Top news stories for Episode 9 (August 31, 2017):

1) Happy together: Alexa and Cortana to play nice with each other, co-exist on Amazon and Microsoft hardware moving forward

2) Network effect: Amazon Echo devices now support multi-room audio.

3) Amazon, which now owns Whole Foods, is using prominent real estate in the retail channel to promote Amazon Echo hardware.

4) Jack of all trades: Sonos sends out invitations to smart speaker "reveal" event in October. This device is rumored to support multiple voice assistants all within one single piece of hardware!

5) Google poaches child prodigy from Facebook to help lead Google Assistant development.

6) Amazon Echo "out of stock," signaling the sequel is coming soon and will specifically rival the HomePod.

Panel for Episode 9 (August 31, 2017):

Jan König

Jan König is one of the founders of Jovo, an open source development framework for Alexa Skills and Google Actions. Jovo was recently one of 8 voice companies to go through the voicecamp accelerator by betaworks in NYC.

 

You can learn more about Jan on Twitter @einkoenig.

 

Michael Novak

Michael Novak is a Digital Transformation executive with over 15 years
experience working with enterprises to leverage emerging technologies to
make better business decisions, drive new revenue, and increase customer
engagement.

For the last 5 years he has been an active member of the Voice First and
Voice Commerce communities, advocating for voice-enabled business
applications that reduce "transactional friction" and increase
productivity in Smart Cities, Supply Chain, and Healthcare industries.

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: [00:00:11] Hi, and welcome back to This Week In Voice for Wednesday, August 30th. We are recording one day earlier this week, it's a little bit unusual due to a special VoiceXP event taking place tomorrow in St. Louis. A link to that event will be posted online on our show page. It has to do with the Google Manifesto and a discussion around that.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:00:36] This Week In Voice is brought to you by VoiceXP, blazing the trail in voice technology. VoiceXP is taking the lead in developing Alexa skills for some of the best brands in the world. With VoiceXP all you have to do is say it to revolutionize your marketing strategy. If you haven't checked them out, you really, really should do that. Their website is www.voicexp.com. My name is Bradley Metrock, I'm CEO of a company called Score Publishing based in Nashville, Tennessee. We're very, very fortunate to have a great panel today for a crazy week of voice news, capped off by a huge story today. Let me introduce the panel and we'll get to discussing it. First of all we've got Michael Novak, Michael say hello. .

 

Michael Novak: [00:01:22] Hello Bradley, hello everyone how are you?

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:01:24] Doing good Michael, thank you for joining us. Share with us what you're working on and what you're doing in voice right now.

 

Michael Novak: [00:01:31] Sure, so I live on the East Coast in Virginia and there's been quite a bit of voice activity going on as it relates to the public sector, as well as a couple of supply chain concerns trying to get ahead of what they can do with it in their businesses and it's been keeping me quite active.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:01:56] Very cool, we appreciate you taking time out and joining us today and sharing some of your insight and expertise with us. Next up we have a Jan Konig, am I pronouncing that right?

 

Jan Konig: [00:02:07] Yes, happy to be here.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:02:10] Thank you very much Jan and what time is it in Berlin?

 

Jan Konig: [00:02:17] It's 11:40 PM right now.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:02:17] We've got a dedicated one here. Thank you for joining us. I greatly appreciate you taking the time so late and being so flexible with us and sharing your insight, with not only me, but the audience as well. Tell us what you're working on right now.

 

Jan Konig: [00:02:33] Sure, so I'm one of the founders of Jovo, which is a development framework for cross-platform voice apps that currently work on Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. I'm happy to be here, especially as this week's news are a lot about cross-platform voice applications. I'm happy to be part of that discussion today.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:02:56] Awesome and thank you for joining us and, as a last minute addition, we have Brian Roemmele. Brian, say hello.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:03:03] Hello Bradley, thank you for adding me last minute. I'm honored to be here with these gentlemen. They’re heroes of mine on Twitter, have been following them for a while.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:03:12] I wouldn't have it any other way. Share with us a little bit what you're working on right now.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:03:15] Well this morning I composed an @ReadMultiplex, free to anybody to read. It's called “Today The World Changed: Alexa, Open Cortana; or Cortana, Open Alexa.” It's a story about what the deep significance is historically over the Cortana and Alexa partnership and I'm sure we're going to get into it in the show today, so it should be interesting. I've got a question for you Bradley, tomorrow that's going to be a big event. Can you give us and the listeners some insight what's going down there?

