Top news stories for Season 2, Episode 3 (February 8, 2018):
1) WRAP-UP: The Smart Voice Summit (Feb 1-2, Paris, France)
- Google and Amazon presented within same conference
- Karen Kaushansky delivered the talk of the conference
- Good mix of talks, panels, and workshops
2) The HomePod is out.......ZZZZzzzzzzzz...........
- Nilay Patel of The Verge identified a major security flaw: anyone can access a HomePod user's texts
- "Dont rush to buy it." - The New York Times
3) Voicebot.AI Story Of The Week: Amazon's Alexa ad won the Super Bowl
4) Google Home goes multi-modal via the Chromecast
5) VoiceFirst.FM programming expands 60%, adding three new shows
- Alexa In Canada (Dr. Teri Fisher)
- VUX World (Kane Simms)
This Week In Voice available via:
YouTube (+ closed captioning)
Panel for Season 2, Episode 3 (February 8, 2018):
Bradley Metrock: [00:00:10] Hi and welcome back to This Week In Voice, Episode 3 of our second season. Today is Thursday, February the 8th. I am very pleased to be joined today by Stuart Crane, CEO and founder of Voice Metrics. Stuart, say hello.
Stuart Crane: [00:00:29] Hi Bradley, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
Bradley Metrock: [00:00:32] Absolutely, Stuart. Share with us a little bit about what Voice Metrics is and does.
Stuart Crane: [00:00:39] Voice Metrics allows businesses to get their business information by voice. So we're trying to take the voice assistant and offer it up into the business world. So if you want to know for example your sales, or your orders, or your open tickets, or revenue, or profit, these KPIs that you might normally get in your dashboard or through reports out of your systems you can just ask your voice assistant for it. That's what we do.
Bradley Metrock: [00:01:05] That's very cool, and the Web site is VoiceMetrics.IO.
Stuart Crane: [00:01:13] Yes, that's Correct.
Bradley Metrock: [00:01:16] Awesome and thank you for joining us today. Before we get going I also want to thank our sponsor, VoiceXP. So entering into 2018, VoiceXP is the presenting sponsor of both This Week In Voice and the VoiceFirst Roundtable, and we're very grateful for them. As I've mentioned many times before on this show and others, Bob Stolzberg and his team are doing a phenomenal job. We actually just added an episode of This Week In Voice that will be coming up in March where the entire VoiceXP team will come on the show. We're looking forward to that.
Bradley Metrock: [00:01:47] So with that we'll get to the news. I wanted to take an opportunity to wrap up the Smart Voice Summit, which is a really interesting and well done event that just took place over in Paris. This is our first story of the week this week and the wrap up of that event. The event was produced by Smartly.AI, and they took the opportunity to launch their partnership program at the event. We're going to post a link to that partnership program in the notes of This Week In Voice after the show is published. That partnership program, and what it does, is it puts brands in touch with the right voice professionals to ensure that they succeed with their voice strategy. It's a very cool program. So the Smart Voice Summit had 250 plus voice enthusiasts from around the world. Visitors from nine different countries attended.
Bradley Metrock: A couple of things stood out, first of all Google and Amazon were both in the room and they both presented and they both did a good job. It was very interesting and actually somewhat traumatic to have them both in the room listening to each other's Talks. It was very interesting seeing Karen Kaushansky, who has been on this program before. She is a super smart, voice-first mind and delivered what I thought was the talk of the conference and did a superb job. Bret Kinsella of Voicebot.AI was there. He also gave a fantastic talk that was cited a bunch in social media. All in all, it was a great mix of talks, panels, and workshops. I was able to go over there and speak as part of two panels, and I was grateful for that opportunity. I just wanted to take a moment and thank them right off the top and Stuart you'll have to hit up on smart voice summit next year, it's highly recommended.
Stuart Crane: [00:03:31] Oh, absolutely it sounds phenomenal.
