dragon drive: jarvis for your car…

The wave of magical CES 2018 innovations has begun to roll in, and among those already announced is a company called Nuance Communications’s “Dragon Drive” – an (extremely) artificially intelligent assistant for your car.

According to Digital Trends

“By combining conversational artificial intelligence with a number of nonverbal cues, Dragon Drive helps you talk to your car as though you were talking to a person. For example, the AI platform now boasts gaze detection, which allows drivers to get information about and interact with objects and places outside of the car simply by looking at them and asking Dragon Drive for details. If you drive past a restaurant, you can simply focus your gaze at said establishment and say, “Call that restaurant,” or “How is that restaurant rated?” Dragon Drive provides a “meaningful, human-like response.”

Moreover, the platform enables better communication with a whole host of virtual assistants, including smart home devices and other popular AI platforms. In this way, Dragon Drive claims, drivers will be able to manage a host of tasks all from their cars, whether it’s setting their home heating system or transferring money between bank accounts.

Dragon Drive’s AI integration does not only apply to external factors, but to components within the car as well. For instance, if you ask the AI platform to find parking, Dragon Drive will take into consideration whether or not your windshield wipers are on to determine whether it ought to direct you to a covered parking area to avoid the rain. And if you tell Dragon Drive you’re cold, the system will automatically adjust the car’s climate (but only in your area, keeping other passengers comfortable).

Why It’s Hot:

Putting aside the question of how many AI assistants we might have in our connected future, what was really interesting to see was the integration of voice and eye tracking biometrics. Things like using your voice as your key (/to personalize your settings to you and your passengers), the car reminding you of memories that happened at locations you’re passing, and identifying stores/buildings/restaurants/other things along your route with just a gaze, it’s amazing to think what the future holds when all the technologies we’ve only just seen emerging in recent years converge.

[More info]

Amazon’s Alexa may eventually serve up ads…maybe, maybe not?

It was only a matter of time, folks.

According to a report from CNBC, Amazon is in talks with brands and advertisers to include ads on the Echo through via Alexa. The report says that Amazon is discussing these opportunities with Procter & Gamble and Clorox.

Just as ads found their way to the newspaper, the radio, the television, the internet, and even to our inbox and inside our apps, it only makes sense for advertisers to follow us to the next frontier of voice-powered AI.

There are two obvious paths to potentially advertising on Alexa.

The first is to let brands pay for placement when users are shopping through Alexa. For example, Proctor & Gamble could pay for Bounty to be the first brand recommended when a user asks for Alexa to purchase paper towels. Of course, these ads could be ultra-smart given the data Amazon already has about each individual user’s buying history.

The second channel for advertising could come via Alexa Skills. For example, a skill that tells users movie showtimes could suggest buying tickets through Fandango.

Paid search ads via voice could be much more effective than the paid search ads you see on the web, as with Google. On the web, many have grown numb to ad search results and can easily scroll past them to real search results. On a voice platform, it takes far more work to ‘scroll past’ the first result presented. Plus, depending on how Amazon presents paid results, it may be more difficult to decipher paid results from actual results.

Amazon, however, responded to CNBC saying that “the company has no plans to add advertisements to Alexa.” Obviously, this is just a rumor at the moment but it would be far from shocking if ads hit the Alexa platform. An Amazon spokesperson responded to request for comment with the same quote they gave CNBC: “There are no plan to add advertising to Alexa.”

Source: TechCrunch

Why It’s Hot

Regardless of whether this is real news now or not, it’s still interesting to consider and potentially inevitable. Brands are bound to want in on this expanding space — can the Amazons and Google’s of the world hold them back? Should they?

Alexa gets its first celeb voice with Oprah

Welcome to the World of Voice Shopping

Amazon has partnered with “O, the Oprah Magazine,” on a holiday promotion that gives voice-assistant Alexa the voice of Oprah Winfrey when users shop among the iconic celebrity’s “Favorite Things.” Oprah’s voice will recommend a product and share background on why it made her list.

