Voice User Interface (VUI) Design is rapidly emerging as a new discipline in the world of user experience due to the rapid adoption of smart speakers and voice assistants. While a lot has been written about key principles of VUI Design, or how designing for voice radically differs from designing for a screen, not much has been written on the actual concepts that VUI designers can manipulate or should think about when crafting a conversational experience. Visual designers play with layers, filters, gradients, etc...But what can VUI designers play with? What does their toolbox look like?
Voice assistants have moved beyond everyday commands and are becoming one of the most engaging platforms for entertainment. Conversational interface-based devices now offer an entirely new medium for entertainment brands to bring stories and characters to life, distribute content through voice, provide searchable news, and activate fans through engaging experiences.
Think about your last great conversation. What made it special? Maybe it was the other person. Or maybe it was the fact that the conversation felt natural and was something you could get lost in? Were you riding the highs and lows of whatever story you were being told, forgetting about everything and everyone else around you? Probably so, and that’s the great part about great conversation. It’s immersive.
The types of conversations you create for a voice application shouldn't be any different. Amazing conversational experiences are not only immersive, they’re also expressive. Through conversational AI, we can now move far beyond basic voice commands and make the shift toward meaningful conversations with voice assistant powered devices.
The adoption of voice assistant technologies like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft Cortana are on the rise. And with Amazon’s recent launch of twelve new Alexa-enabled hardware products, how can brands capitalize on the exciting opportunity to engage with customers through emerging voice technologies everywhere?
Conversational banking is an increasingly popular customer interaction paradigm, a new way to access digital banking services through voice or text-based interfaces powered by Artificial Intelligence. With the rising adoption and convenience of virtual assistants — Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, etc. — it's only natural that the financial technology (fintech) world is looking for ways to expand its omnichannel strategy from mobile banking to voice-enabled digital customer engagement.
Conversational user interfaces (or CUIs) are platforms that mimic a natural human conversation, such as the voice assistant platforms Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, and Google Assistant. Until recently, computers relied on graphical user interfaces (GUIs) that require additional hardware for visuals and input such as a keyboard or touch pad. Today, CUIs provide an opportunity for the user to communicate with the computer through natural language understanding techniques based on advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms.
A common request from voice assistant users is to ask for their favorite station, artist, or song. Others will ask for games like Jeopardy, Akinator, or Rock Paper Scissors. And if you enjoy shows like The Voice and X Factor, then you would have enjoyed the latest iHeartRadio Rising Star Alexa skill that was powered by the PullString Converse voice technology platform and tested for optimal user experience by Pulse Labs.
The incredible adoption of voice activated devices is driving brands to rapidly embark on a journey towards building engaging voice applications. In addition to identifying a voice-first use case to build, brands must also decide which tools and techniques their team should use to achieve this vision. In our evolution over the past seven years of building conversational experiences, we’ve seen it all, and want to share our key learnings and considerations when beginning your journey with voice.
PullString Conversation Cloud’s incredible pace of innovation continues. Today, we are happy to announce our latest release of PullString Converse which enables our customers and partners to monetize Alexa Skills with premium content. In addition, you can create Alexa skills for the Italian and Spanish markets and develop skills with confidence that your work is safe and securely backed up with a new project snapshot functionality.
We are excited to share that Activision’s Destiny 2 Ghost Skill, created by AKQA and powered by PullString, won a Silver Lion Award in the Digital Craft Lions – Innovative Use of Technology category at the 2018 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Since our company was founded in 2011 by former Pixar executives, we have aspired to bring characters to life through computer conversation. With more than seven years of experience in the computer conversation space, predating the introduction of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, we’ve been at the forefront of innovation, building software and domain expertise to deliver incredible voice experiences.
Smart speakers continue to rapidly become more integrated into our daily lives. There are now 50 million+ people globally activated on Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant-enabled devices, and thousands more adding devices to their homes every day. Besides driving user engagement, ensuring security for voice applications is critical for brands, so it is important to understand the key security procedures and privacy policies when choosing a software platform.
Protecting the security and privacy of our customers’ data is a top priority at PullString. Our platform, PullString Converse, provides a visual authoring environment for creating engaging voice applications that can be deployed to popular platforms like Amazon Alexa. As an enterprise-level solution, it’s critical for us to provide a secure product where customers can be confident that their data is stored safely and protected from unauthorized access. We take this responsibility very seriously. This article describes the various ways we achieve this goal.