Bradley Metrock: [00:03:33] Yeah they did a nice job so even before we get anything else, I wanted to give them the kudos that they deserve. Now we will shift gears into something that is done much worse, which is the HomePod, our story number two. The HomePod is out this week, and it's been interesting to see the news around it. Nilay Patel of The Verge, as we mentioned in the news stories of the week, identified a security flaw which I don't understand why it isn't getting more press than it is. You can't set up a HomePod without an IOS mobile device. So every HomePod is going to have an IOS mobile device, an iPhone tied to it. All you have to do, you should watch the video, it's really kind of jarring. All you have to do is walk up to the HomePod and ask it to tell you what the last text that you received was. Or go through the list of texts, you can say any number of commands related to the texts, and it will start reading the user's text out loud. Then you can even send a text via voice through Siri through the HomePod with no authentication whatsoever. The New York Times article with the byline that said "don't rush to buy it", so Stuart, my question for you to really kick us off from a news standpoint this week, what is your take on the HomePod? Have you bought one or are you planning to buy one? Do you think that Apple can get to a point where they can truly be competitive against the likes of Amazon and Google?
Stuart Crane: [00:05:14] Well as far as have I purchased one, the answer is yes, but has it shown up yet, the answer is No. I literally ordered one the day that you were allowed to order them, and I still haven't received mine yet. Who knows how long it's going to take, but I do want to check it out. Like you said, it was amazing to hear that you could just walk up to a HomePod that's already authenticated and listen to text messages and interestingly you can actually send them that way. So that was odd. What Mr. Patel also points out is that they should be able to get the voice recognition capability in there, because he points out when you say Hey Siri to your phone, only your phone activates. I thought that was interesting. So there are definitely some flaws in the HomePod that I dislike about it, and I'll go through a few of them. He talks about AirPlay, where you can set up your Apple TV to use AirPlay and send to your HomePod speaker. But as soon as you ask the HomePod for a song, or something like that, it disconnects it. So it really doesn't support the ability to have a HomePod through AirPlay in a nice way.
Stuart Crane: [00:06:24] Another thing I use quite a bit, Bradley, is the Bluetooth speaker capability of my Echos. You can't use your HomePod as a Bluetooth speaker so, for example, I might be in my car with my phone to my Bluetooth speakers listening to your podcast, This Week In Voice, and then when I get home it's a long podcast, so it's not over. I just walk into my house and I say Alexa connect Bluetooth and I can hear the podcast continue on my Echo. You can't do that with a HomePod. I think that's a pretty major flaw. Now Apple might say oh well you shouldn't be able to use Bluetooth, but I think a lot of people do it that way.
Stuart Crane: [00:07:03] Another thing I've used quite a bit with the Echo's here at the house is the intercom feature. So we have a bunch of kids in the house and my wife, so all the time we basically want to talk to each other in other rooms. That's been great with the Echo and HomePod doesn't have that. The calendar capability I use that quite a bit. Apparently, the HomePod doesn't have the capability to ask for what events are coming up today or put anything onto your calendar, which is actually really nice with the Echo. With Alexa you can just put on a calendar entry by voice and it goes on there with a reminder and everything. So that's been really nice. What I thought was interesting is that one thing Apple touts is that these smart speakers are mainly just used for listening to music and controlling some smart home devices and asking for the weather. So if you asked for the weather from the HomePod or Apple devices it's really not a good experience, it really just gives you the temperature. When you ask the Echo or Alexa for the weather, she does a much better job.
Stuart Crane: [00:08:08] So there's just a lot of things I think are not as nice and capable with the HomePod, but I haven't received mine yet. We obviously got a look at the positives on it, and everybody says the audio quality is just phenomenal and they haven't heard a better speaker than this HomePod. So we've got to give it that, right.
Bradley Metrock: [00:08:28] We do, and I'll take it one step further too. So I saw a report about the HomePod. The report said that 92 percent of HomePod buyers are men. Now that's very interesting because anybody with statistics knows, and you could ask a thousand people what is your name, and you're not going to get 95 percent of them to say that correctly, it would probably be a feat. So the fact that 92 percent are male who bought the HomePod, you might as well just go ahead and call that a 100 percent. I mean obviously this is a male dominated device, and I can't tell you all the reasons why. But I can tell you that even as outspoken as I've been about not liking the state that Apple is in from a management standpoint, thinking that they're making mistake after mistake after mistake with a lot of things that they're doing. When I look at the HomePod, I love the shape, like it's a cool shape. I don't know if it's because I'm a guy, or if they spend a bunch of money on some psychologists to say what do we need to shake this like? I love the space gray, I feel like they must have commissioned studies on top of studies to find this particular color.
