Top news stories for Episode 8 (August 24, 2017):

1) Google and Walmart team up to take on Amazon in the new world of #VoiceFirst commerce. Jim Cramer's not buying it, though.

2) Samsung's Bixby, as of Tuesday, has expanded and is now available in over 200 countries and territories worldwide.

3) You can speak with Alexa about how to not waste food, potentially making in-roads on a big cultural problem.

4) Google readies its competitor to Apple's AirPods, in time for the 2017 holiday season.

5) Secrecy is overrated: Apple has a new machine learning journal, published online and available for public consumption.

6) Stratfor thinkpiece: The Promise And Peril Of Smart Devices

7) The Alexa Conference announces new major sponsor Skuid; reveals VIP Reception and Chattanooga Tour

Panel for Episode 8 (August 24, 2017):

Mandy Chan

Mandy Chan is a passionate software engineer who absolutely loves learning and inspiring others to build amazing products. She is one of the  Alexa Champions since November 2016 because of her early contributions in the open source community. One of her most frequently downloaded open source projects is called the SSML-Builder which creates well-formed Speech Synthesis Markup Language without worrying about string concatenations. 

Mandy has developed more than a dozen Alexa skills now and growing number of Actions on Google. She continues to share her passion for the voice space by working on her second open source project - SSML-Builder in JAVA. She is also a co-organizer of the NYC Voice Interaction Meetup. She will be speaking at GHC this year on how to get started with your first open source project. Her goal is to increase diversity and empower people through open source. You can learn more about Mandy @MandyChanNYC.

 

Brian Roemmele

Brian just published issue number 6 of Multiplex Magazine called The Enchanted Loom. He explores a new AI concept for Voice First systems called Artificial Understanding. Get the Read Multiplex App at the iOS store and subscribe for this and the entire catalog of magazines.

Transcript:

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:00:10] Hi and welcome back to This Week In Voice, Episode 8 for August 24, 2017. My name is Bradley Metrock, I'm CEO of a company called Score Publishing based in Nashville, Tennessee. Our sponsor for this podcast is VoiceXP. VoiceXP is blazing the trail in voice technology. They're taking the lead in developing Alexa skills for the best brands in the world. With VoiceXP all you have to do is say it to revolutionize your marketing strategy. Check out what these folks are doing at VoiceXP.com. We're very thrilled to be joined by two excellent guest panelists today. First let me introduce Mandy Chan. Mandy, say hello.

 

Mandy Chan: [00:00:54] Hello, Mandy is in the house.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:00:57] Mandy thank you very very much for joining us today and sharing some of your time with us. Tell me what are you working on? We’ve got your bio and your information on our site. But in your own words, just share with me and the audience what you're working on with voice right now.

 

Mandy Chan: [00:01:14] I'm a highly passionate developer who absolutely loves learning and sharing and inspiring other people to pursue their passions and view amazing products. Right now I'm working on my second open source project which is SSML-Builder in Java. In the meantime, I'm also working on my Grace Hopper talk that's coming up in October 2017 in Florida. Stop by and listen to our talk if you're going to Grace Hopper this year.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:01:48] We'll make sure we add that link by the way to the show page when the show goes live. Mandy thank you very very much for joining us today. Our other guest panelist is Brian Roemmele. Brian, say hello.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:02:02] Hello everyone.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:02:04] Brian thank you very much for joining us once again. Brian, I preach the gospel of Multiplex, I'm a staunch advocate, but tell me a little bit about what you're working on this week and what you’ve got going on right now.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:02:19] Well I'm actually working on getting close to the end of the August issue. I'm going to surface another one of my protocols. I am over 200 and still growing. And these are concepts of how humans will be interacting with AI and machines. So it's actually the symbiosis between what big data machine learning AI is versus individualized, highly contextual AI, which is creating a protocol of how humans really think, how they interact and making it easy to make these interactions seamless.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:03:00] Thanks to both of you for joining us today.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:03:02] Bradley I've got to say pre-show Mandy and I were talking about education and Voice First and I think all three of us are very excited about that. I think Mandy's sort of trailblazing in that. Mandy what are some of your ideas because I want to capture that moment.

