I met Brian Roemmele over Twitter, where most great relationships start, and one thing became super clear: Brian was passionate about voice and the next generation of human interfaces. Brian has been thinking about voice since 1982, completing a manifesto of his thoughts and visions of voice shortly thereafter, and has now had nearly 400 open office hours to advise companies building voice experiences.
Between us friends, Brian and I chatted about the history of voice, what Brian is most passionate about and where he sees conversational interfaces evolving.
Voice is still at its infancy
Although voice technology has been around for over 50 years, we still have a long way to go. According to Brian, we’re at the Q and A stage, with many companies racing to create truly conversational interfaces.
"We spent the last 50 years trying to speak like a computer, when that was far from where we needed to be. The next generation of interfaces requires a focus on how humans interact, understanding basic human emotions, and psychology. If we don’t have voice experience based on Myers Briggs personality tests and listening to tonality and how someone puts together word choices, then we have a long way to go."
Brian’s approach to voice interfaces is super interesting to listen to, because he’s so passionate about where humans have fallen off according to what lies in their potential as a species. As hunters and gathers, tinkerers and discoverers, every man-made creation up until the mid 1900s has progressed our species. We did things that brought us closer to nature, and connected us with the world around us. But over the last few years, technology has removed our ability to leverage that sensory world, focusing on smartphones and TVs and and computers to teach us how to talk to machines. The opportunity, he says, is to get back to our roots.
Voice technology naysayers can learn from Apple
In the evolution of voice technologies, Brian says that companies can learn a thing or two from Apple.
"Voice is in the same place as IBM telling Apple that there was no way we could have a personal computer. It took a merchant to do it, someone who sees the world differently. But if you look at every major change in history, it stems from someone who wants to sell you something.”
Jeff Bezos falls into this category according to Roemmele. As an interface for early Kindle users, voice was actually going to be a text to speech dictation service for Amazon customers. Then, Bezos realized its full potential and today, there are nearly 30 million Amazon-powered voice devices in circulation. After Siri, Amazon got the world to be comfortable using their voice to talk to a machine, to an interface. As we work on that future, it's going to take many more like these merchants to truly change how we use voice interfaces to interact with the world around us.
Where are we heading?
Brian talked about apple pie to describe the metaphor in which our future world can be translated, so I’ll do my best to relay the message. I can give you the smell of apple pie without giving you the picture or word. It’ll excite your memory, bring you back to the time, place, the table it was on. You don’t lose memories. Voice interfaces and the brain will demand to be connected, just like how you connect with something nostaglic. And a big part of that? Voice needs to be bigger than Alexa.
Ok, Ryan, that was weird but tell me this: is Alexa the future of voice? No.
"Skills are dead ends. What Amazon has created will in fact uncreate them. The relationship a consumer has with a brand is with a brand. The only reason a middle person exists is because the brand didn’t build it themself. But the future of voice is a human relationship with a brand."
The future is the connection between brands and human interfaces, and I can’t wait to see how that plays out.
If you’re interested in learning more about Voysis Commerce and scheduling a demo, you can do so here.