MWC 2017: Alexa Coming To Motorola Handsets, Will Learn To Distinguish Voices

What Happened
Compared to its near omnipresence at this year’s CES, Alexa may appear to have a smaller presence at the Mobile World Congress, the global smartphone and mobile industry trade show unfolding in Barcelona this week. But that doesn’t mean Amazon’s virtual assistant service is taking a break either. Motorola, now owned by Chinese consumer electronic giant Lenovo, announced at a press conference on Sunday that it has struck a partnership with Amazon to embed Alexa service natively into most of Motorola’s devices in the future. But first, Moto says it will focus on developing an Alexa “Mod,” an attachable block for its Moto Z modular handset.

In related Alexa news, Amazon is reportedly working on a “Voice ID” feature that will enable Alexa to distinguish different voices and recognize which user is talking to it. If realized, this individual voice recognition feature would unleash some great new use cases of Alexa and the Echo devices it supports. For one thing, it should stop your Alexa from responding to her name being called in TV commercials. Moreover, this feature can be used to authenticate different users in a seamless way and therefore solidifying Echo’s position as a family living room device.

What Brands Need To Do
Expanding Alexa into more smartphones and multi-user usage shows Amazon’s determination in pushing its voice-activated assistant and bringing AI-powered interfaces to mainstream consumers. It is becoming more evident than ever that voice-based brand-customer interaction is something that brands have to explore and master.

According to a report from analytics firm VoiceLabs, about 33 million voice-first devices will be in circulation by the end of 2017. Therefore, It is up to brands to start working with developers to figure out their brand voice and incorporate conversational tools into their marketing efforts.

Even brands that won’t embed voice into their own product experiences should still look to capitalize on the opportunity by offering complementary services: recipes, wellness information, and lifestyle content are all popular uses for Alexa, and areas where brands can look to add value.

How We Can Help
The Lab has extensive experience in building Alexa Skills and chatbots to reach consumers on conversational interfaces. So much so that we’ve built a dedicated conversational practice called Dialogue. The “Miller Time” Alexa Skill we developed with Drizly for Miller Lite is a good example of how Dialogue can help brands build a conversational customer experience, supercharged by our stack of technology partners with best-in-class solutions and an insights engine that extracts business intelligence from conversational data.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively reach consumers on conversational interfaces, or to leverage the Lab’s expertise to take on related client opportunities within the IPG Mediabrands, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Holland ([email protected]) to schedule a visit to the Lab.


Source: TechCrunch & The Verge


Competitors Gear Up In Anticipation Of Apple Watch Release

Days before the long-anticipated official release of Apple Watch, several brands are announcing their own major releases all hoping to capitalize on the forthcoming public attention and legitimacy that Apple may bring to the market, including:

Equipped with a new color e-paper screen, a 7-day-long battery life, and a new timeline-based interface, Pebble’s new Time smartwatch has become the most funded project in Kickstarter history in just one week, with a whopping $16 million in pre-orders so far.

One of the highlights of Mobile World Congress has been a well-received minimalist smartwatch from little-known Chinese manufacturer Huawei. Billed as its first play for the western markets yet, the Huawei Watch is backed by Android Wear OS.

Trying to recapture the attention of mobile phone consumers, Motorola announced earlier this week that a new version of its Moto Maker, the consumer-facing customization tool for Moto X, will be soon adapted to offer more personalization options for its smartwatch Moto 360.(Update: the customization site is now live.)

How will the Apple Watch stack up to all these eager competitors? Follow the Lab on Monday as we live tweet the event, followed by end-of-day recaps and implications for brands.

Header image taken from Huawei Watch’s official webpage

Yo For Free Moto Smartwatches

Motorola has teamed up with Yo to launch a giveaway campaign on the minimalist messaging app. Yesterday 20 new Moto 360 smartwatches were given away gratis to the first 20 users who “Yo’ed” Moto’s account and clicked on the hyperlink embedded in the returned Yo. This is not the first time a major brand has experimented with Yo, but it did move beyond mere notifications and properly utilized some of Yo’s new features. As the user size of Yo keeps growing, more brands can be expected to follow their audience and try out this new platform.