 

Mandy Chan: [00:03:24] I think that education is an area that right now there's a huge potential there and we haven't talked much about this area. I recall, as I mentioned on my very first project in the Voice Space application was Dr. Speech and I think right now different companies are trying to grow their user base through entertainment, but education is another huge area. We're going to talk about Walmart and Google, they partnered together. That's a good area to approach because commerce, we shop every day, that's the best way to integrate into our everyday life. But how about Education? I'm a huge advocate to build software that help people improve themselves. One area is for autism kids, they don't feel comfortable talking in public and the device is right in your house. There can be another area that we can help those children like we talk about. It's not just for the kids but for everyone, and my Dr. Speech skill is helping people from all around the world who speak English as a second language.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:04:46] Now Mandy that's fascinating. So you've seen some progress in reaching out to children on the autistic spectrum to improve the communication skills because they're in a safe environment and interacting with a device that sort of isn't judging them. Is that what you are sensing?

 

Mandy Chan: [00:05:06] Yeah, exactly right you feel comfortable. The purpose of Doctor Speech is for people who want to improve their speaking skills. They feel comfortable, they can practice at home and the cost of having a speech therapist is expensive. One story that I always share with other people, when growing up I learned multiple languages and I used to use old fashioned electronic dictionary to learn English. Now that I have Google Home and Alexa at home, that's like a live Wikipedia and a learning tool for me and other people can definitely take advantage of that.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:05:46] Now do you see that as a possibility around you, maybe other folks who come from Hong Kong and China that maybe assisting them in taking English as second language, you see that is a real possibility then?

 

Mandy Chan: [00:06:06] I do because it is a culture thing that Asian countries like China, Japan, Korea parents spend a lot of money sending their children to go to tutorial class after the normal day time school work. For that alone, I think the market is huge.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:06:30] Well it's interesting that voice technology is surging at a time where education is so focused on personalized learning. You know it's easy to imagine all sorts of situations, and you've described some of them, where technology can be that tool in the tool kit to truly personalize learning. Yeah and that's very exciting, and that's cool to start the show with that because so much of everything going on with voice is about sharing experiences and making technology more accessible to different people and there's not nothing that drives that point home more than education. So Mandy, I think that's great.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:07:14] And with that, we will get to the news. So our first story this week is kind of a big one. Just a little bit, just a hair. Google and Walmart, two companies you might have heard of, are teaming up to take on Amazon in this new world of voice first commerce and we included a clip of Jim Cramer from CNBC I think who is hating on it. My question to start off with, and Mandy I'll begin with you, do you think that Google and Walmart teaming up can be successful in stopping the juggernaut and the momentum that Amazon has generated to this point in the voice realm?

 

Mandy Chan: [00:08:02] That's a great question and when I read the news I was asking myself, is it too late for Google and Walmart to team up together? I mean obviously they both offer different values from each other, but to me Google can really take advantage of Walmart's retail expertise and the distribution footprint. A couple of years go they mentioned Omni Channel, you can order online and pick up in-store. I don't see Google will open any stores in the following years so they can definitely take advantage of the physical stores that Walmart has right now. And we can see that Amazon is trying to have more physical stores now by having Amazon Go, and it's interesting that Walmart is also trying to go to the online space by acquiring Jet.com last year. I think they both bring different values to each other.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:09:05] Sure, and that's a big thing. Obviously, Walmart's not used to sharing, cooperating, partnering with anybody and Google really doesn't have that in their DNA either. Brian, what are your thoughts on this?

