Top news stories for Episode 19 (November 30, 2017):

1) Amazon expands monetization to include subscriptions, in-skill purchasing, and integration of Amazon Pay.

2) Beginning this week, Amazon is allowing Alexa skill developers to provide users with notifications.

3) Amazon readying "Alexa for Business" platform, with launch partners already on board.

4) FORTUNE: Alexa! Give Us Back Our Freedom!  This article discusses the tendency that voice-based search will have toward being co-opted by the major tech companies.

5) Why Apple's HomePod Is Three Years Behind Amazon's Echo

6) Voicebot.AI Story Of The Week: U2 Promotes New Album With Exclusive Broadcast Via Amazon Alexa

7) Winner of inaugural Alexa Prize achieves conversation duration exceeding 10 minutes in length

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Panel for Episode 19 (November 30, 2017):

John Kelvie

John Kelvie is CEO and founder of Bespoken.

Transcript:

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:00:11] Hi, and welcome back to This Week In Voice Episode 19, for Thursday November 30th, 2017. My name is Bradley Metrock, and I'm the CEO of a company called Score Publishing based here in Nashville, Tennessee. My guest today is John Kelvie, CEO and founder of Bespoken. John, say hello.

 

John Kelvie: [00:00:34] Hey Bradley. Hi, everybody else.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:00:36] John, thank you for joining us. I'm really glad you're here. It's been a huge week in news. I take it you've been following AWS re:Invent pretty closely. Have you not?

 

John Kelvie: [00:00:46] We have. It's been just fascinating to see everything coming out of there and voice developers are part of that ecosystem. It's just really exciting to see all the new stuff.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:00:56] The first thing I saw out of re:Invent was several people getting their picture taken for a selfie in front of the giant Echo. Did you see that?

 

John Kelvie: [00:01:06] I did. I did. I think the best line I saw was Eric Olson had used his own Skill, InsultiBot, which told him, "Why don't you get some real friends instead of talking to this computer?"

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:01:20] Whoever had that idea of doing the giant Echo, that was a marketing home run. Yeah, a lot of great stuff coming out of the conference. I love to see Amazon's passion for voice technology and voice-first technology. It's extremely clear. And that's reflected in this week's set of stories. And so with that, let's get to the news. Story number one this week is that Amazon has expanded its monetization. So if you listen to this show at all, we talk frequently about the urgent need for voice developers to be able to monetize their Alexa Skills, Google Home Actions, whatever voice application they're putting together it's essential. And we took another big step toward that this week, with Amazon introducing three different things, subscriptions within Alexa Skills, in-Skill purchasing, and integration of Amazon Pay. And John, my question for you is, are you as excited about these new monetization options as I am, and which one out of the three are you most excited about?

 

John Kelvie: [00:02:42] Yeah I am as excited as you, because I do think the monetization is huge. There's within the development community, I think an outcry for more options in this way. So the addition of being able to do subscriptions, to do in-Skill purchases....I mean, that's fantastic. You know, right now where developers are potentially getting a paycheck from Amazon for being just popular....to add on other ways that they can monetize their content, to add in the extensions....I think that that's fantastic and I think people are really going to be able to take advantage of it and start to build something that's sustainable over the long term.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:03:22] The subscriptions part catches my eye. And I think the example that was used in the Amazon blog entry on this was Jeopardy. There may be some other one, there were several examples listed there. From a content creation standpoint, which is how my company got into voice development and just learning about Alexa and the like to begin with, the ability to have subscriptions within Alexa Skills....I'm just super psyched about that and the different ways enterprising companies will find a way to take advantage of that. So yeah, I'm glad to hear you're as excited as I am. The other part about it is that Amazon seems to be gaining momentum. They're rolling out. First they rolled out the expanded categories for their payment program and that was OK. And now they're starting to really find their way with providing monetization. It's exciting to see. It's just part of the momentum. Anything else to add on that?