Read more here.

Why It’s Hot

  • Yes, it’s gimmicky – but, It’s an interesting ex anploration and build off existing platform (O, The Oprah Magazine and Amazon have worked together over the past couple of years to co-promote Oprah’s Favorite Things online and on mobile through a dedicated Amazon storefront), and therefore – a great way to test and learn.
  • The UX is not there yet – this won’t be a very efficient way to shop. Not only does it force you to listen to items one-by-one, it’s also difficult to encourage people to shop based on product suggestions and descriptions alone. Most people want to see photos – and sometimes even videos – before making an online purchase.

Google and Walmart Partner With Eye on Amazon

Google and Walmart are testing the notion that an enemy’s enemy is a friend.

The two companies said Google would start offering Walmart products to people who shop on Google Express, the company’s online shopping mall. It’s the first time the world’s biggest retailer has made its products available online in the United States outside of its own website.

The partnership, announced on Wednesday, is a testament to the mutual threat facing both companies from Amazon.com.

But working together does not ensure that they will be any more successful. For most consumers, Amazon remains the primary option for online shopping. No other retailer can match the size of Amazon’s inventory, the efficiency with which it moves shoppers from browsing to buying, or its many home delivery options.

The two companies said the partnership was less about how online shopping is done today, but where it is going in the future. They said that they foresaw Walmart customers reordering items they purchased in the past by speaking to Google Home, the company’s voice-controlled speaker and an answer to Amazon’s Echo. The eventual plan is for Walmart customers to also shop using the Google Assistant, the artificially intelligent software assistant found in smartphones running Google’s Android software.

Walmart customers can link their accounts to Google, allowing the technology giant to learn their past shopping behavior to better predict what they want in the future. Google said that because more than 20 percent of searches conducted on smartphones these days are done by voice, it expects voice-based shopping to be not far behind.

“We are trying to help customers shop in ways that they may have never imagined,” said Marc Lore, who is leading Walmart’s efforts to bolster its e-commerce business.

Google is a laggard in e-commerce. Since starting a shopping service in 2013, it has struggled to gather significant momentum. Initially, it offered free same-day delivery before scrapping it. It also tried delivery of groceries before abandoning that, too.

If Amazon is a department store with just about everything inside, then Google Express is a shopping mall populated by different retailers. There are more than 50 retailers on Google Express, including Target and Costco. Inside Google Express, a search for “toothpaste” will bring back options from about a dozen different retailers.

Google said it planned to offer free delivery — as long as shoppers met store purchase minimums — on products purchased on Google Express. Google had charged customers a $95 a year membership for free delivery. Amazon runs a similar program called Amazon Prime, offering free delivery for members who pay $99 a year.

Source: NY Times

Why it’s Hot

Amazon has been considerably powering forward of late — when it comes to partnerships, integrations, and expansions — and one was left wondering where the competition would net out. The future implications about data and voice integration are more interesting than the retail implications today, since Google is king at data integration.

Alexa, tell Seamless I’m hungry

You can now reorder Seamless with Alexa.

From Amazon.com: Reorder meals for delivery or takeout in seconds from all your favorite Seamless restaurants.

This is a hands-free time saver for Seamless customers — and getting started is easy! Just enable the skill, link your Seamless account, and say “Alexa, open Seamless,” or “Alexa, tell Seamless I’m hungry.”

If you’re a first-time user, Alexa will ask for your preferred delivery address and payment type. Just select your preferences to complete setup. You’ll be able to enjoy the convenience of re-ordering your favorite dishes and meals with Alexa anytime.

The skill’s easiest to use — and the most beneficial for you — if you’ve ordered more than three meals with your Seamless.com account and have one or more current credit/debit cards linked to your account. As long as you have an order history, you can use the skill. Of course, it may be more fun for you if you have many past orders.

Source: Seamless.com

Why It’s Hot

We’re on the lookout for real utility this smart home and voice assistant technology. This is pretty lazy — but pretty cool.

