By Vixen Labs / October 16, 2019 / Industry 101
If you’re reading this soon after we hit publish, you’re right on time. Amazon’s recent event unveiled new and upgraded multimodal devices. But…so what?
Multimodal voice-first buzzwords explained

What does multimodal mean?

A device which is operated through two or more methods, such as voice and touch.

A real-life example of multimodal

The most popular example of a multimodal device is the Echo Show. Others include Google’s Nest Hub and Lenovo’s Smart Display.

Most people think multimodal means screen-based device, like the examples above.

However, multimodal also includes our mobile-hosted assistants, like Apple’s Siri.

Another term which is sometimes used interchangeably with multimodal is voice first. Smart speakers are built to have voice as their primary input method, but process others, too.

What does multimodal mean in practice?

A user interacts with a multimodal device by touching the screen, speaking to the assistant behind it, or both. The device may also process information from elsewhere, such as a routine prompt.

Feedback is then given visually or audibly, depending on the user input and data required. Certain data suits particular interactions and responses better. For example, it’s easier for a user to understand what a product looks like by seeing it, rather than Alexa describing it. On the other hand, it’s much simpler for a user to issue a voice command than to touch-scroll through long menus with different options or type out answers into an extensive form.

What are the opportunities presented by multimodal?

We learned to talk before we learned to type, but many of us learned to interact with technology by touching. Devices able to combine these inputs provide us with a much more holistic experience, which utilises more than one of our senses — and, crucially, connects them together. Usability is, therefore, one of the main opportunities of multimodal technology.

Secondly, much of a brand identity remains visual (despite how much we bang on about sonic branding!). A device able to show the Instagram-driven consumers of today exactly what content they’re consuming (or which products they can buy) helps to elevate and capitalise on this brand awareness.

How will your organisation make the most of multimodal technology?

The power of the multimodal experience hasn’t been missed by Amazon. As Brett Kinsella wrote for voicebot.ai:

“AMAZON’S BIGGEST WEAKNESS TODAY IS ITS MOBILE STRATEGY…THERE ARE FEWER PEOPLE USING THE ALEXA APP WHILE ON-THE-GO. THIS IS PRECISELY WHY THE UPDATED SMART SPEAKER AND NEW WEARABLE ANNOUNCEMENTS WERE SO EXCITING.”

An organisation leveraging multimodal technology through any number of applications is taking its marketing or voice strategy into the realms of everyday user accessibility.

Multimodal is taking voice beyond novelty and into true utility.

Will your brand join the ranks of those aiming for multimodal success?

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