside of the car too. This cnet article provides some tips for music lovers – here’s a select few from that:

1. Change the “default” music to whatever music service you like to use the most. For me, I love Spotify. So I changed my default to that. There are other alternatives that you can select as your default including Pandora and iHeartRadio.

2. You can ask your voice assistant for similar music if you feel like exploring. For example, “Alexa, play music similar to Fat Freddy’s Drop.” This works for both similar songs & artists.

3. Creating playlists by voice only works if you’re using the default that Amazon provides – it’s own streaming music. But if you have playlists on your Spotify account, etc., you can ask for those by voice. You just can’t modify them by voice.

4. You can essentially set up a Sonos-like framework by using multiple voice assistants in your house, spread out in different rooms. Now that is a real cost-saver! [Per this note, you can also use Alexa with your Sonos system.]

5. You can have Alexa wake you up to music – “Alexa, wake me up to Santana.”

August 14, 2019

Is the “Echo Wall Clock” Worth It?

Some of the voice products available seem like a stretch to me. One of those is the “Echo Wall Clock.” At first glance, it seems fairly cheap at $30 – but you can buy a cooking timer for only $3. Of course, you don’t need to even spend the measly $3 if you already have an Echo – because your voice assistant can serve as a timer for you. But using your Echo as your timer does have a disadvantage – it can’t display how much time you have left. Hence, Amazon is selling this wall clock. “Alexa, set a 12-minute timer” – and see time count down at a glance.

Note that the Echo Wall Clock must be paired to – and within 30 feet of – a compatible Echo device. So the $30 becomes $60 if you don’t already own a voice assistant. And one other limitation – when your compatible Echo is playing music in stereo pairing or speaker groups, or multi-room music, your clock will be temporarily disabled. Since many people play music while they cook, this may be a problem for more people than it might seem. And finally, some of the clock’s reviews indicate it is shoddily made – the hour/minute hand apparently is fragile…