Science & Technology

Will Your Business Adapt to Voice-Activated Artificial Intelligence?

Voice-activated technology – think Amazon’s Alexa, for example – is a new digital frontier many people seek to understand.

While evolving iterations of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press have served humanity for more than 500 years, new voice-activated technology – the ability for humans to speak to computers and request information and/or tasks to be performed – is unfolding in a new era, and many people assert that it might be the next “big disrupter.”

A bevy of some 2,400 people are now flocking to the VOICE summit, held over the next three days at New Jersey Institute of Technology’s (NJIT’s) Newark campus. The event is billed as “the nation’s largest multi-day conference for the world’s top platform providers, brands, agencies, investors, startups and developers to explore the cutting edge of the voice-first era and how voice-activated artificial intelligence is revolutionizing the way we interact with devices, services, and consumer products.”

More than 125 speakers are converging at NJIT, and the event arguably and perhaps simultaneously marks a rising ascension for Newark, which has experienced ongoing construction projects, public/private partnerships and overall investment, for some time. VOICE founder Pete Erickson welcomed this morning’s audience by noting that the other cities considered for the event had been New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.

He said, “And when Newark responded to our RFP (Request for Proposal), it was unlike anything we had ever seen before.”

Erickson said that artificial intelligence is entering “the everyday lexicon,” but he added that, in effect, humans have a unique capacity for empathy and intuition.  He explained, “As technology starts to advance, those things … become more important … [For example, humans meeting] together is actually going to become more important … the value of you being here [at the conference] is actually growing, as technology advances.”

The Realities of Speech

Having computers understand language is a complex endeavor, as David Isbitski, whose official title is “Chief Alexa Evangelist” at Amazon, showcased, in part, during his wide-ranging discussion about such technology.  He also mentioned developers, digital marketers, brands, and podcasters, saying, “I am seeing all of you in one place [at this conference]. And you know something is disruptive, and is that big, when you have all of those conversations, and it breaks down all of those barriers.”

While the ability for computers to discern “eight” from “ate,” for example, and infer context – thereby creating conversations and new paradigms – is profound, from a general business standpoint, NEW JERSEY BUSINESS readers may wish to glean something from Isbitski’s statement: “What I want you to think about, while you are at the conference this week, is what is it to have a conversation with another human being?

“If you are a brand and you spend millions of dollars on your logo, what does it mean when no one sees your logo? When you have a conversation, what does your brand sound like? Do you want Alexa to talk? Do you want to have a spokesperson talk? Do you want to have recorded audio? How do you reach generations that maybe haven’t had technology in the past, and we haven’t targeted, right? And how do you reach generations that can’t read or write, yet?” (by this Isbitski meant children).

The Event

The event has more than 50 separate sessions over three days, ranging, from “Words Matter: UX Principles in Voice Assistant Conversations” to “Build Alexa Skills Without Coding” and “Alexa Cloud IoT Devices Revolution in Education,” for example.

“VOICE is an exciting event that will bring together the leaders of the rising voice technology ecosystem in one place to exchange ideas and network,” said NJBIA President & CEO Michele N. Siekerka, Esq. “NJBIA is proud to partner with industry leaders like Amazon Alexa on VOICE as part of our ongoing support for initiatives aimed at building strong tech-based innovation ecosystems that create jobs and economic opportunity.”

More coverage of VOICE will appear in NEW JERSEY BUSINESS TODAY over the coming days.

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