In this guest post, Steve Mair, digital creative director at Brisbane-based advertising agency BCM, investigates whether or not Amazon’s voice-activated assistant could make Apple’s Siri redundant.
What does Jon Snow know? What is the meaning of life? Who in their right mind thought Brexit was a good idea? Who’s better looking, Donald Trump or Boris Johnson? Who would win in a fight out of you and Siri?
Can you crack this brief? These and many others are all questions BCM has posed to Alexa – Amazon’s voice-activated assistant that’s housed in Echo, its wireless speaker and voice command device.
Echo is Amazon’s attempt at putting themselves in the driver’s seat when it comes to a command centre for the torrent of internet of things (IoT) devices that will be no doubt flooding into our homes (if they aren’t already) over the next few years.
Although not available in Australia, Amazon has sold over three million Echos in the US. Here at BCM, we couldn’t resist getting our hands on one so we could try Alexa out for ourselves.
Although Echo has an app to assist with enabling features, it is Alexa – the voice-activated assistant hanging off of your every word, eager to please – that is at the heart of the device.
As consumers, we are determined to feed our intensifying need for digital information while still living in the present moment, and we’re demanding new, more natural forms of interaction with technology that fits seamlessly into our day. That means more devices we can talk to, screens we can interact with without touching, and augmented reality experiences that blur the lines between our digital and physical world.
Think interacting with your devices using the type of gesture control from the movie Minority Report (2002) or interfacing through natural conversations like Joaquin Phoenix’s character, Theodore, in the film Her (2013).
In Her, voice activation allowed Samantha – the operating system – to become an integral part of Theodore’s life.
As technology moves us rapidly towards a science fiction future (voice recognition alone has improved by 30 per cent over the last year, more than in the previous 15 years combined), consumers are finding themselves much more comfortable talking to a machine as they begin to understand how much more natural and convenient it is.
We are still a few years away from the level of sophisticated machine learning AI that we saw built into the operating system in Her, but nevertheless, devices like Echo are moving us ever closer to this reality, creating a fascinating opportunity for brands.
Anyway, back to the Echo.
At this point in the article, I would have loved to have shown you a video of the unboxing – I know how the internet goes wild for a good unboxing! However, the shrieks of excitement – similar I would imagine to that of seeing a double rainbow – were too much to bear … from the agency MDs!
The developers were pretty excited too. Boxes were torn open, instructions disregarded and, like a bunch of hungry seagulls after the last chip in the cup, everyone wanted to get their hands on the device.
Out of the box, its plug and play. Alexa just needs to connect to your accounts (Google, Spotify, Fitbit, etc.) and you’re away. One thing to noteis that Echo isn’t in Australia yet, so not all the features function as they should, and more shocking still, Alexa sometimes has trouble understanding the Queen’s English. The highest form of treason!
First up of course, we do the silly school boy thing of asking Alexa ridiculous questions. She does actually know that Jon Snow knows nothing, that the UK has left the EU (shame! Shame!) She won’t, however, back herself in a fight with Siri, or attempt to crack the latest brief of a despairing writer!
Many, many questions, jokes and proclamations of love later, we actually got down to business. As I mentioned earlier, Amazon is pitching Echo against Google, Samsung and Apple (amongst others) in the race to be the home automation hub of choice. So we started to see what sort of things Echo and Alexa could do with minimal work.
We headed over to IFTTT (If This Then That). IFTTT ‘Recipes’ are simple connections between products and apps. There are two types of Recipes: DO Recipes and IF Recipes. Using Echo as the first DO half of the recipe allows us to do everything from sending a text message to a team member, to changing the temperature on my smart thermostat, all using voice commands.
Finding a notoriously difficult-to-find colleague around the office. By asking Alexa to trigger “Where is Steve?” (yes, this is me), IFTTT could send me a text message very politely asking me to return to my desk. The test worked well but was open to some abuse, as I received close to 32 text messages in an hour – spamariffic.