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:03:53] Sure, so VoiceXP is hosting a meet up in St. Louis for the development community and just for the community at large discussing the Google manifesto, discussing sexual discrimination in the workplace, specifically the I.T. workplace, and attempting to get to the bottom of some of those issues. They invited me up to be part of that panel, and I'm honored to do that and it's going to be exciting. They're leading the way in many areas. They're a good partner of ours, they sponsor this podcast as I mentioned earlier, and they're doing great stuff off the field too, tackling these social issues that affect a lot of people so it's it's a great initiative on their part. I'm happy to be part of it.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:04:38] I do know there some significantly important folks there. Mandeni is going to be there from Google and quite a number of other people I know. So it should be an amazing time.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:04:49] I'm looking forward to meeting Mandeni in person, and yes she'll be there and like you said, said a bunch of other folks too. It's going to be great. I'm psyched and I'll be leaving Nashville early in the morning to be part of it and coming home late and happy to do it.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:05:02] Bradley, you've become the center of gravity for voice in the center part of the country in Tennessee, so it's great to see.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:05:09] Well we're fortunate that people give us some of their time. You know not just folks like y'all coming on the show, but people listening. Tomorrow late in the day we'll announce our listenership for the month of August, and it's pretty strong. So we've got a lot to be thankful for and appreciate you all joining us. So with that let's get to the news.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:05:27] So this week we had a bunch of news already, number one story is Alexa and Cortana now play nice with each other and Amazon and Microsoft have decided to allow both of their voice assistants to interact with each other, acknowledge each other, and recognize each other. This opens up a whole hornet's nest of new opportunities. Michael, I'm going to start with you. What was your initial reaction when this news broke and from how you approach the voice technology realm, what are your thoughts?

 

Michael Novak: [00:06:05] Having been in technology for a few years, it's about time. I'm not surprised to hear it, but just because there's a lot of conversations going on in the user groups about, hey which one are you using. Oh I'm using this one. Oh well I'm using the other one because it has these features. That really is that primary or initial step before, like we've seen with you know PC versus Mac, VHS versus Betamax, you can go on. this is part of the evolution of the industry so I'm very excited.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:06:46] Jan, when you heard this it was obviously later in the day over in Berlin, what did you and your colleagues think about this news?

 

Jan Konig: [00:06:50] We're strong believers in cross-platform solutions, so we were definitely excited. I backed a Kickstarter project two months ago, which is similar to the Apple AirPods. It's called Liberty Plus wireless earphones and they support three voice assistants just with a tap, similar to the AirPods as they support Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant. I backed them like two months ago and they're probably coming out of Tobar in November. I'm pretty excited about this because I have my Google Home here, I have Alexa here, I have Siri on my cell and I keep talking to them for different use cases. I believe that this will be the way to go. To have all the different voice assistants combined in the assistant devices. This also works pretty well with my academic research I'm doing for a master's thesis right now about multimodal user experiences, because I believe this will be more and more important to have agents to delegate tasks to other agents when there is more and more modalities coming into the mix and more visual interfaces like AR. I'm pretty excited about the future and this is a great step towards that.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:08:08] Brian you better than anybody has talked about the relationship between these voice assistants and neurons and the brain. This is a huge step toward that. Do you think that this truly opens the floodgates to realizing what you've been talking about for a long time, or do you think that this is just a great first step, it's not going to go that smoothly? .

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:08:36] Bradley thank you it's a great question and absolutely, this is the beginning steps. We try to look for analogies on how this is all going to play out. Back in the 1980s when I really started to begin to think about this in a very serious way and ultimately write a manifesto in 89, sort of looking at the way this might transpire, I realized the only analogy one can have is to create a ontology and taxonomy and domain space that is equivalent to the way the brain creates neurons. This means that every idea, or in this case every skill or every voice app, will ultimately become interdependent and interconnected.

