Voice assistants need context tone

Lee Mallon
Apr 19, 2018 · 2 min read

As voice assistants gather more applications and abilities we have to ask what is next for these platforms, how do they become our truly personal assistants, being used throughout our daily lives. Google has voice identification to protect it verbalising personal information to unauthorised people.

Photo by Jamie Templeton on Unsplash

Amazon’s Alexa extended their speech synthesising language giving developers the ability to increase voice speed, whisper, add emphases to a word or sentence.

All these features move towards our assistants becoming more human in their interactions, Alexa recently added an interesting new and slightly hidden feature called Brief Mode, this feature enables Alexa to be less chatty in responding. Dimming the lights, Alexa will no longer reply “ok” but respond with a chime sound, this new feature is a sign Amazon is starting to see user comfort with commands and the platform. As the platform learns, will it start to understand that I like the more verbose answers when it comes to weather but just give me the number of minutes left for my timers.

As we become more comfortable with commands and features such as brief mode, our attention commitment reduces and the less words we say and the less Alexa hears and can infer. This raises the important the context of those words and why context tone (made up name) is the next important thing in voice.

Photo by Dominik Scythe on Unsplash

What is context tone?

When you communicate with other people, you do so with different tones, to express urgency, importance and emotion.

Currently, if we ask our voice devices to play a song or ask for disaster information, we would get responses such as:

“Playing XX song from Spotify.”


“There are extremely high winds today, you may die, be careful driving.”

These two responses have dramatically different outcomes and follow up actions, and this is where context tone will come into play giving the user the sense of important of the information being delivered.

Adding context tone should be done conscientiously, as voice interfaces are accessible to the many, we need to be sure that adding a context tone does not cause a negative reaction or put a user into an undesirable state of distress but aids them in solving the problem or issue they have to had.

Apologises for the bad audio, but hopefully you get the idea

What context tones would you make ?

Made For Voice

Is voice the next UI?

Lee Mallon

Written by

Just trying to figure it all out... Apart of @rarelyhq

Made For Voice

Is voice the next UI?