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:09:20] Well thanks for asking Bradley. I got to say that this is a landmark in voice commerce. I have been talking about voice commerce since the 1980s and you know it was quite considered insane back then and obviously after 2014 it became even more obvious with Amazon and the Echo platform. I believe it's going to be the ultimate arc of most commerce. Even retail and online commerce will integrate these conceptual models of what I call Foy's Commerce. There's many modalities within that, there's not enough time in the show to cover all of them, but Walmart has been very impressive in catching up to what was not only an existential threat but an obvious threat to their ability to continue growing in the post Amazon world. I could see the demarcation point was when they acquired Jet. That DNA has injected new life into Walmart.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:10:24] There's a big open area in groceries and produce in how we may in the future wind up making a lot of our repetitive purchases, nonperishable purchases or cans, candy purchases et cetera, paper products and our perishable purchases from meats to poultry, fish and produce. Amazon obviously knows this. Part of the Whole Foods acquisition, which ironically concluded today with the press announcement that literally talks about how Amazon Prime will be integrated next month at the point of sale at Whole Foods. You will literally be identified as an Amazon Prime member with discounts already at whole Foods. This is how massive they're moving. Also we're going to start seeing Amazon Prime, it was not directly stated in the press release, but it was alluded to that Amazon Prime customers via Alexa will now be able to interact with ordering through Whole Foods and the one other piece is delivery and pick up how they execute that.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:11:33] Do you think that Walmart -I guess Walmart, Google, Galmart, whatever we call them now - do you think they're going to have to cover the last mile too or do you think they're going to say people don’t care that much?

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:11:49] Yes they are and they are test marketing with Uber already. And if you want to talk about the ultimate dream team, Google, Walmart and Uber creating a Frankenstein juggernaut. And I'm not saying that's the only modality. I can tell you that a lot of people will wind up using, I wouldn't say majority but quite, quite a lot, will wind up using both Amazon Voice First at Whole Foods and Walmart, Google Voice First by doing pick up and if the store is arranged, and this is more for whole Foods than Walmart, sorry Walmart you need to update your stores. They suck in some ways. In Walmart if they do more serendipity, if this takes off, you'll want to get out of your car and not have somebody stick it in your trunk and just leave. You have them sticking in your trunk and then you go out of your car and you walk and you look for those other things that you didn't know you needed. Now, not everybody is going to do that. Some people are just get my stuff, get out of here, go home, sit in front of the TV. Other people will be like OK I got all my 90 percent of my work done, now I can just kind of cruise the store and see what else I need.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:13:03] Sure, and I remember back years ago, I don't remember when, but I remember reading and article that Sam's Club was implementing a system and it's got a certain name and I can't remember what it is, but basically the gist of it is you can order all your stuff online and then you pick it up right at the front of the store. Of course at Sam's Club you got your mom and pop businesses ordering like truckloads of stuff, huge carts of stuff. There was a lot of discussion internally at Walmart, which owned Sam's Club at the time, where we don't want to cannibalize the impulse buy. A lot of people arguing hey we shouldn't make this available for people to do this online and pick it up. But what they've discovered, in the overwhelming number of situations, that people order their product online to pick up at the front of the store and either pay for it there or they paid already, they walked the store first. They walked the store then they maybe add another thing or two or a few things or whatever and then they pick up the stuff at the end. So in other words, they found out that they never had anything to worry about in terms of losing the impulse buying that they thought they might.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:14:20] It's so important to understand this. This data is empirical, it's extremely powerful and at the end of the day it's what a lot of analysts and a lot of grump, what I call grumpy voice first denier's and voice commerce deniers, don't really understand is that we're creating new modalities just like what the web commerce modality was or the mobile commerce modality. The problem is existing legacy thinkers, the people that think that they're on the cutting edge because they just captured the idea of mobile commerce in their brain and they don't want to leave that space, they don't want to deal with the idea of voice commerce. It's too much for them so they sort of drag their heels and their nails into the back and say please that I want to go into this.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:15:00] But this new modality, I see it increasing by 22 percent on average in my studies based upon people preordering, prepaying and preordering, relieves them of that particular transaction and now they are in a new transaction mindset, new modality.

