Google highlighted the Assistant at I/O 2018

At its annual I/O developer conference, Google made several announcements related to its voice assistant, Google Assistant, that aim to spur adoption of the technology. The biggest updates circle around improving natural interactions and adding a visual component.

Google is enabling more natural interactions with the Assistant aimed to bolster usage of the platform with four key additions:

– Google introduced a Continued Conversation feature. Continued Conversation allows Google Assistant users to ask multiple questions in succession without having to repeat the “Hey, Google” wake-up word for each command. This feature, which should be available in the coming weeks, is similar to Amazon Alexa’s Follow-Up Mode.

– Google launched the ability to create custom Routines. Google rolled out Routines in March 2018 to enable users to manage their connected devices with just a single voice command to Google Assistant, but it was limited to only six pre-programmed Routines. Allowing for customization of Google Assistant Routines could make the platform more useful for consumers, and puts it on par with Alexa.

– Google rolled out a Multiple Actions feature. The Multiple Actions feature allows users to make multiple requests in one voice command. Now Google Assistant will be able to listen to a string of commands within 8 seconds of the initial command. The new feature will improve the speed of the Assistant’s responses, as users no longer have to wait for a second, or third, response.

– Google Assistant now supports six new voices. This brings the total number of voices the Assistant supports to eight — previously, Google Assistant let its users pick between just one female and one male voice. The new voices are built with machine learning technology called WaveNet, which is DeepMind’s model for creating natural-sounding speech. WaveNet also powers Google’s Cloud Text-to-Speech platform.

Google Assistant is also becoming visually assistive. Google unveiled a new experience for Google Assistant that brings up visual information as well as new ways to interact with apps such as those for smart home products. When a user makes a Google Assistant voice request, the assistant will provide a more interactive visual, full-screen experience. For instance, when asking Google Assistant to turn down the heat, a display will show up on the phone with a way to adjust the temperature.

The Google Assistant-powered smart speakers with screen displays will launch in July, with partners including Lenovo, LG, Sony, and Harman via JBL. Smart display speakers can perform all the same functions as smart speakers, but they also offer the ability for users to make video calls, watch videos, look at photos, and search the internet, using both their voice and hands. They also serve as a funnel to bring consumers to YouTube, particularly in areas like the kitchen, where a hands-free, voice-controlled screen could be useful for instructional videos, for example.

The latest announcements could be key in helping Google bolster its voice assistant platform. Google’s emphasis on making the overall Google Assistant experience more conversational and visually assertive will likely fuel engagement on the platform.

As Google Assistant becomes more intelligent and allows for a more natural interaction, and developers create better and more useful ways to integrate them with consumers’ lives, the Assistant will cement itself as the primary way consumers interact with their devices.

Advancements in a bevy of industries are helping intelligent digital voice assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa become more sophisticated and useful pieces of technology.

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are allowing them to accurately understand more information, while upgrades to mobile networks are facilitating quick transfers of data to robust clouds, enabling fast response times. In addition, the swell of internet connected devices like smart thermostats and speakers is giving voice assistants more utility in a connected consumer’s life.

However, there are still numerous barriers that need to be overcome before this product platform will see mass adoption, as both technological challenges and societal hurdles persist.

Source: businessinsider.com; 9 May 2018

Devices supporting Google Assistant have more than tripled in last four months

Over 5,000 devices can talk to Google

Google Assistant has had a good few months: Google’s smart assistant is now compatible with more than 5,000 devices, up from the 1,500 it worked with back in January.

According to Google, it’s a list made up of a huge variety of products, including “cameras, dishwashers, doorbells, dryers, lights, plugs, thermostats, security systems, switches, vacuums, washers, fans, locks, sensors, heaters, AC units, air purifiers, refrigerators, and ovens.” It’s a big jump — at least, numerically speaking — and if nothing else, it’s a sign that the full court press that Google started at the beginning of the year with its massive Google Assistant-themed booth at CES is starting to show some results.

Compare that number to Apple’s Homekit, which has just 195 products listed on Apple’s official site of devices that work with the iOS-based smart home system, and it seems like Google is making some serious progress.

But Google still has Amazon to contend with in the smart home assistant space, and it’s still got some catching up to do there: there are currently over 12,000 devices that work with Amazon’s Alexa assistant.

Source: theverge.com; 3 May 2018

Amazon launches Alexa Agency Plan

In a bid to accelerate adoption of Alexa for advertisers and agencies eager to attain first mover advantage in voice search, Amazon has launched a paid platform plan.

Amazon is accelerating adoption of Alexa as a preferred voice search platform.

