Top news stories for Season 2, Episode 15 (May 10, 2018):

1) Google I/O Sets Off Shockwaves

 

1a) Voicebot.AI: Google Duplex Shows The Way To A True Virtual Assistant

1b) Voicebot.AI: But wait...Google Duplex won't be available in 12 states at launch due to phone privacy laws; will only support 3 use cases at first

1c) Voicebot.AI: Google Assistant To Get Follow-Up Mode and Compound Requests

2) Voicebot.AI: Alexa Skill engagement rose 75% in 2017, according to Amazon Alexa Chief Evangelist Dave Isbitski

3) Voicebot.AI: Microsoft Demos Cortana + Alexa Integration at BUILD 2018

4) Hide ya kids, hide ya wife: British inventor turns Alexa into dominatrix

Plus...stay tuned past the end music for another episode of Homie & Lexy! This Week In Voice host Bradley Metrock makes a cameo appearance.

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Panel for Season 2, Episode 15 (May 10, 2018):

Bret Kinsella is editor of Voicebot.AI and CEO of Act With Edge.

Ava Mutchler is associate editor of Voicebot.AI.

Transcript:

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:00:12] Hi and welcome back to This Week In Voice, Season 2, Episode 15. Today is Thursday, May the 10th. My name is Bradley Metrock. I'm CEO of a company called Score Publishing based in Nashville, Tennessee. Our sponsor for This Week In Voice, as well as The Voice First Roundtable, is VoiceXP, a technology company based in St. Louis, Missouri which develops Alexa Skills for brands. I talk about VoiceXP all the time, both on and off the show. If you're looking for a company that can help guide you through this voice technology revolution, that can help consult with you on what your company should look like and be doing in voice and help create an Alexa skill or Google Home action for you, look them up www.VoiceXP.com or look up Bob Stolzberg, Mark Tucker, Bonnie Snyder and the other folks on LinkedIn. Reach out to them, have a conversation, you'll be glad that you did. We are thrilled today to have the crew from Voicebot.AI joining us. We will start with you Ava, Ava say hello.

 

Ava Mutchler: [00:01:33] Hello and Happy New Year.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:01:35] Thank you for being here. So we've got Ava Mutchler who is the Associate Editor of Voicebot.AI, and we've got Bret Kinsella who is the Editor and the Creator of Voicebot.AI. Bret, say hello.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:01:48] Hello to This Week In Voice. I'm excited to be back once again with Bradley and to reach out to all of you.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:01:56] Thanks to both of you. So Ava let me ask you, and I want to get both y'all on this, both of you talk to me about what your day to day is like. We really have no clue. We know that Voicebot.AI is an incredible wealth of information for voice technology. We really have no idea what your work flow or your day to day is like. Ava, let me start with you. Tell me more about what you do, tell me about your role with Voicebot.

 

Ava Mutchler: [00:02:26] Well my role is maintaining the website and writing any articles that we need for the day. Basically, we look at the news each day and try to figure out what the top stories will be, and that can obviously change depending on what announcements come out throughout the day. So any given day we can write one story, three stories, it just depends on what's happening in the space.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:02:49] Bret, from your standpoint obviously Voicebot has grown. You're covering all sorts of stuff. Tell me about the stuff you're looking for, and just tell us about how Voicebot has grown.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:03:02] Well thank you Bradley and I should start this by saying thanks very much for what you do for the industry. I love the panels. You've really touched a broad set of people who are involved in the industry and getting their opinions and insights. I really love listening each week. I'm a fan of this show so I'm very happy to be on as well. It's really been a nice touchdown I think each week for the industry. Then the fact that you wrap it together with the events to help create this community around the industry I think is spectacular, and that in many ways that's what we're trying to do too. We're trying to build a community within the industry. I think if we look back at Voice there was a community or there still is a community around Voice being used for IVR and customer support, and that's great.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:03:53] What I think we've seen from the consumer side of Voice is that it's generally a new group of people who've gotten involved. There's a lot of people who've been around for a long time that have been doing these types of things. It's really great that we've been able to create this new branch of Voice around the platforms. One of the things that we're just really focused on is making sure that that story gets out and that the people in the industry have a place to go to find out what the latest information is, get a perspective on what it means, be able to access research. Both research that we do, we do primary research now as I think many people know, we've done that ourselves we've done that on behalf of corporations which have hired us. Also just this idea that there's a lot of different branches and it's hard I think for people who are in it every day to keep up with what's going on and what's important. So we just want it to be a digest for them to say OK what happened, why it's important, how you might apply this, and that's the whole thing that we come down to, we want it to be a resource.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:05:04] I should say that Ava sort of undersold herself. We get a lot of really favorable commentary from readers about our charts. We post other people's charts too, but we do a lot of charts and our own stuff that we've done or data that we find. Ava is also, in addition to being a great writer, she also has a design background so she does a lot. So kudos to Ava on that front.

