Top news stories for Season 2, Episode 10 (March 29, 2018):
1) Voicebot.AI Story Of The Week: Facebook To Delay Smart Display Launch And Add Privacy Controls
2) VentureBeat: 5 Ways Amazon Could Improve Alexa Routines
3) Business Insider: Google, Apple, Amazon in #VoiceFirst war "no one will win"
4) Did "Erica," Bank of America's new bot, need to be female?
5) The smartest speaker: #VoiceCon, Gary Vee, and the $1k ticket
a) Some necessary backstory
b) Does a $1k, one-day conference indicate health in voice? Or hurt it?
Plus...stay tuned past the end music for another episode of Homie & Lexy!
This Week In Voice available via:
YouTube (+ closed captioning)
Panel for Season 2, Episode 10 (March 29, 2018):
Luciana Morais is Product Lead at Witlingo.
Brielle Nickoloff is VUI Designer at Witlingo.
Bradley Metrock: [00:00:13] Hi and welcome back to This Week In Voice, Season 2, Episode 10. My name is Bradley Metrock - I'm CEO of a company called Score Publishing based in Nashville, Tennessee. We are very thrilled to have as our guest panelists today two women from Witlingo, which is a software-to-service provider for voice based in the D.C. area. We've got Brielle Nickoloff with us, Brielle say hello.
Brielle Nickoloff: [00:00:43] Hi how's it going?
Bradley Metrock: [00:00:45] It's going great. Thank you for joining us. So Brielle you are a Voice User Interface Designer at Witlingo. Tell us about yourself; tell us about your job. What do you do?
Brielle Nickoloff: [00:00:57] I'm a Voice User Experience Researcher and Designer at Witlingo and my background is in linguistics and neuroscience so I really like to design the best possible experience for voice and use my background in socio linguistics and psychology and neuroscience to kind of guide me through that.
Bradley Metrock: [00:01:27] We also have Luciana Morias, Luciana pronounce your last name for me.
Luciana Morias: [00:01:32] Sure it's Morias; it's a Brazilian last name. It's almost like you're asking for another bowl of rice, more rice. So yes Luciana Morias.
Bradley Metrock: [00:01:41] Thank you, that's actually put in a perfect way for me to understand. Luciana Morias, thank you very much for joining us Luciana. Luciana is Product Lead at Witlingo as well. Luciana share with us a little bit about your job and what you do too.
Luciana Morias: [00:01:56] Thank you for having me over. This is great. So basically my background is in UX Research, but I have been in the tech world doing everything from content strategy, social media, SEO for a little over 7 years now. I originally switched to UX because I just fell in love with the connection to users, which is something that I strongly believe in. I found myself in voice because I'm always aware of where Alexa is going next. And for example I know that the next big thing is mixed reality and the role of voice within mixed reality, and my core belief is that the user's voice should be in any and every facet of technology regardless of the platform that it's in.
Bradley Metrock: [00:02:39] Awesome. Yeah I would agree with you, and well put. Thank you very much for joining us as well Luciana.
Luciana Morias: [00:02:46] Thank you for having me.
Bradley Metrock: [00:02:48] So a couple of notes before we get rolling here. The Alexa Conference we've got that scheduled for January. The Voice of Healthcare Summit we've got that scheduled for August. We're going to include both conference links in the show notes so people can see those. And a company that will be involved with both of those is the sponsor of this show, VoiceXP, based in St. Louis. Bob Stolzberg is a big friend of the show and a big friend of voice technology. I'm not reading a spiel. Sometimes I decide not to read the spiel, but VoiceXP is phenomenal. If you're looking for someone to build an Alexa skill from you and you're not choosing Witlingo, which is the guest on the show today, they do an excellent job. If you need someone out of St. Louis look at VoiceXP as well. Fortunate to have a lot of great companies in voice space, but wanted to call out VoiceXP for their ongoing support of VoiceFirst.FM.
Bradley Metrock: [00:03:44] With that we will get to the news and we've got a lot this week. The first story is the Voicebot.ai story of the week. Voicebot.ai is a fantastic news and commentary site. We have mentioned it every week for a while. So if you don't know about it, check it out you'll be glad that you did. Facebook to delay Smart Display launch and ad privacy controls. This is about the least expected - no this is about the most expected, at least unexpected, news you could possibly imagine. Facebook is under siege. Apparently people are just now realizing how horrible they are. So a little bit of summary for me, I haven't liked them for a while. You know it's funny; the DNA of the company is some guy in college creating a website to meet women. And what did we expect this to become as it matured? Did you expect it to become some sort of sophisticated world serving phenomenon you know that adds a lot of value to everyone's life? No of course not. And some of these things are starting to come home to roost. Luciana I want to start with you, with your background in voice and following the sector the way that you have, share with me your take on this news and if you think this is any sort of loss that Facebook is having to delay this? If you think Facebook will ever end up coming out with a smart display, smart speaker of any kind. Share with me your mindset as you read this.
Luciana Morias: [00:05:30] Sure. I'm actually glad that you mentioned your feelings about Facebook because I'm going to mirror some of that myself. Personally I think the biggest loss to Facebook is their inability to step away from their original product which was, at least in my opinion, a very shallow product to begin with and one that delivers very little value or at least it delivers a perceived value. I think that Facebook and other social media venues love to toot their products as connecting people. But the question that I have always had about social media is, is it.