"Alexa, can you play some jazz music?"
"Hey Siri, set a countdown timer for 90 minutes."
"Ok Google, remind me to take my blood pressure medicine at 2 PM."
Most owners of a smart speaker or voice assistant device probably haven't progressed much beyond playing their favorite radio stations or turning their lights on and off. And the idea of using a voice assistant to set a specific reminder at a specific time is probably something most of us have not done.
When you see what automation services like IFTTT.com can do, and understand how they integrate Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant into their different home automation and smart technologies — HVAC, appliances, entertainment, and security systems including video camera — you realize these voice assistants are capable of so much more.
When organizations new to the voice space ask us how to get started, we typically recommend taking a “crawl, walk, run" approach: start with a delivering a basic Alexa skill in market to learn about the skill creation process as well as what their customers are looking for; then add additional functionality to enhance the experience as more is learned.
This is the third post in our blog series, “the Conversational Marketer,” about the impact voice assistants are having on digital transformation and marketing strategies.
A lot of our customers ask us how they can leverage voice apps (Alexa skills or Google Assistant actions) to improve their customer journeys, or drive efficiency internally with other stakeholders.
Conversational commerce through platforms such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IoT devices has the potential to be one of the most significant transformational technology shifts since the introduction of e-commerce.
This is the second post in our blog series, “the Conversational Marketer,” about the impact voice assistants are having on digital transformation and marketing strategies.
We are starting a blog series, “the Conversational Marketer,” about the impact voice assistants are having on digital transformation and marketing strategies. This is the first post in the series
This blog post is the first in a series of articles that will go into depth about the underlying technology being developed at PullString, Inc. We kick off the series by talking about the Conversation Cloud, the scalable runtime infrastructure that powers all of our customers' voice apps.
Oren Jacob, CEO and co-founder of PullString, will be speaking this Thursday at 11am Pacific about building convincing conversational experiences with the technology around us. This free webinar is designed for people interested in building voice experiences for Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and other voice-first platforms.
There are some exciting new Amazon developer features currently in beta. Keep ahead of the pack by considering how these initiatives could impact future skill designs. Here’s a rundown of what we anticipate 2018 has in store!
Today marks a big step forward in PullString’s efforts to deliver an exceptional platform for computer conversation that lets our customers, and everyone, talk effortlessly with the technology around them.
Nickelodeon is a global entertainment brand whose newest digital experience, The SpongeBob Challenge, is one of the first-ever, kid-directed Alexa skills and aims to follow the company’s mission to make the world a more playful place.
Writing computer conversation is a creative endeavor that combines many skills. At PullString, our aim is to build a platform that supports and enhances those skills, while giving users the benefit of our experience producing and hosting some of the best-in-class bot experiences to date. One of the best examples of where our tools make the biggest difference is in anticipating what a user will say, or the art of authoring intents.
Think about how hard it is to maintain a text or voice assistant. A service like Siri has to respond to a huge number of different inquiries across an ever-expanding list of domains, such as travel, music, scheduling, reminders, texting, photos, search, sports, entertainment, and more. Apple doesn’t publish a complete list of what Siri can respond to, but it’s not hard to imagine that there are many thousands of possible variations of questions that Siri can answer. Now think about the problem of maintaining all of that carefully-crafted behavior, i.e., manually curating and training all those intents, while also trying to add support for new queries. How can you be sure that any new features won’t break existing behavior?
For example, consider a personal assistant that can understand a user saying “I’m feeling great” and responds appropriately to that statement. Then at some later point, someone extends this bot with the ability for users to specify their name in a format like “I’m Joe Bloggs”. That new feature works as intended so it’s deployed to production. But then you get feedback from your users that if they say “I’m feeling great” the assistant responds erroneously with “Hello! I’ll call you Feeling Great from now on.”.
Even for conversational experiences that are not as deep as Siri, the complexity and inherent ambiguity of the human language means that it can be very easy for changes in intent definitions to have unintended consequences on things your bot could respond to earlier. So how can you, as a bot designer or conversational writer, feel confident that as you evolve and improve your intent models over time they don’t break key workflows that your users expect will work? In the software development world, this problem is addressed using a combination of automated and manual testing, and for any nontrivial system automated testing is critical. Similarly, we believe that having automated tests for your conversational flows is critical for maintaining your bots over time.
