Episode 2: Sina Kahen

Sun, 13 Sep 2020 18:46:05 +0200

Sina Kahen talks about conversational AI and VoiceTech. Sina explains how brands can start thinking about their audio brand, and how to learn more about this fascinating area.

Episode 2: Sina Kahen

Show Notes

Sina's Website: https://www.sinakahen.com/ Sina's course "The Voice Course" discount link

  • Voicetech is a paradigm shift where brands are going to have to start thinking "what do I sound like?

  • "There's an island of voice technology and there's an island of brands, and in between is this ocean of unknown"

  • A lot of brands jumped into making voice applications, but they didn't have a strategy around why they should have a voice application and where in the consumer journey it should fit in

  • It reminds me a lot of the microwave. When the microwave first came out people said, "ok we don't need ovens or stoves anymore". But actually the microwave ended up being another element of the kitchen, as a supplementary interface. And that's exactly what voice is: It's there not to replace the screen in all circumstances, not to replace mobile, web etc. it's there to supplement our interactions with those interfaces - and sometimes it can be standalone.

  • Coming with a macro viewpoint is one of the hardest things you can teach a student to do because we love to get onto the next stage of things

  • Conversational AI is the umbrella term for Voicetech and chatbots

  • Whatever brain is in your Alexa is just a primitive version of the AI robots of the future. These are the first wave. But we will be communicating with all of them via voice.

  • Professor Scott Galloway at NYU

    Brands for decades having been spending billions on generating a visual brands. And now brands have to start thinking about their auditory video


[00:00:00] Okay. I'm delighted to introduce today as our guest Sina is a thought leader in conversational AI and a keynote speaker on artificial intelligence, the future of healthcare and the links between emotions and technology. CNO. Welcome. Thank you very much for having me. So I had a little bit of a look at the things that you, you work on and, you've got a very impressive collection of the things that you do in your own words. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Yes, absolutely. So, it's, as you said, it's quite a strange mix, but to me it's all part of a consistent framework. So I graduated as a biomedical scientist, almost a decade ago from there. I decided I didn't want to be in a lab. I want it to be on the business side of science and technology. So I began working for, the

[00:01:00] suit, the medical, which is a, an orthopedic medical device company. I've been there ever since I graduated, starting in sales, going through to product management, international business development, and now corporate innovation. Then having started my MBA a couple years back, three years ago now at Imperial college, I was able to get a more holistic. Macro view of science, tech, and business. And that's when I started my endeavors in the conversational AI voice tech world, and really started to take a lot of the learnings I've had from med tech, science philosophy. with regards to a lot of the philosophical, initiatives that I'm involved in and, started doing a lot of public speaking going out there, speaking at a variety of events on topics that are dear to me. and of course, trying to create as many courses as I can, to try and reflect those learnings and provide some of them to, to interested students. Sure. and, you know,

[00:02:00] coming from such a very background, what, what made you decide to kind of. Hone in a bit on, on voicetech. What attracted you to that particular area? Yeah. So in the med tech role that I have a lot of the time is spent on trying to think, how could we improve the use of medical devices within operating rooms? So if you think of an operating room it's sterile, so you can't really touch a lot of things. The Sergeant can, the people who have scrubbed and sterile, they can, but for all intents and purposes, it's a no touch zone. Right now looking at a lot of the devices is within the operating room. Try to see how can we improve the user experience of a Sufjan voice really? Turned up, turned out to be something quite to look to. and this was around five, six years ago and voice wasn't commercialized anywhere near the level that it is today. That was just for a voice user interface on a medical device, fast forward a year or two. and I started my MBA course

[00:03:00] and on the MBA course, we were learning a lot about emerging technologies and how the brands of the future will be interacting with that. customers really, and voice kept coming up. And I only knew voice in that niche med tech context. I hadn't really thought of it in the commercial context. Well, a lot of us love and also many of us love context today. So when I saw how it was becoming commercialized with Alexa with obviously Siri, okay, Google, Microsoft, Cortana, et cetera, et cetera. I thought, Hey, why don't I get together? Some of the MBA students in the cohort and set up vase and vase, VA ice, it's essentially a group. It was pro bono, you know, glamorous work experience, like all it where we basically went out, consulting different brands from BBC to OTU to Lego, et cetera, et cetera on how they can develop a voice strategy. So what can they do to. Utilize will take benefit from this new emerging tech known as voice technology, this smart