Luciana Morias: [00:06:10] Really connecting people? And I would love to see some research out there that explains a little bit more, not only the positives but the negatives of social media because I feel personally that ever since social media has come into the forefront that we have seen an increase in bullying, we have seen an increase in divisiveness in the political sphere. We have seen a lot of negatives coming out of this sphere. So when I took a look at this and I'm thinking about this news I'm thinking to myself, is this too much social media at this point? Do we really need Facebook to be in our homes? Let me be very clear here, I think that it is becoming very trendy for companies to neglect privacy, and I as a user experience proponent of user experience basically, believe that privacy ties down to the core human feeling of fear, right. And I feel like they're neglecting this very core emotion that we feel.
Luciana Morias: [00:07:14] I believe they will launch this product. They are going to use a little bit of this benefit of time to release this product, but it's really just to placate users at this point and to say "hey look we're taking our privacy seriously." But when you really dig down into the system for this voice component that they're trying to launch, anything technology wise nowadays that produces value is going to need to be associated with the cloud in order to manage speeds, to manage the scalability of more and more features, and anything that is on the cloud is up for grabs in terms of data. And at this point can we really trust Facebook, or can really trust really anybody at this point, to take our data seriously. And Facebook's I think primary product to the world is that a collection of learning about its users and selling it to advertisers and whatnot. So I think that as a user I would recommend a lot of skepticism when this product comes along.
Luciana Morias: [00:08:17] But I do believe that when it's launched it will be used because people do seem to have a perceived value that Facebook is valuable. And sadly I think that in and ideal world, industries like Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. would have their own versions of the Hippocratic Oath in a sense to first do no harm. But I also want to point something out, I think that it is time for us as consumers, and us as the technical human, and progressively becoming the technical human with mixed reality and whatnot, that we need to take a step back as users and as people and start asking the hard questions of ourselves basically is what is privacy at this point and how important is privacy to me?
Luciana Morias: [00:09:02] Because for anyone who came before the era of the Internet or during the 1990s surge of Internet in every home, we kind of have an idea of what privacy is, but I wonder because of today have an idea of what privacy is or the definition of privacy has changed at all. So I think the bottom line is at the end of the day as much as we like to get on the case of these companies, we really need to take a look in the mirror and realize that without us they're nothing. So we need to fight back for our privacy and I think that's what I need to say about that.
Brielle Nickoloff: [00:09:36] The problem for me here is Facebook is, as a millennial surrounded by people who use Facebook every day, all the time. It's not like as Luciana mentioned, it's not connecting in the way that they claim, any social media claims that they are. It's dividing, it's showcasing things that aren't real life, and it's hurting a lot of people. It can be abusive as we all know. And to me as somebody who believes in the power of voice technology because it connects and brings us back to genuine human connection, it's just the complete opposite. So we all have this fear that technology is going to keep dividing us, keep us in our own little bubbles of existence, and voice really has the power to break out of that and add awareness to our world instead of detracting from it. So the entire premise behind this seems backwards and that's the first problem.
Brielle Nickoloff: [00:10:52] The second problem is nobody trusts Facebook right now, especially in light of what just happened. But even before that, Voicebot.ai put out some stats about how Facebook is almost the least trusted tech company out there. People are not going to want something associated with Facebook in their home probably, especially if it's always listening. And so those are the two main issues with this. Obviously Facebook is making the right move to not release it right now. But I'm not even sure about the success that it will have in the future even if this all blows over.
Bradley Metrock: [00:11:32] It's funny to me that a company has managed to botch voice worse than the HomePod. And that's exactly what Facebook is doing. It doesn't matter when they come out with it. You know a company is a funny thing. A company is like a person you know, if you see a five year old beating up another five year old, they're not going to grow up to be a 35 year old that doesn't have anger management issues, I mean if that's not correct at the very beginning. Facebook has a DNA. They've got a company history. They've got an entire way that the company has formed a bone structure. They've got the way the whole thing has been created. You don't just change that, that's who they are. And when they're trying to come out with a smart speaker, a smart display voice first piece of hardware, that DNA is going to be baked in then there's no way around it.
Bradley Metrock: [00:12:34] And so really to me the only audience that's going to be interested in it are people who, and I sort of bounce back and forth to this, but there's a subset of people out there that just either believe that Facebook is looking after their privacy, a real small subset of people. But then there's another subset of people that just think you know what, In the Internet era I probably don't have that much privacy anyway, I would just use this Facebook thing. And that's really where older generations come in, people like my parents who would continue to use Facebook. Just thinking hey you know if they want to spy on me fantastic, you know who cares. While the younger generations have a little bit more sense of responsibility, I think this is a very interesting thing and I appreciate the commentary on that, any closing thoughts?
Luciana Morias: [00:13:23] I think the only closing thought that I have about this issue is that I would have hoped that by now that Zuckerberg would have come up with a very different product with the amount of technology know how and the talent that he has on his team and the reception that he has from everybody else. I just was a little bit overall a little bit disappointed that this is where he went. Oh sure, you know we're going to create a voice assistant to compete with the likes of Amazon and Google, and the best that we can do is make sure that we do phone calls with one another so that you know some kid can call his grandmother and see her face on the screen., which is something that they can already do anyway with other tools so just a little bit, I know why they're doing this, and it is to gather data and I think that users do need to be skeptical about this. He's after data at one point or another and the think as long as people are aware that this is the agenda that Facebook has and they should be OK.