Let Alexa get the party started. Again using IFTTT, we connected Alexa to a Philips Hue wireless lighting kit. By asking Alexa to start the party, she could automagically play a Spotify playlist and switch the lights to change colour in sync with the music! Instant partaaaaay. So hyped!
See if Alexa makes a good assistant director of first impressions (otherwise known as our receptionist). Our human director of first impressions, Angie (one of the best in the business, might I add) has one BIG issue with us all: we never pick up the pen and sign out when leaving the office.
This makes Angie’s blood pressure rise, (I’ve even on the odd occasion witnessed steam coming out of her ears) as she frantically tries to find a creative who’s sipping a double chai latte on skim almond milk with half an organic sugar down at the local coffee shop.
Clearly writing our names on a piece of paper is far too analogue for an agency obsessed with digital.
Here is where Alexa comes in. Again using IFTTT, we created a voice command for staff members. “Alexa, activate Steve out” would update our sign-in/sign-out Google spreadsheet with an automatic entry for myself leaving the building (with the time), and change my status to ‘out’. “Alexa, activate Steve in”, would add an entry with the time that I got back, and change my status back to ‘in’.
No more paper. No more cray cray, steam-blowing director of first impressions.
Really, the opportunities are pretty limitless. We’ve only just scratched the surface. In the future, we would love to develop our virtual receptionist into something more functional, and the good news is we can. Amazon has opened the device to developers through its ASK (Alexa Skills Kit) platform.
Think of a skill as an app for Alexa. Developing skills is where the platform really becomes exciting for brands – brands that can make our life a little easier, that can add value can become even more embedded into our everyday life – brands that don’t require you to sit down at a computer or interact with your anti-social smartphone. Brands that can be summoned with a few simple words.
We are already seeing brands such as Uber, Domino’s, Nest and Philips allowing us to interface with their products using Alexa.
Expect to see more very soon. Oh, and there’s also a creative community of hackers and coders creating their own integrations. Check out my favourite involving Alexa, a garage door and a Tesla.
We’re having a whole lot of fun with Alexa. There are still kinks for Amazon to iron out. The voice recognition is great, but sometimes you need to be too specific with your commands to feel natural, while often outcomes aren’t quite what you expected.
But, as the software develops or learns, we can see how a device like Echo, at the heart of your smart life, could become as indispensable as your internet connection itself. And the potential opportunity for brands on platforms like this in the future, is unlimited.
Lotame has today announced 109 per cent growth in third-party data sales in the APAC region from Q2 2020 to Q3 2020. Across the APAC region, India saw 555 per cent growth, followed by Malaysia at 190 per cent and Taiwan at 178 per cent growth. Subsequently, Australia saw 43 per cent growth and New Zealand […]
The ACCC has released the findings from its inquiry into the digital advertising supply chain, revealing there is a lack of competition and transparency that needs to be addressed. Regarding transparency, the inquiry suggests that pricing is a key concern for the industry. A lack of transparency means advertisers and publishers are unable to make […]
2020 was a boom year for digital content consumption with digitally active Australians engaging with a diverse range of content on platforms, communities, sites and apps across screens, this resulted in an increase to their digital time pent of 19 per cent on the year prior. IAB Australia endorsed Digital Content Planning data, released by […]
Venture capitalist Dr Elaine Stead sued the Australian Financial Review and their columnist Joe Aston for defamatory statements, which included calling her a “feminist cretin”. The Sydney Federal Court has ruled that Dr Stead must receive $280, 000 in aggravated and ordinary damages based on comments Aston made in in 2019. Defamatory remarks were found […]
A new integrated campaign launched this week from Publicis Groupe via The Neighbourhood renews the tradition of genies appearing in Tim Tam ads, with Tim Robards trading roses for Australia’s favourite chocolate biscuits. The new television spot explores the familiar, playful dynamic between genies and their masters, as wishes rarely turn out the way you […]