Bradley Metrock: [00:09:59] I bought the latest MacBook Pro in space gray, and have suffered through the keyboard that doesn't work and the battery that doesn't hold a charge. But boy I love my space gray, you know I saying? With the HomePod, between the color and the shape of it, if it weren't so absolutely non-functional, I probably would have bought one even though I object to so much of what they're doing. So yeah they're doing some things right, and you're right the audio quality has been praised across the board. That same review from Nilay Patel praises it; all the other ones do too. Yeah there are some things about it that are appealing, but the thing about Bluetooth, how does it not have Bluetooth and it's easy to forget. It's not like this product was announced in November, you know I mean? This product was announced back in June, and lest we forget, Apple's got the most resources of arguably any company on the planet in terms of talent, in terms of dollars, in terms of however you want to measure resources. So there is just no excuse.
Stuart Crane: [00:11:15] I think another thing regarding the audio capabilities of it that I thought was very odd is that you can't set up multiple yet, you'll be able to do in the future, but you can't set up multiple HomePods to basically generate the same sound. So multiple speakers, I mean we grew up in the 70s when stereo phonics came out and you could hear the separation of the stereo. Well, you've got this amazing HomePod, as far as audio capabilities, but it's a single speaker, well obviously multiple speakers in one device, but if you put it at the end the room you're only going to hear from that device. I want to hear the stereo separation at some point.
Bradley Metrock: [00:11:55] You'd have to suspend a lot of belief to think that with the audio engineering that went into the HomePod, and they aren't ready to launch the capability of having multiple HomePod in one room. If you watch that Verge review it actually goes into some detail on when you set up the device it calculates where everything is in the room. Surely it wouldn't have been that hard to just calculate that hey there's another HomePod sitting there and to adjust to that. I don't know if I could have resisted if they had actually done that. That might have put it over the top. Yours is coming. You were an early adopter, you bought it, and it's coming. You'll have a chance to get hands on with it. You definitely got the fingers on the pulse of some of the problems that people have identified. What do you think they need to do? Give me your top three things that they need to do for either an update to the HomePod or the next one that they do to be more competitive?
Stuart Crane: [00:12:57] I think they need to open up the music to the other services. That's so huge if it's a music device then hello you've got to have Spotify, and I think they'll recognize that. Obviously, if you know you go into Apple TV you can do Netflix and all these other apps on the Apple TV. Well you should be able to play Spotify on that. I think that's the main one, and then really just the things I talked about that I loathe as far as the intercom and the Bluetooth and those things. I think they'll come over time Brandley, I think they will, but they have to see it out there and people kind of complaining and saying hey if it had all these things you know we might actually purchase them. So you never know, they might come out with a HomePod Mini and I think Apple can still turn things around. It's just going to take a while.
Bradley Metrock: [00:13:43] I'm not so sure, at least not without a CEO change, which I've advocated for before. They change their CEO out I think they start to fix these things. But as long as Tim Cook's there, it's clear reading interviews with him he doesn't care. I suspect he's clocked out a long time ago. He's got other ambitions, but I'll hold out hope, I'll put it that way. Maybe I'm hopeful that they can get their act together as we get deeper into 2018.
Bradley Metrock: [00:14:10] Moving on to story number three, this is our Voicebot.AI story of the week. So Voicebot.AI, run by Bret Kinsella and his crew, is a great news site for voice, all things voice, and voice technology. The story of the week is about the Amazon Alexa ad that was on the Super Bowl. So the Super Bowl is a great game. I got to see part of it. I was still sort of heavily jet lagged coming back from the Smart Boys Summit which we mentioned earlier. But I saw the ad, it's a great ad and many pundits who watch the ads and live in that ad space, the advertising world, thought that Amazon won the Super Bowl with their ad, as Voicebot.AI did as well. So Stuart, my question for you what did you think of the ad? Did you like it, did you not like it? Do you think it won the Super Bowl? How do you think it sets up Amazon moving forward with Alexa?
