Voice Talks 1

VOICE Talks Episode 1: Everyone is Using Voice Assistants During the Pandemic

The first VOICE Talks episode premiered on Tuesday and the Google Assistant and Modev-produced show managed to cover a lot of ground in a little over an hour. Hosted by Sofia Altuna, who co-leads global product partnerships for Google Assistant, the show combined taped and live segments, focused on how people are using voice technology now. The main consensus is that usage is up, and likely to grow as people stay home as much as possible during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We really wanted to create voice talks for it to be a place to connect the voice community together,” Altuna explained in her introduction. “So, whether you work in this industry, or you do it as a hobby, or you simply just like using these devices, we want this to be a platform where we can all connect with each other, share what we’re working on, and learn from each other.”

Google Assists and Alexa Aids

Google Assistant leaders Manuel Bronstein and Danny Bernstein kicked off the first segment of the show by discussing how they have been personally impacted by the pandemic and how they’ve turned to voice assistants to cope. They discussed some of the creative new Google Assistant Actions they’ve seen pop up, then delved into how voice technology in all of its permutations is well suited for a time like now when people are physically distant and forced to be at home most of the time.

“The reality is that all of us working in the voice space have been looking for ways to make technology more accessible, more seamless to use, and remove the friction,” Bronstein said. “Voice makes interacting with technology more natural and easier. You can argue that actually using devices these days without touching them, in particular, shared devices or public devices where you only use your voice is a powerful thing.”

Amazon Alexa’s chief evangelist Dave Isbitski followed the Google Assistant team from his home and highlighted some of the ways Alexa has been used during the pandemic. He mentioned how Amazon is sending Alexa-powered smart displays to hospitals to improve communication and emphasized how the role of voice technology, especially right now, should be on how it can make people’s lives better in small and large ways. encouraged people to make their own voice games and entertainment on the platform.

“If you have an idea for a game you know escapism, go ahead and play a game. I’ve been doing that both with voice-driven experiences and consoles and my PC,” Isbitski said. “What we’re trying to do is create a more human experience and so it’s important to understand at the end of the day it’s about people.”

Voicebot Data and Voca Diagnosis

Voicebot’s founder Bret Kinsella jumped into his segment with a lot of numbers and facts. He pointed out that there is a lot of evidence that people want voice tech to be a part of their healthcare, more than half of adults in the U.S., according to a Voicebot survey. That’s something the pandemic has only highlighted. He also showed how much of a difference the health crisis happening now has had on the voice industry, simply because the numbers in terms of smart speaker ownership have risen so quickly in the last couple of years.

“We just talked about this idea that smart speakers are really important and they’re particularly important now because everybody is at home and this is one of the most important technology additions that we’ve seen over the last decade into the family portfolio of devices,” Kinsella said. “We have this new data out from the end of 2019 and we found that there are almost 90 million people with smart speakers right now that’s about 34% of the U.S. adult population and that represents 32% year-over-year growth since 2018.”

Voca.ai’s vice president of marketing Jolene Amit next shared her company’s work in voice technology in a conversation with Inside Voice’s Keri Roberts. She shared the way Voca.ai’s tech is being adapted toward a potential vocal diagnostics tool in a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University by collecting and analyzing people’s voices to hunt for vocal biomarkers.

“It’s a special project to us,” Amit said. “This is something that we are doing from our hearts and the goal really here is to create a free at-home voice-based test for COVID-19.”

Altuna wrapped up the show by answering some questions and sharing some comments and brief videos from people watching. Despite the necessity of the at-home filming, Modev CEO Pete Erickson said he was happy to see it play out as planned. The next episode will air on May 26.

“I was overjoyed at the results of our first episode and Sofia Altuna as our host,” Erickson told Voicebot. “More than 13,000 subscribers tuned in from around the world regardless of time zone. And most importantly I believe we achieved our mission of providing the voice tech industry with a trustworthy source of information, ideas, and inspiration to answer the call of our times. Can’t wait for episode 2!”


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