Voice assistants are a phenomenon. They have rapidly become cultural icons and spread from smartphones to smart speakers, back again and to many other device surfaces. They represent both a “newish” technology popular with consumers and a new computing platform following in the footsteps of the web and mobile.
There is often a focus on the technology breakthroughs that brought us to the precipice of the voice assistant era. Neural networks, far-field voice recognition, semantic parsing, speech synthesis, and many other innovations are critical elements of voice assistant performance today. However, behind these innovations that brought us to this point and leading us into the next phase of adoption are people that are combining insight, passion, and sometimes genius. The Voicebot team thought it was about time we recognize some of those people at the vanguard of the voice assistant era.
The Top 44 Leaders in Voice are segmented into four categories, each with eleven people. Topping the list in the visionaries category are Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Adam Cheyer from Samsung and Viv Labs. Designers and products leaders include Google’s Cathy Pearl and Mark Webster from Adobe. The Technologists category includes another Googler, Brad Abrams, along with John Giannadrea from Apple and Rohit Prasad from Amazon. Then there are the Influencers that are shaping the way consumers and corporate executives think about voice technology today such as Gary Vaynerchuk of Vayner Media, Dave Isbitski from Amazon, and Noelle LaChartie from Microsoft. However, these lists are not limited to executives at big companies. Many have an outsized influence on the market today because of the reach and impact of their companies, but also included are startup founders from Audioburst, Audio Analytic, Clinc, Orbita, Pretzel Labs, and VocaliD among others.
We recognize that any list you create will be accompanied by some controversy and disagreement. Typically, those concerns stem from valid arguments that certain people should have made the list. Of course, with a fixed number, there is always some deserving person left out. We recognize that many people have made a big contribution that didn’t make the list. Our panel of six judges weighed many factors in compiling the list and some were advocating for professionals that just missed the cut. Let the debate begin.
We arrived at our initial list of candidates using a number of methods. First, we included in a survey of voice professionals a question about who they thought were leaders in the industry. We then added suggestions from our panel of judges and individuals that had received coverage in past Voicebot news stories. For at least one category we also analyzed social media activity. The judges then scored each individual based on a number of factors and they were segmented into our leadership categories. No judge or person working for Voicebot were eligible for consideration. There were some close calls, ties in scoring, and other factors that needed to be weighed to arrive at our final list. The entire process was executed with care and the goal of providing a compelling representation of industry leadership.
ABOUT // Karen Kaushansky is a long-time veteran of the voice industry, and has spent close to 25 years designing experiences that have shaped our interactions with the world. Karen’s work spans designing conversational interfaces, enterprise chatbots, smart clothing, natural interactions in mixed reality, and experiences for passengers and pedestrians with autonomous vehicles. She has worked for Nuance, Tellme/Microsoft, Jawbone and Zoox and is currently consulting for multiple companies pushing the boundaries of human-robot interaction. After many years in San Francisco, Karen recently relocated to Basel, Switzerland.
ABOUT // Theodora (Theo) Lau is speaker, writer, and advisor, whose work seeks to spark innovation to improve consumer financial well-being and health. As founder of Unconventional Ventures, she focuses on developing and growing an ecosystem of financial institutions, corporations, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists to better address the unmet needs of consumers (e.g. older adults and gig workers), with a specific interest in women and minority founders. As part of her work, she regularly mentors and advises FinTech startups; she is also recognized as LinkedIn Top Voice for Economy and Finance, and Top FinTech influencer by various publications including Onalytica, Retail Banker International, and FinTech Finance. She co-hosts Rhetoriq, a podcast on longevity and fintech, and runs a weekly blog on Irish Tech News. She is a frequent contributing writer and speaker for top industry publications and conferences.
ABOUT // Doug is an advertising creative director and marketing technology entrepreneur. Beginning his career as a copywriter, he’s worked for a number of top global agencies, including TBWA/Chiat/Day, BBDO, DDB, Ogilvy & Mather, Saatchi, Y&R & FCB, creating national campaigns for television, print, outdoor, radio and online. As an entrepreneur, he’s launched and ran Zuum, a software app that helps marketers maximize the impact of their social media content. Brands that Zuum has worked with include Disney, Starbucks, the NFL, Nestle, Walgreens, Intel, 3M, Billabong, Chevron, Nissan, Sotheby’s, Capital One, and the Cleveland Clinic. Doug is currently the founder and creative director of Arrovox, a voice and audio content studio, in Los Angeles, California. He also writes and produces the comedy podcast Homie & Lexy.
ABOUT // Passionate about a voice-first future, Nick develops voice applications for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Samsung Bixby through his company, Invoked Apps. Nick’s company is best known as the first author of ambient sounds for sleep and relaxation on voice assistant devices, reaching approximately 2 million customers every month. Aside from helping people get a good night’s rest, Nick also created “Opening Bell,” the first open-source Alexa Skill capable of looking up U.S. stock prices using spoken company names. He is recognized as an Amazon Alexa Champion, Google Developer Expert, and Bixby Premier Developer for his continuous contributions and leadership in the voice-first community.
ABOUT // Eric has been a professional writer and editor for more than a dozen years, specializing in the stories of how science and technology intersect with business and society. Eric is based in New York City and is a staff writer at Voicebot.ai as well as producer of the Voicebot Podcast.