RECAP: VOICE Summit 2019

RECAP: VOICE Summit 2019

Voice technology has been on the horizon for decades, and it’s really starting to come into its own.

By: Brian Wallace

What was once a recording on Sci-Fi television shows meant to forecast the future is in our homes controlling our thermostats, doorbells, ovens, and more. With one simple command we can call our parents or turn on the lights in another room. While Alexa, the industry leader in voice technology, started out with just ten skills, now there are more than 90,000 skills, and those skills will soon be woven together to create super skills. All of this and more were the topics of discussion at the Voice Summit 2019 last week in New York City, sponsored by Amazon Alexa.

“VOICE Summit 2019 was an eye-opening experience that not only showed how far voice-tech has come, but also its unlimited potential,” said Mostafa Razzak. CEO, JMRConnect. “For businesses that want to maintain — or obtain a competitive advantage through technology, VOICE Summit exhibitors, speakers and sponsors showed myriad use-cases for every industry. From retail, banking and healthcare to small business, hospitality and automotive, voice technology is the future of how we communicate with machines, data and each other.”

David Isbitski, Chief Technical Evangelist for Amazon’s Alexa and Echo, gave the Keynote address. Isbitski teaches courses on voice design, natural language, and how they apply to mobile apps and the cloud.

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Perhaps the most interesting thing Isbitski had to say about voice technology was that Voice is special because it’s something that, as part of the sandwich generation, he can use to talk both to his parents and to his kids and everyone is comfortable with it. It’s an exciting area of technology mainly because we, as humans, respond so much better to something that we can relate to on a more primal level as opposed to a computer-synthesized voice or other computer input that can range from frustrating to scary.

(L-R: Chris Motroni, Cole Wellman, Alan Smith, Scot Westwater, Susan Westwater, Brian Wallace, Collin Borns, Matthew “Zeke” Hughes)
(L-R: Chris Motroni, Cole Wellman, Alan Smith, Scot Westwater, Susan Westwater, Brian Wallace, Collin Borns, Matthew “Zeke” Hughes)

“VOICE Summit 2019 was was an eye-opening experience that not only showed how far voice-tech has come, but also its unlimited potential,” said Mostafa Razzak. CEO, JMRConnect. “For businesses that want to maintain — or obtain a competitive advantage through technology, VOICE Summit exhibitors, speakers and sponsors showed myriad use-cases for every industry. From retail, banking and healthcare to small business, hospitality and automotive, voice technology is the future of how we communicate with machines, data and each other.”

David Isbitski, Chief Technical Evangelist for Amazon’s Alexa and Echo, gave the Keynote address. Isbitski teaches courses on voice design, natural language, and how they apply to mobile apps and the cloud. Perhaps the most interesting thing Isbitski had to say about voice technology was that Voice is special because it’s something that, as part of the sandwich generation, he can use to talk both to his parents and to his kids and everyone is comfortable with it. It’s an exciting area of technology mainly because we, as humans, respond so much better to something that we can relate to on a more primal level as opposed to a computer-synthesized voice or other computer input that can range from frustrating to scary.

It’s also interesting to note that those 90,000 Alexa skills, each of which had to be painstakingly designed and built, have now become somewhat of a toolbox to create the next generation of skills. These skills can be stacked to create entirely new skills. For example, your voice device could start to detect when you sound sick and tell your loved ones to call you to check on you. It’s not even that far into the future that we will see this type of thing — these are the next generation of skills that are being developed now.

Susan Westwater, CEO of Pragmatic Digital and Scot Westwater, Co-Founder of Pragmatic Digital spoke to a packed house about strategies and purposes for voice apps. Voice technology is being adopted at a rapid rate, but many companies don’t know where it should fit into their strategy. This seminar was an exercise in determining best use cases for this emerging technology, of which there are many for almost any industry.

Grit Daily’s own co-Founder Jordan French took part in a panel about developing communications strategies along with Amy Summers, President of Pitch Publicity, Nara Kasbergen, Senior Software Engineer for NPR, and Matt Quinn, VP of Software Development for Audible. French also hosted the Voice Speakers’ Dinner, which included Tom Wisniewski of Newark Venture Partners, Emil Protalinski, VentureBeat Managing Editor, Bonnie Halper, Founding Editor at AlleyWatch, Susan Westwater of Women in Voice, and me, where we talked about living side-by-side with the technology of tomorrow in a relationships-first setting.

One of the most unexpected things I learned about during the Voice Summit was how podcasting and Voice intersect, namely in the underused and undervalued world of flash briefings. Terri Fisher, MD of Voice First Health pointed out that for every 65 podcasts there is one flash briefing, which leaves a tremendous opportunity to leverage this space to make your podcast more visible. These are searchable on Amazon and it only takes a few short steps to create:

  • Decide on a topic
  • Give it a title with a short description, a long description, and keywords 
  • Flash briefing takes about 24 hours to approve
  • You’ve just created a voice marketing funnel!

There was a lot of food for thought at the Voice Summit 2019 and I’m looking forward to learning even more next year. The possibilities for this space are truly inspiring.

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About VOICE Summit 2020

VOICE is a multi-day summit at the forefront of natural language processing, sponsored by Amazon Alexa and hosted by Modev. The 2020 Summit will be held in Washington, DC on October 5-8, 2020, and serve as a gathering place for more than 5000 developers, designers, C-level executives, leading brands and agencies who are reimagining how we interact with technology through voice. The program will consist of keynotes, breakout sessions, workshops and an Awards dinner recognizing the best in voice applications across 12 different categories. https://www.voicesummit.ai/

About Modev:
Modev was founded by Pete Erickson in 2008 on the simple belief that human connection is vital in the era of digital transformation. Today, Modev leverages exponential technologies and methods to build communities at scale, manage transformation strategies and produce market/leading events such as VOICE Summit, sponsored by Amazon Alexa, and Spinnaker Summit, sponsored by Netflix. Modev also curates specialty communities such as Voicehacks, Machinery.ai and Security by Design. Modev staff, better known as "Modevators," include more than 45 community building and transformation experts from around the world.

VOICE Summit 2020
1616 Anderson Rd
Washington, DC 22102, US