 

Brian Roemmele: When you recognize that fact and you go from that end point and then work backwards, you recognize that everything you build up until that point is either going to move in that direction or you're going to have to somehow reinvent everything, redo everything, to go in that direction. This includes invocation, discovery and monetization. These are the three tri parts that are exceedingly important for the future of the voice first revolution. Frankly none of those have been established yet, but today 200 million more people, because that's the combined tool of the Alexa, Cortana and the user group as it stands today on average. You know there's 200 million people that are have this cross neuronal connection to these new taxonomies and ontologies. It's sort of what I wrote about in the article I mentioned earlier today at ReadMultiplex.com .

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:10:22] When you start looking at how this is going to play out, it's more than three dimensional chess. For example, one of the very first reporters called me and said, how are they going to benefit? By whom, who are you speaking of as they? Microsoft, and I go ok Microsoft and Amazon. So I am just going to break it down, and the benefit is the synergy. Synergy is two plus two equals something greater than four, and this is true of synergy. So what are some of the synergistic aspects? I'll present one that I know nobody else is talking about right now. That is, there's something called the Amazon Associate Program and I know Bradley you're very familiar with it with your Kindle background. The Amazon Associate Program is a way for just about anybody to make a meaningfully amount of profit from the sale of goods at Amazon. So here I am, Cortana and I'm sitting out there and I initiate a transaction via Cortana into the Amazon domain or taxonomy of what I call voice commerce. At some point in time, and I'm not advocating the fact that this is the impetus of this deal, but it is the most likely endpoint for Microsoft, is that one of the 150 odd million Cortana users will in fact order things through Amazon via Alexa on the Cortana platform. Confusing, yes but very likely, absolutely. It means there's a monetization system already built in and that in and of itself can help generate a sort of financial wherewithal with the product.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:12:09] You're going to have a middle level above all of these platforms, and I'm not saying that exists today, but it's something I pretend to in the Read Multiplex article, is that ultimately you're going to talk to all of this voice mediated AI and they are essentially going to become domain end points or answer points. Even skills, but not just the skills. The way these systems take information and present it and then that information will be culled amongst all the other AI platforms and then you're, what I call personal assistant, will mediate all of that into a cohesive worldview, a response to an answer to a question.

 

Michael Novak: [00:13:01] So I do agree Brian, I can see that capability of voice allowing you to express your motivations, your desires, your wants, your needs and then under the covers, don't know don't care. I can invoke you and say Brian go home. I don't care if you take a bus. I don't care if you walk, I don't care if you fly. This is a similar concept to what we experienced with coding of course, where currently I can write micro services and I don't necessarily care how they're invoked or how they're satisfied. I don't need to write them in Assembler, I don't need to write them in C-sharp or C-plus necessarily, but there's a machine layer that can abstract out my desires and invoke that and take care of it. So I can see this again as more of the evolution where you're right, I can say Brian go home and then you figure out how that works.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:13:55] I just took Michael's command there, I'm going home. Well I definitely agree, absolutely.

 

Jan Konig: [00:14:01] Yeah, yeah I agree as well.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:14:03] Yeah this is getting to my follow up question for the panel, and Michael I must start with you once again, and go back through because I want all three of y'all opinions on this. If you are in the boardroom of Apple and Google today, what do you decide to do?

 

Michael Novak: [00:14:19] So I can see that from a business perspective that there's incredible value in reducing that transactional friction, that is the ability of a user to buy something, but also transactional friction in the sense of I don't have to translate my thoughts into a format that someone else needs to understand. Now Jan is probably covered with that, being bilingual and Germa, English and I'm sure something else, it's very important. If I was on the team at either Apple or Google today, I would certainly be examining my vendor relationships and what I can do perhaps to talk about our strengths, because let's face, you know Apple services currently today generates tons of revenue. It's more the case of people who just may not know it even though they have that capability. So it's probably not anyone jumping off the ninth floor of their building, but rather trying to raise the awareness of the people that are using their products that they have this capability. I'm assuming Amazon instigated this since it was their press release, not Microsoft's.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:15:40] Actually it was Jeff Bezos who sent an e-mail about 3 1/2 months ago to the CEO of Microsoft about the idea. It definitely comes from Amazon.