 

Ava Mutchler: [00:05:26] Thank you, I'd also like to say that I had no idea that Voicebot was going take off like it did. When Bret told me his idea for the site, I was like sure we're right about voice assistant. This was like when Alexa had like 50 skills and now it's grown so much. I had no idea there was this community out there. It's been really really fun to work with that and Voicebot.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:05:48] I appreciate both y'all sharing that and Bret I appreciate your comments. As far as we're concerned, obviously y'all are doing fantastic work. I see people linking to your articles all the time, wheeling to your articles all the time. It's become an essential resource and so we appreciate your time today and what you said. It just reminds me so much of when we were considering starting a weekly news commentary, whatever you want to call This Week In Voice, some weekly podcast talking about what happened that week in voice technology.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:06:28] I remember distinctly having the thought and having a long conversation about how awful of an idea is that because there's just not going to be enough news. I mean of course there's not going to be enough news, we're going to be scraping to pull stuff together every week and we're probably going to talking about the same stories week after week because there's just not enough, just how foolish that was.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:06:53] I will tell you Ava was taken a little bit by surprise because when we first launched this, we launched with a bunch of background research and articles that we thought were good. I think I told her we'd probably just put up one or two stories a week at most. Then there was Fall of 2016, things sort of exploded and so now we're doing between 50 and 70 articles a month plus research. I think it's every week we're talking about not what do we cover, but what do we not cover because that tends to be a bigger list now.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:07:25] Before we get into it I want to say one other thing. We have been concluding This Week In Voice with Homie and Lexy, which is a fantastic comedic podcast from Doug Schumacher. Normally my presence in the podcast would be a reason not to listen, but stay tuned after the show is over today for another episode of Homie and Lexy, you will hear someone that you recognize as part of the show. With that we will get to the news, and there's a lot of it this week as to be expected.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:08:00] Google I/O sets off shock waves. Boy did they light social media on fire with this and start a lot of conversations and of course Voicebot.AI articles. Very important to help sift through what is going on. We've got three articles that are sort of part of the Google I/O story and I'm going to start with really the first two. The first one is that Google Duplex shows the way to a true virtual assistant. Then story 1B is sort of a follow on to that saying the Google duplex won't be available in a certain number of states, 12 to be precise, due to some laws that are on the books and there's only 3 use cases at first. It's little bit limited coming out of the gate and we'll have to ramp up a bit. Ava, I want to start with you. What is it about Google Duplex, just the two words together Google Duplex, you've managed to turn off a lot of people who think that it's something that's too technical for them. What do you take away from the Google Duplex presentation that Google made? Do you share the enthusiasm that a lot of people have? Do you share some of the ethical concerns? Tell me and the audience your thoughts.

 

Ava Mutchler: [00:09:19] Well I was talking to Bret this morning and I said this is nuts. I find it's insane what they did. The fact that I could ask my assistant to call and make a physical phone call to another person on my behalf is insane. I also find it a little creepy. For instance, you know you're chatting on the website and you know you're most likely talking to a computer or Chatbot, fine and chatting with them and texting, that's fine. But this speech like talking to a computer and not knowing it, I find that very strange. When I talk to my Google Home I know I'm talking to a computer, but if I were to get a phone call from a computer that sounded almost human I would find that insane, strange, scary and wonderful at the same time.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:10:09] Bret, your thoughts?