Stuart Crane: [00:15:18] Oh the ad itself was fantastic. The thing that I really like about what Amazon is doing with this ad. They're stressing the Alexa service and the Alexa voice assistant, and basically the personality behind it rather than, if you remember the previous ads in previous Super Bowls, it was more about the actual Amazon Echo device; the cylinder that sat in your kitchen or sat at a party and you could talk to it. Now they're shifting more to the assistant and the ecosystem, and I think that's evidenced by what they're seeing and what everybody's seen as Alexa everywhere. You remember CES, you had a lot of buzz about that, and Alexa is all these devices. So Amazon is saying, yeah we really need to focus there. So the ad itself is phenomenal, to be able to take these personalities, these Hollywood stars, and make them part of Alexa. So that was great.
Bradley Metrock: [00:16:10] There was a lot made about the Super Bowl viewership being down, close to 10 percent, which is really significant. The NFL viewership was down significantly both in stadium, as well as people not watching, but I think that the Super Bowl ads are sort of immune from that. I'm interested to hear if you agree, but to me the Super Bowl ads, they go viral, people are watching them. In Amazon's case, I thought they did something that was especially smart. They had a teaser that came out a few days before the Super Bowl where they set up the ad and got people hungry for it ahead of time. I was trying to remember if I've ever seen someone do something like that before, I think that that's been done multiple times before but I can't remember any specific example, but in this case I thought it was smart. Even the fact that people were not watching the game as much as they have historically and the NFL is going through some stuff. I don't think that affected Amazon at all. I think that ad got a lot of exposure, would you agree?
Stuart Crane: [00:17:18] Oh yeah, it absolutely gotten a lot of exposure. I agree with you that it was a good play for Amazon to have that teaser as basically the first, I don't know what 15 seconds of the actual ad itself, where Jeff Bezos is like holy cow what's happening with Alexa? She's not talking, she has laryngitis or something like that, and it's like oh what's going on. So it did kind of set things up and tease everybody. Then I think you probably saw a lot more people watch the ad when it came out and got released, what was it two or three days before the actual Super Bowl or something like that, and it was on YouTube and I think it got a lot of views that way and people loved it. Then I was interested to see when it would air, and it actually did not air until the fourth quarter, but it was a good game and I think a lot of people watched through. And people, like you said, do you watch just for the commercials. So the fact that it was number one, you wonder did that come from people watching it as it happened in the fourth quarter, or it was just because there's all of these ads are now obviously all online and on YouTube and you can watch them all in a stream one after the other if you really wanted to. But they did a great job with it and having it number one, not from just the voice community of course they're going to love it, but just overall it was great.
Bradley Metrock: [00:18:37] I think they definitely benefited from it being late in the game, and especially with how the game played out. I haven't seen specific numbers on this, but I guarantee you people were tuning back in toward the end who weren't watching. I'm sure the viewership went up coming out of the halftime show, people probably tuned out for the halftime show. I didn't particularly care for it. I did watch it. The numbers probably grew and grew as the game went along. I think that helped them.
Bradley Metrock: [00:19:05] The other thing that's worth mentioning and the Voicebot.AI story actually mentions this significantly. They avoided the gimmick that we've all started to get a little tired of, of stuff on the TV activating Alexa or Google Home. I feel like they got a good bit more wind than their sails from the story coming out about how the Alexa ad in the Super Bowl is not going to trigger your device. Why? Because of this vocal fingerprint technology or whatever they called it, to where the signature of the audio Alexa knows, in an intelligent fashion, not to trigger. So not only are you going to be entertained but we're also savvy enough, and we're also thinking about you the customer enough, to where we're not going to annoy you like you've sort of gotten annoyed with some of the stuff like the Burger King thing and stuff like that. So kudos to them all the way around, it was well thought out.
Stuart Crane: [00:20:05] Yeah and I did a little bit of research on that and it is pretty germane to obviously the voice listeners out there in your audience, and Amazon actually was looking at this way back in 2014. They applied for a patent called audible command filtering, and essentially there were two ways that they could stop Alexa from waking up with a planned broadcast. A planned broadcast would be, we know we're going to have the Super Bowl commercial and we know we're going to say Alexa ten times, so it's planned.