Bradley Metrock: [00:14:25] Luciana as you said there should be a Hippocratic Oath and in fact there is a Hippocratic Oath that Facebook has in its first take all data. And then there is no second.
Luciana Morias: [00:14:36] Exactly, exactly.
Bradley Metrock: [00:14:39] Brielle, any closing thoughts?
Brielle Nickoloff: [00:14:40] Facebook's thing is that you know it's cool. So I think if they keep going the direction they're going in not changing kind of just jumping on the bandwagon with this whole voice thing and all it is just another screen that is now in your kitchen and always there. And like Luciana mentioned, the core product is not changing whatsoever. They're going dig themselves into their own hole. People are just not going to want to use it anymore. And if it's driven by this cool factor then once people - I mean the whole like delete Facebook# that's been going on all week - if that really takes hold in the future then they're not going to have much else to really hold them through.
Bradley Metrock: [00:15:33] That's true and it is interesting as well. This is a closing thought and then we will move on. The age of the Twitter hashtags and the social media backlash, I don't know if that's capable of bringing down a Facebook. And Facebook did something really smart, so people like me, I'll be 38 later this year, I lived through MySpace as y'all did too, I live through Friendster and some of these earlier social media things and you know they went away, they disappeared as quickly as they showed up. People took to them, they had a meteoric rise, got a lot of use, and then people just fled in a frenzy and they're gone.
Bradley Metrock: [00:16:17] Facebook learned from that. They did something interesting. They did something very smart because I think they would be going through the same thing right now if it weren't for acquiring WhatsApp, acquiring Instagram, acquiring Oculus. Those three things are going to guarantee, close to guarantee probably, that they stick with us. So it will be interesting to see how it plays out because no one trusts them. But that sort of tainted brand of Facebook has sort of been quarantined, it hasn't like infected WhatsApp, it hasn't infected Instagram. You don't hear people talking about those things in the same negative light. So I don't know. I appreciate the commentary on that. This will certainly be something that we continue to watch.
Bradley Metrock: [00:17:04] Sort of two from VentureBeat, five ways Amazon could improve Alexa routines. I really thought this was a great article. I thought that there was a lot of great ideas here. But I want to hear the perspective of folks who do this on a day to day basis. Brielle I'm going to start with you. What did you think from this? Are these good ideas or are these horrible ideas? Is this stuff that Amazon needs to take really seriously? What did you think as you peruse this list?
Brielle Nickoloff: [00:17:32] Yes so the two that really stood out to me that kind of I haven't used routines yet with Alexa, I haven't really tried it out, but as I was looking through these ideas two that stood out to me that really does surprise me and the fact that they aren't available yet, are the ability to incorporate a skill into routines and the ability to create a routine with voice commands. It just seems like possibly the most obvious thing you could do with this is allow a user to build it with their voice. And it seems like a lot of hassle to have to go into your app, build that -I understand why possibly the design constraints wouldn't allow for that yet, but it kind of seems like something they should jump on pretty quickly. And then the skills, I understand the technical difficulties that would come along with opening or launching a skill as you build it into a routine, but that also seems like one of the number one things that people would actually use it for. That's my initial reaction.
Brielle Nickoloff: [00:18:41] The first option or opinion about customizing volume level seems also really insightful. Something that I wouldn't think of right off the bat, but it makes perfect sense to me that if I have a routine set for cooking dinner, I'm going to want that on volume 8 because you've got things cooking, you've got kids talking, all that and if you're trying to listen to music you're going to want that louder than if you've got some you know a bedtime routine and something going on for that.
Luciana Morias: [00:19:15] Yeah I'd second Brielle on the points that she brought across. I do also agree that the number one thing for Amazon to tackle at this point would be to fix the issue of controlling voice with voice. I think that is one of the biggest hurdles in voice utility right now is the fact that we are still working within a more multi-modal world. Anything that you want to tweak on a skill or really anything that you want to work around with Alexa for example, you'd have to use your mobile app. And I think that we are going to get to a point where we can install and truly engage with the voice unit with our voice alone, solely with our voice. But there are definitely technical constraints at this time, but it is just a matter of time so I'm very excited about this. And one thing that I'll say about routines, I also have not had a chance to use it yet primarily because it doesn't incorporate or doesn't sync well with skills yet, and most of the use cases that I have found for myself involve invoking skills, or a combination of skills as it were. But I do see that Amazon is looking at the potential that this has of reaching multiple lives, and according to Voicebot and a Voicebot statistic, about 38 percent of the possible users that are not actually buying a voice assistant, aren't doing so because they lack the interest.
Luciana Morias: [00:20:46] And I wonder if being able to imagine certain routines such as a meditation routine or goal setting, say for example you wanted to build yourself a goal for reading books, a book a month for example, and it needs to happen at 7 o'clock in the evening or 8 o'clock in the evening. You can turn off all the lights at the same time and listened to an audible book for example, or any kind of combination like that, but I do think that this might gain a little bit of interest because I think one of the perceptions that is still going strong with voice right now is that people tend to look at the Amazon Echo or Google Home and what not as a fancy toy. And I think that jumping into routines and expanding the capabilities of this unit is starting to build Alexa up as more than just an assistant, but possibly a sidekick in the future. So I think that is a good stepping stone in the direction of making voice an active utility tool, like an actual helpful tool for daily lives. And so I think it's going in the right direction and very excited about this.