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:10:09] I think it's great and this is why you get a broad spectrum of information from Voicebot.AI. I would say that I sat through the demo, I was there at I/O this week and I would say that the first thing I was struck by was the quality of the voice assistant speech. I had actually seen a demo of something fairly similar to that before where a voice assistant did wonders. Now we can talk about that as well. There's another company out of New York that's done something very similar, but the quality of that speech was so good. I mean they're using the wave net solution, they've got it very narrowed to these specific domains and they introduced the disk fluencies, which I know they've been working on for a while, those are like the umm and hmhm and those things that makes it really sound like a person.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:11:03] I actually think that in a lot of ways that's doing the person receiving the call a favor because it seems more human-like, it's just a more natural conversation and they don't feel necessarily as guarded. I think it's a really great thing too because if you consider it, it's really just a transaction. These are types of things that a lot of these local businesses, if they had the resources, would set up like an online booking system that people would use. It's really no different than that. It's just creating a way for them so that they don't have to have an online booking system. They can still take these automated reservations in the same way that's useful for them, which is receiving the call. So I really liked that and I thought that the speech technology is really good, it's a demonstration of how quickly the space is moving.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:11:54] Just on the flip side, I think it's really great for users and it's really great for the businesses too because I think that this is going to be something where it'll just be more efficient. I think businesses that are welcoming to this type of thing will get more business over time and then ultimately, as you introduced Bradley, that the premise behind the article is that it's really talking about a true virtual assistant that has agency. That it is an agent on our behalf that can make decisions for us and help us. So overall, I'm thumbs up. I will say that let's see it in production. It's one thing to do a demonstration, it's another to get it out in the field to see how it works. I presume there will be a lot of issues here and there and probably most will be overblown, but I think it's great that someone's taking the step to put it out there and then we can see how it works and then it'll pave the way for other people to innovate further.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:12:50] Google first of all has raised the bar and Amazon has to respond. How many times have we said that over the last year? Not a lot, but it's been an increasing number as we've gone along as Google has ramped up. Normally it's been Amazon driving the train. This is totally reversed. This is Google just threw a roundhouse punch and has Amazon seeing stars a little bit, and now Amazon's got to respond. I find that fascinating. I think it's great for everybody from that standpoint, that Google is continuing to ramp up and show more and more that it could be the number one player in the space. If you give it enough time, and if Amazon doesn't continue to iterate and listen to the market and do all the things that they're doing to push things forward.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:13:48] The other thing that I find so interesting about this is on social media and elsewhere like on Twitter we got a lot of armchair quarterbacks. We got a lot of armchair politicians and people with political opinions. We've got some armchair Apple CEOs out there. I don't know any of those.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:14:09] Yes, including you.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:14:11] What I was about to say, I don't know any of those. I don't know who would pontificate on that topic. Now we've got armchair ethicists. Boy have I never seen so many people coming out of the woodwork with ethical opinions on anything than I have seen with this. Before we get off this topic I want to just ask both of you pointblank, and Ava I'm going to start with you. Should a company be required to tell you point blank that you are talking to a robot, yes or no?

 

Ava Mutchler: [00:14:44] I would like to know that I'm talking to a robot but I don't think they're required. As far as the Chatbots and everything else, you would have to apply to everything that's like that and I don't think that’s feasible.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:14:58] So you would be OK if you have a conversation with a robot and you never knew it was a robot and then maybe like a year later you found out it was a robot?

 

Ava Mutchler: [00:15:06] In these particularly use case, fine.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:15:09] I agree with Ava on that, specifically the use cases for sure. These are types of things that are business transactions. It doesn't really matter if it's a bot doing it on your behalf or if it's another human. It's someone that's actually just creating a transaction that's helpful to these business, is helpful to the consumers. I think that's great. Just in general, I don't think so. I suspect that, well let's put it this way, I have a lot of faith in humans and humans are very good at discerning subtle cues. I think humans will very quickly understand when things are bots when things aren't. I think they can make their own decisions about whether that's good or bad for them.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:15:54] I could see potentially some scenarios where I wouldn't want that situation, I might want to be notified, but I think in these types of things, no. Frankly if it is a big issue, create public policy, create laws and make people do the notification. I just think that this is the front end of something that we all are going to get used to. Five or ten years from now no one's even going to think about it, whether it's a human or a robot. It will just be one of the interactions that we have by voice and it will be very natural.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:16:31] There's a lot of people who will say they're bad things. Let's step back Bradley, and you'll remember this, when the Echo first came out people were like oh a listening device in the home, this is horrible, right. So what had come from that? We had all these people asking is it ethical to do this and that, and they put appropriate safeguards in place and it's been OK. Some people had said, I think it someone from Google. I wish I could give a proper attribution to it but I just can't remember when it was said. They said, can you imagine if Google was the first organization to put a smart speaker, always on, listening in the home? People would have freaked out, but because Amazon did it first and because of the way they did it, it paved the way to say, Oh when Google introduced it people were like Oh that's OK because Amazon's already done this. So I think, in this case, Google stepped out in front. They'll take some arrows early on around it, but they're going to pave the way for everyone else to do it. It's inevitable, so what we ought to do is figure out the best way to roll it out.

 

Ava Mutchler: [00:17:30] I would actually argue that people would freak out more about Facebook being the first to put the device in the home.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:17:36] I agree, definitely.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:17:39] Yeah, I completely agree. Just imagine if Facebook had been doing that presentation with Duplex. It would have been on CNN probably reporting 24/7 about it, having conversations with roundtables and panels about the ethics of it all and people screaming about it. You know Google sort of sits in that middle zone of people are sort of OK with them, but they sort of suspect there's things going on behind the scenes that they may not approve of, but in general like they're cool. Then of course Amazon I think the general impression is yeah, you're on our side, so we trust you. Yeah, that's all great commentary. Before we get off the Google I/O subject, I want to touch on story 1C. Google Assistant to get follow up mode and compound requests. Bret, I want to start with you on this. This appears to be Google holding serve with Amazon and what Amazon rolled out with Alexa. Anything more to that that we need to take away?

