As customers have widely adopted voice interfaces, the industry already works on the next generation of devices that can operate offline. At our DL Summit, Amazon Alexa’s former product owner Khushboo Jha talked about ongoing and upcoming challenges for the development of voice-based products.
Khushboo Jha has nine Alexas in her home. This seems like a lot, but she expects this to become the new normal in many households soon. At our DL Summit 2019, she cites a market research study that predicts the market for voice to grow from 2 to 40 billion dollars by 2022 in the US alone. Similarly, the Alexa team at Amazon has become one of the largest organizations in the company, says Khushboo. In her fireside chat with Andreas Kwiatkowski, founder of the voice startup How.fm, she explains some of the greater challenges the industry faces.
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Voice interfaces without an internet connection
She and her team worked on the offline capabilities of Alexa so that devices work without an internet connection. This technology, which Amazon launched in 2018 under the label “Local Voice Control”, is not only useful at home but essential for the automotive industry, a key market for voice interfaces. However, to make voice work offline, one of the biggest challenges is the device itself.
“You don’t need just good software. You need good hardware.”
According to Khushboo, every big tech company from Amazon over Apple to Google is working on accelerators that allow hardware components to process the complicated operations behind voice control faster and more reliable.
Khushboo also talks about how new ideas are presented at Amazon. “It starts with a mock press release. You write down how people would read in the newspaper about the idea. That is a very democratic process at Amazon. We had warehouse associates who came up with new ideas.”
From Amazon PO to startup founder
From there on, it works like a startup-process inside the company. The goal is to reach funding, “which means to get the blessing that engineers can start building your thing”, says Khushboo. It’s a process that Khushboo also used for her new startup.
After five years at Amazon, she left the company in late 2019 to become an entrepreneur herself. She closes off the conversation with some career advice for women in tech: “Don’t assume that just because you are working harder than everybody else, you’re going to get what you want. You have to say what you want and ask for the promotion or the funding.”
Either as a strategy consultant or as a product manager, launching businesses and new products has always been the driving force in Khushboo’s career. In her various roles at Amazon, she has helped the already gigantic retailer to open up new marketplaces and find business opportunities. In 2019 she started her startup “Buy Properly”, that allows people to do micro-investments in real estate.