 

John Kelvie: [00:04:25] I am really interested to see the new Skills that do come out. I mean, they have sort of the premier ones there. Part of the announcement was Jeopardy. There's a few others. As we see the more rank-and-file developers get involved with it, it's going to be great to hear success stories there and to see the sort of creative cases people come up with. If you have a popular Skill, and you're able to then do some add-on with content, a purchase that's in the skill, then people can show a path and start to show some real successes there. I think the level of interest that you have from the sort of independent development community is going to go way up. And that's where you could start to see you know the Skill Store really take off in the way that you saw the iOS app store take off.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:05:14] Story number two is also coming out of re:Invent. Amazon is allowing Alexis Skill developers to provide users with notifications. So you can imagine....and everything that I've read about this, Amazon has been cautious with this because they have done such a good job, and they've invested so much time and resources into cultivating the Alexa ecosystem. And the last thing they want to do is send people running for the hills with a notification fest creating terrible behavior out of Alexa Skills. So but this is exciting to see. Share with me your thoughts on developers being able to use notifications and where you think this will help and how much you think this will help the ecosystem.

 

John Kelvie: [00:06:05] I think this is another one that's just fantastic for the ecosystem. I mean the monetization, the notifications, these are ones that since day one that I've been involved with Alexa I've heard people asking for. And it's funny, too, when you see people that are new to the community....those are some of the first questions that they asked and especially around notifications. People ask, "Why don't they have notifications yet?" "Why can't I do this?" They're sort of expecting it to be there. Amazon I think has done a good job of explaining to people why they need to be careful in introducing this and the classic concern is "Well, what if you're sending people notifications, especially audio ones in the middle of the night?" That would obviously not be a great user experience, unless it's like maybe a smoke detector. I mean, that would be useful. You certainly don't want to get a news alert or a Jeopardy alert if they added them in there in the middle of the night.

 

John Kelvie: So they had to be careful about the user experience. They have rolled this out pretty slowly. But it does open up a ton of different use cases. I will say for us and our company where we're doing monitoring of skills and voice apps, it's interesting for us because we can then use that to alert people when there's a problem with their voice apps. Right? So that's a great application. And I think anybody who's using it....obviously on the phone, notifications are maybe the dominant point of interaction that you have with most your apps. How often are you going into an app because of the notification versus proactively doing it? I don't know the numbers on that, but it wouldn't surprise me at all to see that it's more than 30 percent of notifications. So I think that you can easily see with Alexa how this is going to be very popular. They are going to have to handle it carefully, rolling this out.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:07:51] The thing that comes to mind, for me at first, is the comparison which you made earlier in this show about the Alexa Skills marketplace. You know, that ecosystem as compared to the iOS ecosystem. And everyone is hoping and seeing that the pathway for Alexa Skills will be as popular and profitable as iOS apps have been. The first thing I think of within that framework is as I read about the notifications is with Alexa Skills one of the big differences. Everything is done in the cloud. Everything is done behind the scenes. So with an iOS app, you get a little bubble notification, you know how in the last 10 years we got bubble notifications saying, "Hey, you! We just decided to give you some new features!" And you go to the app store and you can either just accept the update, or auto-accept it, or whatever. But most of you used to at least read the features added with the updates and you just feel like you're getting all this extra value from the work that the developer is doing behind the scenes. Now with the Alexa Skills, it's not like the developers are doing any less work, in fact, they're probably doing more work. It's so transparent, you don't see it. And so the customer, the end user, they can either start to take it for granted or they can think that nothing's going on. It's just a different thing. So for me, the notifications, one thing I hope that they figure out how to do is, make it so the user can understand the cadence and the frequency and the amount of new features that developers are working to support the Skills that they've downloaded. Because I think that that's the type of thing an end user has to see in order to invest further into that ecosystem. If I download my first iOS app, and I see that the developer is constantly updating it, regularly updating it and adding new things and responding to customer feedback, guess what? I'm going to download 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. So that's my hope with this, at least.

 

John Kelvie: [00:10:08] Right. So that's an interesting take. I hadn't thought about that at all. So using the notifications to prompt people and alert them about new stuff that's available....that is going to be another nice selling point and that's an example of how these two things the monetization of the notifications could actually go together.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:10:26] Sure.