McCann Sydney has announced the appointment of Lucy Gavan as senior strategist. Gavan joins McCann Sydney, part of independent network, HERO, after five years at brand consultancy, Interbrand, building and reimagining the identities and experiences for many Australian iconic brands, including Telstra, Westpac, Federation Square and Sydney Opera House. Executive strategy director Roshni Hegerman says […]
VCCP has kicked off 2021 by adding Nathan Pashley and Heath Sims to its creative department, and Tilly Treloar to its the strategy department. Pashley and Sims are an established creative team who previously worked together at 72andSunny, creating campaigns for the likes of Tooheys Extra Dry, Byron Bay Brewery, Google Nest, Amaysim, and Kosciuszko […]
Global advertising investment is forecast to grow by 5.8% globally and 5.9% in Australia in 2021, according to the dentsu 2021 Ad Spend Report. The report combines data from 59 markets and anticipates that $US579bn will be spent globally with all regions enjoying growth to offset a fall of 8.8% in 2020. Australia’s forecasted growth […]
QMS Media has appointed former JC Decaux national sales director (independent agencies) David Pullinger to the newly created role of general manager, independent agencies and direct sales. The appointment comes in a bid to further drive growth in what QMS describes as the “significant independent agency and direct sales market”. With more than 20 years’ […]
Stan has today officially announced pricing for its new add- on Sport package in the lead up to the Super Rugby season kicking off. Stan’s add-on Sport package will be available for $10 a month and Stan will be the only place to watch every match. Consumers can enjoy Rugby ad-free, live and on demand […]
Facebook has introduced new safeguards to limit the spread of misinformation around the Holocaust. The new measures, announced on International Holocaust Rememberance Day, will see any Facebook user who searches for terms associated with either the Holocaust or Holocaust denial recieve a message from Facebook encouraging them to connect with credible information about the Holocaust. […]
When it comes to header bidding and wrapper solutions offered by sell-side platforms (SSPs) – it can be a pretty confusing landscape out there. The technology itself is complex, and this is further compounded by a lot myths doing the rounds. Before we start, if you need a quick refresher on the basics – what […]
Droga5 London has launched a new corporate and visual identity for CUPRA, the new high-performance car division of SEAT Group, challenging the conventions of design in the car category. The identity is part of the new brand platform, ‘Another Way’, and provides CUPRA with an unexpected modular visual language that shows both the car and […]
Global creative platform Shutterstock has entered an agreement to purchase TurboSquid, considered the world’s largest 3D marketplace. For more than 20 years, TurboSquid has been a 3D industry leader, offering a unified 3D workflow, and operating a marketplace offering of more than 1 million 3D models, a 2D marketplace derived from 3D objects, and a […]
M&C Saatchi’s webinar series Open House kicked off last night, with an introductory session from Justin Graham, Group CEO AUNZ and Timothy Ng (pictured below), Account Manager. Open House is an initiative that consists of a series of free webinars, as well offering participants the chance to secure a paid internship, aimed at career movers, […]
WPP was today named in the 2021 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI) for the third consecutive year. The Index recognises companies committed to advancing gender equality in the workplace through policy development, representation and transparency. The 2021 GEI is made up of 380 companies from 11 sectors headquartered across 44 countries and regions, all raising the […]
The Australian Road Safety Foundation (ARSF) has teamed up with Spotify and some of Queensland’s leading musicians in a national first that will geotarget drivers within school zones. The Slow Down Songs campaign, which is being piloted in Queensland, will work to keep kids safe within school zones by dramatically slowing down songs and serving […]
Florida’s chief financial officer on Monday (local time) told the International Olympic Committee that Florida would be happy to host the Olympics amid speculation that current host Japan may back out. Jimmy Patronis sent a letter to Thomas Bach, the head of the IOC, as Agence France-Presse reports, “to encourage you to consider relocating the […]