Since the dawn of the Internet, programmers have longed for the ability to get all our questions answered on the worldwide web. Search has matured a great deal over the years, making it easier for us to type in a question and receive a response that is usually spot on.
I always think about the “Ask Jeeves” search engine as the personification of that goal. The idea of a digital butler, standing by to answer all of our questions as trivial as they may be, is very appealing. Especially to those of us who will never have a real butler.
And that’s why Steve Wynn’s recent decision to equip all 4,748 rooms in with an Amazon Echo in his opulent Las Vegas hotel is a big deal. The Wynn is an iconic destination (especially popular with broadcasters), and Wynn's idea is to provide a higher level of service via this voice command technology.
If you’ve stayed in a hotel lately, you know that in-room service has generally eroded, or is at best, very spotty. Just calling the front desk, the valet, or the concierge can be frustrating – incessantly ringing phones, voicemail diversions, and other delays that can ruin the hotel experience. And then there's the matter of figuring out all those wall switches, finding electrical outlets, and getting the TV to work properly.
With an Echo in every room, guests regain control of their hotel room environment by just speaking to Alexa, the voice of this device. You can imagine a future Wynn guest calling home from Las Vegas while giving orders to the Echo. (It should make for some interesting questions from perplexed partners, spouses, or children wondering who Alexa is.)
Once these Amazon Echo devices are installed next summer, simple voice commands will handle all Wynn room functions, from lighting to drapery to the TV. Down the road, they will even handle personal assistant functions.
In this very brief video, Wynn extolls the virtue of the Amazon Echo in his over-the-top Vegas style, referring to the device as a butler:
Overall, voice commands have been with us for some time – in our cars, our phones and tablets, and since the advent of the Echo, in our homes. More and more, consumers are becoming more comfortable with this technology. This slide from the Kleiner Perkins “Internet Trends 2016” deck shows the trajectory of voice search, up 7 times just since 2010.
And once those very affordable Amazon Echo and Google Home units make their way from Christmas stockings to coffee tables and kitchen counters, we can expect to see these numbers exponentially grow.
There are implications here for radio, a medium that has watched its place on the home front diminish over the years. Now the ability for consumers to be able to play a radio station with a simple voice command is easy. Of course, these devices will have to be trained, and therein lies the rub.
For Amazon Echo, at least, Alexa will pull up a commercial or public radio station through streams on TuneIn or iHeartRadio – at least for now. How these devices will be programmed is the next hurdle for radio to tackle and consider. Consumers may not be purchasing radios at home any longer, but the acquisition of an Amazon Echo or Google Home could easily change all that. And that spells opportunity for radio to regain a stronger presence in homes, apartment, and condos – especially those in which Millennials are living.
This is another reason why keeping up with technology is so important. We’re planning on making voice command devices a part of our tour in a few weeks when we head to Vegas for CES. Our CEO CES Tour with a group of excited broadcast execs will make the rounds to see the most innovative technology on the planet. Understanding how the implications of voice commands and search will change our world is part of the process of gaining a better grasp on the changing consumer and her media environment.
And we'll be asking about these devices in Techsurvey13 as well. Their implications on radio are obvious.
And perhaps it’s just a matter of time before Alexa is at the center of movie plots, conjuring up the phrase, “The digital butler did it.”
Techsurvey13 is loaded with questions about media and technology – and their impact on broadcast radio. Voice command technology, including the Amazon Echo and Google Home, will be included. Information on how your radio station can participate in TS13 is available here.
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