Shaun Withers and Milkana Brace at Voice Summit 2019
Shaun and I spent last week in New Jersey at the Voice Summit 2019. How refreshing to be surrounded by thousands of people who don’t need an explanation on what a skill is or how it is different from an action or a capsule! There is a voice tribe out there that is just as excited as we are about how the industry is evolving. Being part of that tribe for a few days energized both of us and gave us additional fire to press forward.
In many ways, the event was everything one would expect: the voice platforms (Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung) gave opening keynote presentations (note the glaring absence of Google and Apple), brands and agencies talked about how they’re using voice in creative ways, emerging startups showcased their offerings across dozens of booths and independent voice developers and enthusiasts mingled with them all. A few investors were also in the mix, staying updated on the industry, scouting new investments, or supporting their portfolio companies. Across the board, everyone was approachable, friendly, and open. The industry is young, not part of the mainstream yet and composed of people who see a world that doesn’t quite exist yet - this creates a special bond amongst us.
While several brands (KLM, Mercedes, TD Ameritrade, etc.) talked about recent voice-related launches and the learnings from them, the product announcements by the voice platforms were limited. Samsung referenced its already-public marketplace for capsules. Amazon made one noteworthy product announcement: the Alexa Skill Flow Building (SFB). The development suite is intended to facilitate the design and content creation of narrative skills. It provides functionality that is similarly supported by a plethora of design and content tools but packaged somewhat differently and optimized for quick game skill creation. The always-insightful Editor of Voicebot.ai, Brett Kinsella, quickly started a dialogue on the topic of Amazon’s relationship with ecosystem startups that are operating in the orbit of voice.
With over 5,000 participants, the Summit reflected the increased reach of voice across the ecosystem. We met many attendees from Europe, in addition to participants from across the US. Many players are still sorting out the basics, including the ever-present and burning question of large-scale monetization, whether voice is an interface or a channel, whether the metaphor of an “assistant” is even relevant or helpful. That said, there is little doubt that voice has forever changed how we interact with technology. A recent report by Mangrove Capital projected the voice economy to become a trillion-dollar market by 2025, which further added to the overall optimism at the event.
Events are all about meeting people. Programming is typically secondary. Over the past few days, Shaun and I met with dozens of old friends, acquaintances, and strangers. We enjoyed meeting customers, partners, and potential competitors. Ultimately, we leave New Jersey with a stronger conviction that Jargon is on the right path and we can’t wait to get back to the office and continue executing!
A thank you to @Pete Erickson from Modev for producing the conference, attracting high attendance and enabling serendipitous conversations that will undoubtedly shape how the industry continues to evolve in the upcoming months. We’re already looking forward to Voice 2020!
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