 

John Kelvie: [00:10:27] So there's maybe a natural synergy there where you notify people about something that you've added to the Skill and then from there they can go in and part of it's for free. Maybe it's such a rich, nice feature that they're willing to then do some sort of premium subscription on it. There are definitely developers that are out there and Skills that are out there when they are adding just stuff. I mean, they're really working hard on it and they're just adding stuff nonstop. And yeah that's going to be a nice thing for people, to alert them to know.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:10:58] Sure. Absolutely. Two big things to start off This Week In Voice for re:Invent but the third one is pretty intriguing as well. Story number three this week is, Amazon is readying what they call Alexa For Business and they've already got a number of launch partners already on board. We've spoken a little bit about, we've actually spoken a lot about enterprise use of voice technology on the show but this feels like Amazon is about to invest a little bit more heavily than they already have and really make a big push here. John, you're looking at this announcement from Amazon and them saying that they're going to be working to make Alexa as useful for business as possible and these launch partners and all this stuff. How does that strike you? Do you think the timing is right? Do you think that business has a lot to gain from this? What are your thoughts?

 

John Kelvie: [00:12:01] I think it's fantastic. I think these three announcements, it's just immediately as we're going through them, it's like, "Gee, which one of these is the betas?" Because I think they all have immense significance for the whole ecosystem. The business one....it is another one where a lot of people, I won't say everyone, but it comes to the community and it says, "How do I do something for enterprises?" And there's not a good answer for it today. Those companies I know that are forming right now, they are there to serve the enterprise and they've really been building a company anticipating that this would be available, but not knowing when it would be. So I think it is timely, because I think there's already sort of a burgeoning ecosystem there. And this is going to help for those folks that are already part of it. It's really going to help them and it's going to bring a lot more people in. I would also say again, from where we sit at Bespoken. We serve everyone. We'll work with any developer that's out there, and I think the tools that we provide work for anyone. I think for ourselves, as for anybody else, it's sort of a third party vendor. You're really excited about this because, classically, where are there are great opportunities to monetize? It is around the enterprises. So we want to see more enterprises participating. We think it's going to be great for the long run. It will be of high value for the ecosystem. You know, I didn't assume that it would be this year so I think Amazon is timely, and I think it shows their commitment to the space,  that they are getting out there already. Well, announcing it already. We'll see when it's made.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:13:33] Yeah. Well, I don't think they put a firm date on it, unless I just missed it. But you know there's something that happens when there's a sort of symbiotic relationship between enterprise use of technology and then the consumer use. And I think a lot of consumers, especially with voice technology being so new and anytime a technology just sort of rushes and everyone wants to proclaim it as a fad, and there's no bigger way to show it is not a fad than having enterprise embrace it. So from that standpoint, I think it's exciting for all of voice technology and everybody involved with it in any way, or thinking about getting involved with it in any way, that Amazon's making this push. Because it just makes it so much easier to then have conversations about the growth that the consumer side. You're going to hear less and less of, "Hey, is this going to go away tomorrow?" and more and more of, "Hey, I need to go invest in this company or that company or start paying attention to this thing a little bit more."

 

John Kelvie: [00:14:43] Yeah absolutely I think it does make it more real. I think another thing is, if you want to find reasons to feel bullish about this....if you look at Apple and Google, servicing enterprises is not necessarily their expertise. But Amazon has had the AWS Marketplace out there for a long time. They know how to work with enterprises on their own. They know how to help vendors find customers via their marketplace on AWS. They can bring that playbook to Alexa, and they can bring that expertise there. You know so if you're thinking about, "Gee, do I want my enterprise to get involved in this?" or if you're a startup and you're thinking about doing an enterprise-type play. Those are reasons to feel very optimistic about it. This is going to have some real legs behind it and Amazon's going to know how to really support you.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:15:36] Couldn't agree more. I couldn't agree more and yeah, these first three stories....I don't know. I think you could line up a thousand people who are paying attention into the space and I think you'd get 333 saying each one of these is the most important. I don't know which one. (laugh) But yeah, that's a great way to start. Moving on to story number four, and with all of this pro-Amazon stuff, I had to rein it back in a little bit here and include this Fortune article. And from time to time on this show, we include articles like this that expressed skepticism about the market. I think we would be doing anyone listening to this a big disservice if we didn't.