 

Mandy Chan: [00:15:17] And I think the important aspect of that is really how can we simulate the experience that customers or consumers get in-store and that's when voice commerce becomes really popular or how can we add voice to that? As many articles started coming out yesterday, today about what would a customer think about? They can order things just using their mobile app over voice, and I think that's a really valid point. When I read those articles they mentioned about product selection, you don't want to be asked 20 questions before you put the toilet paper in a shopping cart. I think that's one of the hurdles that if we can overcome, which goes to the topic about the data like Walmart they have the purchased history of the consumer. That's why this partnership is powerful. Another thing that I think, if we can simulate or improve the whole customer support like adding value to the shopping experience, to me one of the experiences when I shop, either online or through any interface, is the customer support. On the internet, on the website, live chat, or anything, I think voice will be an interesting channel to support customer. When that adds value to this whole voice commerce experience, that's when people will start to rely on the device to shop because they get instant support.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:16:53] I completely agree with you.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:16:54] I agree, I agree too. And you know, I got to say one more thing. Mandy makes such a great point about context and that is if we create a voice commerce environment that is like an IVR, like the phone systems that we press operator I don't want to talk to, then we have failed as technologists, we've failed as voice first researchers. The experience has to be highly contextual to that individual, and she brings up such a perfect point. The more data, shopping data you have on that individual, the more likely you are to know what toilet paper or paper towels or toothpaste that that individual wants and you will preference that. But also, over time offer serendipity and just impulse buys that are centered around these things.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:17:39] As long as the trust of the pricing is there. With Walmart it's there, and maybe even a little bit more than Amazon because with Amazon it's there too, but Amazon plays these games where they change the price all the time.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:17:56] Dynamic of racing models, tiny missing models, which is you're a sucker.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:18:01] Yeah but it doesn't mean that they can't be successful of course, they're going to be successful with voice commerce, but I mean Walmart is a little bit more trusted. I don't know, it's going to be fascinating to watch and I appreciate the commentary on that.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:18:15] Moving on to Story number two, Samsung's Bixby as of Tuesday has expanded and is now available in over 200 countries and territories worldwide. Brian I'm going to start with you on this. Is Bixby at the point where we really need to be paying attention a little bit more closely or are they still running way behind?

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:18:38] Both, but mostly running way behind because basically Bixby can only understand Korean and English and U.S. English in specific. I'm sure many know this, 200 countries is fine as long as English is without very thick accents is available because here's the funny part. You can use Bixby if you're Korean. You can use Bixby and you can try to use Bixby in English mode with your Korean accent and it will absolutely not understand you. This is where the big data and the big science of machine learning really favors companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and others that are doing this voice recognition. Once that becomes conceptualized into a chip, which it will be, it's table stakes now but in a future it will be so commoditized. It'll be built into one single chip, it will understand everybody's potential accent and in the more further future, understand every language. We can literally bake that into a chip at some point, and when that happens this becomes irrelevant. Then we're just looking at intent extraction, which is going to be the next big thing.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:19:51] So Bixby is not Viv, anybody following what Viv was, one of Steve Jobs last dying acts was to acquire the Siri company and all of its assets and its people. Then one year later most of them left, and that might say something what went down. They formed and reconstituted under Viv, and that got acquired by Samsung and a lot of people think that when he see Bixby they see Viv, and that is doing a huge disservice to the legacy of these fine folks at Viv. Bixby on its own is a reactionary product to a certain level, primarily provincial to the Korean market and expanded with some English language capability, but not nearly reaching the level that it should be for such a popular phone platform.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:20:45] Now does that paint him in a corner of being you know a dead end product? No, I think Bixby is going to be immensely useful for many Samsung users. I believe that to complete the picture they're going to download Google Assistant, there's no doubt about it. They can live in sympathy for both these things. There are positive aspects of Bixby that we'll start seeing come about within Siri, and that is deep OS integration where you can literally talk to the phone to do things at an OS level. We currently don't have that capability in any other product. So from that element it's an extremely powerful platform. The other thing I find very interesting is Bixby is a hardware button on a Samsung device. I think it's exceedingly important to have a hardware button. I think ultimately we might wind up seeing Apple going in this direction. As they become buttonless, the next iPhones probably won't have anything near a mechanical home button. It will be an area on the screen. I think there will become a time where one of the side buttons Apple will make it into multi duty for press to talk, and also obviously raise to talk. So yes in the short realm Bixby is not nearly a Google Assistant, it's not nearly Amazon's Alexa platform and certainly is not Siri, but it is doing well for what it does within the bounds of its own hardware.

