Bavaria is a Land of Voices

By Lukas Schöne

The fact that we talk to each other seems to be the most natural and direct form of communication. Our interaction with computers and smartphones has been quite different for a long time. First, we typed and clicked; then we swiped on our touchscreens. Now there is a new change coming. More and more people use smart speakers, control their smart kitchen devices by voice applications, or communicate with voice messages on WhatsApp. Soon, 50% of all online searches in the USA will depend on voice assistants. These developments are very interesting for the media industry. Whether in marketing, content, or user participation, voice applications open up many new opportunities. Many Bavarian players have long since embraced this trend!

All about Voice

During the “All About Voice” conference, Munich becomes the center of the worldwide voice community. The Bavarian voice technology agency 169 Labs GmbH has already organized the event twice with the third conference taking place in 2021. International experts, Alexa champions, and drivers of innovation will be on stage giving us insights and showing developments that will change many industries. Among others, representatives of major players such as Amazon and Google have already spoken on stage. Next year’s event will mainly focus on the question of how we can make conversation with our devices as natural as possible. 169 Labs GmbH will continue to address this challenge beyond the conference. Among other things, the agency has developed smart speaker versions of the quiz from the newspaper ZEIT, the video game Quizduell, and the TV show “Sing meinen Song” from the Vox channel.

Creating a Voice-based Future

Voice technology will also be on the agenda in Munich within the context of the Audio Hack Days of the Bavarian media network (MedienNetzwerk Bayern) in September. Audio enthusiasts, journalists, and programmers will come together to work on an innovative audio world. Last year we could already see that voice technology was the most important topic. Ease of research, interactive storytelling, and improving user experience are all topics that will certainly stand out this year as well.

Voice Technology in the Car

Voice applications are extremely practical while driving in a car. Of course, the automotive industry has recognized this. BMW, for example, already launched its own language assistant quite a while ago. In addition, BMW is part of Amazon’s „Voice Interoperability Initiative“ whose aim is to install different voice assistants on one device. In this way, companies want to make voice control a natural part of everyday life. Spotify, Sony, Intel, and Sonos are also involved in the initiative, among others. The MediendemonstratorVR project of MedienNetzwerk Bayern shows that cooperation in the field of “Voice and Automotive” also makes sense for media professionals. The Mediendemonstrator is a digital laboratory that enables media professionals to develop and test new content for the car of the future in a VR environment. Voice control is an important part of this system; how can I make it as easy as possible for the user to choose between different media? What are the special requirements for voice control in a car? How can I show the user what he can control with the help of the voice assistant? These questions can be answered with specific tests in the Mediendemonstrator.

Voice Technology and Radio

According to the latest Online Audio Monitor, around 33% of Bavarians say that with smart speakers, they consume more audio content than before. This shows the great potential of this technology for radio stations. The group of companies known as Antenne Bayern, owns the Germany’s greatest reaching private radio station and has recorded access over two million times via smart speakers, and the trend is rising. The stations also offer interactive programs and the concept of not only providing content for Antenne Bayern's linear radio program, the various web streams, news, traffic, and weather programs seems to pay off. These interactive programs include the song contest Songduell in which you can compete against each other and guess songs, or the children's story “Affenbeste Freunde” (Monkey's Best Friends), in which the hero of the story takes the child's name with a voice command.

Photo: Unsplash

Voice Technology as an Opportunity for Brands

Voice control systems are getting more and more attention and brands are being faced with new challenges and opportunities. The Munich-based full-service agency for voice and audio marketing, Wake Word, is working to take advantage of these opportunities. The audio experts Sven Rühlicke and Ruben Schulze-Fröhlich (both have worked at Antenne Bayern) founded their company in the autumn of 2019. They work with a 20/80 approach. According to them, a lot of brands “only” work on voice app programming, but that it is only 20 percent of the work. For these two experts, it is about much more: developing strategies, giving the brand a voice, creating internal structures, and search optimization. For Wake Word, voice technology is a strong marketing tool that they want to amplify together with customers.

Interactive Storytelling with Voice Technology

A siren approaches, helicopters circle around, dramatic sounds underline the scenery. A narrator speaks in a deep voice, addresses the listener directly, and introduces the story – you are lying in the street and you can’t see anything. A woman approaches, she wants to help you. Do you allow her to do so? This is the beginning of Tag X (D-Day), the interactive audio play of the Bavarian Broadcasting Company. It is designed for Amazon Alexa and Google Home, but it also runs on smartphones. The broadcasting company BR has tested every new prototype with the help of users to improve the user experience. After each scene, the listener can make decisions by voice command that change the course of the story. There are many different storylines and scenarios. The interactive storytelling of Tag X is very complex and can serve as an example for many providers. Perhaps the R.E.M. song that we can hear in Tag X stands for the changes voice technology services could mean for the media world. “It's the end of the world as we know it. And I feel fine.”