 

Bradley Metrock: The one this week is called. "Alexa! Give Us Back Our Freedom!" and the concept that is discussed in this article was actually discussed in the very first Alexa Conference. We have the Alexa Conference coming up in January. John Kelvie will be there. Bespoken will be there, as well as many other thought leaders in this space. The first time we did the Alexa Conference someone actually brought up what this article talks about, that we should all be worried that the current state of search, as it is now, gives a lot of information back. It's hard for any one company or interest to control that, it's hard for any one company to take a search term and come in and monopolize it. You can argue degrees all you want, but information for the most part is democratized. On Google, they're public about their algorithms. All of these things could go away in a world with voice-based search if it's not done right. And that is the thesis of this article. And John I want to get your thoughts on this, from your seat, where you sit with Bespoken and the great work y'all are doing. As you sort of think about what search looks like in a voice-first world, does this thought of information not flowing as freely as it should concern you?

 

John Kelvie: [00:17:55] I think it is a concern. I think it's a concern in the way that Fortune states it, that it's going to be limiting some some of the options for consumers. I think it's also a concern if you're a voice designer, because you just have a limited amount of information you can present back. So the right to certainly raise it as an issue....what do I think are the mitigating aspects here? One, as things become more and multi-modal, I mean to give a shout out to Google so this isn't all Alexa love-fest. I mean with Google Assistant, that's already inherently multi-modal. And you can chat with that now. And when you're looking at a screen there on your phone, you can present a lot more options and you can more easily allow people to sort of scroll through information. That multi-modal aspect that you have with Google, that you have with the Echo Show, you can take advantage of a screen you can take advantage of other interface types, and not just voice, that does alleviate the issue to some extent. And that's going to help people. And then it also just gets at what I think is a whole interesting aspect of the space and how new it is, which is that you're going to be limiting options for consumers to some extent. That is, even with the multi-modal aspect that's somewhat endemic. But you're just relying more on AI. You're allowing the machine to make more choices for people, and that's really a new thing that across the board and the behavior of these platforms and these apps that I think we're all getting used to. And seeing how that plays out over time and how well the AI does and where we find it to be working well and where it sort of falls down....that's going to be something that's very emergent and I expect it's going to change a lot over the next few years.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:19:46] So frequent This Week In Voice guest Brian Roemmele likes to talk about how much the future will be one of people having a lot of different types of voice assistants. It's not going to be one to rule them all. In his very educated opinion, I don't necessarily agree with that. But I do think about this issue as one of the things that will force . ...in the sense of the market forcing a lot of different voices assistants, because, just think about it. If you come to rely upon your Amazon Echo. And you ask it, you become aware that you can ask this thing to do a search for you and then you ask it, "Alexa, tell me the best place...." Oh, my Alexa is going off. Well yeah, that's a rite of passage for the show. And I was like, what is that noise? If I said, "Alexa, tell me the best restaurant in Nashville." And it responds back with Arby's, (all laugh) because Arby's decided to pay Amazon a bunch of money. That's strike one to two and a half, right? It gives terrible search results one more time and I'm then pulling out the computer, to then go to Google then do a search on my computer for a replacement for my Echo. Right? And search is such a hot button, such an absolutely essential part of the way that we live that I could see search being a thing that causes....the ways that these different big companies and some small companies handle search to be the point of differentiation, the entire differentiation with some voice assistants. And so on this particular issue, I think it lends itself to the vision of a future with several voice assistants rather than just one. Do you agree with that, or you see it differently?

 

John Kelvie: [00:21:58] Because consumers are going to interact with one and they're going to think that it's not giving them the best results.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:22:03] Because there will always be taciturn consumers who want options in terms of search.

 

John Kelvie: [00:22:14] I mean you're already starting to see that with Alexa, where....and it's actually, it's one of the articles in this invocation-less discovery where essentially Alexa will choose a Skill to fulfill a request, which is something that they've been in beta for a little bit. So they're picking winners there, right?

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:22:35] Sure.

 

John Kelvie: [00:22:35] And it's just like they'd be picking a winner if you asked it what the best restaurants within a five mile radius. I don't know if that's going to be a huge impetus for people to move to different assistants. I mean, there are a lot of complaints already with Alexa's behavior on it. People do feel that there's favoritism or that it's not doing anything correctly. But I....at least for the next few years I do believe that it's in the interest of all the major platforms to play that extremely fairly.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:23:02] Think about the politics in the United States where it's extraordinarily polarized and intense. Think about it, if I asked Alexa in the year 2020. I go to Alexa, and I say, "Alexa, who is the front runner for the Democratic nomination for president." God help you if you respond back in a way that the person asking that question doesn't like. And also think about the interests, the money that will be flowing in to try to be the answer to that question. Yeah, it's a fascinating thing to contemplate and we'll all get to sort of live through it together. But this article does a pretty good job of outlining some of the concerns.