 

Mandy Chan: [00:22:12] I agree with Brian and although I was originally from Hong Kong I will be curious to see if the Asian customer picks up Samsung over Pixel Phone or Siri. I would be interested to see how Asian customers react to Samsung, the brand is an Asian/Korean brand. So that's my only comments to add on that.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:22:38] So you're skeptical?

 

Mandy Chan: [00:22:42] I will say I am skeptical. I would be curious to see the results since they are now available in over 200 countries and compared to Pixel Phone and Siri, I would be curious to see how that Asian customer responds to that.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:23:02] I’ve got to ask Mandy. Do you see within most of the Asian countries sort of a more closer affinity to voice? A lot of my friends and colleagues find it very interesting how quickly it's being adopted within China and Badu in some of these other companies in using voice. Do you think that plays against what Samsung is doing also?

 

Mandy Chan: [00:23:28] You're right that it became pretty popular quickly in Asia, specifically in China, because the app ReCheck people can do a lot of things with the app ReCheck. ReCheck is basically Pay-Pal, Amazon, Google, Facebook, everything combined into one. So that's why it's so popular I believe because of one app ReCheck, people use that for everything in life. That could help if the Asian consumers are comfortable talking to the phone and using the voice command. The success of the app ReCheck is really the driving force of the voice command. But if people can do so many thing within one app, the software aspect, they feel so comfortable. I think Asian customers feel even more comfortable talking to the phone in public. That's one privacy issue that people are concerned about when you use the phone and talk out in public. You want to order pizza tonight and I think culture wise, Asian customers feel more comfortable talking in public about different commands or what we want to do with the phone compared to American customers.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:24:45] I just feel like culturally, like what Mandy is saying, I have so many of my friends come back to me saying you have no idea how popular talking to the phone and commanding the phone and ordering things to reach out has become. It's literally almost like overnight, the last couple of months, it's really skyrocketed and I really am always interested in the cultural differences that drive that. Some of my friends say it's just the nature of the Chinese language and the characters and how much typing and regimenting you may have to do. Is that a big part of it?

 

Mandy Chan: [00:25:22] Yes, typing is a long way. I still read and write Chinese perfectly and for sure I don't type Chinese that often so I usually just write destructs the lines. Yeah, it does take longer at times just typing to people ABC and I think that's the time saving for a lot of Asian customers, that speed matters.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:25:44] Yeah, yeah that's interesting.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:25:46] Very interesting, so Bixby continues to make progress and we will keep our eye on it. Moving on to story number three. You can speak with Alexa about how not to waste food. This is very interesting, this article is actually fascinating. As you sort of ponder how voice technology will impact every aspect of our culture, our world, and Mandy I wanted to ask you sort of what you took away from the overall idea that voice technology can improve our society in ways like this and many others.

 

Mandy Chan: [00:26:18] I love the skill, I haven't tried it but just the idea alone, I love it. It's interesting to see that even nonprofit, I did some research, the organization, the consult, they built this skill. It's interesting, the nonprofit aspect. They are also getting into the voice space. For me, as I mentioned earlier, I like to build useful software, not just for consumer, but developers. This is a skill that I use pretty much every day or every other day. Woman control lots of household money, we spend and shop more than a man.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:26:56] You got that right.

 