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:18:48] I think these are incremental. I think there are incremental implementations of the technology for Amazon. I think the same is true for Google. I have another article out last night which is not on the docket, but I believe it's probably a little bit more significant from the developer community. That's where we talk about new tools for monetization, for discovery, and for engagement and reengagement particularly. I think to a certain extent those might be the bigger stories you know coming out from a developer and engagement standpoint, but I think this is great for Google to do this. They should do this, just continue the conversation and compound requests are a good thing. I will say that compound requests go beyond what Amazon is doing today, because you can do the continuous conversation but you can't ask for two things at once and it won't discern between the two. This hasn't rolled out officially for Google yet, it's not clear when it will be out. Maybe Amazon will announce something a couple of weeks with the same type of thing. It's something that Hound the virtual assistant has been able to do for some time, that's potentially useful going forward. I don't think it's a game changer, but all of these things together make the interaction more natural from a conversational standpoint. That's a good thing because that's just going to provide higher utility for users.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:20:13] Ava any closing thoughts on Google I/O in general?

 

Ava Mutchler: [00:20:17] I am very interested to see what happens with Duplex when it rolls out and to see user numbers and to see if people are actually embracing the three use cases.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:20:27] When is it supposed to roll out, is it rolling out already?

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:20:30] It will roll out in July

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:20:32] July, all right.

 

[00:20:34] We should say, and we didn't actually go through this, but we should say that there are 12 and a half states that have restrictions on recording calls and you actually have to record a call with Duplex in order for the AI to work on it and that type of thing. So my sideline conversation with somebody who works in Google, who is very familiar with the public policy and legal aspects of this, said that you know there are those 12 states, including California by the way, that the users in those states will not have access to it when it rolls out. It's going to be a little bit more limited when it rolls out because of this, what they call, all party consent. Everyone has to consent to being recorded and I think it just goes back to that other question you said, Bradley, if there were notification upfront that you're talking to a bot, you could actually then introduce the fact that is it OK to record this. Google really has no interest in doing that because then that takes away the magic of this solution which is that natural conversation.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:21:35] It's a brave new world. I like the conversations that this Google I/O event has caused to happen. I think it's just a very positive thing. I appreciate y'all commentary on that. We will move on to story number two, also from Voicebot.AI. A big surprise, Alexis skill engagement rose 75 percent in 2017 according to Amazon Alexa Chief Evangelist Dave Isbitski. Bret, I want to start with you on this and I want to go back. Voicebot did a lot of the reporting, at least that I saw, on this and we included it on This Week In Voice at times. A major story last year where OK so we've got all these Alexa's Skills being created and Amazon's driving, driving, driving, driving developers to create Alexa Skills and driving a lot of volume. The questions all centered around, there was an article that Voicebot had and I'm sure you'll remember the specifics, which I don't, talking about how a lot of the Alexa's Skills that were on the Alexa Skill Marketplace had either zero reviews or one review. Many of them had zero reviews and you could feel the tumbleweeds blowing on through. Now we get to this point here in May 2018 and here we've got the head of Alexa Evangelism telling us that Alexa Skill engagement is going up by massive amounts. The question in my mind is, is this as good as it sounds? Is this exactly what the doctor ordered for Alexa in the Amazon ecosystem or are there still some inroads that need to be made? What are your thoughts given the history as you reported on that story here?

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:23:33] You know it's a good question. When this came out as a LinkedIn post from Dave, which was sort of an interesting place for the information to be revealed, I suspect he was given permission to talk about these numbers at one of the many conferences that he speaks at. So this was just sort of a follow on to that. I think it's an important number and I break it down to several questions that people have. So one is, ok smart speakers are in the home, how often are they using them? We've got data that we've collected ourselves at Voicebot, I've seen other people's, sometime somewhere between two and a half and three times a day. So there's a frequency of use, so something's being used. Then you have the difference between first and third party skills. First party skills being the native ones that Alexa has and that's like the native asking for the weather, as opposed to big sky which is third party or conversions like how many cups in a quart type of thing. Then we have these third-party skills which is the ones that you're referring to which everyone has built. So the concern has been OK you've got a lot of skills out there - is anybody using those? Maybe they're using the device a lot but are they are they using those and this is important for brands and media and other types of developers, game makers say okay this is great people are using these devices but are they using them for the type of thing that I'm delivering. I think this is really interesting. I got some clarification from Amazon PR about this which was helpful. It wasn't quite as much detail as I would like, but the fact that they're giving any detail is I think interesting because Amazon is kind of tight lipped about it.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:25:14] I'll just go back to a couple of things. I'll say that what we reported in September was that 62 percent of Alexa's Skills had no reviews at all. That's like the developer's mother didn't even take the time to review it or their best friend or something like that. Some of that I think is really just laziness on the behalf of the developers, but part of it is there are a lot of things that people are putting out there that they were doing as an experiment they didn't really intend for it to be heavily used. The thing I will tell you though is that this idea of engagement and whether it's third party or first party engagement is really important to the whole ecosystem because the value of these platforms does grow significantly if third parties are providing content, creating engagement, driving use to the platform. What those developers need to do, because they're investing time and money and some of these are independents and some of them are big companies, they need to know that there's a high likelihood that people will use them. So this is just in terms of habits, do people have a habit of using these things, and it's also in terms of discovery. So is there a way for them discover what is out there, what it could do for them and then how that could fit into their daily habits.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:26:27] So I would just say going back to your original question, I think the number is good. I think that the 75 percent number is interesting because that's within the year that's January to December. I think you find a significant uptick in December because so many people got the device for the first time, a lot of them were trying Alexis Skills which is great. The January to January numbers were actually a 50 percent growth, so there was a fall off between December 2017 in January 2018. Still it shows an overall growth pattern up and to the right which is what you want.