 

John Kelvie: [00:23:54] It does and I think that we'll see how it plays out. I do hope that they play those things as straight as possible. You know, that the AI does at least a reasonable job so that consumers don't feel like they're getting cheated.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:24:07] Sure.

 

John Kelvie: [00:24:08] It's definitely a challenge.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:24:09] Moving on to story number five. So another drumbeat of this show is how disappointing Apple has been. I find them disappointing in almost everything that they do but the voice technology sector is now starting to rally against them, now that the Homepod has been delayed. In this article, why Apple's Homepod is three years behind Amazon's Echo. It paints a high level sort of picture....it provides some behind-the-scenes anecdotes but the short answer is, why is Apple behind Amazon? Well, they didn't take it seriously, and they didn't have any sort of vision or passion for this. They just....they didn't see it in the way that Amazon has seen it. And as I have maintained over and over again, the big difference between Apple and Amazon is that Amazon's visionary leader is alive. Apple's visionary leader is deceased. And that pretty much is the way to summarize so much of what has gone on. But I wanted to include this article just to to bring it up here. John, as you look at the Homepod, and you look at Apple's forays into voice with Siri, and that's been somewhat controversial, people think that that hasn't been evolved as much. I guess my question is, do you think that Apple will ever be able to catch up with Amazon given the lead that they have and given how Amazon is making it almost priority number one over everything else?

 

John Kelvie: [00:25:58] Yeah, I don't think so. I mean I think across the board the way Amazon is moving in so many different dimensions forward with voice, it is going to be hard for Apple to catch up. I mean, just reading that article. Where did they start? They started with Hi-Fi. They're not selling to me at all. I know that there are people that are interested in Hi-Fi stuff. I'm not one of them. But just that that's their origin point....whereas Amazon, with the Echo....I mean they're trying to build the first AI purpose-specific device. That's why they've got such a huge lead, right? They weren't just shoehorning it on something else.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:26:39] Sure. And frankly, I think it really didn't matter what Apple's point of attack was given that they announced this thing in the summer. They showed nothing. And then delayed it in December, or in November. Excuse me, they delayed the December launch until later. You can't play like that with Amazon. Amazon is on fire. And that's the entire docket of the stories of this show. It's Amazon is on fire. So you mean to tell me that you're going to announce something over the summer and then failed to deliver it in December when you have a supply chain CEO running your company. Like what? I'm inclined to agree with you that it's going to be hard for them to catch up.

 

John Kelvie: [00:27:32] Yeah, I think the devil's advocate position is, look I mean they have Siri on all their phones and they have what, a billion phones out there? So maybe they will be able to take advantage of that user base one day. If you asked me to put a bet on it, I'm betting they're not going to win.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:27:47] You know, it's just a company that appears to be in transition. So it's going to be sort of interesting to watch how that plays out. It actually ties in well the story number six, which is our VoiceBot.AI story of the week, this week. Which is that U2 is promoting its new album with an exclusive broadcast via Amazon Alexa. And I am a huge U2 fan. I've seen them live several times and it's probably because of that that I remember all of YouTube's various partnerships with Apple. There was a U2 iPod of all things, and I think it's very expensive. You could get it on eBay, but there was a U2 iPod and all it had was U2 music on it. There's been several partnerships. And there was also something that turned into a bit of a controversy where I think one of the iPhone's or something had a U2 album pre-installed and you could...

 

John Kelvie: [00:28:42] Everyone got that album. I still look at it. It shows up on my iTunes and I'm like, what? I'm not a big U2 fan, how did I get this? Then I remember, "Oh yeah, they did that promotion."

