Voice Products: It’s All About Cultural Context

When talking about voice products, it’s important to consider the motivation for using them. In other words, we all own products that feature voice technology in some capacity. For example, virtually all smartphones have a voice assistant (Siri, Cortana, etc.). The question becomes – are you using these features daily or sporadically? Most importantly, do you think that you wouldn’t be able to live without making use of these voice-enabled features?

I bring this up because we’re living in a period in which almost everything we do on a daily basis can potentially involve voice products. That said, there’s a cultural difference between simply having access to a feature and thinking it’s indispensable. Today, voice technology is more accessible than ever before. As product managers, we all need to understand its power and potential for enhancing the user experience. However, it has to hit the mark in a way that aligns with user expectations and cultural norms.

To illustrate this point, I’d like to present a cultural exercise that involves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I’m sure you’re thinking – what does a PB&J have to do with voice products? The connection lies within how you understand a PB&J compared to another person (or in this case, a voice-enabled device). For example, one way to test this out is to role-play with a friend. One person chooses to be the product user – and the other takes the place of the voice-enabled device. Furthermore, this becomes much more entertaining with multiple “users” and “devices” involved in the process.

The exercise is very simple – the user asks the device “how do I make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”

By going through this exercise, a few things will likely occur. First, the explanation that your device gives you will probably be slightly different than your own PB&J process. In other words, the “art” of making a PB&J is something that’s culturally ingrained in us very early on in life. However, when people attempt to articulate something that’s been learned and understood for so long, it can be difficult to provide a simple explanation.

In summary, the challenge facing today’s voice products is not their ability to process words or commands that they receive. Conversely, it’s about organizing the response in a way that makes sense to users based on our cultural expectations. Ultimately, voice products will become indispensable as their content becomes more culturally aligned with how people expect to receive a response.

 

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About the Video:
Speaker: Phillip Hunter

About the host
Steven Abrahams Microsoft, Partnerships for Teams in Education

I believe in our ability as humans to solve problems in creative and simple ways. I’ve had the good fortune to work on and with some of the brightest and most creative teams and people in various roles in product development. These experiences have enriched me personally and I carry them with me to every new challenge. I like big problems that have beautiful and simple solutions. I’ve worked on financial products for people of fixed income, products that bridge humans across the planet in moments of their greatest need to connect as well as tools that disambiguate, equalize and democratize access to data and content. The companies I’ve worked with range from startups to large public companies where chiefly my role has been about unlocking and connecting customer unmet needs to the people engineering and designing the products. I enjoy playing many roles and leverage the tools and resources at hand to bring products to market. I’ve direct experience when and how to deploy artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other advanced cognitive services. My patents cover areas in video and conversational interfaces, platform extensibility, mobile applications, and large scale software. Following to be read by computers, not humans: Interests include: Human rights, feminism. food and farming sustainability, Non-Profits, product management, information retrieval, UX Design, future-of-work, artificial intelligence, machine learning, communications, virtual assistants, digital media, branding.

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