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Stamp collectors may come across as being from another planet. Collecting stamps is a strange, obsessive hobby. That is until you’re at a stamp convention with hundreds of collectors, at which point these other-planetary beings show that they’re a part of an entire universe. A universe where their odd ideas are actually quite prescient. A universe where their hobby isn’t on the fringe of normalcy… It is normalcy.

Voice interfaces are on par with stamp collecting. To the average consumer a voice assistant is a thing that sometimes answers my questions, mostly sits on my kitchen counter, and is there to turn on my music when I want it to.

But at Project Voice, the #1 event for voice tech, it’s the interface of the future. Being surrounded by voice enthusiasts gives you a glimpse into ideas that are years or even decades away from reaching the average consumer.

Below are three of the big ideas I encountered while surrounded by voice tech enthusiasts.

Accessibility

Conversations with my hard-of-hearing Grandma have progressed to the point where we have to communicate by writing on paper. Her eyes are fine, but her ears are nearly useless. This is the scenario for millions of elderly and deaf people. Having conversations can be a real challenge.

Google Live Transcribe recently launched in order to fill this need. It’s a real-time conversation transcriber that shows the text on an Android phone as the conversation is happening.

Next time I’m around my Grandma, I’ll set out my Android phone, launch the Live Transcribe app, and carry on a conversation at a normal speed while she reads along. With a little teaching, I could even see her using the Live Transcribe to get other audio information.

It’s nice to see Google, Amazon, and Samsung take a break from the commercial voice endeavors in order to focus on the accessibility features of their devices.

Voice-Based Websites

There are currently 74.6 million WordPress websites out there. That’s 74.6 million digital destinations where services are being sold and information is being spread. All of which can exist in some form in the voice ecosystem. All of which can benefit from expanding their reach with a voice app.

The Voice Designer is a new WordPress plug-in that makes it extremely simple to create a voice app from your current WordPress site. It’s a no-code, drag-and-drop designer that allows you to bring your presence onto Alexa and Google Assistant.

Voice-based websites will elevate the current way we engage with websites by allowing us to interact through tactile and vocal inputs. Although it’s not clear what the future of voice-first websites will be. This is the first step in merging our existing website infrastructure with the voice ecosystem.

Discoverability

One of the greatest challenges that all smart speakers have come across is figuring out a way for users to discover new apps and experiences.

Smart Speakers are not like the iPhone where users can easily browse the App Store whenever they’d like and find a new game. Instead, they have to be told about new voice apps, whether through the smart speaker or another person. It’s why most people use their smart speakers just to play music and get weather updates.  

Samsung, though, unveiled a discoverability feature for Bixby called Natural Language Categories. They’ve designed Bixby in such a way where people can naturally ask Bixby for new voice apps when the need arises. And the overarching categories provide some structure to “browsing”.

For instance, if you asked Bixby, “I’d like to send a gift to my mom.” Bixby recognizes the category of “Gift Delivery Services”, narrows down to the voice apps that are categorized there, and tells you about those to pick one to use.

Right now, categories include: Recipes, Events Search and Booking, Gift Delivery Services, Home Services, Local Business Search, etc… In the future, they’ll have hundreds of natural language categories that will provide structure to discovering new voice apps.

To me, Accessibility, Voice-Based Websites, and Discoverability were the three most exciting trends to see new technologies unveiled in. However, there were dozens of others that could’ve easily made this list.

If you’d like to access our entire archive of interviews and recorded keynotes from the Project Voice conference, head over to the Inevitable/Human Public Library. There are more than 25 videos you can learn from.

Access the I/h public library

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