The personality of voice assistants

Siri is “disingenuous and cunning,” compared to Alexa, who is “genuine and caring,” according to voice designer Phoebe Ohayon.

Speaking at today’s Voice Global virtual conference, Ohayon quoted research from the University of Waterloo, which studied the perceived characteristics of voice assistants.

“Strong brands create value with voice… but does a brand get the best persona for their brand,” asked Ohayon.

With more and more radio, audio and podcast companies pushing their content out through smart speakers, the voice characteristics of the machine’s virtual assistant will become more important in interactions with the radio station’s brand. Some radio stations are using their own high profile personalities to voice personal welcome introductions to their own podcasts and streams, rather than leaving the introduction to a synthetic voice chosen by the smart speaker company.

“Within 2 seconds of hearing a voice, listeners automatically assign a personality to the voice they are listening to,” said Ohayon.

“As a brand, you want to design voice experiences where consumers and customers have the right perception of the voice they are hearing. In her talk, Phoebe Ohayon explained that a Voice Brand is an important part of the brand identity and important to the user’s conversational experiences with their virtual assistants and smart speakers.”

The consistency in intonation and intensity patterns contribute to the listeners perception of the brand quality of the product or service being requested. She describes it in an article, telling a story about her grandma:

“My grandma always says hello and goodbye with a distinctive intonation pattern and use of her voice that is not at normal to the Dutch language or the region where she lives. However, this makes her who she is. It belongs to her identity and personality. So, anyone who comes close to repeating this way of saying hello or goodbye, I immediately think about my grandma. It creates a sense of familiarness, preference, and trust.”

The design of the Brand Voice and its persona can be a differentiator for purchases. Will future consumers purchase a car because of its looks? Or will they purchase a car because of its likable voice and personality? We are becoming more familiar with using our voice and ears to interact with their next generation of smart technology that is emerging in this generation (see a related study).

Voice control has also become more important in a time of contactless interactions, necessitated by the Corona Virus restrictions, and is being rapidly integrated with online voice commerce shopping functions.

In another session, a study by Voxly Digital discovered that across the board, voice usage has increased significantly since isolation began. “With more time on their hands, infrequent users in particular are engaging more with the capabilities of their voice-assistants; gaining confidence and discovering more voice-apps… Voice-assistants appear to be forming an important part of people’s coping toolbox whilst stuck at home. Users are turning to Alexa and Google Assistant for entertainment, emotional & physical health and educational help. Indeed, 3 in 5 users agreed that their voice-assistant is helping them get through isolation.”

Radio copywriters, voiceover artists and presenters have known all this for a long time. The best of them use their voices to best advantage for their own success or that of their clients, but there is a new focus on this old art. Radio professionals will be well placed to use the power of voice in the new audio environment, as new voice activated technologies develop, to build close relationships with their audiences and advertisers.

As listeners flock to new voice controlled platforms, shown in recent weeks through listenership studies (20% rise in podcast audience, 49% increase in Nova’s streaming audience, Another record breaking month for SCA streaming), an awareness of the personality of the voice assistant will become more important.

In another session from the conference, Adi Mazor Kario, a voice UX expert from the UK, also discussed harnessing the power of language in voice assistants to create a closer connection with users. View her talk below, the presentation begins at about 7 minutes in and goes for about 20 minutes (other presentations follow).






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