Launching the Alexa Agency Plan, Amazon is targeting small agencies and consumer-focused SMEs with a set of tools to close the gap between planning and executing.

Supporting search engine optimization, content marketing, and paid-search for Bing and Google, the platform aims to help advertisers and agencies reduce time spent in analysing the validity of a media mix and more time executing on it.

“The research phase in understanding the industry of a prospective client should be cut in half,” said Danish Ayub, CEO of MWM Studioz. “Given what is offered and promised, an Alexa Agency Plan could eliminate the exhaustive time taken during the data collection and analysis phase in understanding competitors and audiences.”

He adds that while most SME’s in the APAC region do not have the required talent to execute digital in-house, most do hold Amazon in high regard and would be more willing to accept the strategy analysis endorsed by the platform.

Advertisers and agencies that use the platform can access intelligence about traffic sources, audience interests, keywords, backlinks, and a comparison tool for digital properties.

Source: campaignasia.com; 19 Apr 2018

Why Google’s claims about audio transcription matter for marketing

Google says it has nearly perfected the ability to transcribe audio into text, which has potential to impact voice search, retail environments and even creative teams.

A deep learning audio-visual model from Google could impact voice-search, retail and creative production.

Announced on the Research Blog, the method can, according to Google, identify audio found in a video by isolating spoken words and distinguishing between language in the foreground and background.

Applied to YouTube, the model could potentially eliminate the need for creators to manually transcribe and caption their content, a common practice for maximising both user enjoyment and search-engine optimisation.

Researchers behind the model believe it will have a range of applications, from speech enhancement and recognition in videos and voice search to videoconferencing and the ability to improve hearing aids.

“In the near term, this will streamline video production—especially valuable in mobile first-video where lesser speaker quality makes clean mixing critical for comprehension,” said Patrick Givens, VP of VaynerSmart at VaynerMedia. “Looking into the future, as we see more consumer attention migrating to audio-first channels this will also ease the burden of audio production.”

Advertisers and agencies scrambling to optimize for voice-based search also see promise.

“The tip of the iceberg in big data is the analysis, while data collection is below the surface,” said Danish Ayub, CEO of MWM Studioz. “Similarly, with voice-search optimization, the part of the work you don’t see is the hours of manpower that go into transcribing the video content to ensure searchability.”

Ayub adds that the technology could eliminate the need for both transcribers and paid software that can convert audio into text.

Nate Shurilla, regional head of innovation at iProspect APAC believes that the model has far-reaching implications for retail.

“Imagine walking into any fast food joint and just announcing what you would like into the air, sitting down, and having your order brought to you, all while dozens of other customers are doing the same and getting their respective orders,” said Shurilla. “That’s a big boost in efficiency.” He added that at the same time, the technology would affect surveillance. “I’ll just leave that one to your imagination,” he said.

Shaad Hamid, head of SEO for Southeast Asia at APD believes that in the short term there will be more use cases for improving live-streaming of events, videoconferencing, hearing-aid devices, virtual assistants and any other application where multiple and simultaneous speech can cause audio quality to be compromised.

“From an advertiser’s perspective, using this technology, we can create videos that target multiple audiences with a single asset, saving time and reducing production costs while speeding up the campaign setup,” he said.

For example, Hamid envisioned a property portal being able to tone down or dial up different audio within the same video depending on what the user is observed to be in the market for.

On the other hand, Hamid offered a word of caution. “Since no one’s really seen or heard how this type of ad will look or sound, its actual effectiveness as a technique for advertisers is anybody’s guess,” he concluded.

Source: campaignasia.com; 19 Apr 2018

Following Google, Adobe ups its voice game

As advertisers look to voice as an integral touchpoint, Adobe has introduced a tool for voice analytics integrated into a marketer’s customer data sets.

A week after Google announced deeper integrations and additional languages to Assistant, Adobe has announced an update that promises to personalise voice interactions.

Enhancements in the Adobe Experience Cloud will let advertisers and agencies plan scenarios in responses to queries directed at Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

“Imagine searching for a flight on an Amazon Echo device and finding the right one at the best price,” writes Kevin Lindsay, director of product marketing at Adobe, in a post. “The travel brand you are engaging with has already connected the dots on the back end, and you can book instantly — followed by a travel confirmation sent directly to your smartphone.”

The enhancement comes from Adobe Sensei, an AI and machine learning framework that will allow advertisers and agencies to leverage machine learning and predictive algorithms to personalise experiences.

“Voice assistants that were previously seen as a somewhat futuristic idea are here today and moving very fast into our lives,” said V.R. Srivatsan, managing director, Adobe Southeast Asia.

