Voice has become the next platform with Echo/Alexa leading the way, and Google jumping in with Now/Assistant/Home. Here are some of the highlights of the article:
- First, voice is a big deal because voice input now works in a way that it did not until very recently
- Second, the smartphone supply chain means that making a box with microphones, a fast-enough CPU and a wireless chip is much easier
- Third, the major internet platform companies collectively (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, or GAFA) have perhaps 10x the revenue that Wintel had in the 1990s — so there's a lot more money involved
- Fourth, a smartphone is not a neutral platform in the way that the desktop web browser (mostly) was - Apple and Google have control over what is possible on the mobile internet in ways that Microsoft did not over the desktop internet. This makes other companies nervous and want to own a platform as well.
- Despite ML, we have no corresponding way to use data to build all the queries that you want to connect to - all the dialogue boxes or apps or commands that the voice interface will need to answer. (that'd be general AI!)
- Given that you cannot answer any question, there is a second scaling problem - does the user know what they can ask?
- Voice is not necessarily the right UI for some tasks even if we actually did have HAL 9000, and all of these scaling problems were solved.
For most companies, for voice to work really well you need a narrow and predictable domain. You need to know what the user might ask and the user needs to know what they can ask.