Today we live in a world where the signal to noise ratio is unprecedented especially in a media environment that leaves the volume control in the hands of millions of individual publishers and very few editors. What will matter? And what is just a transient meme? My bet is that we are on the precipice of a seismic change in interface.
The keyboard and the alphabet have been the dominant input mode of the past 30- 40 years. If you had designed an input modality from scratch it would be hard to imagine something less fit for purpose. Complex to use, non-adaptive to digit diversity, poorly configured for multi-tasking, tricky in dim light, tiresome to correct and yet we have persisted with text based language input for decades. It’s a design thinker’s nightmare! No longer.
A recent Mindshare report estimated that some 600 million people regularly use voice-activated assistants, like Echo, Google Home devices or on smartphones. In its first year, Amazon shipped as many Alexa products as Apple sold iPhones in its first 12 months. This past Christmas, Amazon’s Echo Dot became the best-selling product on all of Amazon. Google Home and Microsoft are hard on Amazon’s heels. Machine learning that is powering the voice revolution will bring acoustic interface into homes, cars, schools, transport systems, workplace, cyber security, and beyond.
In October, I joined a Techstars Alexa Demo Day in Seattle supported by Amazon and witnessed the near future before me. Botnik Studios, one of the demo participants have married machine learning to human intellect to write everything from jokes to script that included a new episode of Seinfeld! Sensible Objects, another demo participant that I have been a director of since its formation developed six Alexa games that were all powered by voice that brought a new dimension to play and learning. This isn’t the voice activated gobbledygook of old. It’s a different world.
So, as you return from the bloated excess of a well-spent break, how is your acoustic branding strategy looking? Machine learning and AI may well bring us fleets of driverless cards, personal assistants, skilled surgeons and empathetic counsellors. The leading edge of the revolution is quite literally in front of us. The acoustic is in the ascendant. The visual isn’t far behind. The tech titans have placed their bets on the future and the image trumps text. Acoustic and visual navigation will enable the omni-channel world and new mastery will be needed to excel. The future is much closer than you think.