©2017 Corbin Ball & Co.

A classic scene from Star Trek IV: Scotty, the chief engineer transported back to 1986, was attempting to communicate with a computer of the day. He did this by bringing the computer mouse to his mouth and speaking into it “Hello Computer” as if it were a microphone. As funny as it seemed at the time, computers and mobile device are finally catching up to where voice commands envisioned in Star Trek are working their way into computers, mobile devices and in the home through Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri and Google Home gadgets.

This year’s Consumer Electronic Show was chock full of Alexa and Google Home-enabled including voice-activated light switches, thermostats, AC outlets, cars, and much more. You can ask Alexa to do hundreds of things including play songs by your favorite artist, set a timer for 10 minutes or to wake you up at 7am. You can ask to tell you a joke or how high is Mt. Everest. We have finally reached a time were “she” understands and responds via voice in an accurate and natural manner. It has just been announced that Alexa will be accessible even through their app on iPhones!

It turns out that this voice interface is easy and natural and, in many cases, more convenient than typing in a search engine, or activating an app, or even getting up to turn on or off a switch.

Why is this happening?

There are a number of factors making this so:

  1. Advances in computer (artificial) intelligence (AI): The ability for computers to understand and respond to range of words and syntax from a variety of people with different accents or via text for a wide range of simple verbal commands has finally become a reality. The accuracy rate has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years and is now ready for prime time.  
  2. Ubiquitous internet connectivity via mobile devices: We can now access AI through our devices wherever we go in our home, in our cars, at work and at events. AI typically works with cloud-based “super computers.”  Any smart device that hears our voice or receives a text can now respond to our commands.
  3. We want it now: Everyone is carrying around at smart phone in their pocket or purse. We are used to having information at our fingertips but we are becoming tired of downloading and interacting with apps. A voice interface or a simple text chatbot is often times faster and easier in many cases.

How will this impact events and venues?

We are beginning to see movement in hotels for the voice interface to improve the quest experience. Wynn Hotel Las Vegas, for example, plans to install Amazon’s Alexa speakers in more than 4,700 guest rooms allowing guest to use voice to control lights, room temperature, drapery and the television with more features to come. These “hotel room assistants” are relatively inexpensive and easy to install and will likely become common place in high-end hotels. This will likely expand to concierge applications and even travel bookings in the future.

Other hotels are using AI text-based chatbots. The Cosmopolitan Hotel, offers Rose, a chatbot concierge with somewhat of an attitude. Upon check in, guests are given a card that reads: “I am the answer to the question that you never asked.” and “Know my secrets. Text me,” The card contains Rose’s phone number which you can text for a variety of services. Towels? Pizza? Restaurant recommendations? Rosie will text you back and provide the services.

Voice interface adoption, however, will take a bit longer for events, although there are elements that are emerging:

  • Text chatbots are coming in mobile event apps: Companies such as Event2Mobile.com and ConciergeEventBot.com are designed for events. This requires artificial intelligence and text-based recognition to make this happen. CociergeEventBot.com requires no app download and can work on a text message basis only. As the technology advances, a next logical step to go to voice activation.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly moving into the event space: A number of event apps are starting to use AI within their products: Grip.events is using AI to match attendees for networking using a Tinder-like interface.

Voice command activation and text chatbots using AI are moving into society at a rapid pace. We are seeing elements of this moving to hotels and events. It will be just a matter of time to where we will be using simple and natural voice commands to assist and guide us through our event and trade show journeys. 

Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is a speaker and independent third-party consultant focusing on meetings technology. With 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity He can be contacted at his extensive web site Corbin Ball & Co. - Meetings Technology Headquarters (www.corbinball.com) and followed at www.twitter.com/corbinball

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