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🎪 Open Voice Issue #144: Voice, is it about the channel or the technology? Plus 7 useful charts from Voicebot, 4 smart events not to miss, 3 conversation design links, and one newsletter

🎪 Open Voice Issue #144: Voice, is it about the channel or the technology? Plus 7 useful charts from Voicebot, 4 smart events not to miss, 3 conversation design links, and one newsletter
By Maarten • Issue #144 • View online
Hi {{first_name}},
Every week I collect the Voice domain developments into a single list of things you shouldn’t have missed.
Before we start, a question to help ponder:
Is Voice about Voice technology or is it about Voice as a channel?
Many see Voice as an interface, which can be seen as the beginning of a channel view. Academics who study voice technology and are cracking the hard nuts see Voice as a technology.
In researching this I came across a familiar scholar: Marshall McLuhan. By chance Sam (remember him! 8-) sent me a talk of his where he talks about the acoustic world last week. His framing is that of acoustics (which is includes voice) being the original medium to communicate and that of the visual (of which writing is a form). The visual world is ‘just’ a derivative of the acoustic world. Writing doesn’t capture all of that what is to be communicated but is unparalleled in distribution and therefore many times more powerful.
Something to think about.
And on a side note, have you tried Spatial Audio? It’s this new technology where, when you listen using your hearable, the audio has a special spacial experience. You can hear sounds or people behind you, beside you, or even above. It makes the experience more natural if you listen to a podcast using this technology.
A good place to start is High Fidelity by Philip Rosedale (remember Second life?). Here is the podcast where I experienced it for the first time. The first 10 minutes are enough and it’s not about the subject matter unless you care. And remeber, put in your airpods or wear headphones.
Back to: is Voice a technology or a channel? Marshall McLuhan’s famous statement of ‘The medium is the message’ is of use here. It means that the nature of a medium (the channel through which a message is transmitted) is more important than the meaning or content of the message. Maybe the same can be said for Voice technology. The nature of the voice channel (or medium) is more important than the technology enabling it. The nature of the voice channel is where the impact lies.
What does Voice as a channel enable? This is also where the acoustic talk of McLuhan comes into play. What gets added back in when we use voice instead of the (secondary) visual world? Some examples:
It makes the inclusion effects so interesting. Older adults are naturally enabled to use Voice instead of being repulsed by the complexity of use which normaly accompanies a new technology or channel.
Also, the Voice channel is where, during development, it is a requirement to include users in de design process. It is impossible to design conversation systems without users. In other channel development processes, you can still stay away from involving users because a mediocre product will suffice. Or, let’s have no judgment, a straightforward webpage or mobile app is easy to make without user involvement during the design.
Lastly, Voice as a channel shows the ludicrousness of the current privacy policy processes. The policies can’t be read out loud as they are too long let alone that the users will understand them. Voice, as a channel, shows that this makes no sense.
I don’t have all the words yet for the answer of what gets back added in when we move from the visual to the acoustic world. But it helps me see Voice as a channel, a medium even. Where the effects of the medium are more important than the technology of the contents.
Back to the original question: is Voice a channel or technology? It’s a matter of perspective. Are you a researcher or a machine learning specialist? Then it is about the voice technology. Like the mechanic seeing the engine. Not the car. Yet are you a driver? Then you see that car. Not the engine.
Better engines make better cars yet cars get people from A to B. Cars started eating out culture, suburbs, and more (read From Luxury to Necessity for many examples). With any perspective, you need to be clear about what yours is and when to apply it. In this newsletter, we go for the car, the channel, and we honor the technology and the academics.
Ok, that alls for today’s philosophical meanderings! Let’s pick this up at Thursday’s Voicelunch. Anyone know any technology or media philosophers to invite?
Now back to the regular program starting with a selection of events.

🎭 Event not to miss 🎪
VoiceLunchNL this Thursday: Is voice a technology or a channel
Let’s dive deep. Read the above meanderings. Watch McLuhan’s Acoustic world talk or find other material to enrich the dialog.
Let’s get it on this THURSDAY at 12:00-13:00 (Amsterdam time) via Zoom. Join us 15 mins earlier to chat.
🗣 The conversational corner 🙊
🔊 Echo and Siri 🤖
📈 Voice chart bonanza🦾
Everyone in the Voice space uses Bret Kinsella’s charts. To make it easy he started #31daysofcharts on Twitter. Why go there when you can get them here in one row. Thanks Bret.
Bret Kinsella (Mondays on Clubhouse 3pm EST)
Voice Assistants are used more on smartphones than any other device. In the U.S. 144M has used one and nearly 86M are MAUs. Those figures are up 11% and 7% respectively since 2018.

#31DaysofCharts #voiceAI @voicebotai
Bret Kinsella (Mondays on Clubhouse 3pm EST)
Smartphone voice assistant users still rely primarily on pizza phone to interact while 1-in-5 most often accesses via the car and 1-in-10 through earbuds. I expect that last figure to rise in 2021. #31daysofcharts Ep 2 #voiceAI @voicebotai ... follow me for more charts in March.
Bret Kinsella (Mondays on Clubhouse 3pm EST)
In what context are consumers using voice assistants? Driving is #1. That is the focus of Voicebot Live later today (

Next are a lot of multitasking use cases. Hmmm...

#31daysofcharts Ep 3 #voiceAI
@voicebotai ... follow me for more charts in March.
Bret Kinsella (Mondays on Clubhouse 3pm EST)
How often are consumers using voice assistants through various devices? Here we break down the device ownership rate and voice assistant MAUs through those devices. We then overlay it on a standard tech adoption lifecycle. Food for thought.

#31DaysofCharts #voiceAI @voicebotai
Bret Kinsella (Mondays on Clubhouse 3pm EST)
COVID changed many things about daily life. One area was increased smart home device use. At home more. Makes sense. Was accompanied by a big surge in new smart home device purchases.

#31DaysofCharts Ep 5 #voiceAI @voicebotai ... follow me for more charts in March.
Bret Kinsella (Mondays on Clubhouse 3pm EST)
Both the nominal and relative rate of new Alexa skills has been falling for the past two years in most countries. Still some growth, but it has subsided. Why is this happening? Does it matter? Let me know.

#31DaysofCharts Ep 6 #voiceAI @voicebotai
Bret Kinsella (Mondays on Clubhouse 3pm EST)
Smartphone ownership and voice assistant use on smartphones rose significantly between 2018 and 2020. The latter is growing more quickly but just. What do you think about that?

#31DaysofCharts ep 7 #voiceAI @voicebotai
That’s it for this week, I’ll be back next Monday with a new edition of the Open Voice newsletter.
— Maarten Lens-FitzGerald
PS ‘Voice - de spraakrevolutie: inzichten en kansen, will not get a synthic voice version. It’s not fun to listen to. That’s what the suppliers say.
Need help designing and rolling out your Voice Strategy or want to start with an energizing keynote or workshop? Let me know: 0646333308
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