Alexa, can you please take care of my kids?
Dion Almaer

Dion, as you know, I’m a big fan of the Echo. One of my daughters is named Alexis so I had to change the keyword to “Amazon.” It’s interesting to me how this subtle change has made my family think about the Echo as an extension of the Amazon ecosystem rather than a more neutral helper.


Clearly, ambient voice recognition is going to be a big part of our technology future. It has really messed with my brain in terms of figuring out the future of software interfaces when vocal recognition becomes so good that general audiences can state intent reasonably and be understood. Do you need apps in that world? Does the screen need to be big or will we return to small screen mobile devices?

Like you, my kids have used it from day one. Only iOS has been so accessible by the entire household. I love seeing the barriers of computing ripped away by these consumer-grade experiences.


I’ve also been thinking about the role of the recognition platform in all of this. GUI computing was a big leap from text-only interfaces and it has driven most developers to toolkits and platforms that provide pre-built constructs, but the effort required to build a speech recognition and language understanding platform is at least an order of magnitude greater. Will a high-qualify free and open platform emerge, or will the future be locked into Nuance, Google, Amazon, and others?


Regardless of how the platform shakes out, the Echo is just a small taste of what is coming. I can’t wait for more eccentric, more understanding, and more capable successors in the coming year or two. Combine that with the burgeoning field of robotics, and we can finally have those intelligent robotic agents in our homes we’ve been dreaming about as a society for the past 200 years or so.

How long before a real mechanical Turk comes onto the scene I wonder? And will that force a rename of Amazon’s crowd-sourcing platform? ;-)