With the increasingly attractive price points and growing ecosystem of apps created for voice devices, Srivatsan predicts it won’t be long before voice becomes as ubiquitous as mobile in the Asia Pacific region.

Adobe’s latest Digital intelligence Briefing reported 13,000 APAC respondents across marketing, creative, and IT roles placed the highest importance in creating personalised and relevant experiences in terms of improving overall customer experience.

Source: campaignasia.com; 6 Mar 2018

Google Assistant: More chatty in more languages

The Google Assistant is going global, with more languages and deeper integration opportunities for advertisers and agencies.

Google has announced more languages and deeper integrations for its virtual personal assistant.

By the end of 2018, Google Assistant will be able to understand over 30 languages, including Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Thai. The virtual PA will also support multilingual families, that speak, for instance, English and Urdu in the same household.

The second update pertains to routines and location-based reminders. Users will be able to customize a series of events that are part of their daily routines, such as “pick up the kids” or “collect laundry”, when a particular command is spoken such as “OK Google, I’m home.” Depending on where a user is, reminders will be issued based on location.

Advertisers and agencies have the opportunity to invest in voice-based search optimisation in order to send contextual voice-ads that line up with a routine or help achieve a goal.

The third update will allow advertisers and agencies to build out deeper integrations within Google Assistant, with Alphabet working with manufacturers of non-Android phones. This, Alphabet hopes, will make the Google Assistant more friendly on such devices.

Manufacturers can create integrations for device-specific commands, creating room to work with first-come-first-serve advertisers and agencies that want custom integrations. This opens room for a business such as Nestlé to sponsor the good morning messages and breakfast recommendation a device user hears every day, for example.

Source: campaignasia.com; 5 Mar 2018

Trends for 2018: Marketers will find the best strategy for voice

As voice technology grows in popularity brands will need to ensure any communication they have with consumers hits the right note.

If there is one piece of technology that has captured marketers’ imagination this year it is voice recognition. Amid the rising popularity of voice-controlled devices, including Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, brands have jumped on the voice bandwagon – coming up with their own ‘skills’ (what Amazon calls voice-driven apps on the Alexa platform) and even, in the case of Burger King, using an ad to trigger voice searches on a viewer’s computer.

These are all valid ways of thinking about voice. Voice offers a new and innovative way to reach consumers that technologically advanced brands can take advantage of.

Domino’s Pizza, for example, sees voice as a way to sell more pizza and so has enabled customers to order directly through Alexa using voice. The brand’s digital boss Nick Dutch admits it isn’t seeing huge sales from the channel now but it expects to in future and is “preparing for the fact this technology will be something people use”.

However, perhaps the bigger transformation for brands is in search. Google claims 20% of mobile search queries submitted via its app are already done using voice. Meanwhile, comScore estimates 30% of searches will be done without a screen by 2020.

That will have a big impact on search results and therefore SEO strategy. Instead of consumers seeing a long list of results and being able to pick the most suitable one, most voice results will probably serve up just one answer.

The types of search queries are different too. When typing, people generally input queries such as ‘weather’ but in voice they might ask ‘do I need an umbrella today?’. That offers more context and therefore more chance for brands to show up relevant content, but that requires a change of approach.

Source: marketingweek.com; 11 Dec 2017

What Makes Consumers More Willing to Hear Ads on Their Voice Assistants?

They want control

The surge of voice assistant usage in the US raises a natural—and as yet unanswered—question.

How exactly will ads be served to consumers using such services?

New data from Invoca might provide some insight into the answer.

The call tracking and analytics firm surveyed US voice-enabled speaker owners, asking them what factors would make them willing to listen to ads delivered through their devices.

Three in 10 said they would entertain ads via voice assistants if they were simply asked if they wanted to hear one before it played. In addition, 28% were open to ads if they got to choose the brands doing the advertising.


Personalization was also a strong selling point: One-quarter of respondents were willing to listen to voice assistant ads customized for them.

The traditional search/display landscape certainly stands to be disrupted by voice. eMarketer predicts that the number of voice-enabled digital assistant users in the US will grow from 60.5 million this year to 75.5 million by 2019.

And users of such services are expected to skew young. This year, for example, nearly half of voice-enabled digital assistant users will be millennials, eMarketer estimates.


Invoca’s survey also underscored how much voice assistants have become a part of users’ daily routines. It found that nearly nine in 10 people who had a voice assistant talked to it every day, while one-third said they used it more than five times per day.

One reason for the sudden rise of voice assistants might lie in the fact that they are now often available on smartphones. In fact, a poll of US internet users conducted by Pew Research Centre earlier this year found that 42% of respondents used a virtual assistant on their smartphone—more than any other device, including smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo.

Source: emarketer.com; 26 Dec 2017