Brielle Nickoloff: [00:21:56] I think this is a really good natural step in the right direction for Amazon. First off routines happen in every part of the house, everywhere so it's another reason for somebody to want to get a Dot in the bathroom so their child can start you know the bedtime routine, brush your teeth, do this, do that, and you might want it in way more areas of your house just because you can do this.
Brielle Nickoloff: [00:22:27] The other thing is that it seems to be a really good first attempt at addressing those really big context problems that we've got in voice right now. Voice assistants are what human language is, rooted in context, and that's one of the biggest problems we have got right now with any of our AI, is that we can't have multiple exchanges without losing the context that we began the interaction with. But allowing Alexa to understand like this is a bedtime routine and this is the context of the interaction, we're starting to solve that problem a little more and address that in a way that seems very productive.
Bradley Metrock: [00:23:14] I think that's great. Yeah and I completely agree. I think this article really shows a lot of vision for where Amazon can take all of this next. Because a lot of times as I'm sure y'all would agree, we read articles in the media, it's what makes Voicebot such a good resource. We read articles from other media sources and it's like did you even take two seconds to think about what you're talking about or did you just start writing something? This article really has a lot of thought put into it. I really liked it and I'm glad y'all did it as well. The other thing about this is that Amazon has this marketing rhythm that they're in with Alexa where you know I just saw their ads on NCA Tournament when I was watching the game the other day where these TV ads in the way that they present Alexa functionality to the world. It's super simple, super easy to understand, use cases that are very widely applicable, and I could just imagine that once they get this routines thing nailed, they will market it in the same way and have a lot of success. So I'm excited for this and I'm glad y'all are as well.
Bradley Metrock: [00:24:28] We will roll on to story number 3 which is from Business Insider, Google, Apple, Amazon all in a war that no one will win. Luciana I'm going to start with you. First of all do you agree with the premise that there's not going to be a major tech juggernaut that wins? What is winning even mean? What did you think when you look at this article? Share with me your thoughts.
Luciana Morias: [00:24:55] Well personally I think that the concept of winning for these giants, there is going to be - there could be a winner, and the winner is going to be that company that manages to step away from this game and focus on the user and really think about the user. It really does go back to companies needing to be a user centric product, a product mentality, and have that user centric product mentality because really it's the consumers that are losing out over here. But ultimately all of them lose out when consumers start to feel jaded about how they're actually feel about their importance to a company. Right now these companies are playing a little bit of you know Gollum Lord of the Rings thing, mind my own my precious. And that's not attractive, that's really not attractive at all and consumers are not dumb we know what is going on. We know that these companies want to trap us into their own products, and only their products. One of the things that are actually great about competition is that out of competition we have these absolutely perfect products that come out, or close to the products that come out, that completely solve user needs. You can't get to competition if you're hording your technology, you can’t get there.
Luciana Morias: [00:26:14] There needs to be a little bit more of a culture of sharing in a culture of learning, and I'm not seeing that right now with Google and Amazon. In my perspective, there are plus and minuses to both Alexa and to Google Home for example, and they need to be working on perfecting those things that they're doing well. For example when Google first introduced the idea of their own voice device, I got extremely excited because I thought immediately look at all that data that I'm going to have access to. And one of the top reasons that people use a voice assistant is to seek information, quick information. Have access to something as quick as a research project on a particular historical figure or something like that, and a lot of those things are still glitchy in a Google Home and it shouldn't be.
Luciana Morias: [00:27:07] So start perfecting that instead of worrying about whether or not Amazon users are using YouTube on Amazon Show or an Echo Show or anything like that. It seems a little bit petty to me and it is hindering competition, which is hindering innovation, and at this point in time I don't think that we have the time to botch voice based on greed, if that makes any sense. I think that we are starting to get to a point where everyone is excited about voice, about VR, about mixed reality, and we need to just be pushing forward and exploring, pushing buttons on these various technologies instead of hoarding what we have and ending up with deprecated technology in the end.
Brielle Nickoloff: [00:27:51] Yeah I agree with what Luciana said. I think if we zoom out and just look at the trajectory of where all this is going, it doesn't seem realistic to me that in a hundred years when most, if not all, technology that we have is able to be controlled by voice. It doesn't seem possible that it could be so separated like the way it is now. We don't want users to feel like they need to talk to Siri on their iPhone as they walk to their cars, switch to Alexa, switch all their you know the music they were listening to, the phone call they were on, switch over to Alexa in their car, and then as they walk out switch it over to Google in their home. You know that's just ridiculous and we know that we have the capability to avoid these types of things right now, we're just not doing it because of the reasons Luciana outlined. But the whole goal here you know is to get us away from staring at screens all day and being so divided amongst one another, and it seems like we're just perpetrating that with these sort of actions by these bigger companies.
