Voice Interfaces Meetup – Berlin

It’s Wednesday, a sunny evening in Berlin, where better to spend a couple of hours than in a basement full of developers to hear about what’s happening in the world of voice interfaces?

The venue, Factory Berlin, I get the vibe it’s a bit of a Second Home kind of space but with a tech focus. It’s a nice space that appaz holds 2-3 talks every day, mostly coming from the folks based in there. NEAT. This one was free and open to anyone and everyone which I rate. And you could help yourself to beer and a sandwich, SCORE.

First up, @MarkBate from Amazon Alexa, he’s a solutions architect there in the games area. I don’t know if I’m the only one but I hadn’t really been thinking about the gamer potential of Alexa. I’d been more into the making life easier, doing stuff for me approach, but as he said himself they see that “voice is the new controller.” There’s already a bunch of games to play, from Headsup and Jeopardy to a world of interactive adventures. Right now, it’s in the early stages, taking reference from the text adventure games of yesteryear but you can see there’s a lot of fun that could be had. Especially if you’re the first brand to really invest in doing something cool.

There’s also these buttons they’ve made for multiplayer gaming, but they seemed a little gimmic-y from my side. But maybe I’m jumping the gun a little, if we buy accessories for our Playstation why not our Alexa?

One thing I did think was pretty cool, and a bit of a cheat was you can also get game assistants via Alexa. Yes, there’s tools from games like Call of Duty where you can get gaming advice that will help you progress onto the next level. If only this was around when I was 12 playing Tomb Raider.

In terms of making money off it, they haven’t really fleshed it out yet. Especially as people really don’t feel comfortable with paying via their Alexa just yet. (I don’t blame them) But for those who make really popular skills for the AIexa they do have a reward back setup.

Next up was Alexey Vidanov, he’d come to chat Storyline. A place to create skills for your Voice Interface without being a coder. Now a lot of this was way over my head but it sounds pretty damn cool to me.

There’s people from 8 – 70 years old creating stuff on this platform, so if you’ve got a voice assistant and you want to muck about it’s definitely doable.

And… it’s free.

https://medium.com/storyline-blog  (read more about it here)

Last up was Valentin Fage, project manager at a company called @Snips. Now this intrigued me, they’re marketing themselves as the private alternative to Google Home and Alexa.

He opened on smartphones though, on how our devices are always asking us to do stuff, with notifications etc. Going on to say that voice should make this a more natural process, less forced upon interactions. Nice, right?

Then he got into the privacy situation, which is so in right now. Especially with all this GDPR stuff. I keep thinking I’m popular but it’s just my gazillion newsletters begging me to keep receiving them.

So, Alexa, and the like all operate through the cloud. Which we like to think is secure but as we’ve seen in the news isn’t always perfect. It’s hackable. When there’s internet connection and the flow of information has to go back and forth there’s always a risk.

And now there’s Snips. Which he says is the private way to have your voice assistant. He compared it a little to the way when Telegram came along suddenly the predecessors like Whatsapp were happy to offer encryption. So again, I may explain this badly as a non-developer, but from what I gather their idea is load up the device with the AI built in. This way you can have all the knowledge without the internet. Offline AI.

So, in their mind you make the coffee machine the master of all things coffee, and the vacuum the master of vacuuming etc. Makes sense, but of course you can imagine some limitations of the knowledge being pre-built in. It’s all open source and free so worth checking out if it’s your thing.

Other than that, there was some heated Q+A from one developer to the next, which was quite entertaining and then I headed home. SWEET.


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