Higher Power

Coldplay, Warner Music, and NYC-based Skilled Creative team up, authoring a new chapter in voice/media interaction

Years ago, almost every single interaction with Alexa was mere seconds in length.

This was viewed as ideal: longer interactions were viewed as inefficient and defective, almost certainly the byproduct of poor conversation design.

This was until The Wayne Investigation, the Alexa skill created by Warner Bros and DC Comics to promote the 2016 film Batman vs Superman.

This game, in which users work to solve the mystery of who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents, had users interacting with Alexa six to seven minutes at a time, on average, and getting great user reviews in the process.

The Wayne Investigation was an important moment for mainstream voice technology: it marked a shift in perspective on what constitutes an “optimal” engagement between AI and user.

Amazon responded to this revelation by putting out the proverbial Batsignal for developers to join the ecosystem and create new experiences designed to entertain Alexa users.

The experimentation with The Wayne Investigation springboarded the entire Alexa ecosystem, leading to successes like Matchbox.io’s Question of the Day, Paizo’s Starfinder, Volley’s Song Quiz, Sleep Jar’s Sleep Sounds, and many, many more.

This week, we learned of a new experiment involving media, entertainment, and the Alexa ecosystem: Coldplay, Warner Music Group, and NYC-based Skilled Creative collaborated to create the Higher Power skill for Alexa.

This allows users to wake up to Coldplay’s new single, called Higher Power, and enjoy the official song or its acoustic counterpart.

From the reviews, it’s off to a good start.

Prior to the pandemic, Amazon backed away from promoting third-party skills with any of their mainstream marketing efforts.

The company spent millions advertising on TV over the last couple of years, and never so much as mentioned any third-party skill. Instead, their advertisements focused on first-party features of Alexa - features Amazon themselves built in to Alexa.

This was a mistake, providing Google and Samsung an opportunity to court these same developers to their ecosystem, when Amazon could’ve slammed the door by playing kingmaker for some of its best third-party partners.

Amazon easily could’ve required its best and most valuable skill developers to sign agreements prohibiting developing voice experiences for other ecosystems, in exchange for co-promotion on national television.

But they didn’t.

The pandemic has, in many ways, washed away what existed before.

Many voice developers are gone entirely, out of business or moved on to other ventures. And in many ways, with the mainstream voice assistants, we’re starting over.

This new Alexa skill with Coldplay’s new single is an incredible gift to Amazon. It incorporates brand new features to the Alexa ecosystem, such as the ability to make an Alexa skill into a “quick link,” while showcasing one of the world’s biggest musical acts in an exclusive, creative, and simple way.

This is a development that other voice ecosystems could never pay enough money for.

Amazon’s next move should be obvious:

Promote this voice experience in every way possible.

Including, and especially, on TV.

It’s an opportunity to set the right precedent: if you, as a third party, create something special for Alexa, we won’t just mention you on blogs and backchannel developer websites that many won’t see.

We will mass market you!

We’ll shout your name from the mountaintops!

Make something good enough, and we’ll treat you like a higher power.

Project Voice X is the special edition of the #1 event for voice tech and AI in America. This October in sunny Destin / Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

This week, the early bird registration discount for Project Voice X ends. Don’t miss out: you can register here.

A lot of new sessions were unveiled this afternoon, and overnight tonight an email will go out announcing a new Presenting Sponsor: Amazon.

This will be a landmark event. We hope to see you there.