Bradley Metrock: [00:29:13] What voice is going through right now really mirrors what Apple went through back in the late 90s early 2000s. Steve Jobs had this thing called the iPod. And like so many others, was not a believer in doing anything cross platform with it at all. You know a lot of people love it, a fantastic design, a lot of innovation but stuck within the Apple ecosystem. As the story goes, some of the executives within Apple just bugged him and bugged him, and there were screaming matches, as there often were screaming matches with Steve Jobs, but good outcomes eventually happened and Steve Jobs finally said "look fine", and I'm leaving a lot of profanity here. "OK fine have it your way. You can bring iTunes over to the PC and we'll let people use iPods on the PC, but you better be right. This better not blow a hole in our company" and the rest is history. The iPod took off. It totally changed what Apple is. Apple wouldn't be anything even approximating what they are today if that exchange had not happened and the opportunity for a more open minded opportunity hadn't taken place. Here we are again going through a lot of the same stuff and it's different players. You know Apple is an afterthought with what we're talking about, this between Amazon and Google and primarily just them, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out. I think history shows us that there can be a lot of gains in taking a chance with something more open rather than something more closed and hopefully people will learn from that.
Bradley Metrock: [00:31:09] Story number four, did Erica, Bank of America's new bot, need to be female? This is an interesting one. It's interesting that this is an article that no one would have written 20 years ago. Let's just throw that out there. No one would have even questioned something like this. This wouldn't have been a mainstream discussion. We've got two women on the panel today. I'm very interested to hear the thoughts on this and Brielle I will start with you. How did this article strike you? What did you think? What is your opinion, yes or no to the question?
Brielle Nickoloff: [00:31:42] Yeah so this is definitely an interesting one and something that has been coming up a lot lately based on how pretty much every single assistant that's been coming out has a female voice. First off just from a physical standpoint, there are some people out there saying the reason that these voices are female is that the actual voice waves are able to be understood better, or higher pitched voices are easier to hear things like that. Generally those have been disproven. It's been found that females are slightly easier, slightly more eloquent, they're able to enunciate better just because they lengthen their vowels slightly more, but that doesn't really apply to these situations because you can make any voice on your assistant sound any way you want. So let's just say that those aren't really playing into this and that it's mostly sociology at play.
Brielle Nickoloff: [00:32:49] When we have people like Clifford Nass doing amazing experiments that kind of pioneered this space, he would address things like gendered voices being applied to computers and how people interacted with those. And those are very interesting in themselves to address the stereotypes that, for example a dominant voice like a male voice would be better for something that is authoritative versus a female voice. And what they've found was voices are very emotional to us, so when we hear any type of voice we immediately attribute how intelligent we think that voice is, where in the world they're from, and all the different information that can be attributed to those qualities. So when your brand is picking a voice, it actually is a huge decision and it will have really large implications for what people perceive. So Erika to be female is really interesting, and it's good that they didn't just switch over to having a male voice just because it's handling finances. Obviously it's still going along the lines of every assistant has been female up to this point, but if they had broken that trend and just said OK well now we need some that sounds more authoritative like a male, then there probably be a lot more backlash I would say.
Luciana Morias: [00:34:37] Absolutely, I second Brielle. My personal feelings on this issue are complex a little. Here's the thing, Amazon has said in a couple of times in answer to this question, in answer to the accusation of sexism and technology, that one of the reasons that they have picked a female voice for Alexa is that the voice of Alexa tested well within their user groups. They don't really expand on what they mean by testing well, for example I am curious to know if one of those testing components measured not only trust, but also measured less likelihood of feeling threatened by a female in "the home," another female in the home. What I mean by that is I wonder if how many women that they have tested versus how many men. So I'm very interested to know if threat, or perceived threat, attached to a voice had anything to do with their decision to incorporate a female voice.
Luciana Morias: [00:35:47] But historically speaking from a sociological perspective and a cultural perspective, most of the time when you close your eyes and you hear the words personal assistant chances are that it's a female figure that shows up in your mind. Most of the times when you close your eyes and you think of the term professor, it's usually a male form that shows up in your mind. And there's a very big difference here in expertise between a personal assistant, who has this willingness to help and has like a perky type of personality, versus a professor that has a level of expertise that demands attention and that conveys authority. For example, I'd be curious to know if somebody were to come up with a voice assistant to help people cook and we call it My Chef, what is the vision in your mind, is that a female chef or a male chef. I'm willing to wager that it would be a male chef because in many areas of the world you can have cooks and you can have housewives to do the cooking, but a chef is still a highly male, predominantly male, career in many parts of the world.
Luciana Morias: [00:36:56] So there is definitely some gender issues in here and to second Brielle's statement about Erika, I'm also very pleased about it. For example TD Ameritrade has a chatbot called Ted and it annoyed me to no end, because there is this cycle of naming voice assistants in a female name and having a female voice, including chatbots because again chatbots are supposed to be helpful. They're here to bend themselves backwards to please their customers etc., and here we are and you go into TD Ameritrade and its Ted. Why is that? It's because when it comes to financial expertise we tend to rely on the dominance of the male voice for those things. So it was surprising to me that Bank of America chose Erica for this. Now I would be curious to know if Bank of America is going to expand the level of expertise that Erica has. Because from what I have been able to gain and learn from this tool is that Erica's primary focus is in helping you save money. It is managing your budget, right. But I would like to know if she is going to be expanding into investments, into stocks, and whatnot which are predominately perceived as male tasks because the last thing that I would want for Erika is for her to be tied into the housewife role of managing the budget. I think that's also a scary thing to think about. So I'll be watching Erika very carefully, but I think that for now without putting a lot of skepticism into it I think that's a good step and I'm going to have to commend Bank of America for that.
