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Here's What Happened at the VOICE Talks Premiere

Collage of VOICE Talks guests.


The first episode of VOICE Talks premiered on Tuesday, April 28th to thousands of viewers connecting from over 100 countries. With a focus on how the community is using their voice devices lately, this first episode set a high bar for what's looking to be a promising monthly series.

If you couldn't connect or didn't even know it was happening, here's a quick summary to whet your appetite for the next episode.

Insights from industry leaders

After a warm welcome from VOICE Talks host, Sofia Altuna, we dived straight into how the current global health crisis is impacting voice technology and what's next. Here are a few highlights from each conversation.

Danny Bernstein and Manuel Bronstein (Google Assistant)

To get the ball rolling, Danny and Manuel connected on-screen to talk about how Google Assistant is doing its part and what voice app creators should consider moving forward. 

Manuel told us that Google's primary objective with their voice assistant is to deliver accurate information on COVID-19—from symptoms to current stats—in as many languages as possible. He also mentioned that through their renowned Google Duplex technology, they've been able to update business hours and closures so people checking business information online can know whether their favorite stores are offering deliveries or are closed until further notice.

"[Coronavirus] is going to change the world." Manuel said, "Group communication is happening more than ever, people are consuming more media, ordering online, downloading apps for wellness and online education. Applications that focus on these areas will prevail even after the shelter-at-home order." Manuel advised.

Dave Isbitski (Amazon Alexa)

What would a voice tech conference be without an appearance from Amazon Alexa Evangelist, Dave Isbitski?

Speaking from his wonderful geeky-looking room, Dave talked about a few admirable ways Alexa has been helping out during the pandemic. Inspired by stories from hard-working health workers, Amazon has been sending out their smart devices to keep patients informed and also connected with loved ones. (You can see the full list of what Amazon Alexa is doing to support everyone during COVID-19 here.)

After apologizing to the audience for touching his face and for his "quarantine haircut," Dave moved on to talk about opportunities in Voice. Aside from encouraging everyone to get into games and entertainment, which are a much-needed escape from reality, he also gave this great piece of advice:

"Use this time to experiment. Look at the data and at what people are using. I think everything is going to change so look at this stage as an opportunity because it's about people, not products."—Dave Isbitski.

Bret Kinsella (voicebot.ai)

Another staple in the voice tech space, Bret Kinsella jumped in with a mountain of stats and facts on Voice in healthcare. He highlighted how more than half of adults in the U.S. want voice tech to be involved in their healthcare, and how COVID-19 is underlining all the ways voice tech can help.

The most popular use-cases were:

Asking about Coronavirus symptoms (32.2%)
Getting information on medication (23.2%)
Finding a hospital, clinic, urgent care, etc. (27.5%)
Researching treatment options (17.7%)
Getting information on nutrition (23.1%)
Calling a health care provider (18.6)

Fortunately, voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant are already offering some of these services. Bret goes on to say how voice tech adoption is rising, especially now that everyone wants an easier way to stay connected. With a year-over-year growth of over 32% in smart speaker adoption (in the U.S. alone), we can only predict that more people will be picking up a smart speaker if they haven't already.

Jolene Amit(voca.ai)

To wrap up the conversations, our Inside VOICE host Keri Roberts connected with voca.ai's vice president, Jolene Amit, to discuss how her company is helping to create a free at-home voice-based test for COVID-19.

Through a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, Jolene and her team are using voice technology to catch vocal biomarkers that may indicate the presence of infection. "We understand that many people around the world don't have access to these tests," Jolene said, in response to Keri's question about why they felt the need to jump in and help.

She goes on to say that they've seen a global outpour of data from hospitals and universities to help them develop the algorithm. Since the data is open to the public, anyone and everyone is welcome to contribute. Although the project is still underway, they're already 80% there and you can track their progress here.

"It's a special project to us. We really care about the global community and this is something that we're doing from our hearts." —Jolene Amit

Giveaways and connecting the community

Every so often, Sofia would break up the talks with some of the best video entries we received leading up to the episode. Their stories would range from how they're using voice devices to stay sane at home to what they're building to help the cause. Happily enough, the lucky winners who will be receiving a Google Assistant-enabled device are:

Dexter Zavalza Hough-Snee
Michael McTear
Nadia Carolina Rojas Ramirez
Krijn Janse
Gulshan Mehta
Poojan Shah

Beside giveaways, Sofia would occasionally ask questions like "what devices are you building for?" and pick up the most interesting responses from the live comments or from Twitter (#AskSofia). Blue boxes would occasionally float into view with someone's answer, like the one from Ashish saying he has already built two Google actions to keep his two-year-old amused with #BookReader and #RhymesRadio.

Viewers could also Tweet away during the episode and our guests would reply in real-time. Naturally, many were ecstatic at the chance to get their questions answered by industry heroes!

What's next?

With over 13,000 subscribers and counting, you can bet we have another exciting episode coming up. The second episode of VOICE Talks is set to air on May 26, 2020 at 2 PM (EST).

This episode will focus on "Building for Experiences" with another round of Google experts and an all-female panel ready to dole out insights and hint at future innovations. Plus, we'll keep the giveaways going with even more Google devices waiting for new owners. All you have to do to nab one is submit your best video of how you're using Google Assistant lately.

Make sure you're registered and mark your calendar, because episode #2 of VOICE Talks is going to be one to remember.

Register for VOICE Talks

Voice tech events, Create, Market, VOICE Talks

Jenny Medeiros

Written by Jenny Medeiros

Jenny is an engineer turned tech writer with hands-on experience in VR, AR, video game development, and UX-focused web design. Nowadays, she partners with tech companies to help explain emerging technologies simply. When she's not writing, she's likely daydreaming and forgetting her tea.

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