Namaste! You can now talk to Google Home in Hindi

Google has announced Hindi language update on Google Assistant for Google Home smart speakers for users in India. Google Home will also be able to respond in Hindi with uniquely Indian contexts.

Earlier this year, Google Assistant was made available in Hindi on smartphones allowing more users in India to take advantage of the Assistant. Last year, Google launched the Assistant in Hindi in Allo as well as made a special version available for Jio feature phones.

To converse with Google Home in Hindi, you’d need to set up Google Assistant to recognize the language on the Google Home app on your phone. Tap the ‘Account’ icon at the lower-right corner, then select ‘Settings’. Upon navigating to the ‘Assistant’ tab, select ‘Add a language’, and set ‘हिंदी (भारत)’ as the first language in the list.

Once set up, you can just say “Ok Google” to start a conversation with the Google Assistant on Google Home and ask a question in Hindi.

Some popular apps that Google Assistant can do in Hindi include Spotify, where users choose artists, songs and albums to listen to, or create playlist for special occasions; Sports app to get information and updates of favourites teams; Reminders where the Assistant prompts users of things-to-do in users’ agenda. Video calls can also be activated through voice command, and voice interaction on selected games.

Source: androidauthority.com; 2 Nov 2018

A new Amazon patent reveals Alexa could become emotionally intelligent

Amazon was issued a patent for new technology last week that would enable Alexa to detect users’ physical, emotional, and behavioural states. The technology would allow Alexa to recognize audible cues, such as a cough or a tone of voice, to identify how a user is feeling, mentally or physically, and provide responses based on that information.

For instance, if Alexa detects a cough or sniffles when a user makes a voice request, the assistant might respond by asking if the user wants to order lozenges. Alexa would also be able to use consumers’ demographic and behavioural information such as age, location, accents, and past search and purchase behaviour to help inform those suggestions.

Alexa’s potential ability to constantly monitor its users and respond in real time would pave the way for brands to interact with consumers in a flexible manner, which could help boost brand awareness and drive voice purchases. Here’s how:

– It could expose consumers to relevant skills that they might not have used otherwise. For instance, if Alexa detects that a user is suffering from anxiety through their tone of voice, the voice assistant could suggest a stress relief skill that the user was unaware of.

– It could enable Alexa to target users with brands’ relevant products and information. Alexa would be able to intuitively surface specific products based on consumers’ physical or emotional states at that exact moment, which could boost voice purchases. And although Amazon doesn’t allow ads on its voice platform yet, the technology enables the potential to run targeted ads and promotions based on users’ emotional and physical states, enabling businesses to reach users when their products or services are most relevant.

Alexa’s capability to detect cues from voice data could result in an improved user experience, if consumers are interested. Alexa’s proactive suggestions would lend to a highly personalized experience by catering to users’ real-time emotional and physical needs.

It would also lead to more natural conversations with Alexa, as the voice assistant can understand and ask relevant follow-up questions, increasing the back-and-forth nature of the voice experience.

However, given the privacy concerns surrounding other big tech companies, like Facebook, many consumers might be uncomfortable with Amazon automatically collecting deeply personal information, which could impact the popularity of this feature if it’s ever rolled out.

Source: businessinsider.com; 17 Oct 2018

For ecommerce brands, the race is on for top spots in voice search

Smart speakers, like Google Home and Amazon Echo, aren’t going away—which means new opportunities for voice search. Brands should act now to stay on top.

Smart speakers, like Google Home or Amazon Echo, aren’t going away, which means either new opportunities or new headaches for ecommerce, depending on how excited you are for voice search.

According to a recent study by Voicebot.ai, 47.3 million Americans, or nearly one in five, now have access to a smart speaker. That’s a lot of people asking voice assistants for directions, recipes, jokes, music and, increasingly, to make purchases. Of those 47 million who own smart speakers, 57% have made a purchase using that speaker.

For brands who rely heavily on ecommerce, voice search is a game changer, and right now, it’s a race to the top of voice search results.

Consumers like voice shopping

Asking Alexa to stock shopping carts is more than just a novelty, it represents a sea change in the way consumers prefer to shop, according to Naji El-Arifi, head of Innovation for Salmon.

“Our own recent research showed 55% of shoppers said they like purchasing through voice-activated devices,” El-Arifi says.

And as more and more consumers become used to simply asking their smart speakers for purchase suggestions, the brands that get on board early are the brands that get recommendations.

