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Maybe Voice Assistants should ask for Help.

How many times a day do you use your Amazon Echo or Google Home? Is it sitting in the corner gathering dust, or does it periodically turn off your lights or read you the weather?

Business Insider calls out Alexa as a “Glorified Clock Radio” for its mundane and often redundant tasks. Rather than chastising innovators, we should commend a company for its willingness to lose billions to move technology forward. In multiple research projects, we hear that customers do see the potential in voice control, they are just not ready to pay for it YET. We observed that Amazon Skills often stall a task rather than move it forward. We need to find tasks and environments where usability outweighs the fear of data privacy and where value is created that justifies the cost.

Amazon Skills relying on partners to provide the underlying value and the experience often seems like what Berta Benz must have felt when riding the first motorized wagon over muddy fields. The efficiency of riding with a motor ultimately overcame all obstacles and led to the modern car.

Innovations need users

Doing things more efficiently or introducing a use case that provides value are key drivers for success. Any voice-controlled task must make things more efficient or provide a delight that one did not experience prior. The question should always be “can I do it better without it”? Sadly for voice assistants, the answer is often still “yes”.

Please, let's not give up on voice quite yet. Let’s ask customers what drives value before we beat up the technology.

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