Voice. Six Lessons Beyond the Hype. Lesson 6. Keep it Simple

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A.I. is not smart enough yet to really set up a good conversational interface. Although voice recognition has been almost 100% accurate for some time now, the way humans converse is still hard to automate. Google and Amazon can understand WHAT we say, but struggle to understand WHY we say it. We know this is essential to have a real conversation.

In 2017 we launched Pack Assistant for KLM. We tried very hard to make it fully conversational. We focused on interpreting many answers and also built in options to make sure people did not leave the conversation and could jump in and out of different intents. The result was technically advanced and very forward-thinking piece of conversational voice technology that even got featured at the Google Play House at SXSW 2018 as a case. However, what we see now is that it was too complicated and elaborate for people to really use. That’s why we are now working on simplifying it drastically, to make it far more accessible.

Reality is that people still need to learn what they can expect from a brand on voice. At this moment people use their Google Home mainly to turn on the lights, add things to a shopping list and set timers, with short commands to arrange one thing. There is very little actual conversing going on. And people don’t expect to have a conversation yet. They expect to give short commands and get brief short answers.

In development things can also get complicated quickly. Especially once you start to bring in multiple API’s and run on multiple platforms in multiple languages. The work involved in testing, training and maintaining the services can explode.

These are all arguments to start small, keep it simple and move from there. You don’t really know how the platform will develop in the near future and you can only evaluate how to improve once you’ve got user feedback. The beauty of the platform is that feedback is very direct. If you want to know what people think of your website or app you really have to ask them to tell you. Within the Google Home environment people are already tell you what they expect, whether you like it or not. This can help you to prioritize your design iterations and give focus to improve and expand your service portfolio.

For us, the main goal that remains is to keep learning and to transform ideas into services as soon as possible. It’s the only way to move forward. Ship quickly, learn quickly and take it from there.


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