For example, last May, Virgin Trains launched a travel industry first with its move to sell train tickets through Alexa in the UK. Users can now simply ask Alexa not just for train times to cities like Edinburgh, but can also buy their tickets without ever opening their laptops or tapping their phones.

Voice shopping means more power for Amazon and Google

However, the move to sell products through voice search also means that early adopters get the sale, since Google and Amazon control which products are recommended. Users typically don’t specify what brand they’re looking for, so instead of asking Alexa for “Virgin Trains tickets,” they’ll simply ask for “train tickets.” That means Amazon will probably recommend products available via Prime, while Google could give preference to products optimized for its algorithms.

With that in mind, some brands are currently exploring partnerships with one or the other. For example, Argos, a UK catalogue retailer, recently announced its partnership with Google Assistant, making it easier for customers to purchase products from its physical catalogue via voice assistant. It’s worth nothing that Argos is owned by supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, which faces direct competition from Amazon Prime Pantry.

“For Argos, this represents another channel through which they hope to stave off strong competition from Amazon as its Amazon Echo device moves into more homes,” El-Arifi says.

Voice-first means being useful

Making the most of voice search is about much more than simply showing up. First and foremost, brands need to provide value, especially since consumers remain ambivalent about their speakers.

According to a recent study by ReportLinker, 31% of consumers list privacy concerns as the main drawback to owning a smart device. But at the same time, 90% of smart speaker owners wish their devices could do more, suggesting that the best way to stave off privacy concerns is to add value.

And for brands hoping to come up at the top of voice search results, the secret to providing that value is changing the ways in which they think about SEO. Unlike traditional SEO, which relies on keywords, voice search is more focused on answering questions. Consumers may type “Free returns hiking gear,” but they’re much more likely to formulate that same information as a question for voice search. Thinking carefully about what questions an ecommerce brand answers, not to mention creating a robust FAQ page, is good way to add value for users frustrated by the fact that their smart devices are listening without comprehending their questions.

Ready or not, change is coming

Right now, voice-first ecommerce is still in its infancy, and the brands testing the waters seem like novelties. However, by 2020, as much as 50% of our searches could be voice based, and the companies that prepare now will have a leg up in a space that’s sure to be crowded.

“As voice and gesture devices become more mainstream, and especially as brain-computer interfacing edges ever closer to reality, retailers and brands need to act early to make a play in the market; voice experiences takes time to develop, require plenty of AI training and trial-and-error before they can be fully functioning,” El-Arifi says.

Brands that fail to act now could soon find themselves scrambling to keep up.

Source: clikz.com; 25 Sep 2018

Most APAC consumers using voice tech now

iProspect says brands must get on board now with one of the industry’s most rapidly developing trends.

Close to two-thirds of Asia-Pacific consumers have used or are using voice technology today, according an in-depth study from iProspect.

Produced in partnership with insights consultancy Idstats, ‘The Future is Voice Activated’ is based on a survey just over 1,800 smartphone owners aged 18 to 50 in six APAC markets: Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore.

Among several other insights, the report found that 62% of those surveyed used voice-activated technology in the last six months, and 56% said their usage had increased in the last six months. Most telling for brands, however, is that 95% of respondents said they intend to continue using voice services in the next 12 months.

“The transformative impact of voice technology is being felt across the globe,” said Joanna Catalano, iProspect APAC CEO. “Brands who aren’t reacting to this burgeoning technology risk becoming invisible sooner than they think across key customer touch points.”

India’s frequency of usage

Of the markets surveyed, India (82% voice adoption) and China (77%) were the clear emergent growth markets. Together with Indonesia, the three countries make up the ‘dynamic’ growth markets, while Australia, Japan and Singapore are classified as ‘conservative’ growth markets.

China’s list of activities voice is used for

Japan has the lowest voice adoption of the countries surveyed, with only 40% usage. The study found that embarrassment, among other things, and slow uptake of devices such as personal assistants are likely key factors for the slow growth.

Japan’s reasons of not using voice

Japan’s technology adoption

Source: campaignasia.com; 24 Aug 2018

Google is gaining major ground on Amazon in the smart speaker market

Since snagging an early lead in the smart speaker market with the Echo product lineup, Amazon has maintained its dominance through the second quarter of this year – but it has less breathing room than ever.

As this chart from Statista shows, Amazon is credited with shipping 41% of the 11.7 million smart speakers distributed worldwide this past quarter, with Google coming in second with 27.6% of shipments. Apple came nowhere close to either of its rivals, with the Cupertino-based giant only shipping off 5.9%.

