A layperson’s exploration of all things voice

Category Archives: Types of Use

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…

August 13, 2019

SEO Is More Important for Voice Than for Online Searches

Recently, I blogged about this free 48-page playbook by “360i” about what you should know about voice from a marketing perspective. The chapter that begins on page 48 explains how to apply SEO principles to voice. It includes a diagram that maps out how user intent pathways – and the natural language used – reveal preferred content sources for Google Assistant.

Natural language inputs and the order of words in a request give us clues to the true intent behind a user’s discovery outcome. While keyword searches do this too, longer voice-driven queries add linguistic details that can be used by assistants leveraging machine learning to determine what content type or delivery is most appropriate to the moment and situation.

And this excerpt drives home the point about how important SEO is for voice:

With more clues towards consumer intent in Voice, the same search algorithms will have more data to source from. When searching or querying, consumers use more words when speaking than they do with typing. Typing keywords into a search bar is a sort of truncated version of natural language. As competition to be the top (and now sole) answer, mapping consumer intent to content experience will play a much bigger role in SEO.

August 7, 2019

“Conversational Storytelling”: What Does That Mean?

Loved this interview by Bret Kinsella of “voicebot.ai” with Tellables’ Amy Stapleton. Amy is one of the first people to use voice assistants to tell stories, as she uses her company, Tellables, as a publishing platform for conversational stories. Here’s some of the cool things that I learned during the podcast:

1. Amy distinguishes how her “conversational storytelling” platform differs from “games” even though someone using it gets rewarded in some ways. Her platform offers storytelling content with an interactive component. But what Tellables does isn’t quite gaming even though some “choose your own adventure” games have some storytelling in them.

2. Amy’s “Tricky Genie” was one of the first stories available on Alexa, enabling her to gain significant rewards through Amazon’s reward program (being a first-mover was important; Amy believes it’s important to build an audience first before trying monetization). “Tricky Genie” is a one-on-one experience with over 100 scenarios available.

3. Amy’s latest offering – “My Box of Chocolates” – uses a “Polly voice” to tell a short story. The Polly voice selected for a particular story has a personality that fits that particular story. The stories – typically 200 words or less – can be heard by yourself or in a group. Her goal is to offer stories that make you think. The interactive components at the end of the stories help to get you thinking. The interaction hook is an important way to make the voice experience special. After enabling the skill, “Alexa, open my box of chocolates”

4. At the end of the short story, a “party question” is provided. If you’re convened as a group, the party question is a great way to provoke a conversation. So you could hold a book club meeting and listen to “My Box of Chocolates” as a way to mix things up for a change. And saves folks the embarrassment of saying they haven’t read the book!

5. So in a sense, this type of platform is the flip-side of the danger of screens taking us further & further out of our communities – with voice, there is an opportunity to bring people back as a community.

6. For “My Box of Chocolates,” Amy reaches out to authors to submit short stories. Since stories being told by a Polly voice on a device is different than reading short stories, there is a bit of an art to creating content that works on this platform. So Amy winds up doing a little bit of training for authors that are new to this.

7. When you build a skill, Amy recommends that you build it so that you can continuously add new content. Keep people coming back from more.

July 18, 2019

Using Voice to Help Your Pet Sitter

If you live with a pet, you know the drill. When you have someone watch over your beloved, you leave a list of the “what’s” and the “where’s.” But what if you could also easily create a skill so that your pet sitter could ask questions of a voice assistant in your absence. Now that’s easy to accomplish with Amazon’s “Pet Sitter Blueprint.”

After you create a name for your skill, you can fill in your pet’s daily habits & needs – including answers to common questions (egs. contact info for your vet, neighbors or pet store). Other things you might address include:

– Daily schedules
– Allergies & medications
– Where to find things
– How to do things
– Emergency contact information

July 16, 2019

Conducting Surveys by Voice: Turning Something Mundane Into Fun!

For marketers, research remains one of the most important tools to determine which approach to use. And one of the best ways to conduct research is having customers – and potential customers – fill out surveys. But no one enjoys filling those out – in fact, we’ve become accustomed to being rewarded in some way in exchange for the hassle of doing so.

But what if filling out a survey wasn’t such a hassle? That’s the promise of “SurveyLine” from Voice Metrics. It’s akin to “SurveyMonkey” online – but filling out surveys by merely listening & talking seems far easier than reading & clicking. At least, right now – perhaps because it’s new. But probably because it really is far easier. So it has a lot of promise.

The beauty is right now it’s free. And it’s a ton of fun to create short surveys to impress your family, co-workers & friends. You don’t have to be doing research to use it. Anyone can for any reason. So I’ve created a few fun ones in addition to using it for my day job. To try one say: “Alexa, open SurveyLine.” Then when prompted, just say “Flintstones” and enjoy…

Two things to note if you create a voice survey:

1. I’m not sure how voice surveys would fare for complex questions & answers. Those might be easier to tackle in writing – particularly for those of us who are older and have a hard time remembering past the last few seconds

2. If you create a multiple-choice quiz, warn folks in your promos that they should answer using the number of their answer (not the phrase of their choices). Otherwise, they will get an error…

June 12, 2019

Storytelling: Combining Voice With Reading a Real Book!

What if you could combine storytelling in a real book with the benefits that voice offers? That’s starting to happen. For example, check out the intro from this article:

Melissa and Matt Hammersley got the idea for Novel Effect when they were expecting their first child, Eleanor. They wanted to create something that would help them bond as a family and use technology to bring a little more magic into her life. A light bulb went off at their baby shower, when a friend did a theatrical reading of a book that would soon become Eleanor’s. What if technology could simulate that experience and turn story time into an almost cinematic experience?

They brought on a team of experts and began building Novel Effect, which uses voice recognition technology to follow along when someone reads a book out loud, adding music, sound effects, and other features.

More recently, the NY Times has started providing invocations embedded in articles with so that you can learn more about the article’s topic through your voice assistant.