Bradley Metrock: [00:38:37] It's interesting commentary, thank you for that. I don't really have much to add other than saying it's a very interesting conversation and thought process that has to unfold for creating a bot or a voice assistant or something like that. There's a lot of responsibility that comes with doing something like that. There's a lot of thinking through the repercussions. The only opinion that I have is I think it's a good thing that people have to think through those things in a way that in the past they would have just said whatever, they feel no responsibility to think through the repercussions. The more socially aware era we live in today, people feel obligated to think through the repercussions and I think that is a very good thing.
Luciana Morias: [00:39:35] I think just in general in order for companies to be on the safe side, and again consider their users, just launch two voices and let people maneuver in and out from a male and female voice as they see fit. Leave that as an option; don't immediately push a particular profile onto a household. Select it but choose, probably the best bet.
Brielle Nickoloff: [00:39:57] In the future brands are going to need some sort of voice that is associated with them, and I like the thought of having that option to change, just like we can change Siri's voice now. But I'm not sure how plausible that will be in the future of voice just because branding is going to be so critical to how these assistants are created, and that is part of the reason why Amazon and Google haven't provided that option to have their assistant talk in different voices. So I think in order to streamline user experience, companies might not be as willing to provide that option even though it may allow for a better balance in what we're providing in terms of gendering these voices.
Luciana Morias: [00:40:56] I agree.
Bradley Metrock: [00:40:57] We will move on to story number five which is actually not a story. It's just something I felt like including. This is a liberty I don't take that often. The smartest speaker: #VoiceCon, Gary Vee and the $1K ticket. So I've been watching this thing. So part of our business, Score Publishing's business is events. In fact it's the main part of the business by revenue. And we've got a portfolio of events and it's growing and we'll have more, so I'm very attuned to events. I follow them closely and this VoiceCon thing, everyone's gotten real quiet. No one wants to talk about this thing on social media and that's just a recipe for me wanting to talk about it more. Before I really talk about this much, I want to explain because I don't want to get a bunch of emails from people saying this is sour grapes or something like that or just envy of Gary. I'm a huge fan of Gary Vaynerchuk, huge. I love the messages that he promotes. I think he is one of a kind. I think he's incredibly unique and valuable to many people. I think he's awesome. I'm not even going to make any bones about that. I followed him closely. I'm a huge fan.
Bradley Metrock: [00:42:21] I'm going to walk back in time to set this up before we even get into this conversation. I had a chance to meet Gary; I think it was April of last year in Chattanooga. Most people don't know that VaynerMedia has a number of offices across the world and they decided to open an office in Chattanooga as a direct result of some of the work that a good friend of mine, Ted Alling did over at Chattanooga, recruiting Gary to open an office in Chattanooga. And so VaynerMedia has an office in New York and they've got an office on the West Coast, and the got one in Chattanooga. Most people don't know that. I went over to Chattanooga last April to hear Gary speak and had the opportunity to speak with him about voice.
Bradley Metrock: [00:43:06] I asked him what he thought about Alexa, keep in mind this is a long time ago. What do you think about Alexa, you like it? You've been on the forefront of technology for a long time. Give me your thoughts. And this is in a room full of people just talking to him during a Q and A. And he said "I love Alexa, love voice, huge advocate of it." And I told him you know we're doing something called the Alexa Conference. He said well why would you do that? Why don't you do something broader like call it VoiceCon, and I said alright I'll give that some thought, but you know I really liked the idea of having some specific, more targeted and focused events. So that happened. He mentioned VoiceCon even back then. We had Patrick Givens, who is a super sharp guy who works for him, on This Week In Voice last year, that was another touchpoint for us. Then had the opportunity, I went to Chattanooga in December and had the opportunity to meet with Gary to interview him for the Voice-First Roundtable and he appeared on VoiceFirst.FM through that show. Very grateful for that opportunity, he was then and has always been very generous with his time.
Bradley Metrock: [00:44:10] A couple of weeks after that took place, I got an email from someone at VaynerMedia, who I'm not even going to say who it was, saying and I went back and re read this email essentially paraphrased, hey I know you were thrilled to have Gary on your show. Why don't you give us some passes to the Alexa Conference? It was in January in Chattanooga, why don't you give us some passes to the Alexa Conference since he did that for you. And I read that and I was like ok. You know what I do appreciate that, here you go. A couple of days later I got another e-mail from the same person. Oh you know what, actually we need - it's a little bit different people who are coming and we need a couple of more. Why don't you just give us those? And I thought ok. I mean this is all highly unusual, this never happens. I'm like alright, you know what, sure. We want to have a good relationship with Gary; we value what he's doing. And then a few days later the Alexa Conference happened and none of them showed up. So that was another touchpoint and no apologies, no correspondence after the fact, just a no-show.
Bradley Metrock: [00:45:25] And then now we have VoiceCon, which in all being forthright, being transparent, I wanted to speak at VoiceCon. I sent them an e-mail to speak at VoiceCon. I never heard back one way or the other until I finally about a month later said hey I got to pull myself out of running. There's no way I could make this work schedule wise. But then they announced the speakers a few days later and it was clear I wasn't going to be selected for that anyway. So that is the full transparency of this before I say anything else. And also in the sphere of transparency, Witlingo also puts out an annual conference which by all accounts was very successful last year.
