Welcome back to another episode of Subscribe to This! In this episode, April Mullen sits down with Davida Gaffney, Email and Web Developer at StorageMart. April and Davida share a common origin story– they are both from Missouri! The two chat a little bit about midwest geography before diving into the main topic of the episode: voice technology.
At [09:00], Davida begins to share her experience working on voice triggers in email. She talks about how she was inspired by others who were developing voice apps for Alexa and the full suite of echo devices. In her spare time she played around with the technology and began building something that could be used with email. She’s been able to build Alexa skills for a couple of use cases that are relevant to Storage Mart customers and employees.
Later on in the conversation, April and Davida discuss some of the failures of voice technology in its current state. Davida explains that it’s super important to test and train voice technology on a diverse group of people. Studies have shown that many voice activated devices have a higher error rate on Black voices than White voices which is an inexcusable failure on the part of the makers. Companies must prioritize testing their voice devices on those from diverse backgrounds to ensure that all people who use the device have the same, great experience. More than that, makers need to commit to continuously training devices and not rely on AI which has its own set of pitfalls pertaining to diversity and inclusion.
Another issue in voice technology Davida mentions is how people speak to and address their virtual assistants. Because most virtual assistants take on a female persona, it’s important to think about how Siri or Alexa’s “genders” affect how users speak to them. Initially, developers of these sorts of devices built in playful responses to abusive and oftentimes sexist questions or requests from users. Davida says that developers are now focusing on responses that shut down any abusive language from users. As voice assistants become more and more ubiquitous, they can serve as a tool to teach users (including children) how to speak to and treat women with respect.
After their deep dive into voice technology April and Davida chat about hey.com a new invite-only email platform. April is not a fan…but, what about Davida? To hear if she’s still using hey.com and hear all of the insights Davida has to offer about voice technology be sure to watch this awesome episode of Subscribe to This!