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Alexa Live: What went down

Alexa Live, the yearly conference for app developers on Amazon’s voice assistant platform took place this week. We asked Say It Now CEO, Charles Cadbury to round up the event for us.

Alexa Live this year streamed live from The Spheres on the Amazon campus in Seattle.  The big theme was creating the foundation for a future of ambient computing.

Amazon has always been obsessed with customer satisfaction and frictionless customer experiences are deeply rooted in Amazon DNA.  Access to always-on computing, integrated into our lives so we don’t notice it is the vision and Alexa is just the first step.

Often holding back key metrics the keynote kicked off by sharing some encouraging numbers showing the scale of the voice footprint.  There are “millions” of Alexa devices being used “billions of times per week”.   The Alexa platform functionality is being fuelled by more than 900,000 registered developers who have published more than 130,000 skills (Alexa apps) and consumer engagement with skills is growing 40% YOY.

One of the goals (beyond monetisation which is the huge undercurrent) is how can Alexa deliver more value to customers.  Here are a few ways that is being achieved:

  • Alexa is becoming ubiquitous  At home, in car, in ears and on the phone in a non-intrusive way.
  • Alexa is becoming multimodal Able to be engaged with using voice, touch and motion.
  • Alexa is becoming Smarter Contextual, adaptive & able to understand customers better over time

Over 150,000 products outside Amazon’s own ‘Echo’ brand now have Alexa embedded within from coffee machines to cars and partnerships with brands such as Samsung, Lamborgini, Bose, Fitbit & Lavazza you will continue to see more of your consumer electronics offering a voice assistant inside.

It is important to note that Alexa touched on its interoperability initiative which is creating an environment for consumers to be able to switch between assistants.  This means when you buy a new car or coffee maker you are likely going to be able to choose your assistant (Google Assistant, Alexa, Sirr etc).  This is an early nod to monopoly troubles these powerful assistants see moving forward. 

With this strategy of ubiquitous access, Alexa aims to meet customers where they are wherever and whenever that may be and there’s no denying the momentum.  But what are the new features that have been recently released that will change the experiences we can expect from Alexa?

Alexa connected vehicles API Car manufacturer?  In-car is an obvious playground for voice experiences that cater for hands-free access to any computing task this API was released in 2020 and Nissan, Lambougini and Ford are all publicly on-board.  This allows you to control your smart home from your car, your car with your assistant and access all other features.  Watch a demo of Ford’s voice vision here.  

Quicklinks Launched last year is a useful tool to allow clickable inventory to drive into specific parts of a voice experience.  Use cases include recipe apps wanting to hand over to a spoken experience or just making it easier to launch a voice commerce experience like donating to Comic Relief. If you have an Alexa click here to donate to Comic Relief now.

Send to Phone Is a neat way to hand off a voice experience to mobile.  This long-awaited feature is the opposite of the quick links features with opportunities for completing complex tasks like ordering from a catalogue or delivering specific coupons or driving into an app.  At the event, Alexa showed off an example from Say It Now and their client Diageo demonstrating how an at-home whisky tasting experience could drive footfall into a bar to explore other whiskies (watch the video demo here)

Interactive Media skill components Are aimed directly at radio companies wanting to build further engagement into their live stream for example during a broadcast the DJ can ask the audience to send in requests and dedications using their Alexa.  They have built this out with iHeart Radio and shows the power Alexa can play in the streaming Audio ecosystem 

Food Skill API’s These allow restaurant skill owners to use Alexa’s location to offer specific deals on the screen of the speaker – e.g. pizza offers from nearby domino’s stores

There was a slew of other more developer-focused announcements but as with all the voice assistant major players, it’s all part of their ‘nudging’ strategy.  Each year more and more features are added to bring these assistants towards their goal of ambient computing.  

The voice assistant nirvana is of an always on invisible and omnipresent guide, trusted with taking the little headaches from your life and delivering an ever more frictionless interface to improve your human experience.   

The closer we get to this vision the more powerful this operating environment becomes for brands looking to harness the power of voice and be present when their consumers ask for them.

Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin went into space last week, a project he started in 2000.  Alexa launched in 2004, the man is able to execute on long term vision and this is all reminiscent of my favourite Bill gates quote which helps frame this all:

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”


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