It’s Friday, and that’s always good, right? Here’s our weekly roundup for voice-first and related news.  

February 23 - March 1, 2019

Amazon: Alexa Accelerator Powered by Techstars, Hear it from a Skill Builder, Cedars Sinai Pilots Program

2/25/19 The Alexa Fund and Techstars announced their third Alexa Accelerator. The 13-week program held in Seattle, WA, is built around the belief that voice will fundamentally improve the way we interact with technology. Applications are now open through April 7 with the program start date set for July 15, 2019. You can apply here.

You can read more about the accelerator program on this Alexa Blogs post by Brian Adams. You can also hear Pulse Labs Co-Founders Abhishek Suthan and Dylan Zwick discuss their experience as members of the inaugural Alexa Accelerator class on the 52nd episode of the Voicebot podcast.

2/25/19 This week we heard some exciting healthcare-related news regarding Alexa. LA-based medical center Cedars-Sinai announced that they’re currently piloting a program that places Amazon Echos in about 100 patient rooms. The devices will be powered by Aiva, a voice assistant platform for healthcare intended to help patients communicate with their caregivers. (Tech Crunch)

2/22/19 Ok, so technically this post was published a day before our cut-off date, but it’s so good we’re including it anyway. Jennifer King's "Hear it from a Skill Builder" Alexa Blogs post features Alexa Champion, Kesha Williams', latest side project, which teaches Alexa to deploy code to the cloud.


2/23/19 Google released an ad campaign featuring Google Assistant inserted into iconic or popular films just in time for the Oscars. The ads included a longer montage of films as well as shorter single-film clips.  The ads reimagined plot twists if the characters had been able to use a Google Assistant saving time or assisting characters with their dilemma.  The movie scenes used in the #HeyGoogle commercial include Dr. David Bowman using Google Assistant to bypass HAL in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ladybird’s Christine McPherson ordering a Lyft ride, Psycho’s Marion Crane bypassing the Bates Motel after hearing it only had one-star reviews, and Deadpool being reminded by his Google Home Hub that he was scheduled to appear in a Google commercial. The collection of ads were aired during the Oscars and were also tweeted out by @Google

Seattle: University of Washington Opens new Computer Science Building

2/28/19 University of Washington opens new computer science building named in honor of the Bill and Melinda Gates, doubling capacity to train future tech workers. Additional funding was provided by Gates Foundation, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Zillow, and Madrona Venture Group. (GeekWire)

Voice-First: Adobe’s 2019 Voice Report Forecasts Bright Future for Voice Assistants and Voice-first Technology

2/26/19 CNet claims that “Consumers no longer think voice assistants are mediocre.” Adobe’s 2019 Voice Report  based on over 1,000 surveys shows that “54 percent of US consumers say voice assistants work well. Forty-one percent said they work OK and just 5 percent said they work poorly.” This is a dramatic uptick from 2017 survey in which “37 percent of customers thought voice assistants worked ‘very well’ or ‘good,’ 26 percent said they were ‘OK,’ and 37 percent described them as ‘not good’ or ‘terrible.’”

2/27/19 Adweek reports that “Consumers Find Voice Ads 'Less Intrusive' Than Others, According to Adobe Report.” In the article they point out that, “of the 25% of consumers who’ve heard an ad on a smart speaker, 38% find it 'less intrusive than ads on TV, print, online and social media.'39% think the ads are “more engaging.” This according to Adobe's 2019 Voice Report.

Fun things to do with your smart speaker:

Are you a 2001: A Space Odyssey fan?

Ask Alexa: "Alexa, Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

Got a Google Home? Say: “Hey Google, Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”