Alexa breaking numbers in the holiday season - Issue #34





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Alexa breaking numbers in the holiday season - Issue #34
By Mari from VoiceFirst Weekly • Issue #34 • View online
I hope you are enjoying/surviving the holiday season with your family and relatives, but the train does not stop, nor do we, so here is what you need to know this week in voice tech.
Wrapping up the year and setting the work goals for our platform in 2019 is part of the activities that are taking up my brain at the moment. Please enjoy this issue, and as always, much ❤️.

The ultimate resource in voice technology.
The ultimate resource in voice technology.
Break numbers for Amazon Echo devices
Amazon announced a record-breaking holiday season for items sold. What stands out for smart speakers and Alexa is outlined below:
Customers seem to be growing more comfortable ordering with Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, with the company saying people used it for shopping three times as much as last year. Amazon’s Alexa was the most popular app in the U.S. on Apple’s App store Wednesday, meaning lots of devices were likely activated on Christmas Day.
Followed by the news on Christmas for European users that Alexa was down, presumably as users unwrapped their Echos. Amazon confirmed the outage, which came up for users later during that day.
“For a short period yesterday morning we had an issue that intermittently impacted some Alexa customers’ ability to interact with the service. The Alexa service is now operating normally,” a spokesperson told us.
Alexa coming as the most popular app on the App Store and Google Play is a big win not be understated by any means. The sign of the voice first revolution.
AnswerLab report on successful smart assistants
I learned about AnswerLab for the first time last July at the Voice Summit during the presentation by Chris Geison, which was one of the most insightful I attended, and that’s a high bar considering there was a lot of good content. According to the report page this is what you should expect:
  • Best practices for designing digital assistants
  • Three key experience dimensions brands need to get right
  • How to balance effectiveness with personality
  • The nuances of designing for anthropomorphism and gender
The full report can be downloaded after entering your name and email in the report page, and I’ll leave you with my main takeaway: brand absence is not a problem, brand mediocrity is (in the context of digital assistants). Is more damaging if the experience brands are providing in conversational channels is mediocre than it’s not to have one at all.
Avoid sonic trash in your voice experiences
Imagine you’ve finished shopping. Then, just as you’re getting ready to leave, the chip reader shrieks at you to remove your credit card. No matter how pleasant the shopping experience was or how nice the checkout person, the last thing you’ll hear before exiting the store is that grating noise—a sound that, statically speaking, affects your subconscious as negatively as nails on a chalkboard. It’s a great example of what we call “sonic trash”: sounds that are unpleasant, emotionally distressing, and degrading to everyday experiences.
This one outlines the importance of sound design through a study of the influence of sound in experiences, per their results:
We found an 86 percent correlation between how sound makes people feel at the subconscious level and their conscious desire to have or avoid that experience in the future.
As more brands are reaching users through smart assistants, in different contexts - home, cars, phones-  leaving users with a pleasurable/memorable experience becomes more important every day. To which the article concludes:
The clear takeaway for brand and product designers is that sound can create or destroy value, depending on how effectively it’s used.
Should we design for anthropomorphism in AI?
In fact, by being human, users will inevitably anthropomorphize one way or another even with no signs of human features in the digital assistant. There’s no point in fighting it.
How do you enculturate a bot? What’s anthropomorphism and why gendered wake words increased the expectation for smart assistants are the questions you might find, as usual, insightful takes in this AnswerLab article.
Quote of the week
We should never imply that the technology is human. Deceit by lying is not only unethical but also a key eroder of trust.
Lin Nie
Did you enjoy this issue?
Mari from VoiceFirst Weekly

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