What would Socrates think about chatbots? Would he suspend his own disbelief and play along with them, or would he constantly try to poke holes in the dialogue limitations? Would he consider chatbots to be impersonal, or would he revel in both their innate logical design combined with human authorship?
PullString is pleased to announce support for Workplace by Facebook, a mobile first communications and collaboration platform for organizations to get more done. We are proud to be a partner that lets conversational UX designers and developers easily publish computer conversations to Workplace with PullString's industry leading conversational IDE that allows deep integration of context, content, and intent.
PullString already the world's best platform for crafting deep, organic conversation. Now, bring your PullString projects to the Workplace platform to allow businesses and teams to engage in a whole new way.
PullString is pleased to announce support for Actions on Google, the platform that lets developers build for the Google Assistant. Conversational UX designers and developers can now easily publish PullString experiences to the Google Assistant on Google Home, combining Google's robust speech recognition technology with PullString's deep integration of context, content, and intent.
An Integrated Development Environment for Building Human-Computer Conversations
Software developers are accustomed to integrated development environments (IDEs)—such as Xcode, Eclipse, or Visual Studio—to develop applications. These tools let you navigate entire software projects visually, support convenient editing of code, manage associated media assets, integrate with build systems, and offer built-in debugging capabilities.
There are also specialized IDEs for certain fields, such as Unity, Unreal, or Blender for game and VR development. At PullString, we think a similar capability is equally important for the evolution of the field of conversational AI: to make it easier to create, debug, and maintain the combination of code and content that’s needed to make conversational agents, or chatbots. In other words, we believe the field needs a Conversational IDE.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen the emergence of several commercial intent engines. These engines convert arbitrary user input into a high-level abstraction or representation of the user’s intention. For example, a user request like “set the temperature to 70 degrees” may be resolved to an action like “thermostat.setTemperature” with a value of “70” and units “F.”
PullString now supports Slack Enterprise Grid, Slack’s new product for the world’s largest and most complex companies
PullString is excited to announce direct support for Slack Apps and Slack Enterprise Grid. Slack Enterprise Grid is a new product that brings the power and utility of Slack to organizations of any size or shape. And starting today, developers can take advantage of the power and flexibility of PullString’s industry-leading IDE for computer conversation knowing it’s Grid-ready from day one.
In this guest post, Zoey Collier, Sr. Developer Marketing Manager, Alexa at Amazon shares more on The Grand Tour skill that was launched alongside the hit Amazon show of the same title.
Artificial intelligence is a heavily overloaded term that means different things to different people. As Benedict Evans notes, AI is often used to describe seemingly magical behavior that we don’t yet understand, but once we do we just call it computation. In recent years, the emerging field of machine learning has become very popular and has demonstrated a lot of promise, with some considering it to be a subset of AI and others considering to be a distinct discipline. For more background on the related topics of AI and machine learning, I recommend watching Frank Chen’s fantastic primer.
How to write convincing bots and computer conversations using fallbacks, interjections, and believability credit
Computer conversation is an entirely new medium for entertainment and commerce.
Thousands of the best and most prominent chatbot writers, developers and messaging platform reps attended one of the first conferences centered on chatbots—Talkabot—hosted by Howdy.ai in Austin, TX in late September.
If you were born 20 years ago, it is very likely that all the memories you have of technology in your lifetime include the Internet. If you were born 15 years ago, your memories probably all include digital music. 10 years ago, social media. 5 years ago, touchscreens. And if you are new to this world today, then I believe that you will grow up in a world where it’s assumed that you can talk to all of the computing devices around you.
Today we’re announcing the general availability of the PullString Platform, giving anyone the ability to create their own text, voice, or graphical computer conversation experiences that can be easily deployed across a range of platforms.
For over half a decade, we've connected characters and audiences through conversation. Our platform has been used to produce Activision’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s promotional chatbot on Facebook Messenger, power the audio conversations of Mattel’s Hello Barbie, and help launch the new season of the Channel 4 series, Humans. Now, we’re excited to make our tools and cloud services available to everyone, allowing you to build the next great conversational experience.