The Voice Generation 

At dinner after day one of my new role picking up Amazon and voice delivery streams for Mobiquity, our school-age children broke into a random unprompted discussion about Alexa skills for Minecraft. For 10 minutes. This conversation topic was surprising, as we didn’t have a voice device in the house at the time, and we don’t use Siri.

Within a week, the uptake started - first with Echo Plus, then Echo Show, lights, Nest, and home security integration. As novel as it was to talk to Alexa and turn the lights off with my voice, the kids' quick adoption of voice has been the most interesting part, with the following observations:

  • Instant – Without any learning curve, hesitation or preconception, kids run the device like any other without much concern for failure. To me – this is the most illuminating aspect of the tech so far.
  • Listening – Barriers to access iOS or OSX-centric apps (Spotify) has eliminated the kid barriers associated with playing music. The Echo devices have also gone missing and found later, post-dance party, in various bedrooms.
  • Playing – More so than adults, kids tend to randomly discover features, games, facts, and fun things to do with Alexa. Soon this will be the ultimate homework hack for math facts and spelling.
  • Purchasing– We’re keeping this out of view, but inevitably this is going to be the wildcard. Since Alexa doesn’t (without training for up to 10 user voices) distinguish by voice/account owner, practically anyone in the house will have an ability to buy things via voice commands. On top of rogue App Store and Prime Video purchases, this represents a significant upside for the domestic purchasing bandits.

Voice is exactly where mobile applications were 8-9 years ago. We see an initial tsunami of services (in this case >25,000 Alexa skills), some of which provide limited value. But, at the same time, these skills have started to captivate an entire generation of users and developers. Perhaps the voice generation will spend less time hunched over devices and embrace a natural language interaction model for getting things done? If I were under 11 years old and had a voice machine to buy me things, I’d be all over it.

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