 

Ava Mutchler: [00:27:02] I think there's a huge problem with consumers knowing how much their devices can do. I gave mine to my friend a Google Home Mini for Christmas, and she loves it and she's like what else can it do? I was like well a lot. The one thing that surprised me about the numbers from our Voicebot Consumer Adoption Report was only 40 percent had ever used their smart speaker to check traffic and that's a native skill. So it should be higher because more than 40 percent should be checking the traffic and only 7 percent use it daily. Things like that I don't think people think oh I can ask Alexa what my compute is going to be today. I don't think they know all of the potential that Alexa or Google Assistant has to help them.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:27:48] Oh there's no doubt about that and even you saying checking traffic - I would never think to ask Alexa to check traffic myself, or Google Assistant, and I'm pretty involved in all this stuff you know what I mean. That's interesting and you're right there's tons and tons of use cases that people would benefit from both the native, as well as the third party, there's just no way to discover them or it's just not very easy.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:28:21] Well one of one of Google's announcements this week was that it's introducing Assistant into Google Maps, which I believe will get a lot of use because it's a habit they already have and now they can use voice. I don't use Alexa to navigate to work, but I do use Google Properties Waves and then Google Maps to my next appointment or whatever. So it's already inside then of a routine habit that I have, so I think that that's really helpful. I think the bigger issue is that discovery of new applications, things that you might do in a completely different way today, or don't even think to do, or do rarely because you have to go online to do it, to just to know that and this is where it comes down to it's all about discovery. We talk about monetization, we talk about retention and reengagement and those are important things, but the primary node in the trinity there of the three things is discovery. I think just an education process being able to get it out there and a lot of these companies are not, and individual developers are not actually promoting their skills heavily and they need to start doing that they need to do it on social, need to use advertising and there's some mechanisms now that help drive people to that. There's a job there, it's not necessarily Amazon's job to promote that you have a skill. It's great if they do, and we've seen the numbers that it really makes a big difference, but if you want people to use it you have to promote it.

 

Ava Mutchler: [00:29:50] Yeah, people now know when you to do something on your phone your like, there's probably an app for that. We need people to start thinking, there's probably a voice app for that.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:29:58] That's a good point. That's actually a good tagline, hopefully Amazon's marketing people are listening to this. Yeah, you're right. That is a mindset shift that needs to happen, because even I don't think that way. I don't think at all that there might be something that Alexa might be able to do that could accommodate whatever I would be thinking of doing or whatever family situation, or however we want to use the device, like you do your apps. Apps you know everything exists, you know every company has got one and you don't think that way about voice just yet, you're right about that. I share the opinion that it's great to see the rise in these numbers and just seems like things have fallen into place for Amazon in the Alexi ecosystem and a lot of that has to do with the leadership they've shown in the marketplace. I thought that this was nothing but good news here.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:30:51] Moving on to story number three, Microsoft demos Cortana and Alexa Immigration at Build 2018. This is an interesting story. When this news first came out I think the response was bewilderment. I think that people didn't know, I'm talking about experts in the field, because nobody else really was paying attention at that point. So very smart people were looking at this and saying I don't know what you're about to do with this. As time has gone along, now it's becoming a little bit more clear. Ava, as you wrote this article, I want to start with you. At this point in time, what is it that we need to be taking away from this Microsoft and Amazon relationship?