Shazam Suddenly Started Forgetting Song Titles to Highlight a Little-known Fact about Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s Research U.K., and agency Innocean Worldwide U.K. brought a horribly human attribute to Shazam—the ability to forget. “The Day Shazam Forgot” was a collaboration in which Shazam appeared to have trouble remembering the songs people asked it to identify. When the app finally “remembered” the track, users were driven to a call to action about Alzheimer’s disease and invited to donate to the cause.

The purpose of the campaign was to tell a younger audience that Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t just concern seniors – it can affect people as young as 40 years old. Over 40,000 people under 65 are living with dementia in the U.K alone.

The campaign ran through the month of April in the U.K and in a mere few hours, the agency reported that The Day Shazam Forgot” yielded 2,018,206 impressions, with 5,096 visitors visiting the Alzheimer’s Research U.K. donation page – and hopefully donated!

Video – can start at :45

Why it’s hot:

  • A partnership with an unexpected application conveys a simple and straightforward message and puts the user in the shoes of someone with Alzheimer’s

Why it’s maybe not hot:

  • I would be interested to see the donation increase, because this could frustrate the user and be the wrong place and time for a donation (if someone is in an environment they are looking for a song… they might not be so willing to whip out their credit card for a donation)



repeat after me…

A Canadian company called Lyrebird has created a way to replicate anyone’s voice using AI. After capturing 60 seconds of anyone talking, the machine can reproduce an individual’s way of speaking. They say they’ve already received thousands of ideas on how people could use this new capability:

Some companies, for example, are interested in letting their users choose to have audio books read in the voice of either famous people or family members. The same is true of medical companies, which could allow people with voice disabilities to train their synthetic voices to sound like themselves, if recorded samples of their speaking voices exist. Another interesting idea is for video game companies to offer the ability for in-game characters to speak with the voice of the human player.


But even bigger, they say their technology will allow people to create a unique voice of their own, with the ability to fully control even the emotion with which it speaks.

Why it’s hot

Besides the fact that it’s another example of life imitating art, we already live in a world where we have quite a bit of control over how we portray ourselves to the world. In the future, could we choose our own voice? Could we have different voices for every situation? How might we ever really be sure we know who we’re speaking to? Does the way someone has chosen to sound change the way we get to know them? And, what if the voices of our friends and family can now be preserved in perpetuity?


Today, To die. Google home can recognize multiple voices

Google Home can now be trained to identify the different voices of people you live with. Today Google announced that its smart speaker can support up to six different accounts on the same device. The addition of multi-user support means that Google Home will now tailor its answers for each person and know which account to pull data from based on their voice. No more hearing someone else’s calendar appointments.

So how does it work? When you connect your account on a Google Home, we ask you to say the phrases “Ok Google” and “Hey Google” two times each. Those phrases are then analyzed by a neural network, which can detect certain characteristics of a person’s voice. From that point on, any time you say “Ok Google” or “Hey Google” to your Google Home, the neural network will compare the sound of your voice to its previous analysis so it can understand if it’s you speaking or not. This comparison takes place only on your device, in a matter of milliseconds.

Why it’s hot?
-Everyone in the family gets a personal assistant.
-Imagine how it might work in a small business / office
-Once it starts recognizing more than six voices, can every department have its own AI assistant?

Bet You Didn’t Know Starbucks Is Teaming Up With Ford and Amazon…

Starbucks announced that it has created a third-party skill for Amazon Alexa, which allows their customers to reorder their favorite drinks and food through the voice recognition technology when you state, “Alexa, order my Starbucks”.

This Alexa skill works through the Starbucks Mobile Order and Pay feature and give customers the benefits of placing an order on the go and pick it up at a nearby location without the hassle of waiting in line.

This summer, Ford will add Alexa to vehicles with its SYNC 3 in-car technology. Ultimately, this will allow drivers/passengers to press a button to ask for directions, sports scores, weather updates and everything else Alexa would normally do or answer. This also means that Ford drivers will be able to place Starbucks orders while they are in their car in a hands free way!