 

Michael Novak: [00:15:51] So you know they have that market leadership capability currently in the voice market and the visibility, so that would make sense to me, I'm not surprised. However, at this point for Google or Apple to jump in and say that yeah we're going to join that program when we want to, I don't know if they would want to do that from a PR perspective.

 

Jan Konig: [00:16:14] I think it's it's just a great signal for the market because until now everyone understood it as a race or as a battle between all the big platforms. I could see that in Germany's Google Home launch a few weeks ago and that and in France I think a week before, and what happened is that Amazon advertised the Echo a lot and they gave a lot of discounts. Now Google is planning to launch a smaller Echo Dot like Google Home. Amazon, as we're talking about this, later probably launching a second Echo. There's going to be a lot happening in this space until Christmas season this year I believe, and everything was about competition and this is the first time people are actually talking about working with each other to improve the user experience. So I believe that this is a great signal for the market, and right now people can access Google Assistant on an iPhone, for example there is the U.S. Assistant app. So there are at least some ways to interact with the different voice assistants across devices, and I believe there should be the opportunity to improve that and to make the next move to work closer together.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:17:42] So you would be advocating for more partnership not less in the light of this news.

 

Jan Konig: [00:17:48] Yes I would, Definitely.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:17:50] So Brian let me ask you just to button up this big story, your vision which I agree with wholeheartedly which you articulated a few minutes ago is one of openness, one of sharing and partnership, and a environment between these voice assistants that is mediated above it by another layer and it sort of mimics the brain. The problem is, Apple's culture is not compatible with that vision. So do you see Apple's, I'm just talking Apple specifically with you for this question, do you see Apple changing their approach with Siri at all or do you see them continuing to march down their historical path of having a strict walled garden and doing their own thing?

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:18:40] Well Bradley that's a great question. You know I'm going to say this without sounding arrogant at all. The first thing that Apple should do, and include Google, is hire Bradley, Jan, Michael and me, right now. There is, and you know this Bradley, there's only so many people who I would consider really versed on what the voice first revolution looks like.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:19:05] I would settle for them just listening to this, but keep going.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:19:07] Yeah, I know they listen that's already a fact. But listening and hiring and executing are something else. There's clearly a disconnect, not just within Apple but I would say most, not all of these companies to a certain level, in understanding with the wide arc of this is really going to be. If there is not a bit of existential fear right at this moment then they are going to miss one of the most transformative moments in technology history.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:19:37] If I'm a user and I'm on a platform that equally allows me to access another AI platform, I'm happy and I can tell you a historic precedence. Let's go back to 1989, it's the early part of 1989 and Bradley baby you're on AOL and I'm over at the nerdy Compuserve with mine. You had nothing but numbers in your e-mail address and you had something cute like love cookies 92, or something like that, over at AOL. And I wanted to send you a message. Guess what, I'm out of luck. I can't send you a message, it sounds bizarre today doesn't it? But back then it didn't because in that world we built silos and platforms and boy oh boy, you don't need to leave my platform because we built it so great I'm AOL, I'm CompuServe. We see the world better than anybody else and it's an us versus them mentality that replicated the Apple OS versus CPM versus Unix versus PC mindset that was part of the PC revolution.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:20:41] The Voice first revolution is going to be more like what happened in September of 1989 when AOL and CompuServe had a remarkable agreement. They opened up their platforms for messages. At the same time they opened it up to something funny, something crazy, nobody thought was ever going to be anything. It's called the Internet. At the same time they opened up that platform to the Internet and all of a sudden you could send things to .edu addresses because people generally didn't have any other type of e-mail address for most average folks. Then all of a sudden what happened? Those platforms no longer exist in any real form. When you really view what AI is becoming, it's far beyond the platform. It has nothing to do with the hardware and it ultimately has nothing to do with big data. Ultimately all the data that's out there is going to be normalized. Everybody will have access to it one way or the other. Sooner or later nobody's going to own it all.