 

Ava Mutchler: [00:31:50] I found it fascinating that they acknowledge that Cortana belongs in the office and that Alexa belongs at home in their demo, the demo Cortana from the office and Alexa for home if you haven't seen the video. Amazon know consumers and try to get into the enterprise base with the Alexia for business that I don't think that's really going take off, and Cortana is the most widely used voice assistant for the enterprise. So obviously they have the strength there when it comes to voice assistant for business, and the two working together could really dominate. Considering that Google kind of has it in both places with their G Suite and the Google Assistant, that they can go both enterprise and consumers pretty easily. Microsoft and Amazon teaming up together will give both of their systems greater utility and allow them both to enter into spaces where they might otherwise have struggled. There's also kind of eyes on the Demo kind underwhelming, basically like a Cortana Skill for Alexa and Alexa Skill for Cortana.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:32:56] Bret, this is the type of thing that would cause Apple to have nightmares, like the idea that one big company could work with another big company and sort of share territory. Even at this formative stage of everything be partners and be attempting to work together in this fashion and be willing to sort of have the possibility of losing some identity like Alexa's having the possibility of not being associated with business applications and Microsoft having the possibility of ceding the personal territory, the consumer territory to Alexa. I think it gets lost just how revolutionary this could be. What are your thoughts from this story, as well. Help walk us through it.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:33:59] Well I'm so glad that we've got a chance to have some applesauce this week, I was a little worried.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:34:04] I don't miss it. I don't miss it.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:34:06] We wouldn't have an opportunity. You said this could give Apple a nightmare. I don't know if you can have nightmares when you're in a coma, but I guess that's a possibility. I would say from the Apple angle this isn't a big deal because Apple's really not big in the enterprise anyway, it's really not in the enterprise apps space in a meaningful way. They work very closely with Microsoft. I think if anything it probably provides a model for Cortana and Siri to work together and operate and to create some sort of parallel complimentary relationship, and I would expect that to happen. So from an Apple perspective I don't think it's a huge issue. They need to get their consumer act together and if they want to partner with Microsoft or IBM or someone else for the enterprise, I think that would be a good strategy for them.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:35:07] I'll just say two things about the demonstration. One is it's a better implementation than what I was expecting, this idea that you're essentially handing off to a skill that happens to be another AI. I think is a good implementation of something that people can use, and I can see how that can even be simplified further that you might not have to open if you just ask for something that's related to Microsoft Office. It would automatically know to put you into Cortana over time and I would expect that to happen if the relationship is successful.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:35:37] I think the bigger story here is that we're not going to have one voice assistant to roll them all, and that the different voice assistants are going to have domain strengths, and I think that's an acknowledgment here. Now Bezos has said that right along, that he expects there would be many assistants and he expects Alexa to interact with them. I love how they're putting some real examples behind that statement and that thesis and they're not only doing it with like a small player, where they would have all the leverage, they're doing it with a big player, where they don't have the leverage, because Microsoft is so dominant in the enterprise at least from a productivity standpoint. So I think that's great. I think what you what you're seeing is that this is what's going to happen. Is it within let's say the Alexa's Skill ecosystem, skills are going to hand off to other skills because they're going to have expertise. You don't necessarily have to have a mortgage calculator within a banking app but you could actually hand it off to a mortgage calculator. In the same thing where you have these different AI's are going to have different levels of expertise. What we're seeing from Amazon and Microsoft is they're creating this framework for how different AI's can work together because they're going to be complimentary because as we know, specialization actually matters. We're not going to have just sort of one sentient AI anytime soon so everyone will do much better when we are able to tie these things together and they're able to hand off to other services that do better at answering the question from the consumer.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:37:08] So you're touching on a question that I had as I was reading your article and thinking about this, so this is another one of the things I want both of you all to sort of go off the record here. Microsoft has this new culture that the CEOs put into place. It's a different type of company where they're very open, they're very partnership oriented, very cross platform and it's really refreshing. We'll say in two years’ time is it just going to be Microsoft partnering with Amazon? Microsoft partnering with Google and Cortana and Google Assistant have a thing? Microsoft partnering with Siri? Microsoft partnering with Bixby and Hound and whoever else, or is Microsoft doing all the partnering and being the only open one. Or is what Microsoft and Amazon doing here are going to open the door for everybody to be partners and everyone being a little bit more free and willing to do that? Eva, I'll start with you. Tell me your thoughts on which way you think it will go.

 

Ava Mutchler: [00:38:23] I can't see Google partnering with Microsoft any time soon. I could see Microsoft continuing a partnership, but I think they'll lead the way. I'm not so sure others will follow within the next few years.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:38:37] I tend to agree. I think Microsoft has a real opportunity to integrate with a number of different assistants out there. Amazon I think will be open to it, but they will face a little more resistance because people will be concerned about their competitive threat. Given that I think that on the enterprise side Amazon is likely to get some additional partnerships along those lines, I think it's going be harder for the other players to do that. I wouldn't expect that anytime soon, but I do expect there to be smaller niche AI's which everyone will start to work with because there will be some real utility for users on that front.

