Having first worked with this technology and brought it to market over two decades ago at Alcatel, I was very excited about Apple's introduction of SIRI but that has been largely disappointing. That wasn't "it".
ZOWi is "it". And on October 15th, YOU can be part of history by helping to Kickstart it now.
It takes us a step further into the HOT wearable movement where visions of Dick Tracy speaking into his wrist are made real.
According to a recent report from BI Intelligence, "Wearable gadgets are still not getting the attention they deserve — they will create a massive new $12 billion market
The important thing about wearables isn't so much about how strange they look or seem now, but the many problems they will help consumers solve.
But wearables won't just complement smartphones.
Wearables will help us track our time, our fitness regimes, our health, and our daily routines.
Wearables are about taking the ubiquity of the Internet one step further."
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, ZOWi acts as a voice "companion" and communicates via Bluetooth to your Internet connection. Unlike SIRI, it's not an added feature to the phone, and it works on all four platforms (Microsoft, Android, iOS, Blackberry), as opposed to SIRI which covers only one! And for both hands-free and eyes-available for the road, you don't need a screen reference to make the most of it.
While everyone has been aiming for the wrist or the face, thus remaining mainly within the traditional visual-tactile user interface paradigm, the ZOWi team is developing a small wearable badge that interacts with the user via voice: enabling them to naturally speak and listen.
A wearable Voice Badge is ideal for quick voice interactions: Examples: you simply speak the following and listen to a brief (and, crucially, concise) response:
- "Turn off AC"
- "Traffic conditions"
- "Give me the Weather"
- "I want to watch some football" (which would give you channels that are showing football)
- "Turn on the porch lights"
- "Quiz me on US State Capitals" (And it would engage in you in quick Q&A)
- "Read my Facebook messages"
- "Who are my new twitter followers"
- "Play music by Miles Davis"
The key strengths about a wearable voice badge are as follows:
- It is ideal in situations where our hands and/or eyes are occupied: driving, washing dishes, carrying something, in the dark, etc.
- Because the device is worn around the collar, the performance of the speech recognition is high.
The device can be clipped on your collar or worn as a necklace.
ZOWi comes with a companion App. The companion app is available on all the major platforms: Android, iOS, Blackberry and Microsoft. ZOWi can also be connected to Siri, Google Now, or any other Mobile Voice app running on your phone.
ZOWi uses the latest in automated speech recognition, natural language processing, and text to speech technology.
Developers will have access to an API and a development platform for building their own voice modules. If someone wants to build a voice experience to a CRM (like Salesforce), they could easily do that by building middleware that talks with ZOWi via simple JSON.
The Kickstarter launch is set for October 15, 2013. ZOWi's team is aiming to raise $100,000.
Pledgers will be able to reserve a ZOWi for $149 and more.
According to ZOWi co-founder and CEO Ahmed Bouzid, "The key value that we have kept in mind and that underlies our philosophy is Flow: there is a flow to our lives and the technologies that we love are those that respect that flow. My favorite piece of technology -- that I truly love -- is the Easy Pass device that I have on my car and that lets me zip through tolls without even slowing down. I love it because (a) it just works and (b) it keeps me from doing something onerous: finding change, slowing down, throwing the change into the bin, hoping that the change gets accepted, etc -- onerous stuff. And best of all, I don't do anything: it's there where I need it and it works and I can forget about it as soon as I am done with the toll. I love it!
In the case of ZOWi, the use cases where it respects your flow are when your eyes and/or hands are busy: you are typing, reading a book, watching TV, driving, fixing something with your hands, etc. When a notification comes, you don't have to disrupt that flow: you speak and listen to interact, and just like the Easy Pass, I engage without doing anything more than speaking and listening, rather than stopping my typing, taking my eyes off the screen, fetching the device, unlocking it, tapping, swiping, etc, reading, etc., and when I am done, I have to put the device back and only then get back to my task. Kills the flow.
For privacy, users can set ZOWi in private mode (via the App), so that it doesn't make sounds but only vibrates, and of course, the user can plug earphones. And, as a back up, anything spoken to the user is displayed on the companion App if the user wishes, as a last resort, to look at something."
ZOWi Inc. was founded by Ahmed Bouzid and Weiye Ma, two speech technology innovators with a life long passion for bringing voice solutions and products to the mainstream. The two became convinced in the past few months that the time for Wearable Voice had come. The ZOWi Personal Voice Companion badge is their first product towards fulfilling that mission.
As to how ZOWi got its name, a topic of vital interest to Frager Factor readers, his son came up with it.
The ".ME" was an important component of the APP's branding too. "It's a personal companion," Ahmed explained, "and ".ME" is a way to signal that. He also communicated a great point that never occurred to me. "In the APP store your advantage is a name that sorts either top or bottom. Hence "Z."
The co-founders are the authors of a new book, available on Amazon via: "Don't Make Me Tap! A Common Sense Approach to Voice Usability"
An article fleshing out the vision can be found at: http://www.speechtechmag.com/Articles/Editorial/Sounding-Board/Wearable-Voice-The-Next-Big-Thing-91797.aspx
Wishing Ahmend and the ZOWi team who worked so hard to bring this to market, all the wealth and success they deserve.