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Target's voice-recognition effort: How natural does natural language have to be?

Evan Schuman | Oct. 10, 2016
Target's voice-recognition trial misunderstands the allure of Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri, and also how shoppers think and communicate.

All of that was about a mobile-based voice-recognition item. Target is working with a Chicago company called AddStructure and is toying with a device that would sell its products and partner offerings. The Tribune story said that Target "is already running a six- to nine-month pilot and [AddStructure] plans to launch pilots with L'Oreal, Under Armour and online antiques marketplace 1stdibs in October."

That raises a rather huge problem: How to get those devices in immediate proximity with users. At one level, Target would get into its customers' homes the same way that Amazon is: by making it an ultra-easy way to shop. Here's the problem. At home, shoppers have easy ways to search online, though laptops/desktops and tablets/smartphones. Alexa has had limited success by controlling lights and entertainment and tons of other things, where it's shopping is a side benefit.

How could Target compete with that? A much better question would be "Whywould Target want to compete with that?"

Voice recognition is valuable when the shopper is in an environment where other searches are much more difficult. That gives mobile devices a huge advantage, especially when integrated with a car. Stuck in traffic? Get some shopping done.

Hard to see this particular investment paying off. But I have to run now to a meeting. I'll just throw on my coat and movie theater and grab an Apple Watch to eat on the way.

Source: Computerworld US 


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