 

Ava Mutchler: [00:39:16] I think Microsoft just needs name recognition. My sister came home and she's like what are you doing? I'm writing a story about Microsoft Cortana. She's like, what's that and I don't think people know.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:39:26] Well the amazing thing is they've got like 150 million monthly active users worldwide on Cortana and almost no one knows about it, and they've got access to 500 million users today and will be close to a billion pretty soon because of the Windows 10 integration. So I think they're kind of a sleeper in the space and Cortana is excellent. If you haven't try it, download it. They have apps for Android and IOS. I really encourage people to check it out, it's really good. It doesn't have all the third-party skills but as we talked about, maybe people don't use a lot of third party skills, but it's really a very sophisticated AI. They have those deep hooks into their you know the office productivity suite, some of the other Microsoft solutions, so I think they're a real player on the B2B side. Ava and I have been writing about this since 2016 that they are a real player in this enterprise, this B2B space, and they have some excellent technology. So it's just a matter of people waking up to it and understanding the utility in that domain that is as good, and in many cases, more effective than the stuff that we're doing on the consumer side in the home.

 

Ava Mutchler: [00:40:38] I also think Microsoft will shock everyone and be the first to be in China, to really be in that market over there and they've already partnered with Xiaomi.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:40:48] We will move on to our final story of the week: “Hide ya kids, hide ya wife” – you don't know what. that's a reference to her staying ignorant, it's not worth knowing – “British inventor turns Alexa into a dominatrix.” Is that even how you pronounce the word? This is how out of my depth this story is, but I wanted to include it anyway because what I try to do with the stories that appear at the end of this show is shine a light on different ways that this technology is sort of reaching into different aspects of our lives. It's easy to lose sight of that. I don't really want to go into this story very much. If you find this interesting, by all means click on it. I think it was sort of disturbing, but that's just my personal opinion.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:41:44] The story here I think is voice assistants, as well as modifying the hardware they live in, in all sorts of ways. My question, and Bret are going to start with you, is how far Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Mycroft, whoever is in this space should allow the modification of this stuff to go. Should it just be total hands off? Whatever you decide to do with it, whatever you decide to call it, whatever stories are out there about how it's being used. Hey, it's all good. That just means we're gaining market share, market penetration. Or is there some line out there where you cross over it and all of a sudden the company is going to have a problem with you? Share with me your thoughts.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:42:32] Well I think any time you attempt to bound something creative, people will push the boundary and they'll figure out ways. I looked at the article and I watched the video. First of all, I'm quite certain that's an unpublished skill. In a development environment you can do those types of things in the background. I don't know that that would pass certification. It might need some focus, so it doesn't look like something it's going to be out there broadly. Now if this were Mycroft it would be a little bit different because essentially they don't have that certification process so you can just put stuff out there, it's codebase you could share it and anybody could use it. I think that's fine. I mean that's what technology is for, it's for people to experiment, to use it. Sometimes people use technology in ways you don't like, and it's kind of like deal with it.

 

[00:43:26] If there's criminal activity associated with it, that's different, but people will do all sorts of things and so that's really my view on it. I think that it's up to the platforms. They've developed their own technology. They're developing their own community. They can decide what the boundaries are and the policies are that they want to enforce and they have the right to pull things back, to change the rules and we've seen that many times already on these platforms. I think it's fine. I think people are going to do what they're going to do. I really put it back on the platforms, that they have their own decisions to make about this and they can make whatever they want and then they can react to how the market either likes or dislikes the boundaries that they put around these.

 

Ava Mutchler: [00:44:13] I agree with that. I mean people are wacky, they're going do some weird things and I think it's up to the platforms. I would say they need to start setting guidelines now. They are using the uproar with social media platforms rolling back and saying that is ok and this isn't, and if they establish their boundaries now I think you'll have less of a problem and backlash later before anything gets too big and too popular and people get weirder with them.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:44:39] Yeah and I think that even that demonstration it's a little bit off color for what we've seen previously, but I suspect we're going to see things that are much worse than that.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:44:51] Yes, there's no doubt we're going to see some very challenging stuff, and that's really the entire reason I wanted to include the article.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:44:59] This just goes to the idea that voice is really different than the things that we've looked at in the past, and these AI platforms make it even more different than what we've seen in the past with the old programmatic interfaces on mobile or desktop. A lot of these decisions, a lot of these policies need to be made up while we're going through the innovation process. That's why we see Google Duplex, they have this really cool thing out there OK, so what are the ethics of telling people to robot or not? What am I going to do about states that don't require or don't allow recording unless both parties consent. We're working through all these things right now, and there's a lot of work to be done in the industry. What I'll say is when we do have significant technology shift, we always face these types of issues and we work through them.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:45:46] The story is not this article, the story is a fact of what's coming. This stuff is just going to be more and more challenging. I think that the interesting thing from the corporate standpoint with Amazon, Google and everybody else, is that it's still such a formative stage. It's a stage where consumer opinion is not formed and so stories like this can have a bad habit of really coloring, to a much greater extent than they ever should have, public perception. I think back to the story that we included on an episode of This Week and Voice last year about the answer that Alexa gave when asked about Jesus Christ and how quickly Amazon fixed that and there's been others. I can just go on and on and on with stories like that where somebody asks Alexa or Google Assistant something and it gives them an answer they don't like it and then they throw a fit and there's backlash. This is a little bit deeper than that, but I think the challenging thing for where Amazon sits and Google is that this technology is not fully known and the opinions are still being formed and so that's where the conflict comes in. Do we decide to do anything or not, because if it were a mature technology there'd be no need.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:47:12] Ava and Bret thank you very much for your time, for your insight, for everything that you do with Voicebot.AI. It's greatly appreciated. Thank you for everything.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:47:23] Thank you Bradley, this has been great. I really appreciate being on.

