- How can innovations in voice improve people’s lives?
- What considerations must be factored in to make voice applications inclusive?
- How can voice add value?
- Which challenges tend to arise in voice implementations, and what best practices should be in place to meet them?
We owe a big “Thanks!” to digital health strategist Maarten den Braber, who as our guest host curated the amazing lineup of speakers. Another round of applause goes to co-host Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald for delivering fresh perspectives on the latest research and industry developments with his State of Voice report. We were also honored to welcome Ellen Kok, a guest from Open Voice #04. Ellen entertained us with anecdotes about what it’s like to use Google Home as a legally blind person (perfect for checking whether rain is in the forecast: “You don’t want to get soaking wet!”).
The Innovators & Their MissionsMaarten Geraets focuses on health and wellness platforms as Senior Global Product Manager at Philips. He called our attention to the exponential growth of voice: there are roughly 2.5 billion voice assistants out there. He also gave us the scoop on Philips shifting from being a product-based company to a health-tech one. Maarten identified 4 emerging trends relating to healthcare: global resource constraints, aging populations, chronic illness, and digital forms of consumer engagement. He also spoke in great detail about the challenges of implementing voice in the healthcare domain. In setting up a skill to track babyfeeding schedules for Alexa, his team ironed out some tough wrinkles in feasibility, infrastructure, market access, and data privacy. Maarten offered 3 key take-aways: 1. Own the data chain—make sure you have a total ownership of the infrastructure and can manage health data on your own servers; 2. Keep improving—start small, test for your specific target group, and constantly test and optimize for different markets (babyfeeding norms in Germany differ from those in the US, for instance); and 3. Ensure that your data security is up to the highest standards.
Emma Heitbrink is Innovation Designer for Bartiméus, a Dutch organization that empowers visually impaired people to live as they want to. Emma opened her presentation with an unforgettable statistic: 285 million people in the world live with some form of visual impairment. People with reduced or no vision already use canes, guide dogs, and tools like screen readers and audio books. There’s obviously a huge demand for voice aids. Could Google Home be helpful too? This question led Bartiméus to exploratory collaborations with Bol.com, Albert Heijn, and Vodafone. Each project involved visually impaired people in research, prototyping, and testing—they rely on voice, making them bonafide “experts in speech technology.” These experts provided invaluable insights about products and apps, at times preventing mistakes and other times validating functions. What wisdom can Emma impart about voice-first projects? “Try to make your design inclusive—not only for the visually impaired but for everyone,” she said. “Then it will be usable for a lot of people, and you’ll be a step ahead in the design.” Making inclusivity a priority from the very beginning to avoid wasting time and money, she advised. Don’t forget about adding new value, because people will stick with existing tools if they’re convenient or time-saving. And above all: Get to you know your target group—meet them in person and learn from them.
Try to make your design inclusive, then it will be usable for a lot of people, and you’ll be a step ahead in the design.Emma Heitbrink (Bartiméus)
Tony Chang, a New Business associate at M. Ventures, broadened the focus to include biomarkers, or characteristics in the human voice that can correlate with specific health conditions. “If you can measure vocal characteristics like emotion,” Tony said, “you can measure health.” Biomarkers pave the way to early detection—and therefore better patient outcomes— because while the symptoms of a serious condition may not be visible, qualities in a person’s voice can be registered with assistance from machine learning and data. How, exactly? “You analyze the voice as it is, not the words.” He cited a feasibility project with MIT in which 4,000 voice samples were gathered from people in India and the United States. From just 6 seconds of speech, it could be determined whether someone was prone to depression. “The human body provides a lot of proxy data,” Tony pointed out, noting that major companies like Amazon are jumping on the investment bandwagon for digital proxies.
Check out the photos of Open Voice #06, Health & Care.
Happy Anniversary, Open Voice!“Health & Care” closed on a celebratory note, to mark the 1-year anniversary of Open Voice. Our anniversary coincided with the launch of the Google voice assistant for KARWEI, which was made by Mirabeau and gives the do-it-yourself business a leading edge in customer service.
A series of interactive meetups, Open Voice highlights innovations in the voice channel and enables a diverse range of experts to share best practices and learnings. The event series was founded by Maarten Lens-FitzGerald (Nodes), Sam Warnaars (Merkle), and Hayo Rubingh and Marna van Hal (both from Mirabeau, a Cognizant Digital Business.
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