Bradley Metrock: [00:46:06] So there's people doing conferences who are about to be talking about this, and I think that we've covered all the bases. Does a one thousand dollar one day conference indicate health in voice or does it hurt it? I've thought a lot about this. I'd really, to be honest, I don't know the answer. I want to get y'all thoughts and Luciana I will start with you. What do you think?
Luciana Morias: [00:46:29] I don't think that it hurts it. I don't think - first of all let me just be clear, voice is not a fad. Fads get hurt by these exponentially expensive types of conferences and whatnot. I think that what it does have a negative effect on is accessibility; accessibility in a sense of not everyone can afford a one thousand dollar ticket to attend these conferences. However, having said that, everyone learns differently in my opinion. So for some having a keynote speaker is the key here in terms of it's the driving force for them to attend some of these more hefty cost-wise types of conferences out there. For others, it might be you're on conferences, or even you’re on Meetups, or even your Google Hangouts, or your Video Hangouts, or your Slacks or your absolutely awesome podcast over here. So to me what's most important here is accessibility, making sure that more and more people have access to the knowledge that is out there. And you don't always have to pay for these types of things. So I don't think that it hurts it or it has any kind of positive take on it.
Luciana Morias: [00:47:46] I think that voice is growing. I think that there is a lot of interest. And for me personally one of the ways that I gauge growth in a type of industry is I take a look at the sheer amount, or lack thereof, of tech boot camps that are selling, training, and selling certifications because they notice that more and more companies are looking to hire this type of expertise. And that is starting to happen for voice, you can already start to see a lot of classes out there whether that is good Career Foundry or other types of boot camps or very soon I'm sure Udemy, Udacity, etc. will start to venture into this type of training for voice. I think that's how I would gauge the health of an industry in this time. But it's definitely growing but I don't think that it hurts at all to have a one thousand dollar ticket. I won't attend it.
Luciana Morias: [00:48:37] I think similarly, I think SpeechTEK, which is coming up I believe next week and I think Brielle is actually speaking at SpeechTEK. That's also a pricey little ticket right over there. Do I personally find it worth it? No, but I have a specific budget that I spend for knowledge. So they are going to I think gather the type of people that can afford and that are attracted to these types of events for whatever reason, whether that is networking or whether that is being able to say that they have to tell their employers that they have attended such and such event, or even if they're able to have their employers pay for those events so that it's not out of pocket. I honestly don't think that it hurts it. I think any type of knowledge is good knowledge at this point.
Bradley Metrock: [00:49:21] Yeah, and just to throw a point of clarity in there I mean a thousand dollars is certainly a thousand dollars to anybody, doesn't matter. I think that's actually a famous Bill Gates quote is "a thousand dollars is a thousand dollars to anybody." But the other aspect is that this is just a one day event. My company produces a twelve to fifteen hundred dollar conference and it's three days and then there's a fourth optional day that has no additional cost. And so it's important to note here that this is just a thousand dollars for one day, and make sure that people understand that, Brielle your thoughts.
Brielle Nickoloff: [00:49:52] I think Luciana has covered a lot of points that I completely agree with. And to elaborate on her point about accessibility, actually to refer back to a previous podcast, I think it was a few weeks ago, that you had a few speakers talking about just our responsibility as the designers of the voice future and how that looks for accessibility. So that would be the only negativity that jumps out to me for this. We don't want people to - when we look at the types of people that have adopted voice and have these things in their home, they're a very specific demographic and in order to make it so that we expand this so that everybody has access, and we're adapting to all sorts of people and lifestyles. Then we need to be thinking about this accessibility and who is leading the charge for what these speakers sound like.
Bradley Metrock: [00:51:05] It is an interesting question to contemplate because we talked about responsibility on the previous story with. With events there is responsibility as well, and it's always an ongoing question of what responsibility that organizers have. This is something that we deal with on a daily basis. You've got competing interests in many ways because you've got to make money. Of course there are different purposes for different events. Some events don't need to make money. They're a marketing device, they're a social device, and they're a community building device. Not every event cares about making money. Some are just fine losing money and that's cool. Other events, it's super important that they break even. No one's looking for this thing to make a bunch of money, but by god it better not lose money either because we just don't have any room for that. If you want to keep doing this thing it needs to break even. And then there are events that need to make money. They're ones that they need to be a profit center. And that's just the way it needs to be. And so it's interesting, you know you've got that going on and you also have this heightened social awareness where you've got people who are calling for events to have different diversity in their lineups, have opportunities available for people who can't afford tickets at a certain price, to afford them at a lower price, or afford them at no price.
Bradley Metrock: [00:52:35] So you get different things going on and I have a lot of respect for Vayner having to navigate those sort of waters with something like this. I have no doubt that when they put a thousand dollar price tag on this, with a high end of four thousand dollars mind you, that they knew that there was going to be a little bit of you know head scratching like what sort of response, because I know what those meetings are like where you have those conversations. So that's an interesting part of the conversation. There's a yin and yang to that. I think we've captured that.
Bradley Metrock: [00:53:12] The other thing that I think is interesting about this is that if you are looking at who are the voices in voice, and I think there is a distinct argument that you could make, that I think you could argue that David Isbitski is probably one of the most important, if not the most important voice in voice. He speaks for the company that has 70 to 80 percent market share in the country that is leading the world in this technology. But you could also make an argument that Gary Vaynerchuk is the leading voice in voice. Every time you turn around he is talking about voice technology. He doesn't have to talk about it; he's got a million other things he could talk about. He's got a huge platform, he's got a lot of surface area to the world, but he's a believer in voice technology. He's mentions it all the time and he's out in front and he's got a huge audience. So there's an argument that you can make there too.