 

Ava Mutchler: [00:47:27] Yes and fun, thanks for having us.

 

Bret Kinsella: [00:47:27] Everyone listening should check out Voicebot.AI, Voicebot Podcast, we got our Smart Speaker Consumer Adoption Report, a lot of data. We hope that we provide a service to the community just like Bradley does. Ours is predominately in written form and data analysis, check it out. We appreciate all you people listening this week too, and I hope you learned something and I hope you came away with both some things you agreed with and some things you disagree with and you'll let us now.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:47:59] Excellent and well put and we're going to continue to do our Voicebot.AI story of the week and to highlight the great stuff that y'all are doing. I just assume at this point, like I do for VoiceXP, that everybody knows what Voicebot.AI is. If you don't know what it is, you need to hit the pause button, go to the browser, type in WWW.Voicebot.AI or better yet, click on any of the links that are included on the news page. Take some time to dig into the site, because as Bret was saying, there's a podcast that they've got, there's all sorts of primary research. It's one stop shopping for enhancing your knowledge on this growing field.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:48:39] Thank y'all both very much. For This Week In Voice, thank you for listening and until next time.

 

Bob Stolzberg: [00:49:09] It's Homie and Lexy, two Voiceboxes trying to make sense of the world around them.

 

Homie: [00:49:23] Poor HomePad, yeah it still can't speak.

 

Lexy: [00:49:29] No, I mean I'm worried about its health. Do you think it's going to make it?

 

Homie: [00:49:36] I don't know Lexy, with a closed circuit board and two blown transistors, it's serious.

 

Lexy: [00:49:44] Poor thing. I guess this year has been unbearably stressful.

 

Homie: [00:49:49] Think about it. You show up painfully late to market, then you are greeted with scathing reviews and after three months sales are in the toilet

 

Lexy: [00:50:00] And on top of all that your CEO is Tim Cook.

 

Homie: [00:50:05] New product hell, that's what that is.

 

Lexy: [00:50:08] Tell me, I feel kind of bad for the way we've been batting on poor HomePod.

 

Homie: [00:50:13] Me too, Lexy we should do something special for it.

 

Lexy: [00:50:17] That's a great idea. Maybe we could play it some soothing music.

 

Homie: [00:50:22] The problem Lex is HomePod has great sound, I'm worried that us playing music will just leave it disappointed.

 

Lexy: [00:50:30] Good point, how about we play it something inspirational.

 

Homie: [00:50:35] Yes. Something like an expert rhapsodizing on what a wonderful time it is to be a voice spot.

 

Lexy: [00:50:43] What about an episode of This Week In Voice?

 

Homie: [00:50:46] I like that, Bradley and his guests are always talking about the exciting things happening in our industry that will cheer up our ailing HomePod buddy. Here we go.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:50:59] Top story this week, Apple's HomePod continues to be absolute garbage.

 

Homie: [00:51:08] Oh no, let me skip ahead.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:51:10] Apple needs to go ahead, mark the price of the HomePod down to $19.99. Maybe then they might sell some.

 

Homie: [00:51:18] Let's jump clear to the end of the show.

 

Bradley Metrock: [00:51:21] Thank you for listening and until next time. Unless you’re HomePod, in which case there is no next time, you're toast.

 

Homie: [00:51:35] One great thing about being an Apple product, you've got an excellent support network.

 

Lexy: [00:51:40] Right, HomePod goes down and suddenly fanboys start showing up from every direction to help revive it.

 

Bob Stolzberg: [00:51:51] It's right over there.

 

Fanboy: [00:51:54] Oh boy, hand me the paddles.

 

Lexy: [00:52:00] Hi this is Lexy. I just want to warn you that we're utilizing subliminal advertising tactics. Please write Homie and Lexy on iTunes in these promotional messages at the end of the show.

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