Stuart Crane: [00:20:33] So the two ways are, they can transmit a snippet of a command to all the echoes beforehand so that the echoes can compare that to other wake words, and basically ignore it if they know that's coming from our Super Bowl ad. The other way they could do it was with an inaudible acoustic signal. Kind of what you're talking about with the fingerprint, which essentially tells Alexa to ignore the wake word. So there was a Reddit user that really did his homework on this. The Reddit user basically said that the Alexa Super Bowl ads transmit weakened levels of sound in an upper portion of the audio spectrum, basically between 3000 and 6000 hertz, which is outside of the sensitive range of our human hearing. So he was correct and Amazon actually had a blog post come out, I don't know exactly when it was before the Super Bowl, saying quote "we are employing acoustic fingerprinting technology that can distinguish between the advertisement and actual customer utterances." So that's what they're using, they're using this inaudible signal that goes out and tells all the Echo's, just don't wake up when this comes through.
Stuart Crane: [00:22:01] Now here's the thing though, for other broadcasts like you mentioned Bradley, the Burger King and the South Park episodes and those that are not in control, Amazon doesn't have control of theirs. They also have this really interesting technique that they employ in real time in an algorithm to detect these multiple, simultaneous waking's, Alexa or Echo waking's, that come up and they have the same waveform that comes through because it's all identical essentially from the TV commercial or Burger King or South Park. So they can stop 80 to 90 percent of these in real time. So that is in their system, on their servers and if you notice when you're watching a TV show and they say Alexa, a lot of times you will not get Alexa to wake up because of that.
Bradley Metrock: [00:22:49] It was all super smart. It was all really well done. Amazon looking at spending, the number thrown around was 5.2 million dollars for a 30 second ad is what I saw. If that's indeed what they spent, then it's probably money well spent for them because they got, in my estimation and it sounds like yours too, their money's worth and then some. So that sets up the rest of the year well for them. So while HomePod is giving your text away and your privacy, Amazon is nailing the Super Bowl ad so there's our start to 2018.
Stuart Crane: [00:23:23] Yeah I love it.
Bradley Metrock: [00:23:24] So shifting gears to story number four, Google Home is sort of experimenting, is the way I read it, having a first step in the kiddie pool of going multimodal with Chromecast. So the article that's linked in the news stories of the week talks about how you can ask your Google Home to tell you the weather. If you ask, ok google show me the weather on my TV, it will display the current temperature, a five day forecast, on your Chromecast enabled television. So that's pretty neat, and clearly that's a foreshadowing of things to come. So Stuart my question for you, do you agree that this type of thing is what Google needs to be doing, and I think that you probably would, and what are your hopes for where Google takes this moving forward beyond just weather?
Stuart Crane: [00:24:17] I mean it's good for them to do, but I just don't see it being this huge massive use case for people, particularly the weather thing. I think as they expand it and you can say more things to your Google Home speaker, which I have and I have a hooked up to Chromecast, but it just doesn't get used much in our home. So we ask Alexa for the weather all the time, and it's true that that's a big use case for the smart speakers, is asking for the weather, but I don't really need to see it on a screen necessarily. I mean if you want to get more detail about the weather and you want to see a map and all that, then you're almost going to just go to your laptop or your phone and kind of interact with it with your phone or with a laptop. So I don't see it as something huge. We also have a fire TV as well, and you can connect Alexa to your Fire TV or just use Fire TV remote and talk to it, and you can say open AccuWeather, you can say really short commands to get weather right there with your Fire TV. So I don't think that Google is leapfrogging anything, if anything they're just barely catching up.
Bradley Metrock: [00:25:59] If you had a Google Home and a Chromecast sitting there, how would you know that you could do this? How would you know that you could say Okay Google show me the weather on my TV, and it would actually work? The article that we link actually talks about this, where it says somebody just like experimented and found out that this works. But what you're saying really opens the question of how does the user know that they can do this? And really the bigger question is, I don't think you'd want the user to have to say show it me on the TV. The device just needs to know that the user likes to see information on the TV, or they don't, and show it to them or don't, you know what I'm saying? Do you agree with that?
Stuart Crane: [00:26:39] Yes I agree and I do use Google Home, and then with the Chromecast when you add, on my TV, at the end to your command, whether it's with your Google Assistant on your phone or with the Google Home speakers, it basically takes that and says oh I'm going to shoot a test to the TV. So I think part of it is an educational thing that once you start saying, play this YouTube video on my TV or show me the weather on my TV, I don't think that's going to be so much of an issue. But it's just is my Chromecast on, is my TV on and in Chromecast sitting on the wall or wherever, and it's just not. I mean it's either off completely or I'm basically watching something else or whatever. Chromecast, I don't know how much experience you have with it, but it really doesn't have a user interface. There's no home screen like you have on a Fire TV or a Roku or an Apple TV, there's no interface where you use a remote control and you go through it. So it's kind of odd to me and that's one main reason I don't use the Chromecast is you know you've got fire TV, you have a menu system, or obviously cable TV, which a lot of people do still use even though people are cutting the cords.
