Project Voice to Kick off 2020 with Amazon, Google, Samsung, and Microsoft
Project Voice will be one of the biggest voice events of 2020 and it is just two weeks away. It represents a “metamorphosis” of the event formerly known as the Alexa Conference and in some ways is a metaphor for the industry. When the event began two years ago, the industry discussion and demand was for more information about Alexa because of how transformative it had become. However, since that time, Google Assistant has become a global juggernaut, Samsung has launched Bixby, and Apple and Microsoft are always seemingly at the doorstep of making a big move.
In an email interview over the weekend, I asked Bradly Metrock how things have changed in the industry and in turn for Score Publishing, the organizer of Project Voice and the VoiceFirst Events series. Many of you may be considering whether to attend Project Voice and this interview may provide added perspective. As an incentive, I can confirm that I will be speaking on Thursday morning with some new data about voice assistant adoption and will be the subject of a roast during dinner on Wednesday. You can register here and save 20% using the promo code VOICEBOT.
1) What was the biggest change in the voice industry in 2019?
Bradley Metrock: We saw a tremendous amount of incremental change this year, helping the utility of voice assistants, smart speakers, and voice-first technology hold serve against a rising tide of media coverage of privacy and data security concerns. Overall, it’s been a good year for voice and has set the stage for an even better year in 2020, with voice assistants poised to take a step up in utility for many users.
We were fortunate to have two huge, seismic shifts in the landscape as well that made 2019 even more of a transformative year. First, Alexa became HIPAA-compliant, opening a lot of doors for the healthcare sector to more fully embrace voice tech in 2020 and beyond. Second, Samsung entered the voice market in a big way, rolling out developer tools and a new Bixby marketplace in 2019 that sets the stage for greater competition amongst the main tech players for developer attention than we’ve seen to date. More competition means more features, more innovation, and less risk of these major tech players abusing consumer trust.
2) How has that change shaped the way you are thinking about Score Publishing’s voice events in 2020?
Metrock: With the 2020 VoiceFirst Events series, we’re doubling down on our events in healthcare (The Voice of Healthcare Summit) and banking/finance (The Voice of Money), adding some new online events such as The Voice of Branding and The Voice of Gaming, and continuing to provide the resources so Project Voice can continue to grow and serve more and more people and organizations as a flagship event for the voice/AI space. We were bullish on voice to begin with, and nothing we’ve seen in 2019 has dampened that enthusiasm toward the innovation going on within the space.
3) If you could help make one change in the industry in 2020, what would it be?
We’ve seen what the addition of Samsung to the marketplace has done, even in just 6-9 months or so. If I could make one change, it would be to make Apple a more aggressive player in the voice/AI space in order to shore up Siri’s deficiencies and cultivate a developer ecosystem around their voice assistant. Under Tim Cook, Apple has moved at a methodical pace and it will likely take a CEO change to see the type of urgency I’d love to see from them.
4) CES is coming up next week. What are you looking forward to seeing?
One of the challenges that is developing within this voice tech landscape is that there are so many developments, so many new companies innovating, so much velocity on a week to week basis, that normal users of the technology have zero chance of being able to keep up. It’s tough even for me, and I run a show called THIS WEEK IN VOICE! So I’m looking at CES, which is a notoriously noisy and challenging environment for corporate marketing and communications, and I am wondering how these major tech companies will sharpen their messaging around voice developments to maximize the likelihood that the media, and maybe even the public, pay attention. We’ll get a good feel for that next week.
5) Project Voice is succeeding the Alexa Conference in 2020. Why the change in name and format?
It was time for The Alexa Conference to undergo a metamorphosis into the broad-brush, comprehensive event that this space needs. Companies and individuals will be able to attend Project Voice and walk away with incredibly valuable real-time intel on each of the major voice tech ecosystems, along with numerous small to mid-size companies doing pioneering work in various industry verticals. This is the first event we’re aware of that has had Amazon, Google, Samsung, and Microsoft all as Presenting Sponsors and we’re excited for what that means for the Project Voice attendee. This is an event that has exploded and shows no signs of slowing down.
6) What are you most looking forward to about Project Voice 2020?
I’m looking forward to everyone else enjoying themselves and getting the information and perspective out of Project Voice that will shape the rest of their year.
7) You recently launched your new book on Alexa skills. What prompted you to write it and how has it been received?
More Than Just Weather And Music: 200 Ways To Use Alexa has been well-received and gotten off to a fast start in terms of sales. The book has been routinely out of stock on Amazon and, despite carrying a premium price tag, has been in demand. I’m proud of that and we’re doubling down on the book as well – Volume 2 will be out in May along with a 2nd edition of this first book.
I originally intended to write something that I called “The Alexa Instruction Manual,” but as I started piecing that together, I realized I wanted a simpler message. And having heard countless people regurgitate countless times that voice tech is what they use “to ask for weather or to play music,” I realized there’s an opportunity to use a book to communicate the core message that Alexa does far more than that. I hope that, in promoting the book over 2020 as part of some speaking I’ll be doing, that I can play a part in helping people understand more of the full scope of utility of voice-first technology – that it goes way beyond mere basics and offers, even now, a lot of value for a lot of different types of people.
Bradley Metrock is CEO of Score Publishing, the organizer of Project Voice and the VoiceFirst Events series.