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Listen 2014 Conference Recap

Podium sign

Find out below 3 great keynotes from Listen 2014

Yesterday, we were happy to host the first ever conference on voice interfaces for the internet of things, Listen 2014. It was an exciting day, bringing together industry leaders in speech technology and IoT to discuss the future of our connected lives. Hosted at the beautiful Bluxome Street Winery in San Francisco, the sold out event was intimate and filled with engaging conversation and thought provoking debate, both on stage and off.

Bluxome Street Winery

Kicking off the conference was our own Hacker in Residence, Jen Dewalt with a talk titled “The Voice Revolution: Why now is the time for voice interfaces.” In her presentation, Jen discussed how voice interfaces are the natural solution for internet of things devices and that getting the voice interface design right was key to the growth of the IoT era.

Jen Dewalt of Wit.ai

Next up was Siri and Viv founder Adam Cheyer with a fascinating talk on the history of Siri. Walking backward in time, Adam discussed the technical history of Siri as well as how the vision of virtual personal assistants evolved over time. He wowed the audience with a video from 1987 on a concept from Apple where predicted a Siri like device 24 years in the future and was only off by 2 weeks. Adam closed with his vision of the future with Viv.

Adam Cheyer, founder of Siri and Viv

In the next session, Adam joined a blockbuster panel including Rob Chambers of Cortana, Vishal Sharma, former VP of Google Now, Ron Croen, founder of Nuance, and Sunil Vemuri, PM of Google Now with moderator Rachel Chalmers of Ignition Partners. The group discussed the future of voice activated personal assistants. The conversation included a vigorous debate over how search fits into personal assistants and whether the final solution would be one all inclusive app or several directed apps with specialized contexts.

The Future of Personal Assistants panelists

Dan Jurafsky followed with a captivating talk on the Language of Food. Dan opened the talk with the history of ketchup and how the language of food can expose historical revisionism. He then moved on to his research on food marketing and potato chips, sharing that every negative word on a potato chip bag add 4 cents to the cost. Dan wrapped it up with a look at the language of menus and speed dating.

Dan Jurafsky speaking about the language of food

After a delicious lunch, Roberto Pieraccini of Jibo took us through the history of speech technology, starting with the earliest speaking machines. He covered the evolution of research in speech recognition and included a clip of the first electronic speaking machine. Roberto’s recreation of HAL 9000 using actual 2001 technology was met with much laughter from the audience.

Roberto Pieraccini of Jibo

In the Developer Case Studies panel, we met three developers who had used voice interfaces in their applications. Daniel Sposito led by showing us DayRev, a personal narrator to help you stay up-to-date on your favorite subjects. Next up was Paul Beck from Hulu to discuss the process of using Cortana to add a voice interface to the Hulu app. Finally, Joel Wetzel, CTO of Affirma showed us his running assistant app MARA. The session provided an interesting perspective on putting voice interfaces into production.

Developer case studies panel

After a quick break, Oren Jacob, CEO of ToyTalk, took the stage with a hilarious presentation on developing voice interfaces for children. He shared clips of children talking to the ToyTalk apps and anecdotes of his research with children to demonstrate the challenges of designing voice applications for kids. He also touched on the regulatory issues around recording children and the challenges they present. His bubbly and passionate style evoked plenty of laughs.

Oren Jacob, CEO of ToyTalk

Oren joined the last panel of the day with Eric Migicovsky, founder of Pebble, Konstantine Othmer, CEO of CloudCar, Chaz Flexman, VP of Strategic Partners at Wink and moderator Derrick Harris of Gigaom to discuss user interfaces and the future of connected devices. The panel was a lively discussion on how we currently engage with voice interfaces like Siri and how they will be integrated into internet of things devices going forward. When Derrick asked the panelists to share what baseball inning the industry of voice interfaces and IoT was in, the panelists shared their cheeky individual spirit, responding:

  • Oren: 3rd inning,
  • Eric: 1st period (hockey),
  • Chaz: 1st quarter (basketball),
  • Konstantine: 1st wave (kiteboarding)
IoT panelists

The closing keynote speaker was Wit.ai founder and CEO Alex Lebrun. He opened with a joke about trying to book Spike Jonze for the closing talk but when finalizing the deal he realized Jonze was a little out of our price range. Alex spoke about his passion for voice interfaces beginning with Cybelle and his vision for the future of voice. Showing pictures from the day, Alex expressed his gratitude to the speakers and attendees for coming together to share their experiences and make Listen 2014 such a great event.

Alex Lebrun, CEO of Wit.ai

We closed the day with a wine and cheese reception where we were able to taste 6 of Bluxome Street wineries delicious wines and enjoy conversation on the day’s events.

Wine reception

We’re working on gathering and editing the videos of the talks and hope to make them available online soon. Stay tuned!

Wit.ai as whole would again like to thank everyone who participated in Listen 2014 and we hope you had a wonderful day. It’s because of you that the event was a success and we love to hear any comments or feedback you may have to make Listen 2015 even better.

Conversation over breakfast
Roberto Pieraccini chatting with attendees
Attendees enjoying breakfast
The Future of Personal Assistants panelists
Ron Croen speaking on the Personal Assistants panel
Audience members laughing
Attendees chatting
Attendees chatting
Attendees chatting
Attendees chatting
Wine bottles

Team Wit



Wit.ai makes it easy for developers to build applications and devices that you can talk or text to. Our vision is to empower developers with an open and extensible natural language platform. We'll use this blog to share news, feature announcements and stories from our community.

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