 

Michael Novak: [00:21:37] So I think I can agree with your vision of where we would want to be, the idea of the voice interface overall and I don't care how it's enabled. However, if I am a Google or if I'm working for Jan's company, I have to start somewhere with a manageable application platform and then perhaps build it out later in version 2 or later version next to accommodate other players in the market. But I think there's still going to be fierce competition for that application layer because that's going to be part of your value proposition or your secret sauce.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:22:23] Absolutely Michael, and you know and I fully agree. So we can look at this a number of different levels. I was approaching it from that upper level as Bradley was saying you know what do you feel like if you're in Apple shoes or Google shoes. The developer’s shoes is something that's somewhat different. You have to pick, I don't think a single platform, you have to pick a way you deal with it.

 

Michael Novak: [00:22:42] Even from a user perspective, you still have to figure out OK Alexi on a Mac it's what's the key stroke again and on the PC and it's a different keystroke sequence to get the same functionality. So even from a user perspective, you're still, well perhaps you know the big players would want you to prefer their platform. I always think about it in terms of the automobile. You know a Ford, Honda, BMW they all have four wheels, generally, they all take me from place to place, generally. I wouldn't say they're all internal combustion engines, but well that's changing too. But the idea is that they have agreed to use the same number four bolt on the left front door because there's economies of scale and economics behind that choice. Just like with the voice interface, there will be economies of scale and economic reasons to choose that platform even though I might be riding in the leather seats that are heated for me automatically, or driving my Honda with five screaming kids in the back row. You know that'll be the higher level differentiation that may have to come from each company.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:23:57] I agree, you know but ultimately we're talking about Generation Zero. We're not even Generation One of these systems, and it' equivalent to when we had the first command line interface on the computer. In fact, I might even advocate more close to hexadecimal entry. Here's what's going to happen. We're going to create dialog systems and conversational systems and your interaction with these things aren't commands, they're conversations. When that happens you're not going to remember invocations, you're not going to remember the domain spaces that are necessary to try to get to certain things. The concept of an app and installation of an app will become irrelevant, and this is going to happen faster probably than most people recognize. I'll tell you why it's going to be important. It will have a vortex effect on everything in the market. .

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:24:57] So yes, short term we're dealing with Q and A. What's the question, what's the answer, what's the possible ways of asking that question, and what's the possible answers. That's fine, but to fixate on that being the future is probably like fixating on how can I make the command line look prettier with the icons and clicking and mouse. So the next space to this is OK if I'm Apple, I'm Google, I'm sitting in Cupertino or Mountain View I'm looking out over the fields and I'm like wow this is interesting. How do we create our super secret sauce around it? Well the problem is, you can't really create a secret sauce within the silo. That's the end point, and you can try as you might but there has never been a historic way that that's held true forever.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:26:09] If you're Apple and Google, it's not a matter of deciding to do something in the boardroom, you've got a lot of perhaps some underlying issues that have to be addressed.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:25:56] You have to do it now. I mean this is something Bradley that you can't really sit there and stroke a beard and think well when am I going to join this? The reality is if in fact history repeats itself, and I've never seen it not, by not cross platforming, by not opening up the AI, because really what we're talking about is opening up the underlying AI ontologies, taxonomies and domains across all devices, you're essentially going in the direction of I'm just going to be AOL, I'm not going to connect to the Internet and I will stay here forever.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:26:29] Well I want to close it myself by simply saying when I was driving back today thinking about this story that the overwhelming thing that stands out to me with this is Microsoft should get a lot of credit for this. Amazon, if they came up with the idea that's great. Obviously they're blazing a trail. They're doing everything right. They're making all the right moves. But Microsoft, we haven't heard their name on This Week In Voice the last couple of shows. I don't know what they're doing, it's not showing up on our radar screen. You can just imagine, all of us have worked in big companies or corporate environments where there would be a lot of defensiveness about this. I can imagine somebody at Microsoft being extremely defensive about what do you mean you think we need to partner with the Alexa or open things up? Or are you suggesting I didn't do a good job? Am I going to get a demerit on my performance review?