Mandy Chan: [00:26:56] This skill is definitely helping woman to save a lot of money and how to not waste food in the kitchen, and I'm a fan of this skill and I would definitely try it tonight. Going back to the point about a nonprofit organization, I would be interested to hear what your are opinions on that. It seems like every industry is picking up this voice space.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:27:21] Well it's fascinating that you would point that out because that's me. A direct byproduct of something that we've talked about on this show and several other shows every week which is the fact that Alexa skills and other voice applications have not yet been monetized. So when you have an Alexa skills marketplace, it doesn't allow a developer to sell their skill for $9.99 or $.99 cents or $3.99 or name a price, It doesn't matter. What you are going to probably get are companies, organizations, individuals so on and so forth that don't have that profit motive.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:28:04] So nonprofits are obviously going to be a big part of that. Here we are seeing exactly this type of thing play out in this article and with this podcast, This Week In Voice, we sort of have talked about these skills not monetized as being a negative, and it is a negative, but it doesn't mean it doesn't have positive things to go along with it. One of them is that it's just easier to spot quality things going on in the nonprofit realm because we don't have the for-profit entities clamoring and banging the gong and making a bunch of noise just yet because they can't sell their stuff yet. That's the way I look at it. But you're right, it is fascinating and it's great to see that it just speaks to accessibility in this technological realm. This cutting, bleeding edge of tech is available just as much to nonprofits as it is to Walmart and Google and I think that is a big green checkmark for everything that's going on.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:29:04] Moving on to story number four, Google is readying its competitor to Apple's AirPod. So Brian, this is perfect for you. You're the fan of the AirPods. I am not a fan of the AirPods, but I am alone. Pretty much everybody else in the world it seems like is. What should we take away from this news and how do you see this battle or this skirmish playing out between these two?

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:29:33] Bradley, thank you. You know I think it's probably one of the largest announcements that are going to come out of Google this year. We're going to see a Google Mini come around maybe at $29.95 price point for the Google Home, which I believe will be renamed and hopefully have a name for the assistant, an anthropomorphized name. I think we're going to see Google enter into what I call near-field communication, near-field voice first. Far-field is owned by Amazon currently. Obviously, Google entered into that field with a far-field system called Google Home and I guess the code word for this system is Bisto. It is essentially AirPods, but it's going to be a little bit more than that. AirPods was originally conceived to be music only and it was based upon the concept that the iPhone needed to become ultimately waterproof, hermetically sealed. This is a long drive for Apple and we'll start seeing that more in September. They want a device that essentially is unable to be infected by any liquids. So the only way to do that effectively is to get rid of 3.5 millimeter audio jack and that already happened. There's other reasons for it. It was a ridiculously large amount of real estate being taken over by an analog plug, and whenever you look at the arc of computer history the reason why we don't use the IEEE 488 bus or the RS 232 bus anymore or connecter is because that size modality became irrelevant.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:31:18] Don't go comparing it to that.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:31:21] I know, I hear you. But OK so now what is Amazon, well actually let me go to this point. We have Siri being integrated inside of AirPods, more as a bit of a last-minute thought and that was primarily because of what I want to call in-fighting, the control of the internal narrative of the future of Apple, and there are fractions with inside of Apple that knows that the future is voice first. There are fractions with inside of Apple that want to deny that future. There are fractions with inside of Apple that are neutral to it and they just want to incrementally move in that direction.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:32:01] The problem is this problem with every legacy company, and that is self disruption. If Apple were to fully embrace the voice first world they would disrupt themselves in many ways. And AirPods, when history looks back, is going to be one of those moments where those two forces sort of converge, the hardware and the old view of Apple and the voice first view of Apple, and slightly the old Apple is winning. As we see new Siri being released in September, you're going to start seeing new functionality of AirPods and then once the cellular Apple Watch is released then the full circle will come back and Siri will become front and center with AirPods.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:32:49] Google on the other hand is seeing it purely as an extension to the assistant. They're building it from the ground up with that premise, of course, playback of music is going to be their connection to the pixel phone and other phones obviously is going to be there. But assistant is going to mediate all of these interactions, and I believe that that's going to be the gateway drug for people understanding why near-field is so important. There are things that we'll say in the near-field to small microphones close to our head than we would say into an open room in a far-field environment like Alexa. I've done a lot on study on this over the last seven years. The reason why it is important is privacy, security, confidence and I've noticed with early AirPod users that in public environments they are much more willing to have Siri interactions rather than holding what I call pizza phone.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:33:47] Now pizza phone is an image that Apple created which was in hindsight ridiculous. And that is you see images of people talking to Siri with their phone sideways talking to the bottom of the phone like it's a pizza ready to take a bite out of. when you're doing it in public, you're signaling to those around you that you're literally talking to probably Siri or you're talking to somebody on the speaker phone and being maybe somewhat rude. When you hold the phone to your head, It's a completely different mental state. It also broadcasts a different signal to those around you. AirPods, and this new Google Assistant, being in your ear always available 24 hours a day negating what we've talked about in the past about radio frequencies and what those impacts are.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:34:34] Let's assume they don't exist, but let's be honest they do exist and someday we'll talk even in more detail about it, but let's assume they don't exist. The power of having an assistant in your ear at all moments with permission, with high security and everything listening to your context can be immensely powerful. The war is not just in the far-field, the war is in the near-field too. When these devices are released in the next couple of weeks, we're going to see something extremely interesting. We're going to have a whole lot of shows talking about it because there's going to be a lot that Google is going to download.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:35:14] I'm born and raised in the south, live in Nashville and I guarantee you when you see somebody walking through the grocery store talking into a pizza phone with their phone held like that, you're going to get not one but several little old ladies telling you to kindly shut the hell up.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:35:31] I love it, but I need to import them all around the tech centers of the world, especially in San Francisco. There should be one on every corner.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:35:42] It's a public service.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:35:43] Yeah, the same old lady should be saying look up when you cross the street young man, look up.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:35:48] Yeah it was exactly right. Thank you Brian.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:35:53] Moving on to story number five, secrecy is overrated. This blew me away. Apple has a new Machine Learning Journal that they have not only started, but they're publishing it online where it's available for public consumption and Mandy, what do you take away from this? Does this surprise you like it does me? Is this something that you can view as a resource or what do you think about this?

