Posts from voice interfaces

Voice Input

Smartphones have had voice input for over a decade now and yet I don’t know that many people who use voice input regularly.

I would guess that maybe 10 to 20% of smartphone users are using voice input regularly. That’s a guess based on absolutely no data other than observing friends, family, and colleagues.

However, in the last week I have started to use voice input a lot more as a result of a friend encouraging me to do it.

Also in the last week, I’ve suggested to my mom that she start using voice input on her phone and I recommended that the Gotham Gal start using voice input to text and email.

So why now?

I don’t think it is because voice input has gotten appreciably better in the last couple of years. I think it is because typing on a phone is annoying and I want to do it less.

What I have observed in the last week using voice input is that the speech-to-text recognition is almost perfect.

But I have yet to figure out how to format things the way I like with voice. For example, I don’t really know how to create new paragraphs or punctuation. I don’t know how to embed links or attach files or photos.

I like to write in a list format. I don’t know how to do that with voice.

So I have a lot to learn about speaking to my phone instead of typing on it. But I think voice input is going to stick for me because I can feel the habit starting to form.

I’m excited to start engaging with my phone in a completely different way and learning new tricks.

And I expect I’ll probably write more blog posts this way.

I wrote this one entirely by speaking to my phone.

#mobile#voice interfaces

USV 2021 and USV Climate

Last fall, USV raised two new venture capital funds from our loyal and supportive investors. We announced the new climate fund on January 8th and I blogged about it here.

While the climate fund is something new and important, we also raised another early stage fund to invest in the same kinds of companies we’ve been investing in at USV for over 15 years. While it is less newsmaking, it is worth talking about.

And so we did that yesterday on the USV blog and I tweeted about it.

So it is more of the same and also something new at USV. We are excited about both.

#voice interfaces

Voice Input - Some Observations

I have an excellent voice assistant on my Android phone. I never use it.

I could be dictating this blog post using the same voice assistant. I don’t do that except when I want to prove that I can.

We have had Alexa and Google Home in our home. We shut them off and sent them away.

But we use the Siri voice assistant on our AppleTV all the time.


Well for one, searching for video content does not have to be exact. Just close enough. So when you say “Allen Iverson crossover Michael Jordan” into your AppleTV remote, even if Siri doesn’t translate that perfectly, YouTube understands it and delivers up one of my favorite basketball moments reliably.

Second, the keypad entry on AppleTV is horrible. I spent some time yesterday setting up apps, entering passwords, etc and it is about the most frustrating experience I’ve had on a computer in a long time.

Siri on the AppleTV is so much better than the alternative and reliably good enough that it has become the way we interact with our AppleTV.

Another example is my car. I have a Jeep and it has this awful smart car UI called UConnect in it. It’s the worst. Except I can say “call Joanne Wilson” while I am driving and it does that pretty reliably. I have called a person we know named Jan Wilson a few times by accident, but that is way better than another kind of a accident in my Jeep.

So while voice imput has not taken hold in our life where text input works reliably and conveniently, it has taken hold where text input is not reliable, convenient, or safe.

What this tells me is the path forward for voice input technology, which has gotten very good, is in applications that are not mainstream yet but can get mainstream by solving the data input problem.

And, in fact, that is what is already happening.

#voice interfaces

Deleting Your Voice Recordings

A few months ago, the Gotham Gal asked me to disconnect the Amazon Alexa and Google Home devices we have in our family room.

I complied with that request.

This is what the two devices look like now:

At some point, I will remove them and either do something else with them or dispose of them.

If anyone in our house is uncomfortable with devices listening to our conversations, I don’t want to subject them to that.

I do plan to go look at our voice recording history and delete anything that seems off limits.

Here is how you do that with Google Home and Amazon Alexa.

This raises a broader question about these voice devices which is whether the value they offer outweighs the creepiness they create in the home.

For us, the answer has been a resounding no, as evidenced by that photograph.

#voice interfaces

Voice Assistants Six+ Years In

We have many voice assistants in our lives.

I have Google Assistant on my phone. It is great.

The Gotham Gal has Siri on her phone. It is OK.

We have Amazon Alexa and Google Home in our apartment.

We have Siri on our AppleTV/Siri Remote.

We can talk to our car.

But the honest truth is we rarely use any of them.

The one we use most is the Siri Remote when using AppleTV because it is by far the best way to control that device.

It is not an issue of the quality of the voice recognition on these services. It is great.

It is a question of the relatively weak utility of the experience relative to alternatives combined with not building the muscle memory to use voice assistants more.

I was walking home from the gym this morning and was wondering if we are typical.

So I just ran this Twitter poll:

Twitter polls only allow for four options so this is far from scientific and also suffers from the bias inherent in my Twitter followership.

But almost 500 replies in, over 60% replied no.

About 20% say they use a voice assistant regularly in their home.

And about 10% say they use a voice assistant on their phone.

I’m happy to learn that we are not in the luddite category when it comes to voice assistants.

More like the mainstream.

But certainly not in the early adopter cohort which is not small.

It does make me wonder how many of those Alexas and Google Homes are sitting around collecting dust.

#voice interfaces

Fun Friday: voice input

I’m writing this entire blog post by speaking into my phone. The only things I’m doing with keyboard input are spacing and punctuation.

It would be fun if we could all try to do this today. If you want to leave a comment try leaving a comment with voice input. If you don’t have any voice input on your computer and you can’t do that feel free to leave a comment the regular way.

But my hope it is we’re all going to have some fun today speaking into our computers and phones and talking to each other the old-fashioned way.

#voice interfaces

A Side By Side Comparison

Yesterday I unboxed a new Google Home device and set it up next to our Amazon Echo in our family room.

I realize I have the Google Home set up backwards. I did it that way because of the power cords.

I’ve been trying the same questions and requests of both of them and will continue to do so over the coming weeks.

So far, I’m liking Google Home a bit better. It handles the basic search-like queries better.

And the jazz playlist I got from Google Home was better than the one I got from Echo.

I am going to dig into third party skills next. I like this suggestion from Chris:

If you have any suggestions for my side by side test, please leave them in the comments. I am particularly interested in third party skills to try out for both devices.

#voice interfaces