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:27:28] All of that corporate stuff did not get in the way of this happening and I think that's one of the biggest successes with this, since Microsoft clearly was in second, third, fourth place, or whatever. They still managed to make a great move despite the corporate stuff that might typically get in the way, and that's to me a big victory. I want to sort of close with that and move on.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:27:54] We've got two stories next. Number two is about the fact that Amazon Echo devices now support multi-room audio, which is a pretty big deal. The third story it's also about Amazon closing the deal with Whole Foods and using that asset, the grocery store chain, to promote their voice first technology in a way that the other companies can't rival. My question Jan, I'm going to start with you for this, my question is which one of these stores, is number two about the multi-body or the number 3 about Whole Foods promoting the Echo line is a bigger deal to you and why?

 

Jan Konig: [00:28:35] That's a good question as I am I'm following a lot of Facebook support groups for Amazon Echo, Google Home and on stuff like that just to learn what problems users have. What struck me was that people love the multi-room audio feature. They were like oh this is what I wished for. I've read a lot of comments in the last few months and this was mostly the number one feature they requested and they were asking for. The second story, the Whole Food story, there was a lot of stuff going on Twitter where people were actually quite annoyed by that, like do we really want to buy technology next to our apples and fruits and what we're buying at Whole Foods? I'm not a Whole Foods customer. I'm not from the U.S. side and I'm not sure if I'm the right person to answer to that. I feel like it's impressive how how fast Amazon's moved forward with that, but for me definitely the multi room feature is the bigger deal right now.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:29:49] Well there's no question you're the right person to answer, everyone's right person to answer it because it's all about getting different vantage points and lines of sight on this and that's very very interesting Jan, your take on that. Brian, what are your thoughts, which story did you view as a bigger deal?

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:30:06] I would ultimately say, in the grand scheme of things, historically the interaction between Amazon and Whole Foods and voice commerce is going to be that lasting element that we read about 10 years, 20 years, 30 years in history books.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:30:20] So we got a vote for each one. We got Jan voting for the multi-room audio and we got Brian voting for the commerce aspect of the Whole Foods implementation. So Michael, you're our tiebreaker. Which one do you think is the bigger deal?

 

Michael Novak: [00:30:38] You know at this point I suppose I could put on my public sector hat and equally vote for both of them, but the idea of having multi-room audio from a citizens perspective is amazing. There's many people that are using the voice interface devices to communicate not just hey I want to buy a banana or what time and temperature is it, but they're starting to use it for the voice commerce. I could perhaps take a test at home, take my blood pressure, take some or sort of physiological reading and then turn to my device and say, please send this to my Cardiologist and here's the information it needs, and here's my pass code and tell me am I still alive yet.

 

Michael Novak: So there's a lot of practical applications to having that in a multi-room capability. I don't have to come back to the kitchen to always ask the question. I think I would vote currently for the Whole Food's story only because I can see the commercial aspect and also from the concept of smart cities. That same concept could be applied to me walking into my DMV, or me walking into my public utility office. If I can take care of things using a voice commerce system, not necessarily run by Amazon mind you, but having that capability to perform commerce with my government at their location with my voice rather than here, fill out these five forms, go wait in line, we'll call you when we're ready. I'll take that, hands down.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:32:25] It's going to be interesting to see. My perception is these are both pretty much neck and neck. I agree with Jan, the multi-room audio thing is such a big deal. Brian, I think you've mentioned on a previous podcast, where HomePod is taking the approach of really playing up the audio aspects when the reality of it is very different. That it's designed to be a voice assistant and do much more than just that. To me that is exactly what's going on with this multi-room audio deal. Yeah it is about making music and doing a lot of stuff with music in the home or in different environments, but Michael as you sort of alluded to, there's a lot more to that story and I think developers are just going to have a field day exploring all the different things they can do with that. It has applications to games, it has applications to all productivity, there are all sorts of stuff that people could do. I'm excited to see what developers do with it. The Whole Food side of things is just another way of Amazon ramrodding its way to where it wants to be and it's just sort of a brute force sort of solution for them. That's good too, because it's just going to continue to get Echo hardware deeper into the culture.