Learn More: http://www.geekwire.com/2017/starbucks-partners-ford-amazon-allow-car-orders-via-alexa/

Why Its Hotstar

Brands are finding new ways for consumers to purchase products, making it more accessible for them. Considering Starbucks doesn’t deliver and customers must drive to their locations to purchase products, this partnership with Ford is such a great opportunity for the brand to capture more sales and mitigate time for costumers waiting in line to place an order.

Alexa voice technology is becoming increasingly popular so it is interesting to learn about how brands will create “skills” within their tool to connect themselves and the consumer through voice.

Alexa can now unlock August Smart Locks

Over the summer, smart lock maker August announced its first integration with Amazon’s smart home assistant Alexa. It was pretty basic – letting users check whether unit was locked or not. Naturally, people wanted to know, for better or worse, when they’d actually be able to unlock their front door with the sound of their voice, for when you’re chopping onions like the lady in the above press photo.

That follow up functionality has arrived – though it brings a key caveat for safety’s sake. In order to actually utilize the feature, users will have to enter a four to 12 digit PIN code each time, in addition to telling the AI, “Alexa, ask August to unlock my door.”

Here’s CEO Jason Johnson on why the feature was added,

Before adding the unlock feature, we needed to be sure we could maintain our standard for security. Now users have the convenience of using Alexa to unlock their door using their voice and a secure voice PIN from anywhere in the home.

The company has added the extra step for obvious security reasons – you likely don’t want passersby unlocking your front door by simply asking nicely. It’s a necessary security addition, perhaps, but one that seems to mitigate the usefulness of the new feature.

Like the older Alexa skill, this one requires the lock be networked to either the August WiFi Bridge or the company’s doorbell camera.

Source: Tech Crunch

Why it’s hot

As a recent loser of my keys, I can appreciate the utility of something like this. What’s interesting is how the intersection of convenience and security will play out — will people be frustrated by extra steps or angry about anything that sacrifices their security? This also a good way to showcase how voice recognition technology will come into our lives in different ways and how the competition of partnerships between Alexa, Google Home, etc. will be fueled.


Mattel’s New Barbie is Listening to Your Kids

Mattel’s new “Hello Barbie” hits store shelves later this year and has more tricks up her sleeve than just saying hello. With the press of a button, Barbie’s embedded microphone turns on and records the voice of the child playing with her. The recordings are then uploaded to a cloud server, where voice detection technology helps the doll make sense of the data. The result? An inquisitive Barbie who remembers your dog’s name and brings up your favorite hobbies in your next chitchat.

Why It’s Hot: 
The overall concept is interesting — a toy that listens and learns your child’s preferences and adapts accordingly … a true demonstration of personalization. The obvious downside is that nobody really knows what is being done with all that data (collected from kids!) and puts a level of accountability on the company. For example, children confide in their toys – so what if a child admits that they get hit by a parent? Should Mattel be on the hook to report it?

Voice Recognition Software Translates Words from Those With Speech Disorders

The Phillips Innovation Fellows Competition invites makers and inventors interested in health and well-being to prove their ideas in the testing ground of crowdfunding, then picks one from those successful to back with prize money intended to accelerate bringing an innovation to market. This year’s winner is Talkitt.

Talkitt is a voice recognition software that translates what people with speech disorders mean and turns it into sounds that voice-to-text applications (and people not used to listening) can understand. It works much like any voice-to-text program, by attuning itself to the peculiarities of an individual’s pronunciation and word choice, but is optimized to understand the sounds made by people with challenges in standard pronunciation.

According to statistics from the National Institutes for Health, approximately 7.5 million people in the United States alone suffer some kind of impediment to using their voices. As technology becomes progressively more voice-driven, people with these disabilities become ever more disenfranchised. Talkitt can reverse this trend by not only connecting those individuals more fully to available tech, but also by helping them connect more fully with the people in their lives.

