voice assistant

Notes from Voice Summit 2019

I spent some of this past week at the massive Voice Summit 2019.  Thousands attended to learn and share their experience in the Voice space.  Attendees and speakers were all from a broad set of backgrounds. A lot of the Summit’s speakers and workshops were given by the companies that provide smart speakers and digital Assistants, like Amazon with Alexa and Google.  In addition to helping to market the event, Amazon Alexa staffed a lot of Workshops and Breakout sessions, most of which were aimed at helping developers hone their skills in the voice space. Never used AWS services to boost your skills feature set? They held sessions to walk attendees through exactly what to do.  Samsung's Bixby and Microsoft’s Cortana also made appearances at the summit, by also hosting workshops and announcing new feature releases on the big stage.

It appears that the major Voice Platforms are going about their devices differently. However, one big takeaway from the event is the area that all the platforms seem to agree on. These devices require serious computing services.  Between storage, compute power, scalability, etc. the main platforms agree, you need a strong back-end to make a powerful voice application. Amazon, through their AWS services, Google through its “Cloud Computing” and Microsoft through Azure, all offer options to support an amazing voice experience.  It became a major theme of the Summit. Voice is able to work because of a culmination of technology. Great 4G or WiFi allows the voice devices to communicate with servers in the cloud to quickly give the user helpful information. It is the expertise of all these things that make the most compelling voice applications. This was one side of the conference, the other was all about making great dialog.

The consensus seemed to be, in order to make a compelling voice application, you need great computing, and you need great dialog. Voice applications are easy enough to make and implement; they are hard to make helpful and sticky.  On Alexa alone, a massive amount (over 90%) of skills are used once by a user, and they never return. The emphasis was put on the computing, you need useful information and tasks for a compelling skill, but more than that, you need to get the user in a compelling way.  The voice interaction needs to be quick and to the point.

Alexa and other devices allow for you to change the native assistant’s voice and replace it with actual human voice overs. The number of voice actors at the Summit was quite astonishing.  I counted at least 5 sessions that were focused on voice acting for the voice assistant age. Speakers talked about how the use of human voice differentiated their voice application and made it feel more natural.  

Many other speakers talked about how they use context to help speed up their voice experiences.  By remembering users, skills can quickly repeat actions without re-entering data. Every time I check the weather, I shouldn’t need to tell Alexa where I am.  Voice applications, that take advantage of this have succeeded. Voice applications even allow for third party integration. Want to know the balance of your bank account? Use your username and password once, then get the answer quickly every time you ask.  Similar to other Applications driven by User Experience, voice applications that are able to reduce customer friction have found the most success to date. Just because its called Conversational UI doesn’t mean you have to architect a half hour gab session just to get some basic information from your device.  Interactions designed for efficiency are getting the most utilization.

Find out more about how Voice could help you by reaching out to our team Alexa Subject Matter Experts, VUI designers and Developers:

https://www.bluefintechnologypartners.com/voice-interface-development

The Voice Age Realtor

Transforming Real Estate with Technology

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The real estate industry is the largest commodity in the world at an estimation of $217 trillion in valuation. Technology, such as voice products and AI, are growing rapidly and affecting many markets. Because of these new technologies, about 10’s of millions of dollars have been raised to speed up the process of getting feedback from tenants.

Further, realtors are using big data to solve client needs by finding trends and associations.

Current examples include mobile home-search apps based on buyer preferences. Now, AI can personalize customer interactions to aggregate data and figure out the clients’ needs and preferences. Virtual reality could also allow potential buyers to view the house virtually and customize a house virtually.

Well-known real estate companies, such as Zillow, Truilia, and Realtor, have created proprietary formulas to assist customers. For example, Zillow has a tool called Zestimate.This home valuation tool estimates the market value of a home using a computerized proprietary formula.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI will aggregate the data from customer interactions and tailor messaging based on successful interactions with similar past clients. Many now have chatbots on websites, which can be implemented as a voice feature.

Moreover, AI can create CRM systems, manage property management systems by monitoring vital metrics to predict when maintenance errors may occur. In addition, AI monitors geographic areas for property price fluctuations and other trends.

Voice Technology

Now with innovative voice technology, it is time for the real estate industry to start to adopt these new technological advances. Voice products can help realtors in a number of areas - from generating new prospects to setting home showings. Below are just a few features and questions prospects can use when they start their home-buying search.

Types of features for a real estate skill:

  • Search for houses in your area

  • Connect with local real estate agents

  • Hear daily home listings

  • Review weekly real estate market information

  • Track valuation of a home

  • Email results of your searches

Questions to ask:

  • How much is my home worth?

  • How many homes have sold in my ZIP code?

  • Where do I find an agent in my city?

  • Who are my local realtors?

The Future of Voice Technology in Real Estate

Right now, voice assistants are following up through text messages and emails. Soon, they will be able to follow-up with leads over the phone and through smart speakers.

Your prospects will soon be using virtual assistants primarily to find a home or an agent. It is important to make sure you’re business is connected to these voice searches or you’ll miss the opportunity.

Are you ready to bring your agency to the voice age? Close your next deal with the help of a voice product. Contact us now for a free demo!

Google Assistant makes a splash at CES 2018

CES just wrapped up in Las Vegas.  The event, which takes place yearly, is where the cutting edge of consumer products are shown off.  This year had a clear theme -  getting everyday consumer products connected and equipped with voice interfaces.  Refrigerators, mirrors, toilets, televisions, cars, you name it, people are putting voice into it.  We aren’t here to tell you that all of those gadgets are necessary, but we can say that the age of voice interface is ramping up.  It is no longer in the early adopter stage as Amazon has now sold more than 10 million Alexa powered Echo products.  The market for voice products is no longer a 1 horse race, as Google has put a dent in what was once an Alexa only market.  In Q4 of 2017 it was reported that 7.6 million Google Home products sold, that is more than the total smart speakers sold in all of 2016.  That is a massive amount of hardware.  Reports indicate that 2018 will be even bigger for the purchase of smart speakers, with an estimated 56 million speakers to ship.  These voice assistants aren’t exclusive to their companies hardware though.  Google, for example, has their voice assistant on phones and a lot of the new connected products that were shown off at CES.  Reports say that Google’s voice assistant is now available on over 400 million devices!   This is an exciting time to be involved in Voice.  It can be a seamless and satisfying way to interact with a computer.  Over the holidays, the team at Bluefin did a fun in-house project, developing a Google Action for our kegerator.  We had previously built a connected keg, powered by the open-source Kegbot Arduino, and Raspberry Pi software.  A flow meter collects data on the kegs use and a web interface lets the user give input details about the keg, such as beer type and size of the keg.   Since Google Assistant isn’t restricted to one device, the information is available on any device with Google Assistant.  In the office, we use our Google Home to ask the kegbot questions, like “When was the last beer poured,” but we can also access it on a phone with Google Assistant enabled. Imagine you are at a liquor store, and can’t remember if the keg is low, you simply ask the voice assistant, “How much beer is left in the keg?” With what we were able to do in a week with our in house project, the possibilities seem endless for how helpful voice integration will be.

Below is a quick demonstration of some of what the voice assisted kegbot can do:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7fsNlsVhOM&t=18s