Half a decade ago, when voice assistants began to gain popularity, few could have predicted that they would emerge as one of the biggest drivers of innovation of our time. Today, they have evolved beyond telling us about the weather or playing music to booking cabs and driving verticals like finance, healthcare, and security.
According to a recent survey, India is one of the leaders in the use of digital assistants with a 72 percent adoption rate. Indians also reported a 97 percent satisfaction rate with smart speakers. But, this is not a new trend. For the last few years, numerous industry research reports have been consistently pointing out that voice was fast becoming one of the most preferred modes for people to interact with their connected devices.
Alexa’s arrival in October 2017 was a key milestone in India’s voice journey, as it was designed to understand and speak English with speech patterns spoken by Indians, providing a very native experience to Indian users.
And, soon enough, brands in India realised the unique opportunity Alexa presented to engage with their customers and break down barriers for technology adoption. Customers could now simply converse with their devices to accomplish tasks.
To further leverage the opportunity that Alexa presented for users and brands, Alexa in Hindi made its debut in September 2019. Today, in India, Alexa can now interact with users in multiple languages - Hindi, Hinglish and English.
However, catering to such a diverse market was not without its challenges.
“We knew it would be hard to add all functionalities that customers will want all by ourselves. So to make sure, Alexa is magical for customers and available everywhere, we built three different APIs. The first, Alexa Voice Services with which you can easily integrate Alexa in your own device. The second, a bunch of product domain kits like the smart home kit or a lighting kit with can be easily integrated in a new device. The Alexa Skills kit, a collection of free, self-service APIs and tools, which makes skill development as easy as possible,” said Rohit Prasad, VP and Head Scientist, Amazon Alexa at VOXCON, Amazon's first conference in India dedicated to all things voice.
This helped Alexa build and nurture a community of developers and brands who over the years have not only helped to further build and improve Alexa but also launch 30,000+ Alexa Skills.
Putting the spotlight on Alexa evangelists and innovators
For the last two years, Amazon has been putting the spotlight on this community of developers and brands who are not just innovating with voice but also enhancing the Alexa experience and its uses. It was no different in 2019 at VOXCON.
VOXCON saw participation from 800+ professionals from over 200 companies over two days, and covered talks in the area of Voice User Interfaces, Alexa Skills, Amazon Alexa Voice Service and Smart Home solutions with Alexa. The conference brought alive the Alexa Everywhere experience showcasing the entire family of Alexa-enabled devices and also provided an opportunity for developers, tech professionals, brands, integrators, and device manufacturers to share their journey with voice, learn best practices, hone their technical skills and interact with the larger ecosystem.
A key highlight of the two-day conference was the Alexa Voice Awards. The awards put the spotlight on developers, developmental agencies, and brands working with Alexa skills, voice services and smart homes. The winners were:
Alexa Community Evangelist of the Year: Ashish Jha
An active Alexa Community Evangelist and Student Influencer, Ashish Jha has conducted several workshops, helped developers build skills for Alexa, and also addressed developer queries at Alexa events.
Alexa Star Developer of the Year: Shreedhar Vepencheri & Karthikraj Duraisamy
The Co-Founders of Oyku, a startup building a modern platform to publish and stream immersive audio content, won for their efforts in building engaging Alexa skills like Wild Planet, Story Stream, Jungle Safari, and Pehchan Kaun, across English and Hindi languages. They leveraged several offerings of the Alexa Skills Kit including Alexa Presentation language, SSML, Speechcons, and Amazon Polly to make the voice experience engaging.
Alexa Skills Agency of the Year: Winimy.ai
The Singapore-headquartered agency is a pioneer in building voice experiences in APAC, be it Voice AI Concierge and Wayfinding for common spaces, building public personality- based Alexa Skills like Meditation by Sadhguru, or even working with brands like Dominos and OnePlus to implement engaging Alexa skills.
Alexa Student Influencer: Aditya Channe
Aditya has conducted over 15 workshops and trained over 1,500 student developers on Alexa and also mentored teams in building IoT solutions with Voice including a voice-enabled go-kart, and an IoT-based guide for swimming pool information at Lovely Professional University.
Alexa Skills Popular Brand of the Year: IOK Labs Inc
A voice-first company, IOK Labs Inc was applauded for building one of the most engaging Alexa Skills for recipes (Sanjeev Kapoor Recipes). The skill helps customers with recipe discovery, meal planning, grocery shopping, guided step-by-step cooking, and chef tips.
Alexa Skills Smart Home Brand: Syska
One of the first brands to get onto the Alexa Smart Home play, Syska built highly-affordable smart home devices like smart bulbs and plugs, and launched innovative campaigns on social media to drive awareness.
Alexa Voice Service – Innovator of the year: Sirena
The first Indian System Integrator/Original Design Manufacturer to help brands build AVS devices in India, Sirena helped to bolster the ‘Make in India’ story. Sirena brought down the cost of manufacturing Alexa Built-in devices by more than 50 percent, enabling local brands to launch products and compete in a price-sensitive market like India.
The Alexa Voice Service – best Customer experience: boAt by Imagine Marketing
boAt was the first brand in India to launch a portable Alexa Built-in device which was rugged, dustproof, waterproof, and affordable for millennials. It also came up with innovative means to educate customers about setting up the device, leading to larger adoption of voice users interfaces.
Voice Tech Innovation in Developer Tooling: Arjun Ganesan
Arjun was awarded for building tools that improved developer productivity and helped them build and launch skills in quick time.
Voice Tech Innovation in Education Sector: Amol Bhoyar
An assistant teacher at a Zila Parishad school in a tiny village in Maharashtra, Amol designed a robot that resembled a woman and planted the Echo device inside to make learning more fun, interactive and to encourage children to learn on their own.
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