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:28:59] Yeah. And that was sort of that was one of the sort of points where things began going downhill....how that thing was executed. They just didn't provide a mechanism for people to delete that off of their hard drive. I love U2 but I'm not down with cramming that down everyone's throat. So it's interesting to reflect on the interesting little history here that U2, arguably one of the biggest bands in the world has partnered with Apple and Apple, for years, and now we have an Amazon partnership. And the whole concept of this is very interesting, sort of turning in your Echo devices, your Alexa-enabled devices into a radio for the syndicated broadcast. John, your lukewarm feelings for U2 aside, how did this strike you? Did you think this was as creative of a promotion as I did? Or did you just sort of yawn and say, "Well, I couldn't care less about it, but I guess this means this is Alexa hitting its stride."

 

John Kelvie: [00:30:00] Oh, I think it's great. I probably admire Bono more as a businessman than a musician. And if we look at him like a Nostradamus for technology, the fact that he's shifting to focus on Amazon....maybe that's an indication of who the overall winner is going to be ,  who's taking traction now. But I think it's a neat announcement and I would also give a shout out to another guest on this show. VoiceXP and Bob Stolzburg, they did a launch with Chingy. I thought that was a a really neat thing. I think U2 is on a different scale than Chingy. But I think it shows that the sky's the limit for the sort of music experiences.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:30:38] You're right that Bob and VoiceXP sort of pioneered this in many ways because that Chingy Alexa Skill had been in the offing for a while leading up to its release. This just sort of speaks to me toward this notion that if you're creating content, it really doesn't matter. If you're creating audio content, if you're creating....soon with devices like the Echo Show, video content or written content, you've got to be aware of how these voice platforms can serve you. Because the answer is not that they can't serve you. That is not the right answer. The answer is that there's quickly becoming many ways to leverage content and it's a matter of....you don't have to be U2 to find a way for it to work for you. And I think that that is so much at the heart of what many companies in the space believe. It's exciting to see, but U2, I admire the way that they are not afraid to try something new. This is something new. And so I thought that it was worth including.

 

John Kelvie: [00:32:02] Yeah, I think it's neat also that it's a broadcast. I mean, I still can't get my head around that. You know, why a broadcast vs. just a static Skill. It is. I mean, they're pushing the boundaries with it. And it should be a fun event.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:32:18] Yeah it'll be exciting to see, too, what all sorts of different bands of all different sizes and levels and genres do from this point forward as well. Now that they've seen what's possible with this. Moving on to story number seven. This is an interesting one. There is such thing as the Alexa Prize. That's something that Amazon themselves are leading the way with. And there is a winner of the inaugural Alexa Prize. And the interesting thing here, and John mentioned this to me before the show, which is why we included this article. It is very fascinating that this winner of the Alexa Prize and their Skill has managed to achieve a conversation duration exceeding 10 minutes in length. I cannot fathom speaking to Alexa for over ten minutes in length. But then again, if you'd asked me five years ago I couldn't have fathomed talking to a computer for one second in length. So my opinion on this means absolutely nothing. John, how did you....I know that you were interested in this because you suggested the article. How does this strike you? Why should anyone care about the duration, as a metric, the duration that a human being has with the computer as a measurement of the utility of voice? Tell me why we should care about this.

 

John Kelvie: [00:33:51] I think it is interesting and it did catch my attention that they could keep people engaged for more than 10 minutes. I think that is a significant achievement vs. what's been the state of the art before that. Why people should care about it? One, it's worth just trying out just to see how they get it and what made the experience compelling. I was trying these when they were having a competition. A lot of the bots that they had, if you said, "Alexa, let's chat.", It would just give you a random bot and they just didn't work that well. This one I had not tried until it was announced the winner and their approach was was rather fascinating. They really stay with asking questions that require short responses and the nature of the conversation you have with it. I would describe as like talking to a friend who throws out lots of really interesting tidbits of information and facts that you may have no idea how to respond to you.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:34:50] We all have one of those.

