The voice is already another means to execute orders through devices. Telephones, cars and smart speakers are equipped with virtual assistants ready to help users in any need. The success of attendees such as Alexa from Amazon, Siri from Apple or Google Assistant depends, however, in large part, on the usefulness and quality of their applications.
The company of Jeff Bezos, the leader in the sector of intelligent loudspeakers, has sold, since the launching of Amazon Echo, 100 million units in the United States and its market of voice applications already offers 80,000 skills (a name that puts its applications). But this unstoppable growth can turn against him. The professors of the Informatics, Multimedia and Telecommunications Studies of the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) Robert Clarisó and César Córcoles analyze it.
“The skills market has enormous potential with the penetration of smart and mobile speakers, but at the same time it presents important challenges”, points out Córcoles. Getting the virtual assistant to interpret the voice and its meaning is more complicated, in general than in other systems.
As of today, it is a tool that can help the user to do parallel operations when his hands are busy or when he has vision problems, but sometimes it is a milestone to find the word ‘magic’ that gives access to what is search
In order for the success of intelligent loudspeakers to be sustained over time, it is a key that voice applications provide value to the user and that there is quality development behind them.
When a new platform of applications is opened, like the skills market, the first ones that are developed are the simplest ones (calculators, weather forecast, to order a pizza, etc.). Programmers make a forecast of the necessary effort and, therefore, of the cost- and the return they can obtain, but there comes a point when developing a new one is not profitable – Robert Clarisó
Amazon is aware that, if it does not promote the appearance of star applications for users, there may be the long-term risk of a certain disenchantment with the use of smart speakers or other devices that work with voice. The number of skills for Alexa in the United States rose to 25,784 in 2018 and reached 56,750 at the beginning of 2019, according to a Voicebot report. During this period there has been an important growth, of 120%, of these applications, but the increase was much higher between 2017 and 2018, of 266%.
Is developing skills a good business?
International experts have detected that the skills market, since the launch of Amazon Echo in 2015, does not have any voice application of success as relevant as the one that other apps for smartphones have had when they appeared. In addition, in the App Store or Play Store platforms, there are millions of criticisms and user ratings and, in contrast, in this platform of voice applications, there are very few, only a few hundred for the most popular applications. And perhaps, for all that, the company, since 2017, seeks to strengthen this ecosystem by opening a program of economic remuneration for developers of skills outside the company.
A reward program that, after being offered in the United States and later landing in the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and India, has just arrived in Spain, France, and Italy to extend the skills market and also have them in other languages. The company awards each month the developers who get more consumer interactions in categories that are key to them: education and reference, food and beverages, games and curiosities, childhood, health and well-being, lifestyle, music and audio, and productivity.
Amazon says it has paid millions of dollars to independent skill creators in more than twenty countries since the launch of this program. The exact amount is not known. It is also an amount distributed among many programmers spread around the world. It is known of some cases that the first month they have come to collect a check of 1,500 dollars, 2,000 or more.
What the company wants, according to the director of Amazon Alexa, Rob Pulciani, is that each skill created makes this virtual assistant more intelligent or more useful. In CNET, Pulciani explains that they can not do it by themselves and that what they want is to train external developers to innovate and extend Alexa’s capabilities at a rapid pace. “If the developer community is successful, we will also have it.”
Alexa’s new economy is beginning to take shape, according to programmers, marketing executives and industry analysts. For about a year, developers can also include payments within the application. At first, Alexa wanted all applications to be free for their users, but this meant a lot of effort for the developers to create a skill and an economic return that did not compensate for the work done. Now, with the payments within the application, it is an incentive to create new innovative and quality skills.
This is what has recently happened to developers of apps for mobile devices and explained The New York Times a few days ago. Apple’s iOS system introduced features to help users limit the time they or their children spend connected to devices, such as the iPhone or iPad. Since these functions appeared, Apple has been restricting or eliminating all the applications that offered this same service.