Moto 360 Crowdsources Smartwatch Designs

The main criticism levied against smart wearables is the fact that none of it is actually fashionable, meaning that nobody would actually wear it. Motorola wants to solve that problem with its smartwatch, the Moto 360; it’s put out an open commission for designs on its watch, and they’ve now whittled over 1600 submissions down to 10 eye-catching designs that seem poised to break the unfortunate trend of clunky wearable tech. For pictures of the designs, click through to The Verge, above. 

Motorola & LG Announce Android Wear Smartwatches

Fresh off of Google’s announcement that it’s developing an Android smartwatch OS called “Wear,” Motorola and LG have announced new pieces for the operating system. LG’s G Watch, due to arrive next quarter, looks to be a simplistic plastic touch screen much like other devices already available on the market. Motorola’s Moto 360, however, could likely become the creme of the smartwatch crop. With real leather and machined metal, it’s a sleek-looking device that brings the form factor of the smart watch to a level likely deemed more than acceptable by most regular watch owners, who want a device fashionable enough to actually sport on their wrists. Both prominently feature Google’s Android Wear, and represent concrete, physical steps to compliment Google’s earlier announcement to break into the smartwatch space. 

Google Sells Motorola To Lenovo

In a major turnaround, Google is selling Motorola to Lenovo for $2.91 billion, in a mixture of cash and stock. Lenovo plans to use Motorola to gain a major foothold in the American market, an arena that it’s struggling to break into. That said, Lenovo is certainly a company on the rise, having shipped 45 million smartphones in 2013, a 90% year-over-year growth. Google is framing the move as a way to craft a better Android ecosystem for all devices, not just Motorola, while holding on to Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects group. The move seems to take the more ‘basic’ handset business – which has been hemorrhaging money since acquired – and dumps the load on others while Google gets to work with the higher-end patents and technology. For Lenovo, it’s very much in line with its past moves, such as purchasing ThinkPad from IBM in 2005. So while Lenovo gets the handsets, Google gets to keep all the patents and high-tech research. A win-win? We’ll just have to see.  

Motorola Sponsors Four Fashion Week Designers

When Motorola decided to market its new flagship smartphone, the Moto X, as more of a fashion accessory than a phone, it caught the industry off guard. The company is pushing that image hard through a new partnership with fashion brands in NY Fashion Week, as models will carry the customizable device down runways. Working with Hood by Air, Telfar, En Noir and Rochambeau, Motorola aims to literally turn heads as designers will paired custom phones with their new spring collections. In addition, Moto X Kiosks will be installed at Fashion Week parties that will feature interactive ads that recognize what colors a person is wearing and match a customized phone to their outfit.  t’s not the first time technology featured on the runway; in 2008, HP unveiled a digital clutch at the event. Motorola probably hopes their device has more longevity than HP’s effort, but will be hoping for a similar publicity bump and branding expansion.  

Layers of influence reign at CES

Layers of Influence at CES 2010 (Lori Schwartz)Imagine a world where any screen you come into contact with has the capability to play multiple streams of content that are contextually relevant to you, to your gender, location and purchase habits.  Imagine that this content could take the form of video with additional layers of text, graphics or audio.  Then picture a powerful 4G network, with 80 megabits of data being delivered with HD quality video and 3D enhancements. Data would be fed back and forth to respond to interactions and navigation would be more primal, responding to touch and movement. Marketers would have a field day with targeting content based on demographics right down to the individual.  And imagine if the foundation of this world was presented to you at a yearly consumer electronics trade show…

While there were no earth shattering products or mind-blowing reveals at this year’s CES, the world I described above has been set in motion. Never before have so many consumer electronic companies all committed to embracing the same technology trends in such a way that the dividing line between competitive offerings is hard to see. All this sets the stage for what I’d like to call “layers of influence.”  Continue reading “Layers of influence reign at CES”