Bradley Metrock: [00:27:49] Yeah and that was actually my first exposure to Chromecast. I bought a very early one and wanted to experiment with streaming different things to try to cut the cord. Now my wife has resisted every effort of mine to cut the cord. Apparently the bachelor is that important. That's another subject entirely. But in the early Chromecast, I mean maybe there's high potential for user error to have been involved Stuart, but I'll just say it didn't work very well for me so I sort of gave up. But you're right, it doesn't have a user interface and I don't have a lot of experience with it, but that's interesting that if you just say on my TV that sort of code words for Hey try to do something with Chromecast.
Stuart Crane: [00:28:38] So I think in this case it's really if you are in the Google ecosystem and you have an android and you have Chromecast kind of running all the time and that's what you use, then yeah I think this makes sense and it's like show me the weather on my TV, that makes sense. It just seems like that's a very small percentage of people that are in that situation.
Bradley Metrock: [00:29:03] Well it speaks to what Brian Roemmele has talked about and what he talked about at the Alexa Conference actually, the need for context and even proactivity out of being voice-first devices. Users aren't put in a position to where they've got to know the specific voice commands, they can just know that hey these people who have the Google Home and the Chromecast generally keep the TV on. So if they ask Google Home something they'll probably want a multi-modal experience, or hey these people never turn the TV on, let's just leave it off and don't bother them with it. I think that's where we're headed. So I guess the story is good from the standpoint of discussing some of those possibilities for where the industry is moving down the road.
Stuart Crane: [00:29:41] Absolutely it is.
Bradley Metrock: [00:29:41] Story number five is a personal one in many ways. VoiceFirst.FM is expanding. So I want to take a moment and highlight each of the three new shows that we've added. Entering into 2018 we really had five core shows. We experimented with some last year but we really have five core shows, This Week In Voice, The VoiceFirst roundtable, The Alexa Podcast, The Voice of Healthcare, and AI. Now we've added three new shows, Alexa in Canada hosted by Dr. Terry Fischer, a really cool show. He's about 10 or 15 episodes in at this point. Talk To Me, which is a topical husband/wife show with Katie Ernst and Max Ernst out of Philadelphia, and VUX World with Kane Simms out of the UK. So three shows that we feel like fit the portfolio well, people talking about different things, providing different perspective, international flavor in there.
Stuart Crane: [00:30:40] Exactly, and I have listened to some of the Alexa in Canada and it's interesting to get Dr. Fisher's take on things, how it differs from the U.S., it's great.
Bradley Metrock: [00:30:55] He's so articulate and he's just very precise in his language, as you would expect a physician to be, and it really adds a lot of value to how he puts these podcasts together. That show in particular, yeah it's fun to listen to that and for that reason alone, if not several others.
Stuart Crane: [00:36:28] I'm interested in the Talk To Me as well, because I'm getting my wife to use the Alexa so much more and we use it for a lot of stuff, so it will be interesting to hear their interaction about voice in that podcast.
Bradley Metrock: [00:36:38] Yeah it will be, I'm looking forward to that, and what Kane Simms is doing, he's just about to launch. I think he's recording his fifth episode today, so we've got five sort of in the tank ready to launch in quick sequence as he gets going, so it's exciting. We're excited to play the role of storyteller for this industry, and excited to have these three great new partners on board.
Bradley Metrock: [00:37:04] Stuart, thank you very much for joining me today and being my guest.
Stuart Crane: [00:37:08] Thanks Bradley I appreciate it, and I enjoyed being on.
Bradley Metrock: [00:37:10] Well let me let me close by asking this, if somebody wants to learn more about Voice Metrics, what is the best way to reach you?
Stuart Crane: [00:37:16] The best way is just go to our Website, it's www.voicemetrics.io. That's the best way to learn about us and there's links in there on how to get set up with things and just see what it's all about.
Bradley Metrock: [00:37:29] Very cool, for This Week In Voice, Episode 3 of Season 2, thank you for listening and until next time.