 

John Kelvie: [00:34:52] Yeah. People who know tons of trivia. I actually messaged one of my buddies about this and said, "This is like our friend!" It's hard to know how to keep up your end of the conversation. But you're just totally fascinated by what they're saying. And so that's the approach I thought that this bot took. It gives you an idea about where the state of AI is. I mean it's good at presenting interesting information I would say. It's not so good that it really understanding your response and responding meaningfully to what you say. I think that that's an AI area that this shows is still a struggle. So looking at this, and with the amount of money involved I'm not going to say that it's absolutely the best that's out there, I'm not so well qualified to know what the absolute best is. But you know these guys got half a million dollars. It's definitely a good effort. You know it's representative of the state of the art. And so you kinda understand where AI is today and where it's going, where it needs to be improved. So it's definitely something worth looking at, if you're in the space. We're just going to be increasing our reliance on AI as we go forward.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:35:54] When I saw this article, and I was reading through it. I immediately jumped to, "When would I be using Alexa for more than 10 minutes?" And I actually came up with several examples. First of all, when I'm getting ready in the morning, if I can have a running conversation with Alexa that spans a host of personal stuff, all the stuff I check on the web in the morning, including banking information, weather information, news information, across the different things I'm interested in. If I could have that running conversation via voice while I am in the bathroom getting ready in the morning. Boy, would that be a game changer. Yes, that can be a 10 to 20 minute conversation or maybe longer. I don't even know.

 

Bradley Metrock: Another example is in the car, if I'm in a hurry and I don't have time to have that conversation as I'm getting ready in the morning. If I'm going to the office, if I'm going on a trip somewhere, I got to go to a meeting, if I can receive all of that same information, essentially giving me the information that I want to know from the internet. Yeah I can have a 10 to 15 minute conversation easily with Alexa, if it can respond quickly and tell me in the way that I want to receive the information, what information I'm looking for. I can see some other examples too. I could see some more recreational examples. I could easily see games and interactive story experiences, sort of like an Earplay or Tellables or Novel Effect or something along those lines. I could see an interactive experience far exceeding 15 minutes. So there are some examples that, in my ignorance, I'm able to come up with. I'm sure somebody's really thinking critically about it could come up with more.

 

John Kelvie: [00:38:04] Yeah, I think those examples you just named are actually probably a lot more relevant. I mean, just chatting with the bot up you know the weather or what happened in the news, I'm not sure people want to do that but what you named there, that sounds great. Banking information, the news is of most interest.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:38:20] Yeah, and also, I would include in that, "Alexa, let's go through my emails." and Alexa says, "Okay, you got 10 e-mails overnight. Seven of them are promotional in nature." I would be like, "OK, let's leave those for later." "Three of them are from continuing conversations." or "Two of them are continuing conversations .  Here's what was said." and "One is a new person from someone who emailed you before..." You know, something like that and assuming it works frictionlessly, it would be an exciting new world.

 

John Kelvie: [00:38:56] I agree with that and I just sort of assume that's where they're going with the Flash Briefing, it's not there yet. I hope we'll have that sort of functionality very soon. I mean, in terms of the Flash Briefing, I think there's a lot of people that would love to put more dynamic personalized information into that. It's not a hard API to work with. If you could just tailor it to the person who's actually listening. I mean, we're not far off from that reality that you were just describing there Bradley. It would be awesome.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:39:22] Yeah, I hope to see that come to fruition. It just makes life easier. I think that's the promise of voice technology. It's going to make life better and it's going to make life easier. And I hope we continue to move in that direction. It's certainly one way that we could. John, any closing thoughts on this week of re:Invent, and how the stuff you're looking at with Bespoken or any anything else catch your eye that we have not discussed?

 

John Kelvie: [00:39:51] Well, I just thought there was an overall running theme this week with a lot of the stories that were out there, not just the ones we talked about, but other stuff as well. And I just picked up on it. Alexa is moving towards the enterprise. It's moving towards business and for us in Bespoken and we were certainly excited about that. We're trying to help people really build industrial strength skills and do testing and monitoring for them. We have some tools that are really unique that allow people to do automation testing in a way that just nobody else offers. And so as we see more enterprises getting into it and just really anyone who's serious about building skills that they want to make sure of delivering a great experience consistently. We welcome that, and we think we have a great offering for them. So we hope that they'll take a look at what we have

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:40:40] You're doing killer work. You're doing really great work and really excited to have you be part of the Alexa conference with us thrilled about that. Thank you for setting this time aside today and for sharing not only your time but your insider expertise with us.

 

John Kelvie: [00:40:57] Yeah, it's been a pleasure. Great talking with you, Bradley.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:41:03] I appreciate you, John. For This Week In Voice Episode 19, thank you for listening. And until next time.

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