Walled gardens

Open or Walled?

By | Artificial Intelligence, Digital Assistants, Machine Learning, Voice | No Comments

Voice has the promise to be the next disruption, upending massive, established business models and putting search, commerce, messaging, and navigation up for grabs again. But a walled garden mentality could stifle that disruption.

Even over its relatively short history, we see a pattern of behavior on the Internet: some innovator creates a marketplace for consumers, helping to organize information (Yahoo and AOL in their first iterations), commerce (Amazon), a place to keep in touch with our friends (Facebook), and they create huge consumer value in bringing us together, providing us with tools that make it easy to navigate, buy, message, etc. But as the audience grows, there is always a slide away from an open marketplace toward a walled garden, with the marketplace operators initially becoming toll takers and moving toward ever greater control (and monetization) of their users’ experience, and more recently, their data.

Mobile carriers in the US tried to erect walled gardens around their users in the 1.0 version of mobile content — the carriers thought they had captive users and captive vendors, and so created closed platforms that forced their subscribers to buy content from them. Predictably, monopoly providers offered narrow product offerings at high prices and squeezed their vendors so hard that there was no free cash flow for innovation. Mobile content stagnated, as the carriers failed to cultivate fertile ecosystems in which vendors could make money and in which consumers had a growing variety of new and interesting content. When the iPhone came along (thankfully Steve Jobs could wave his magic wand over the guys at AT&T), consumers could finally use their phones to get to the Internet for the content they wanted, and the carriers went back to being dumb pipes.

Will voice platforms become walled gardens?

If you want to enable your users to reach you through Alexa, you have to create a Skill. Then you have to train your users to invoke your Skill using a precise syntax. Likewise Google Assistant. For Siri, your business has to fit into one of the handful of domains that SiriKit recognizes. There’s a reason we refer to them as voice platforms — their owners are in control.

Initially, there are good QA reasons for this, making sure we get a good user experience. But pretty quickly, the walls will become constraints on who can be included in the garden (will Amazon and Facebook play nice together?), and ultimately, what will be the tax that must be paid in order to offer services in the garden. As users, this results in less openness, fewer choices, and constraints on our ability to quickly and easily do what we want to do, which typically includes using different services from all of the different platform providers (does Tencent really think that if you block people from Alipay inside WeChat that users will stop using Alipay?)

The carriers’ experience should be a cautionary tale — walled gardens, with their limited choices and monopolist pricing are bad for consumers; the Internet is a place of unlimited choice, the world of mobile apps is vast and diverse, again allowing for broad consumer choice — this is what we expect, and if our horizons are constrained by a platform’s policies, we’ll abandon it. The carriers fumbled Mobile Content 1.0; their walled gardens never met their promise to become massive businesses, and today they don’t even exist.

Voice interfaces should be our gateway to everything we want to do, whether it’s in Alexa, in our mobile apps, or in our connected cars or homes. So will voice platforms be these open gateways that make our lives easier, or will they be cramped walled gardens that try to make our choices for us, funneling us to a narrow selection of preferred vendors?

Assistant+Q Actions

Aiqudo Q Actions enhances Google Assistant

By | Digital Assistants, News, Voice | No Comments

Google Assistant is popular among Android users.   It is also integrated with Google Home, Google’s smart assistant device for the home. However, Google Assistant has only a a limited set of supported Actions. There are many actions that Assistant currently does not perform optimally for you, even on your phone. Instead of executing the right actions in the relevant app, Assistant offers web search results in many cases:  

  • “Show my boarding pass” (You want to pull up your boarding pass in your airline app when you are in the security line at the airport)
  • “I need a haircut” (You want to check in to your favorite salon)
  • “Who’s at the front door?” (You want to open up the video from your security device app)

We integrated the Q Actions Android app with Google Assistant. Now you can talk to Google Assistant and execute actions instantly in your favorite apps on your mobile device. You can do this on Google Assistant on your phone or in Google Home.

The first step is to open Q Actions with the command – “Talk to Q Actions”

Now you can talk natively to Q Actions voice application, for example:

  • “Play narcos” -> will open the Netflix app and start playing the TV show
  • “I’d like to board” -> will open the United Airlines app and take you right to your boarding pass
  • “Show hotels in Chicago” -> will open the HotelTonight app and show hotel deals in Chicago
  • “Show my photo albums” -> will allow  you to choose between Flickr and Google Photos apps (if you have both apps) and will show your albums

It’s easy and convenient to use Q Actions with Google Assistant. Simply say what you want to do. You don’t need to learn a specific syntax; you can speak naturally. Further, Q personalizes actions based on the apps installed on your device. If you have two apps that are a match you will get an option to choose, using voice. In the future the system will learn your preferences  and execute the best action for you. 

We would love your feedback on your experience with using Q Actions with Google Assistant. We are in the process of adding more features, so stay tuned!