 

Mandy Chan: [00:36:20] I'm not surprised at all because of the topic, Open Source. TensorFlow is open source by Google and they are leveraging the community to create better software. So Apple's following the footprint and Apple and other companies, they share the thoughts, the technologies like white paper like this. Other people cannot really do a lot of things if they don't have the data. I think I'm not surprised by this at all and in the article they mentioned switch synthesizer, how does it work.

 

Mandy Chan: [00:36:57] I think some of them are pretty technical, maybe you need a PC to understand it. For me it is the trend, like right now even financial institutions like Capital One is a great pioneer and JP Morgan Chase. Even financial institutions are trying to get into open source community and this is all about sharing, using the community to leverage their technologies. I'm not surprised at all and I'm really happy to see that and all the companies that are moving toward that direction.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:37:30] Well it is surprising from the standpoint of just Apple's cultural DNA of being so secretive, but as you said I'm glad that they're following in Google's and other's footprints to become a little bit more open because that will help them serve the customer better, ultimately.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:37:47] Bradley, I got to add also that that particular piece on how Siri's new voice was created. It is really quite powerful because probably they were using hidden Markov models and other sorts of technologies to create the voice structures that we hear within the current generation of voice systems. Apple exposing HMNs and MDMs, and you have to go and read what these really represent, these are new models that will allow more emotive speaking coming back to us. And I believe that as we get more data being sent to us through these voice first systems, having more natural speech patterns like having somebody from all things considered a PBS show kind of talking to us all the time with that sort of cadence and all sorts of inflections that a human voice has, will make it not only more pleasurable, but much more able to be understood. I got to applaud Apple and the Siri team for putting this stuff out there because a lot of this is quite proprietary to be frank about it.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:39:01] Well sure and there's plenty to hate on Apple about and I don't miss a lot of opportunities to do that, but this is not one of those things. This is very cool. This is something that adds value to everybody involved in and it's good to see.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:39:17] No Bradley applesauce today then?

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:39:19] No applesauce, at least not on this. This is quality doing things that make a lot of sense, it's all all good and very appreciated.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:39:29] Story number six this week is a longer think piece called, The Promise and Peril of Smart Devices, and I'll actually get both of y'all's opinions on this. Mandy, since this is the last story before I talk about the Alexa Conference, I'll start with you, What did you think about this think piece?

