Multimodal Goes Mainstream
This week, as I mentioned in Tuesday’s update, I’m working in my company’s warehouse and therefore have been a podcasting machine, listening to 5-6 podcasts per day with my AirPods while I work. Yesterday, I listened to an awesome episode from Emily Binder’s Beetle Moment Marketing podcast that featured Katherine Prescott as the guest. Emily and Katherine are both voice technology experts and work as marketers and consultants in the voice space. During their conversation they discuss Amazon’s new Alexa-powered smart display, the Echo Show 5.
The Echo Show 5 is exciting for a few different reasons. First and foremost, it’s $89, which is quite a bit cheaper than its main competitor, the Google Nest Hub, which is $129. Surprisingly, it’s even cheaper than the Echo 2 smart speaker, which is $99. As Emily and Katherine point out, the pricing here signals that Amazon really wants to move people toward multimodal Alexa devices.
Smart displays serve as an important bridge connecting the interface of tomorrow, VUI, with the interface of today, GUI (graphical user interface). It’s going to take time for the conversational AI that will truly bolster the VUI to develop and mature, and so screens that can be controlled via voice during this interim period make a whole lot of sense. Since smart displays utilize videos and images, they offer more robust use cases today too, which should attract more users and different types of usage from the devices.
As Katherine mentions during the podcast, one use case that the Echo Show 5 will support well is voice commerce. Voice shopping through a smart speaker has a number of limitations today, many of which can be circumvented when you layer on a visual display, such as reading product descriptions and side by side comparisons of items. It’s just easier to quickly read a product description or glance at two products side by side, than it is to have Alexa read them to you.
The final piece that I believe Amazon got right with the Echo Show 5 is the privacy shutter on the display. This is akin to people applying a piece of tape to their laptop webcam. The chances that users have been hacked and spied on through their webcam is razor thin, but people still like the peace of mind. Amazon introducing a physical shutter follows the same logic as it will block the camera when users would like to ensure privacy. Amazon is catering to the portion of people who are hesitant to use a smart display due to privacy concerns with this hardware feature.
Ultimately, the Echo Show 5 has the potential to bring multimodal #VoiceFirst usage mainstream. Given the fact that it’s $40 cheaper than Google’s Nest Hub, it will be interesting to see how Google responds with their next smart display and if it falls in line with the pricing of the Echo Show 5. Either way, a whole lot more people are about to be exposed to the utility of a multimodal smart assistant experience.
-Thanks for Reading-