Back in February I was invited to participate in an pre-beta release of the Amazon Echo SDK. I was under NDA so I couldn’t share any of my finding here. But now that NDA has expired and I can share some of the integrations I did with this interesting device.
First of all I want to comment on the fact that not any of the OS level voice assistants in the market are quite getting it right when it comes to interacting with third party integrations. Let me explain, neither Google Now nor Siri or Amazon Echo will let you interact with a voice “app” unless you “open” or “start” that app first. For example to start an app in the any of the OSes mentioned above I have to do the following:
“[Ok Google], [Hey Siri], or [Alexa] open [name of application]”…”close” or “exit” [name of application]
Then I can start interacting with that application. This interaction paradigm belongs to a desktop model where you are used to open and close programs. And furthermore these actions are not even part of the mobile experience.
My proposal solution to fix this problem would be for the systems to create an “intent” model where a user could decide what to do with certain defined utterances. For example:
“[Ok Google], [Hey Siri], or [Alexa] do I have any new mail?”
In this case, the user should have the option to decide which will be the default application to handle “mail” through settings or through a first program run.
When you install app for the first time the system should ask:
“Would you like to use this app to handle your voice command for mail?”
Voice as the next user interface
Voice recognition and natural language processing (NLP) algorithms have advanced exponentially. These systems are getting truly ready for primetime. The use cases are only limited by our futuristic view of interacting with our systems with just our voice.
This is where the Amazon Echo shines. The idea of picking up my phone and commanding it with my voice, feels unnatural to me. The Amazon Echo just sits there on my desk and is always ready for my commands. One could argue that Google Now and Siri could do the same but the lack of the rich sound presence and visual cues (RGB ring around the top) of the Echo are enough to have a better experience.
Without further ado, here are two demos of service integration I did with the Echo. I used Temboo libraries for the Facebook, Twitter and Uber integrations. For IMAP mail, iCal, Philips Hue I created my own. All this of course was done in Java.
Internet of Things demo
So would you get an Amazon Echo?