The RealSAM Smart Speaker brings new content accessibility to voice tech

Moon Taxi, an ascendant rock band based in Nashville, has played on Letterman, Conan, and Jimmy Kimmel, as well as major festivals like Bonnaroo & Coachella.

They’ll headline Euphonious on Saturday, June 19.

The Marrakesh Treaty is a treaty ratified by roughly 100 countries around the world, including the United States - signed by the US under Obama and entered into under Trump.

The treaty was initially adopted by 63 countries during a diplomatic conference in Marrakesh, Morocco.

The treaty provides blanket exceptions to copyright for organizations that create accessible versions of books and other works for those who are visually impaired.

With the Marrakesh Treaty in place, UK-based Calibre Audio - a charity which provides a collection of over 12,000 audiobooks to the visually impaired and who otherwise have trouble accessing print books - was able to service an expanded international footprint.

Meanwhile, RealThing AI started in 2008 as “a collection of AI researchers and developers” based in Melbourne, Australia, working on military-oriented implementations of advanced computing.

In 2014, the company expanded its work to include accessibility, and by 2018 the company had a smart speaker alongside a voice-first mobile phone.

A bit confusingly, what the company calls The RealSAM Smart Speaker is nothing but a Google Home outfitted with a RealSAM audiobook subscription (with an Amazon Alexa / Echo version coming shortly):

A few thoughts on this:

1) This may quietly be one of the most successful third-party subscription services on mainstream smart speakers in existence.

It certainly is worth studying as an example of monetizing content.

2) This use case screams for Amazon and Google to allow third-party branding of smart speakers for specific use cases like this.

Companies purchasing smart speakers in bulk that are going to turn around and make them available to customers for one singular purpose should be able to brand them. Why haven’t we seen this?

The closest we’ve come are third-party companies that print graphics on coverings for Amazon Echo Dots, but those efforts have come and gone as a result of Amazon themselves changing the form factor of the Echo Dot dramatically from version to version.

3) Take note of the fact this organization has created its own mobile phone, alongside its smart speakers.

I’m intrigued by this. This is an audio content distributor that was both willing and able to create its own mobile phone.

There’s an interesting analog here to the reality that many voice developers are simultaneously creating mobile applications to extend the reach of their content to new audiences.

Here, we see the exact same thing, except on the hardware side.

We know the smart speaker was born to eventually fade away: voice assistants ultimately belong in our clothing, our glasses, our cars, our computers, our phones, and shouldn’t theoretically require a standalone device in a home or office.

Is this movement toward voice integration with mobile apps, and this type of one-off integration with smartphones, the beginning of a long-term move away from smart speakers?

Kind of feels like it.

Project Voice, as a physical conference, is returning in April as a CEO-level gathering of 100 top CEOs across the conversational AI landscape. Nolan Bushnell and Zai Ortiz will provide a brief keynote.

Tickets are sold out online, but if you’re the CEO of a company working with voice/AI and you’re reading this, we have a waitlist and we will attempt to accommodate you if you’d like to join us for what will be a seminal event for this young space.

Euphonious, one of the first music festivals to take place physically in the United States in June, is actually part of the Project Voice Series.

Why not, when the main use case of smart speakers and voice assistants (e.g. Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Bixby) is to play and discover new music?

A significant percentage of attendees will travel into Birmingham, Alabama, just for this event. (You can register here, and the Spotify playlist for the festival is here.)

If you’re a This Week In Voice VIP reader and you’re one of them, reach out - we’ll invite you to be part of the Project Voice Regional Briefings in which top voice/AI companies will be connected with Fortune 1000 CEOs working in the Southeast United States.

The Voice of the Car Summit, which explores the intersection between the automotive sector and conversational AI, returns as dual in-person events taking place in May, both presented by our friends at Cerence.

We’ll have more to say about these executive-level events on Thursday, and the process to register interest in attending.