[00:04:00] speaker, what it is is what is it that can provide you to the teacher, the brand, as well as to the customer. And from there, really vase has grown to be a kind of home for thought leadership with regards to anything related to conversational AI and voice technology. So that's really the first forays. If you like into the space. Absolutely. It makes a lot of sense. It's always enjoyable hearing people who are in a particular field and in your case medicine, seeing these particular use cases that probably aren't so obvious to people who are outside of those fields. I mean, was there a particular moment or flash point that made you think, okay. Voicetech is, is where I should be heading or was it just a gradual process? So the utility of voice as an interface, that was a gradual process. Obviously seeing an operating room, as I said, it's sterile. You can't touch everything. But being able to turn on simple things like turning on the operating room lights, or, getting notes from a patient database, instead of having to go into it and check the keys, the check

[00:05:00] type on the keyboard, being able to just say, Hey, what, what was the notes on this patient? Or even interacting with sets of robotic devices that are out there now. Instead of, you know, having to just utilize them or sorry, use them via your hands. Being able to interact with these devices, with your voice. That was a gradual process. So voice on a more commercial on a macro level, not this niche. Utility or use case with an operating room? It was when I saw a video by professor Scott Galloway, who's a NYU professor. Fantastic, fantastic guy. And he was talking about how brands for decades have been spending billions on generating a visual persona, a visual image. It's packaging with no logos with branding or one of those different visual elements. And now we've got these smart speakers. The is the end of the fastest adopted technology in bed in history, in so many

[00:06:00] homes brands, and not having to think about that auditory. What are they? So when I watched that video, it was like a three minute clip and it's still on YouTube, Scott Galloway, voice technology, something like, I was like, damn, this is crazy. We're going to have this whole, it's a paradigm shift where brands are gonna have to start thinking, what do I sound like? Am I a man? Am I a woman, a high pitch, low pitch. This is just my agenda fluid. What am I. and this is when I realized there's so many, what I liked is that were there a lot of questions, but there weren't enough answers. So I thought, great. I love questions from my Jewish in front of satirical tradition that I was raised in. We love questions, even though we don't always have the answers. So let's get together as a group of MBA students and write down all these questions and try to provide frameworks that will help brands achieve answers. Brilliant. That sounds like a powerful moment having that realization. And as you were telling me, I was Jose feeling

[00:07:00] a similar realization, like how are brands going to do that? So, super interesting, indeed. Okay. And so you headed in this direction, we decided immersing yourself in voicetech. How did, what was the journey like from that to creating an online course? Yeah. So, you know, given the fact that we were sitting in these boardrooms with all of these different companies and speaking with a UX guys, UI guys, design engineers, seeing a lot of the questions they had with regards to voice. We started to gather if you like a whole array, the questions and the answers that we gave, we started to develop frameworks and really started to develop principles for conversational AI strategy and design. And well, I realized is that there's really these two islands, there's an Island of voice technology. And then there's an Island of brands. And in between these two islands is this ocean of

[00:08:00] unknown. So I thought, okay, how can I bridge? These two islands were. I can provide these frameworks, these principles all the way from where does voice fit into our digital strategy, all the way to where does voice fit into our customer journey to what sounds should we have? You know, should we have different voices for different use cases? Should we be on a mobile device? A voice is a voice assistant on a mobile device, or is the first small speaker, is it that to replace other interfaces or is it that supplement other interfaces? What is the emotional connection? All of these different questions that we were addressing, not only for brands, but actually going out there speaking and a lot of events that we're now hosting experts on voice. You know, we were not experts, but we knew more than the average person because the average person didn't know much about it. All of those learnings, all of those presentations after around two years, I realized, wow, I've got a lot of content here and I kind of understood web brands were finding it difficult to adopt voice.

[00:09:00] It was the early stages. Really a lot of brands unfortunately jumped into making voice applications, but they didn't jump into the strategy of why I should have a voice application and where in my consumer journey it should fit in. Right. So content at a colleague of mine out in Israel, ID. Missoula fantastic. Or Google assistant experts, strategy, expert, corporate innovation expert. She was doing the same thing in Israel. So I said, Hey, I've got the content here. You've got the content there. Why don't we get together? And we kind of know what questions. These brands have for this early stage of voice exploration, that structure into a course. we, we ended up hosting on you to me and soon we're going to have, additional versions outside of you, to me and other platforms, as well as standalone features. And that's really where, we took the learnings and the work that we had done in other contexts and formulated it in the form of a.