Voiceitt’s Indiegogo campaign raised over $25,000 dollars during the crowdfunding phase, and received a $60,000 prize plus publicity assistance and mentoring from Phillips executives to bring TalkItt to market.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

Voice recognition and interpretation has been a hot topic in recent weeks and months– from real-time translations (Skype and texting apps) to home entertainment (Xbox) to shopping (The North Face).  So has the topic of using technology to track and improve health. This is an interesting integration of the two and has implications for life improvement.

More Voice Recongition Fun

The Xbox One console as been at the center of bringing voice recognition into every day home entertainment and gaming. And something interesting happened when they advertised the featured in recent commercials staring Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad.

The commercial shows Aaron Paul using the feature by bossing around an Xbox. But according to complaints on social media sites including Twitter, the spot’s audio accidentally—and amusingly—turns on the consoles of viewers who happen to watch it while in the same room as their voice-enabled Xbox Ones and Xbox Kinects.

“I find it funny when people complain about the kinect sucking and not working,” says one reddit commenter. “By watching this video on my phone Aaron Paul turned on my Xbox. Thanks Aaron Paul.”

The phenomenon appears to be a boon for the brand, generating quite a bit of press for an otherwise straightforward celebrity spot, which now has more than 2.6 million YouTube views since being posted June 5.

Souce: AdWeek

Why It’s Hot

The MRM strategy team has been discussing the evolution of voice recognition technology, whether it be for entertainment, smart homes, iPhones, in ads themselves, or even for searching within ecommerce experiences. We saw that Amazon Fire TV is priding itself on superior voice recognition technology with this ad. We have also discussed the imperfections of the current technology — when Siri just doesn’t understand!

This recent “glitch” is another interesting turn on the technology. Voice recognition gone wrong = entertainment and publicity? Sounds good.

SemaConnect electric car charging stations get their own Google Glass app

SemaConnect, which makes electric vehicle charging stations, has launched an application on Google Glass to make it easier for drivers to navigate to the closest charging stations at a nearby Walgreens or Dunkin’ Donuts.

The app leverages augmented reality to make navigation faster and easier, with users able to locate the closest charging stations within a 20-mile radius. Users can also enable turn-by-turn navigation to station locations and initiate a charging session.

When a driver gets to the station, then the user says “Control my car” and the station begins charging the vehicle. If there is a fee applicable, it is automatically billed to the user’s credit card.

8e460896da4263aeec2deecb6ebe0090_f116 semaconnect-big-opt


Why It’s Hot

While the Google Glass is still in its early days, and people are just getting started in getting and using this device and figuring out its capabilities, electric vehicle owners are most likely early adopters anyways.

The big advantage to using the Google Glass is that the user need not take her hands off the wheel or her eyes off the road. And the app is also driven largely by voice commands.

Voice recognition ads: The next wave for online advertising?

Voice recognition-enabled ads are fast becoming a tool of mobile advertisers who want to ramp up response rates that often fall well short of 1 percent. The futuristic promos quietly emerged late last year, as JetBlue and Toys “R” Us began employing them.

Now, National Public Radio (NPR) will start running the ads on its smartphone app, which garners roughly a million monthly listeners. NPR has tested the audio spots during recent weeks and believes the ads have captured the imaginations of its tech-savvy audience.

JetBlue agrees. The airline’s voice-recognition mobile campaigns have “resulted in 50 percent more time spent with the brand than the average rich media experience.”

18509 toy

Source: Adweek

Why It’s Hot:

This trend directly acknowledges that users (especially on mobile) are not necessary looking and touching, as much as listening. However, users may find this interaction awkward and “high ask.”  And advertisers may be hesitant to invest the time and money into this new format. The verdict remains to be seen. According to Forrester: “Mobile listeners’ eyes are not on the screens, and their hands are not on the device. So to create interactivity, you need a mechanism that’s consistent in how they are using the device— and the voice is the right mechanism. But the challenge is that it’s an utterly new behavior to ask listeners to react to. There will be all kinds of uncertainty about what will be on the other side of that interaction.”