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This Week in Voice with Katherine Prescott (Future Ear Daily Update 10-11-19)

10-11-19 - TWiV with Katherine Prescott

One of my favorite voice technology podcasts, This Week in Voice, featured Katherine Prescott this week, who joined host Bradley Metrock for a great discussion. What I like about this show is that, as the name suggests, it helps to keep me updated on what’s happening in the world of voice. Katherine Prescott writes the daily newsletter, VoiceBrew, which is an awesome way to educate yourself about how to get the most out of your voice assistant. As she describes it on her website,

“There is one big problem with virtual assistants.

Most people aren’t exactly sure what to do with them. I want to help change that.”

This week’s show kicked off with the discussion around the General Motors partnership with Amazon to deeply integrate Alexa into the dashboard of upcoming GM cars. Voice assistants + the car is part of a broader trend where the assistant begins to migrate out of the home and into the car. During the 2019 Alexa Conference, Bret Kinsella gave the keynote describing the transition we’re going through with voice assistant technology as it evolves from phase one to phase two. This GM Alexa integration development is one of the starkest examples of this new era, where voice assistants move wider and more deeply into new contexts, such as the car.

From Bret Kinsella’s Keynote at the 2019 Alexa Conference

Another context discussed on this episode that voice assistants are moving into are on our person via wearables. Given that this is a site largely dedicated to in-the-ear computers, this particular context has been at the core of my writing, so I’m not going to dwell on it too much in this post. One very interesting point that Katherine mentioned, however, was around Microsoft’s new Surface Buds and Microsoft’s focus on making these hearables a productivity tool geared toward Microsoft Office through Cortana.

This get’s at a broader theme too, which goes back to when Microsoft pivoted Cortana away from a consumer solution and more toward an enterprise solution. More specifically, Cortana went from being a general, “master assistant,” to a more niche, “mini-assistant.” In essence, Cortana represents the master of Microsoft’s domain – Office, Windows, Azure – which means Microsoft’s focus has been to make Cortana as intelligent and serviceable around its own products and services as possible.

In my opinion, this is a really smart strategy as it allows Cortana to be useful to all the various master assistants – Siri, Alexa, Google, Bixby (?) – without posing much of a threat. While, I’m not entirely sold on Surface Buds, particularly the pricing, I am sold on this approach with Cortana and the focus of making the assistant as robust as possible when it comes to all the enterprise software so many professionals routinely use (PowerPoint, Excel, Word, Azure, etc.). The bright side of this strategy is that whether people access Cortana through a Microsoft product, such as their PC or Surface Buds, or if they choose to access Cortana through a third party device, doesn’t really diminish the value of Cortana.

This was a great discussion, and if you’re interested in becoming more familiar with the voice technology space, I’d recommend subscribing to both This Week in Voice and Katherine’s newsletter, VoiceBrew. It’s pretty insane how quickly voice technology is moving and evolving, and I’ve found that the best way to stay informed in this space is to absorb all the takeaways and knowledge that is being shared by folks like Bradley and Katherine.

-Thanks for Reading-


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