[00:10:00] Online course, which now I think is about 350 students in, 11 months. So just under a year, our target was 50 in a year, so we're ecstatic with having 350 students in under a year. Fantastic. Okay. And, and I mean, this sounds like a fascinating course for a student going in, what sort of, transformation happens for them before and after the course? What does that look like for the student? I'm glad you asked that because that's exactly the question I asked at the beginning. I was thinking, you know what, let's who's coming in and how are they going out? The course is really designed for UX, UI designers, strategists, digital transformation, people, brand managers, marketers, engineers, anybody, and everybody. Who is involved in some form of technology, student level, all the way to senior level. The idea is we're

[00:11:00] here to pitch the benefits of voice for brands that have utilized it thus far. And for brands that we think should utilize it. And we've given frameworks for the students. To go away and apply. So it's almost like a temple plates, probably Mark, where they can apply it to that current product, that technology, that business, that brand and through a prying, these principles and frameworks to that current situation, whatever they are, even if they're a student just coming up with a voice application because they fancy doing so they will then be able to go away and have a strategic. A foundation for whatever voice applications that they will be designing and developing, because we realized there's a ton of designers out there. There are a ton of developers out there, but there are not many good strategies out there. And you can have the best voice application designed, beautifully developed beautifully. But if the strategy is not there of why the hell it should be, even in your portfolio of digital products, you know, it's a stretch.

[00:12:00] He's not there. No, one's going to know about it. And it might not be a right fit. So we really started at the early, early levels, first principles really, of, of, voice exploration. So that the idea is that through the course, the student will come away, not equipped with answers, but equipped with knowing what questions to ask, to their own product teams, to be able to determine whether or not voice is a fit, for, for whatever projects they're working on. It makes a lot of sense. Cause I guess voice isn't always the right fit. Right. And there is quite a, quite a challenge to identify where that is, where the technology should be applied. Is it at the beginning of the industry that will voice first champions who believe that voice is the cure for everything including cancer left, right. And center voice will do everything. it reminds me of the microwave when the microwave first came out, they will, everyone was that's it. We don't need. Stoves, we don't need fire. We don't do anything. The microwave will do everything, but actually no microwave ended up being

[00:13:00] another element of the kitchen and not to replace other interfaces, but as a supplementary interface. And that's exactly what voices it's then all to replace the screen in all circumstances and not to replace mobile web, et cetera, it's there to supplement our interactions with those interfaces. And sometimes it can be a standalone voice only interface. I always say we push an agenda of convenience Fest. Rather than voice faster, depending on the situation within the consumer journey, we will try and find where voice fits in to be the most convenient for that particular use case. I really liked that microwave comparison. That's great. Yeah. It's Charles Cadbury friend of mine who came up with it. He's a CEO. Say it now. Nice. Okay. And then the students who are going through this course or attempting to study similar materials, what, what are the most important things that students should be focusing on to be picking up the skills that they need? The main focus,

[00:14:00] as I always say, is principals. Principals principals, principals. We talk, we tend to get bogged down in detail in all facets of life, not just with our work. And sometimes it's good to zoom out and, and try to see, your assumptions. Right. Cause we can go ahead with an assumption and devote a lot of time and resources to something which comes late. And with assumptions that we later find out that that was just an assumption or a fundamental part of why we did this was based on faulty assumption. So the main thing I try to get across is really, you know, first of all, to connect, let me check just like the cell. It has cell cycle, cell cycle checkpoints at every stage of the cell cycle. There is a checkpoint to see, okay, what I've done in the last stage is this, is this good to go? Is it, or is it mutated? And we shouldn't continue with it. If it's mutated, start from beginning, scratch. Forget it. If we're okay. So far let's continue. So there's, there's this inbuilt cell cycle mechanism. Checkpoints,

[00:15:00] you know, mentality that I've tried to instill within the course. So that before you even think about designing or developing a voice application to constantly check that this voice solution is actually a solution for your use case or not. So coming with a macro viewpoint is one of the hardest things you can teach a student to do. It's very difficult for myself sometimes because we love to get onto the next stage of things. So coming in with that open mind of constantly zooming out. At every assumption point and making sure that there is this coherent structure or stepped process to what you're doing. That's what I would say. So a macro view really is it's the main requirement for the course. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Any tips on, I find myself making the same mistakes sometimes in my own day to day work. any, any tips on how to adopt the, the macro view? when it, when it's beneficial, Yeah. Study philosophy, philosophy, philosophy, philosophy.