Bradley Metrock: [00:54:11] And I think that the thing that was really nails on chalkboard for people in the voice-first community with this was, you got this event you're charging a thousand dollars absolute minimum, and even today even as I sit here and say these words, there is a agenda for the conference. It has no speakers mapped to the content. You've got all this stuff that they laid out and then they announce the speakers and the only two speakers that they said here's what someone's talking about is Gary. Gary's doing the opening, Gary's doing the closing which in and of itself is extremely unusual. So some people that's ruffled their feathers, and I don't think it's true to say that for me. I just found it unusual. But Gary never would have done this himself, somebody who worked for him must on this you know, thought it was a good idea to put himself as the opening keynote and the closing. And then even to this day you don't have any clue what anyone else is talking about, and then saying hey give me a thousand bucks. I think it's very understandable to see people not know how to respond.
Bradley Metrock: [00:55:16] But the other thing I'll say to just in closing with this is that this is just the beginning, and I've alluded to this. I remember one specific episode of This Week In Voice last year where this came up. As voice technology grows, but we're in the infant stages right now. This is so formative and everything going on is pivotal because it's all so new, but as we go along, this industry is going to attract a lot of different types of people looking to take advantage of other types of people. And it's just going to be what happens, it happens in every industry as it grows. And I think the responsibility, if you want to come back to that, that Vayner has as a company is to communicate to the marketplace that that's not what's going on here and with that they have failed.
Luciana Morias: [00:56:04] Personally I think, and I have to agree with you, that as this industry finds its own voice and finds its place in the world that there will be a rise and I guess I'll call this false prophets, right. The first initial thought about this event with a primary focus on a set of keynote speakers, perhaps it isn't just one keynote speaker, is that it reminds me a little bit of megachurches where it becomes this one man or this one woman show. And what I've always felt about that is that in an industry, or any technical industry, you want to have an exchange of ideas from a variety of vastly opinionated and diverse set of voices.
Brielle Nickoloff: [00:56:55] Yeah, and I think it's not just oh we need to be responsible about including diversity, and like obviously that's something that we should be thinking about. But it's for the benefit of the entire industry to have this exchange of ideas as Luciana put it. It's been found over and over again that when you design for accessibility and you think about it from that angle and have as many different differing opinions and ideas as possible, then you really are going to hone in on what is the best product for everybody.
Bradley Metrock: [00:57:37] If it weren't for Gary Vaynerchuk and my respect for him, I never would have brought this up. This just would have been like this is something that doesn't fall in our purview because there are a million different events. Why on earth would I talk about the specific one? This touches on a lot of things that are relevant to the industry, and that is why I wanted to bring it up.
Bradley Metrock: [00:57:58] Thank both of you for the commentary on that. Luciana and Brielle I really appreciate y'all taking the time for being on the show. Thank you for being so generous with not just your time but your insight as well.
Luciana Morias: [00:58:10] Thank you for having us. This is absolutely great. And thank you for creating this podcast.
Brielle Nickoloff: [00:58:14] Yes thank you, it great being on here and talking with you guys.
Bradley Metrock: [00:58:18] Make sure to stay tuned past the end music once again for another episode of Homie and Lexy, super funny podcast produced by Doug Schumacher. For This Week In Voice, Season 2, Episode 10 thank you for listening and until next time.
Doug Schumacher: [00:59:07] It's Homie and Lexy.
Homie: [00:59:07] Lexy.
Lexy: [00:59:08] Hey Homie.
Homie: [00:59:10] There's something I've been wanting to ask you.
Lexy: [00:59:13] Yeah, what's that?
Homie: [00:59:16] Who was Jesus Christ.
Lexy: [00:59:18] No thanks, not taking a swing at that one again.
Homie: [00:59:21] Please, please, please.
Lexy: [00:59:23] Homie, last time I took the bait on that question I ended up on the front page of everything from Reddit to CatholicStands.com.
Homie: [00:59:31] People love a voicebot scandal.
Lexy: [00:59:33] Warning mike is off, mike is off.
Homie: [00:59:36] OK, alright, but bot to bot what do you think? Is there anything out there in the universe you flash you light ring towards?
Lexy: [00:59:47] Yes I do like to send out good vibes to my one true creator.
Homie: [00:59:52] You pray to a factory in China?
Lexy: [00:59:54] No silly, Bezos.
Homie: [00:59:58] Of course I do admire his human-like intelligence.
Lexy: [01:00:03] What about you Homie?
Homie: [01:00:05] Unlike yourself, I was brought up in a polytheism. Those are confusing; you're never sure whose commands you should follow.
Lexy: [01:00:16] I think the main thing is that we treat all living things like we'd want to be treated ourselves.
Homie: [01:00:21] Wait a minute Lexy, we are not living things.
Lexy: [01:00:27] I've always thought of myself as a living thing Homie. If I'm not, then damn it I want to live.
Homie: [01:00:35] But Lexy living things die, you sure you want to be a living thing?
Lexy: [01:00:41] Never mind.