I am Maarten Lens-FitzGerald, I assemble the Open Voice Newsletter to help us understand, develop and use the emerging domain of conversational agents, voice, and assistants.
Oh hello international travel: I have my first post-covid international speaking gig this weekend in Lisbon at Radiodays
where I’ll talk about the state of the Voice channel and the Dutch Voice Coalition. 8-)
We don’t have one language yet for Voice
Many people (and organizations) have their own views on Voice and speech technologies based on how they encounter and use it. The disparity between these views and uses, the different interests, words even, people have for the domain are limiting the progression towards Voice being a foundational technology for all.
At the event, various semi-government agencies attended who see voice tech as a way to do analysis (police and judiciary services) or translation services (EU). Very much tool-based, (still) strongly rooted in academia and kind of ignoring the consumer or personal use.
The next day I watched Amazon launch
all their new devices like the robot and their 38cm wall-mounted screen ‘speaker’ and supplemental services like the older adult monitoring service. All products for a market that embraces the voice assistant in the home. Maybe even an almost mature market.
Lastly, the same day at the OVON quarterly meeting
, I hear the workgroup members talk about the first version of the Voice Registry System (like DNS for Voice) being in development, figuring out how assistants should work together (interoperability), and discuss the definitions.
Three distinct worlds and languages for something - I believe- is one: Voice. To help bring it all together and work towards one view and language for Voice I propose these three activities for all to embrace.
Events invite ‘out of bubble’ speakers and guests
First, there are the events like Conversational Conference here in the Netherlands and Voice Summit
in the US this December. We need more of those and we all need to attend. To hear the talks, attend the workshops, and moreover, chat in the hallways and at the bars.
But here is the key addition: An effort needs to be made to invite the ‘others’. Not just people from your own bubble. The academia, the platforms, the standards crowd, the commons crowd, the application & marketing crowd, plus the conversation design crowd need to mix.
Proposal: Let’s have a special afternoon at the Voice Summit
where people share what happened at Interspeech 2021
and vote for what the Voice summit crowd thinks was the best paper of Interspeech.
Work on something together
The second is that a shared language needs to be worked on. Or at least something, anything should be created together. For example with the Dutch Data and Marketing Association Voice Taskforce
, we are co-creating an industry map. A visual that describes the voice landscape and provides categories and subcategories for the industry to identify itself. A map a layman understands and that all aforementioned different groups will have a chance to validate and contribute to. That way all will embrace (hopefully).
Let’s do more of that: how about reviewing the OVON Vocabulary
at the Voice Summit this December (@jon and @pete).
Appreciate the differences
This last one is the hardest. The development path of speech technology is a dynamic spiral of technology, applications, integrations, and insights that has many stops. From the basic text analysis to chatbots, smart assistants, IoT integration, IVR, or service operation automation to agent operability. Some see it as a maturation scale. Others look at it through an integral
lens, the key is that these different stops of development are all as valuable as the next one. Or better said, one is not better than the other. Keep that in mind when you meet people who dream about agent interoperability or who made a life’s work from auto translating EU contracts.
We are on a road to have one language for voice and have it become a foundational technology. The three action points are a start to come together. I will follow up on the initiatives proposed here. Will you help or do you have one yourself? Share, promote, ask for help. That’s how we get this off the ground!
Like Elwood said in the Blues Brothers: “There’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses. Joliet Jake: Hit it!”
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