Strategy and Innovation

Google blows the voice race wide open: here's what you need to know...

This week, Google drew massive support from the mobile development community with two game-changing announcements:

  • Google Home will start communicating with your other screens via notifications (Here’s the Verge’s take on this announcement).
  • Google Assistant will be available across devices and allow seamless payments (Again, the Verge’s take).

While Amazon announced a screen added to Echo earlier this month, and made a reference that notifications were coming to the platform, Google’s announcement truly changes the game. Now, the race for complete voice / screen integration is on – what many of us have been calling “Multi-Modal” and others “Blended Experiences”. The key to understanding what is driving these developments is the very nature of the speed of human communication:

~40 words per minute when typing
~130 words per minute when speaking
~250 words per minute when reading

We’re naturally inclined to transmit to our devices with our voices, and receiving information back via the written word and graphics. In our predictions for 2017 blog post, we explained how voice and screen are going to have to start working together.

Google’s announcement is a huge step – unlike the Amazon announcement, it begins to address the issue of these systems working across ecosystems (i.e. Google vs. Apple vs. Amazon). You can now ask your Google Home what movies are playing tonight, see the listings for your nearest theater on your iPhone, and then select seats and buy tickets seamlessly through the app. There are short-term limitations – you have to stay in the Google ecosystem in the sense that you’ll need to use the Google Home app on your iPhone – but there are already ways around this.

Leading brands are currently prototyping approaches that connect Amazon Echo Skills or Google Home Actions with their apps, and even Facebook. These techniques allow users to maintain identity and “state” (e.g. where they are in the purchasing process) across devices and platforms, which is what users want.

2018 will be the year that voice hits the mainstream and the implications will be huge – with massive impacts on how we interact with our devices and our favorite brands, how we search for and find content and products, and how we work.

For a deeper dive, here’s our recent talk at the Landmark CIO Summit in May 2017. And, as always, don’t hesitate to contact us with your ideas for a great multi-modal experience!

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