The big takeaway: Amazon’s competitors are slowly, but surely, gaining traction in the smart speaker race. The company no longer has as big of a lead as it did in Q2 of last year.

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Source: businessinsider.sg; 20 Aug 2018

Voice Control Forces Marketers to Think Differently

Shift focus from promotional messaging to true utility

Consumers are becoming more comfortable using voice assistants, smart speakers and other voice-activated devices for a variety of everyday tasks. Research conducted in the US by PwC in February 2018 found that searching for information, playing music, sending messages and shopping were among the activities conducted by large percentages of voice assistant users.

As this reliance on voice-first communications grows, so too does interest among brands. Companies in all industries are experimenting to figure out how these new communication channels can help them interact with their target audiences and build brand engagement in more personalized and frictionless ways.

Voice, however, is unlike anything that’s come before, which is forcing brands to think differently about how they design their campaigns. Rather than using traditional “push” messaging, they must work harder to make brand interactions useful and valuable—or they risk becoming irrelevant.

The biggest change is that voice-first technology requires marketers to design auditory interactions, without screens or keyboards. “When you do a visual search on a desktop or a mobile phone, you’re presented with multiple choices or answers to your query,” said Allen Nance, CMO at Emarsys. “But when you do voice, you’re pretty much getting whatever answer the device—or the company that owns the device—thinks is the right answer.”

What’s more, it’s not yet possible to buy sponsored ads or keywords to improve the chances of being that one result. Instead, marketers must use trial and error to optimize content and try to organically appear in “position zero” (aka the “featured snippet” or “answer box” in a Google search).

According to Christopher Lundquist, vice president of strategy and consulting at SapientRazorfish, this “changes how marketers can work” and is further complicated by differences in how search engines like Google and Bing process queries, source information and prioritize results.

Voice devices also differ from other channels in that advertising is still very limited, and there are no ad networks or large-scale monetization models to work with. Even as brands clamor for more paid opportunities, voice platform companies—including Amazon and Google—are treading cautiously for fear of alienating users with invasive or inappropriate messaging.

In the absence of advertising, a growing number of brands are experimenting with third-party applications (called “skills” for Amazon Alexa, “actions” for Google Assistant and apps on other platforms). These enable users to do everything from creating grocery lists, finding recipes, and getting beauty tips, to listening to music, scheduling appointments, controlling smart-home devices and meditating.

The most popular of these fit organically into daily routines, save time, and make people’s lives easier or more enjoyable. “Consumers are dying for use cases and utility that make their lives better. These devices aren’t only getting smarter, they’re able to add more value to people’s lives,” said Doug Robinson, CEO of Fresh Digital Group. “It’s now up to brands and marketers to figure out what the utility is. Where are we playing a role? How important can we be in that day-to-day role to where we become a part of the habit and add the value that consumers are looking for?

“From a discovery standpoint, consumers are still trying to figure out what to do with these devices, which offers an amazing opportunity for marketers to guide them to voice applications and provide utility value that they need every day,” Robinson added. “It’s really just a race to see who can take advantage of use cases that drive more consumer engagement with their brand.”

Source: emarketer.com; 25 July 2018

Marketing Beyond the Screen

Using Voice Technology to Boost Brand Engagement

Phrases like “Hey, Siri,” “Hey, Alexa” and “OK, Google” are quickly becoming part of our everyday lexicon. As more consumers become comfortable with digital voice assistants, smart speakers and other voice-first devices, more companies are looking to leverage voice control technology to their advantage.

For marketers, voice-activated hardware and software presents a cornucopia of opportunities to engage target audiences in more personalized and frictionless ways.

– Large global tech companies — including Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft — are driving the market. Their artificial intelligence (AI)–driven platforms for voice control include software (virtual assistants) and hardware (smartphones, smart speakers and other smart devices).

– For most marketers, voice control isn’t a top priority; those experimenting with it are still in the earliest stages. Most projects involve Alexa “skills,” Google “actions” and other apps to encourage engagement.

– Experiments are ongoing in SEO, advertising and promotional messaging, content delivery, customer service and voice commerce. So far, no “killer” applications or monetization models have emerged.

– Agencies and other consultants are beefing up their technical resources and forging technology partnerships to help their clients develop more meaningful voice strategies.

– Best practices are evolving, but brands can take concrete steps to get started now. First and foremost, they must think carefully about how they can add value and utility to users’ lives. Frictionless, compelling and entertaining voice experiences will be key to long-term customer engagement.

Source: emarketer.com; 24 July 2018

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