 

Mandy Chan: [00:39:48] I think security is always the topic, how people don't want their data information to get connected, and one way to really help people better understand it is education. That's really my takeaway from that article or this news, always talking about security and the privacy of customers, of consumers. I think education will help them to ease some of their worry.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:40:21] I want to echo what Mandy was saying. It's been an ongoing theme on this transmission. We've talked about it a lot. I think the defining aspect of this generation will be how privacy and security are handled in the AI world, specifically the voice first highly contextual AI world. A lot of people forget that the nuanced argument that Elon Musk had with Mark Zuckerberg when they were starting their sort of open debate about the future. What Elon is really, though he's not articulating it in tweets, but if you read the longer form of what he's saying is, all of this data and context will be available. How is it going to be protected? How are we going to be sure that it's not being utilized? From a very basic hardware level, how do we know that microphone is not activated right now? What are the assurances that you're giving me, Mr and Mrs Google and Amazon and Apple, what are these assurances that you're giving me that I'm not being exposed in some way? So something's going to give. Folks like myself and others we've debated this and we open it up for discussion, but a lot of the companies are sort of no hands and prefer not to talk about this.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:41:47] The bottom line is, it isn't going to go away and it's only going to get worse and somebody gets maybe infiltrated. I’ve got to ask Mandy, in Asian countries how much more is privacy and security considered when they're talking to a device that maybe that information is being secured?

 

Mandy Chan: [00:42:05] I guess it depends on what topics. Some topics Americans feel comfortable to talk in public, but some Asians they might not. So for me, I'd need to explore that area. Right now most of the time I rarely use it at home, more than the mobile phone. Government is proberly much more concerned than individual consumers and definitely American, we are concerned about is the device listening to us every moment.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:42:40] That makes sense. How are you Bradley, do you feel exposed?

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:42:46] If someone wants to listen to what I'm saying, what my wife or I are saying at home, be my guest. It's far more boring than you could even dream of.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:43:01] Let's hope not Bradley, it must be a little spicy over there.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:43:06] No, it was alarming when I saw that Samsung TVs has been listening because I got one back in the middle of my office. But you know there's always things that sort of wake you up to the fact that your privacy is probably being violated, not just on a daily, but hourly, even minute by minute basis by something. One of the good things about Voice is that number one it's a trusted company that's leading the way with this with Amazon in terms of that space. But the other part is that you've got other people who are sort of serving as checks and balances and that really brings us back to the first story, that Google and Walmart are saying Amazon you're not going to cakewalk into the end zone on my watch. We're going to band together and try to stop you from doing this. It's competition, the competition at the end of the day I feel like more than even regulation will keep us safe.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:44:04] I agree, and I think I'm speaking for Ahmed who's not with us today, I think he would be proud of that concept. This guy has been watching this for quite a long time, decades and he's always been worried about the idea of what if only one entity leads individually down this road, and having that, hopefully as a mediating effect on privacy and security.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:44:31] We just did our first podcast called Artificial Intelligence. It's a new VoiceFirst.FM show and it goes live on Monday on VoiceFirst.FM and our first guest was Joshua Montgomery who is CEO of a company called MycroftAI, and that was his concern too. He articulates actually very well how there needs to be sort of as much equal distribution of this power as there can to be a check and balance sort of system. So yeah, that opinion is shared by a lot of smart folks including you and Mandy as well.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:45:09] Before we go I'm going to get to story number seven which is that the Alexa Conference, which is the annual gathering of the Alexa developers and enthusiasts in Chattanooga, January 18th to the 20th. We announced a new major sponsor this past week and revealed some new aspects of what's going on. If you're into voice technology, which you probably are, if you're listening to this, you should check that out at AlexiConference.com.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:45:36] Well I’ve got to say to anybody listen to our voices, attend this event. Bradley puts on phenomenal events. This is going to be the definitive event of 2018 and I think it's going to set the stage of what the next year is going to look like, so be there.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:45:52] Yeah, you're going to want to be there. Brian will be in there, and so it's going to be exciting and Mandy we hope to have you there as well.

 

Mandy Chan: [00:46:01] I would love to give a talk there.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:46:03] We'll actually see if we can make that happen. It will sell out by the way so check that out, sooner rather than later, and thanks to both of you for your generosity with your time and your insight today. For episode 8 of This Week In Voice, August 24th 2017 - thank you for listening and until next time.

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