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Voice on Voice #137 
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It’s That Time of Year

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Last week’s Alexa Live Conference introduced the largest amount of new features ever announced at one time. A quick refresher on last year’s conference: Amazon released advanced updates to make Alexa more natural for both mobile and smart speaker users. Alexa for Apps lets users use their voice to open apps and complete tasks, Alexa Conversations helps developers build more conversational skills, and Quick Links allows users to navigate to a skill from an app, website, or online ad. These features, and the new additions announced at this year’s conference, are clear steps by Amazon to make Alexa as accessible as possible to consumers. However, Amazon is also tapping into monetization and discovery opportunities to make Alexa more valuable for brands that build skills.

Alexa’s New Additions

Amazon unveiled 50+ new developer features and tools during its Alexa Live conference. Most notable to us were improvements to monetization & discovery. 

Companies can now launch Paid Skills that customers can pay for to unlock content. Alexa Shopping Actions allows brands to sell products from Amazon.com within their skills. And Amazon Associates lets companies sell qualifying third-party products from Amazon within a skill to earn commissions.

In terms of discovery, APL Widgets will place interactive skill content on Echo Show screens (e.g., a user could reorder goods without invoking a skill). Echo Shows will also be able to display ‘Featured Skill Cards’ to promote skills on the home screen. And skills can be suggested in response to utterances like “Alexa, tell me a story,” or “Alexa, I need a workout.”
More on Amazon

Cleaning Out the Glove Compartment 

Toyota transformed its drivers manual for the model Sienna into an interactive app with a mobile voice assistant called Joya. Also known as the Toyota Driver’s Companion AI, the assistant answers questions related to the vehicle while displaying a virtual view of the car. For example, drivers can ask the assistant “How does bird’s-eye view camera work?” and Joya will bring up imagery while providing an audio response. Additionally, drivers can ask maintenance queries specifically related to their car once they input their VIN. Car manufacturers have already tapped skills and Actions to provide customers information on services, but the Toyota experience creates a new way for customers to engage with important information.
More on Voicebot.ai

Zoom Fun

Voice gaming startup Doppio launched its ‘Just Say the Word’ game on Zoom. Zoom recently added Zoom Apps, which are app integrations for meetings, to its platform. Doppio’s word-guessing game uses voice AI within the Zoom call to recognize what each player says — bypassing the need to touch your mouse or keyboard to play. While this use case is focused on entertainment, the notion of leveraging voice apps inside a meeting holds numerous implications for productivity tools looking to advance their services. Imagine collaborating on Asana or Miro (both now available on Zoom) by speaking commands. As work software continues layering voice onto their platforms, voice and video paired together opens more doors for innovation.
More on Doppio

By the Numbers

$14M

The value of the seed round closed by Native Voice, a company creating an SDK to integrate major voice assistants into third-party devices. (data via VentureBeat)

19%

of the US population will use Amazon Echo speakers at least once per month this year. (data via eMarketer)

Emerging Tech Stories 

  • Digital Twin. Musician Holly Herndon launched an AI tool called Holly+ that transforms polyphonic audio into a song in her voice.

  • Ziggy. Amazon introduced a new male voice, along with the new wake word “Ziggy,” for Alexa devices.

  • No Cover. Clubhouse opened its doors to everyone — no invite required.

Fail. Hard. with Will Hall

Can you have creativity without fear of failure? RAIN’s Chief Creative Officer Will Hall hosts new podcast “Fail. Hard.” which shares insights from top designers and makers on how failure and iteration can lead to breakthrough ideas. Tune in to hear fascinating stories from neuroscientists, typeface designers, game creators, and many more creative minds.
Listen here
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