 

Michael Novak: [00:33:40] Let me ask you this Bradley, you say it's a brute force way. Would you or Jan or Brian have been surprised if Amazon had not made their hardware available at Whole Foods?

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:33:55] I have to be honest, I didn't think about it. I thought you could see an Echo Dot point of purchase display like a little thing at the cash register or you could you could see a promotion, like if you spend $100 at Whole Foods you get Echo Dot for free. Those things are fairly obvious. Would you have ever imagined on day one of the changes being implemented, that there would be a huge table at the front of every store that says farm fresh Echos. That's literally what it said, it said farm fresh Echos.

 

Michael Novak: [00:34:34] No I saw the picture. What about you Jan, I mean would you be surprised if Aldi did this in Germany, you know had the Google or the Alexa device prominently featured?

 

Jan Konig: [00:34:48] No, I agree 100 percent with Bradley. So it was just a very bold move from Amazon to do that on on day one. They do sell some stuff like that occasionally, but it's different because Whole Foods they exclusively sell food. There's not a lot of exclusive food retailers here in Germany and they probably, like people here, are more risk averse, they probably wouldn't.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:35:21] I don't think I would have predicted that it would farm fresh Echo's. I think the humor and the tongue in cheek along with what the entire Whole Foods staff were doing in a lot of the stores. They were having a lot of fun and they were getting cheeky about it and it's really kind of refreshing to see this new dynamic sort of feeling with inside of Whole Foods with this new Amazon relationship, with Amazon being involved.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:35:51] I'm not hating, don't get me wrong, on what Amazon did and what Whole Food's did by any stretch. All I was saying is that I don't think anyone ever would have expected that approach.

 

Michael Novak: [00:36:10] It's Jeff Bezos, he's a great guy but you know hey he wants something he's going to let you know and he's going to make it there, you got it, take it.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:36:17] Well he's real smart and if they keep doing it every single day that Amazon has that point of purchase display and really promotes the Echo hardware that aggressively in Whole Foods, it just makes it that much more difficult for everybody else to catch up.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:36:32] I'm going to call an audible here. Story number four deals with a speaker that really would touch on assistants talking to each other, we've talked about that. Story number six is another Amazon story that we'll be talking much more about in the future, that whatever the next iteration of the Amazon Echo hardware is going to be as Amazon.com is not selling new Echo's anymore, shows they're out of stock. So the final story of the week is story number five. Google poaches a child prodigy from Facebook to lead their development of Google Assistant. Brian you were saying that you met this gentleman before, this young guy, let's start with you on this. What are your thoughts on this story?

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:37:19] Thank you Bradley, Michael Sayman has got to be one of the more incredible individuals I think Facebook has hired. I could get the exact timing wrong, but they hired him there at 16 and a half or 17 years old and he's a coder. He's a great thinker, really understands not only coding, but understands youth culture in a way that obviously Facebook doesn't when you have people that are in their 30s running it or 40s or whatever. You know it's already an all company run by olds.

 

Michael Novak: [00:37:52] You know it's painful to say that.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:37:54] Of course some people might take away that I was being a little harsh on Google with the cultural aspect of their hiring practices, and I stand by that. But on the other side there is some rays of light. I mean we talked about some Google employees that are amazing, they're not in any engineering background. In the case of Michael they literally snapped him away from Facebook and he's going to be leading up in some way part of the Google Assistant Program. I think that's a good sign and I think we need to see a lot more of this. Not one single Michael, you need 30 or 40 of them just to get started, to help command a lot of these incredible engineers and technologists and some of them managers too need to be commanded by the way. But Michael is unique in the sense that he's got great communication skills, he's very aware of what people his age bracket are doing. He identified what is very clear and logical for anybody that just wants to see it. The youth culture has already adopted voice first technology, it's not a question. And when I hear people bellyaching, and I call them voice first deniers, they're always grumpy and they're always mad. Oh, I'm not going to tell a switch to turn on and off when I can go up there and get out of my easy chair and switch it on and off myself and then have a quizzical look. .

