Because I Say So

podcast voice commands

Recent wind storms in the Western US could very well be great sighs of relief among podcasters. On the other hand, they could have been little more than great sighs. It seems that developers are finally taking voice recognition seriously. But will that seriousness translate to podcast applications that finally make listening to a podcast as easy as speaking your mind?

Speech recognition, especially for mobile phones, has come a long way since the first Siri users spent their time trying to hook up with her. Writing on the Content Standard blog, Krystal Overmyer reported

Although we’ve been able to talk to Siri, Google, and any number of other devices for years, this increasingly human-like interaction is striking. Smarter speech recognition makes life easier for users; instead of typing or tapping our search queries, it’s quicker to use our voices in natural, conversational language.

Let’s Get Siri-ous

I use Siri to search the web, which prompted my friend, and long-time radio consultant, Jay Mitchell to ask why I didn’t use Siri to control my podcast app. I don’t because I think we deserve better. The problem is in the word “control.” I don’t want to control the app, I want to participate in the podcast listening experience.

If I hear a host say something that hits me in my gut, I don’t want to make a note to myself to sent a text later, I want to connect right then. I don’t want to think about what I have to say anymore than I want to compose a Shakespearean sonnet to get directions to the nearest Starbucks. “Comment,” is about as far as I want to go. And that’s when I want the podcast to stop so I can make my comment and return to the show, while my remarks are quietly uploaded to the podcaster’s server.

Then there are times when I don’t have anything to say because, frankly, I don’t care for what’s on.

“Skip this episode,” is about as far as I should have to go. Likewise, “Play latest episode,” or “Play previous episode,” or “Play the episode from last week,” or “Play the one from the week of the 12th,” should be good enough. The app knows I’m talking about podcasts and not the width and breadth of everything my phone can do. It all makes sense, even to the most basic AI algorithm.

Waiting for Your Order

XAPP has approached voice participation from the commercial end of the business. You can read about it here, but the short version, condensed from the company’s website, explains how the process works with in-show advertising:

When a XAPP Ad runs, you have a choice. If the offer is not relevant, you can ignore it and get back to content faster. If the offer interests you, simply speak to engage. No more fumbling with unlocking your phone or trying to remember a URL or 800 number. Respond with your voice and you will be instantly connected to the offer. The coupon will be sent to your inbox, the URL will open on your screen or your order can be placed.

Podcasting fulfilled the desire for on-demand audio entertainment but built its solution on a technical foundation on a decidedly hands-on process. It’s awkward, counterintuitive and, if I may be allowed some scholarly terminology, dumb. Especially since the solution is—make that has been–within technological reach.

Why Doesn’t the Supply Meet the Demand?

We live in an on-demand world, so what are we waiting for?

Voice participation is a form of communication that is (a) a competitive advantage and (b) something that should be, if not open source, at least licensed to podcast app designers so that we get an easy, consistent interface for all podcasters to the benefit of all our listeners.

That’s all I have to say.


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