[00:16:00] As I said, I've recently published a book on Jewish philosophy and something philosophy has taught me that if you think about it fees, what about macro questions? It's taking us out of the mundane, micro elements of our life and saying, why are we even here? What are we supposed to do? So philosophy was very helpful in. Providing, you know, the framework really for some time, zoom out. Why you doing this voice application in the first place? You know, where is it going to fit? Well, what is the meaning behind it? What are you going to gain from it? What are the objectives I would recommend, everybody for every facet of life, again, not just for work, to, to spend some time studying. philosophies of days gone as well as the current philosophers, from Sam Harris to Jordan Peterson, et cetera, et cetera, to really get a better view of the big questions. Cause those things do subconsciously impact a lot of the work that you do as well, and allow you to have a macro vision in everything from work, the

[00:17:00] relationships. Hmm that's that's a really great answer. I expect students of yours will benefit from having that philosophical. Element blended in with the course material. So that's, that's really great. Okay. So moving on from, from the specifics of the course and more to, career development and perhaps people who were thinking I'd quite like to get into voice tech, what advice would you give to those people? So I think the main thing is to look at emerging technologies out there. We're seeing. Paradigm shift in our interactions with technology very much so early stages of, you know, tech development, the criteria that we were working towards as engineers, developers, designers. The criteria. We're about accuracy. We're about speed efficiency, but now we're living in an era of technology where the

[00:18:00] criteria, you know, we're talking about technology system, you know, understands us technology. That's empathetic that we can trust devices that we can trust. So it's moving from this cold left side, rational. you know, view of technology to this warm and fuzzy, emotional right side of the brain, criteria such as empathy, trust, et cetera. And so when we look at that humanization, if you like, or this evolution of this year and computer interaction, it's worth noting, what are the technologies out there that can meet both of these criteria? And voice I think is ideal because it meets both of the criteria. It can be a proficient experience. It can be an accurate experience. It can be experienced. It removes friction and, you know, provides a speed that that customer might need at that given time. But at the same time, voice is packed with emotional cues. So you can have a trustworthy conversation with somebody when you hear that voice, that could be a voice that's

[00:19:00] empathetic. you know, a voice that you trust. So I think that's something that really attracted me to commit to some sort of career in conversational AI, voice technology as a whole. I say conversational AI as the umbrella term for voice tech and chat bots, because chat bots are also under the umbrella of conversational AI, but obviously you don't have a voice in that sense. So. That really intrigued me because we've seen the interactions between emotion and technology. We've seen that the tests has been out there. The clinical trial has gone on for these decades of the impact of technology on our mental States. And we're starting to see that within a five minute span on our mobile phones. So many emotions are triggered from a text that we may receive, which makes us. Feel all warm and fuzzy to a reminder we receive that makes us angry to feelings of surprise when we get a random notification. So, and then five minutes span on all devices. We have a emotional cocktail. So

[00:20:00] given that reality, What kind of interfaces are out there or technologies or devices out there that can help us manage our emotions. It's a little bit better that a little bit friendlier or not. And I think voice sits really nicely there because with voice you can really impact the emotional States for the good, so you can still get the, you know, the technological things done as you wish to do with the older devices, but doing them with an empathy. And emotional intelligence from the, from, from, you know, from the side of the device, if you like, it may provide human computer interactions that are a little bit more pleasing to the mental States of not only our youth, but especially our elderly and beyond. Very true. Yeah. No, I mean, you've certainly helps me to see conversational AI from a new perspective. It makes you think, why aren't Diana already, right. I certainly have some food for thought

[00:21:00] for listeners and indeed, indeed, whatever I speak with people about it, they're like, damn, I should get into conversation. but that's definitely an exciting space with all the virtual reality, augmented reality. At the end of the day with AI robots of the future, we are going to have an AI population. How are we going to communicate with these people? People with these devices, with these robots throughout voice, how are they going to be communicating with that voice? So at the end of the day, when you see the Google in your living room, when you see the Alexa in your living room, these are just the babies. If you like of a future AI robot population, these are just the early, it's almost desensitizing us to communicating with. Robots of the future because at the end of the day, whatever brain that Alexa or Google has, will be the same, well, much more advanced brain that the AI robots population will have in the future. So that's why it's exciting because we're going to be communicating with this population. We may not, but our kids

[00:22:00] will be without a shadow of a doubt in the next 20 years. and they're going to be communicating with their voice and with conversation, right? Hi. So it's a very exciting space to be in because it's almost setting the standard. For our interactions with this new population hundred percent, great stuff. it's a 9.9%. Nothing's a hundred percent my friend great stuff. okay, well look, I mean, I'm sure we could go on for a long, long time on this. I mean, it's a fascinating topic, but we're about at time zone in terms of people who want to go and learn more about you and take your course, where can people go to find out more? So I would recommend going on my website. So it's seen a cotton.com, S I N a K a H E n.com. And on there you have access to a lot of the content. The course, obviously there's a link through there and the book and, please do reach out. I love hearing from everybody and

[00:23:00] anybody, especially things related to compensation or AI MedTech, corporate innovation. as well as philosophy. So, really, really thank you for having me and really looking forward to speaking to the audience at a future date. Brilliant. Well, we'll make sure all those things are in the show notes, but Sienna, thank you ever so much for coming on. Really enjoyed our chat. Thank you.

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