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:39:14] The Reality is youth culture has already adopted this. Michael is a great example of how the hundreds of young people I've talked to within startups and going into college over the last couple of years, he typifies that.

 

Michael Novak: [00:39:32] My Initial impression was good for him. He's from what I've read, I haven't had a chance to meet him of course, but from what I read he sounds like a great guy and you know Brian reinforces that. My concern is there's another part of the population that's getting older, and by older I mean in this case even older than 30, but there is a bump in the population older than 50 or older than 60. I understand Google wanting to go after those fresh young faces and get them when they get to their prime spending and earning years, of course. But I don't look to his age as being an issue, I would look to his performance and what his objectives are and what he's able to accomplish period. Whether he's 18 21 or 71. Look at Warren Buffett, if he can get the job done and deliver the goods for the company and by doing that and able to enrich the voice user interface and provide maybe some extra gas for Google Assistant, so much the better, all for him.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:40:44] Jan, do you agree with both Brian and Michael and also do you think there's anything for us to take away from the story about Facebook at large, not being able to retain a key person like that or you think it's not that big a deal?

 

Jan Konig: [00:41:00] So I agree with all of that. I think it's a very very interesting, a lot of people say that they saw the potential of large interfaces for the first time, like that the huge potential they see now when they watch their kids interacting with voice assistants like Alexa. So that's very interesting. I mean he's 21 he's not he's not a child anymore, but even like people that are just a few years younger than I am.

 

Michael Novak: [00:41:27] And you're what, you're 22 right Jan? .

 

Jan Konig: [00:41:33] Almost 30, let's say that. He's only a few years younger than I am, but still people at that age when I see them here they use WhatsApp all the time and they keep recording audio messages, they stopped typing. So that's just very interesting to see. Even people my age, we're typing probably most all the time. Only people a few years younger just stopped typing and are recording all the time. So that's very interesting. So I think it's a very smart move of Google to get him on board, but I also see Michael's concern with a more diverse product teams to not only think about the youth because I also see huge potential as I'm assisting older people as well. So my parents use their Siri all the time, for example because they didn't crop while typing. They use Siri, they use dictation. My dad since he uses Siri, he's answering emails all the time. He wasn't the computer guy before so he basically skips the computer and went right to the smartphone device interface. I feel like there should be focus on both ends of the spectrum. I think it's a great move and I appreciate that story. For Facebook, I am still having troubles understanding Facebook's position on the whole space and various other interests where Facebook is going. He is just 21, but he spent four years with Facebook so I don't see it as a problem that Facebook couldn't retain him. It's just that he's young, he wants to see something else, he got a great offer, so I don't see that as a problem.

 

Brian Roemmele: [00:43:35] Bradley I would add this, and it goes to what I was saying about the hiring pool is getting smaller and smaller. I see it on a daily basis. I am dealing with people who are really conflicted between doing a startup because of their knowledge about voice first, and there again I don't want to make it really small. But I would say the pool of really good talent is less than 200 people right now. You know people that get the technology, get it philosophical, so they're conflicted between doing their own startup or working for a larger company. A guy like Michael it really was ultimately a hiring sort of, from my external view of this, I'm not talking about any personal knowledge because I can't do that, but for my external view of this, there was a bit of a bidding war if you will between where he's going to be working. I predict that for a lot of folks. I predicted across the across the board as more and more of these companies begin to understand that technologists are not going to solve the next problems here. You need really really creative thinkers and you need people understanding how these things are going interplay.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:44:45] Thanks to all of y'all for your time aside today. This was a phenomenal discussion. I greatly appreciate it and greatly appreciate your flexibility for doing this at a different day, at a different time. So thanks to all three of you.

Bradley Metrock: [00:44:59] For This Week In Voice, August 30th 2017 - thank you for listening, and until next time.

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