Building the Future of Ambient Voice Experiences With Alexa
VOICE22 took place in Arlington, Virginia, from October 10th to the 12th. As usual, it brought together the world's top voice developers, device makers, and tech influencers who shared their experiences while providing invaluable insights into the world of Voice.
With Amazon's Alexa being one of the most sophisticated and successful smart assistants, many of the speakers at this year's event focused on the creative ways in which they leverage Alexa's skills.
Let's highlight a few of them.
Alexa @ VOICE22
Conversation designer and journalist for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Michael Collett, centered his talk on the benefits of making hyperlocal news available on smart speakers. Voice and localness go together like peanut butter and jelly. When people use their voices to search for information, they're looking for local results in the overwhelming majority of cases.
Collett and his team are well aware of the value of local information for Voice. They use natural language generation and Alexa to power the ABC Emergency Voice skill, which delivers quick, 24/7 updates about any fires, floods, or storms near listeners' specific locations.
Aging & Engaging With Voice
We also heard from Heidi Culbertson, strategic business development lead for Alexa Aging & Independence. Heidi is also the organizer of the Aging & Engaging hackathon, a contest to build Alexa experiences to meet the aspirations of those aged 55 and older. Heidi sees voice as a way to connect with adults aged 55 and over, and she believes that voice tech can "make things faster, easier, and more efficient while offering less cognitive load when placed where there's a lot of friction."
Her keynote provided an overview of the hackathon, its aims, and its means and revealed the contest's winners. Alongside an overall champion, there were winners in five unique sub-categories ranging from staying sharp to movement and the best multi-modal skill.
The overall champion was Family Journal, a skill that fosters family connection and creates a private, miniature social network on Alexa to share moments from daily life easily. Some of the other category winners were:
- Your Memory Challenge (best 'Stay Sharp skill), which tests listeners with five questions after hearing five short stories
- Senior Stretch (best 'Keep Moving' skill) features guided stretching routines that help users increase their range of motion while having fun.
- Cash Register (best 'Multi-Modal' skill) turns Alexa devices into a point of sale that removes barriers like keyboards, touch screens, and payment terminals.
You can see all the winners of the Aging & Engaging hackathon here.
As Heidi says, "21% of the US population is over 50. By 2050, over 2 billion people globally will be older than 65. Voice is the right technology at the right time to meet this massive demographic shift."
Emotions and Customer Satisfaction
Top Alexa skill builder Brian Tarbox's presentation outlined how skills that evoke an emotional response are more engaging to the user and tend to generate higher satisfaction. Brian knows that emotions are key to brand recognition and loyalty. He's also aware that providing these kinds of experiences might be easier said than done, so he also walked us through the code required to make this happen. His talk can teach you to leverage new Alexa emotions and speaking styles to create naturally engaging voice experiences.
Alexa in Space
Do you think having Alexa in your home is useful? Just imagine if you were in outer space… Justin Nikolaus, Lead Voice Designer for Alexa, discussed working with NASA, as part of the Artemis I mission, to integrate Alexa into the Orion spacecraft. In his talk, Nikolaus shared insights on how voice can be a powerful tool for both crews and future space tourists. His talk is not only insightful but also has a definite cool factor.
Voice is slowly making its way into the healthcare industry. And it's slower because of the sensitive nature of medical information. Mark Tucker, Senior Technical Director at RAIN, discussed how to develop HIPAA-eligible skills - which is crucial for Voice to grow in healthcare. He also discussed why the Alexa Presentation Language is critical in creating delightful patient experiences. The last part of his presentation outlined how to develop an Alexa skill to list active prescriptions, incorporate reorders, and track shipments.
Community is Key
A massive part of what made VOICE22 special is the Voice community itself, sharing their skills under one roof. As Alexa Chief Evangelist Jeff Blankenburg said, "These events are one of the few times you're surrounded by people who 'get it.' At most other events, you're educating people about voice, but here, you get to dive into the niche with people heavily invested in its future."
The path toward growth is filled with challenges. But getting a fresh perspective from an inspiring speaker can open many new doors in many minds, which benefits the entire community. "The ethos of everyone taking part here is pretty simple: A rising tide lifts all boats. As voice continues to increase in popularity, then we all win!" said Blankenburg.
You can watch these sessions along with other impactful sessions that happened at VOICE22. On-demand sessions are available here.
The future is vocal.
Modev was founded in 2008 on the simple belief that human connection is vital in the era of digital transformation. Modev believes markets are made. From mobile to voice, Modev has helped develop ecosystems for new waves of technology. Today, Modev produces market-leading events such as VOICE Global, presented by Google Assistant, VOICE Summit the most important voice-tech conference globally, and the Webby award-winning VOICE Talks internet talk show. Modev staff, better known as "Modevators," include community building and transformation experts worldwide. To learn more about Modev, and the breadth of events and ecosystem services offered live, virtually, locally, and nationally - visit modev.com.