As a startup coach and mentor, I spend a lot of time working with teams in the initial stages of their journey. When working with founders trying to define a viable concept I always try to emphasise that having the right insights is the key for them to develop a robust value proposition. With insights I mean diverse views, different perspectives that you can learn from. These include aspects like understanding your customer’s pain points, but also understanding of how consumer behaviours evolve and how technology trends could potentially provide new opportunities or disrupt what you are currently working on. Using these insights already in the ideation stage is really crucial.
So here is something to think about if you are about to develop a mobile app: How will the recent developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Language Recognition algorithms, Internet of things (IoT), Automation (chat bots) or Virtual Reality impact your startup? Will mobile applications be as important in the future as they are today? Reading a recent article from Daniel Burrus, LinkedIn Influencer and Tech Futurist, one should think twice about whether a mobile app is the only way to interact with the user and provide a good user experience. Quoting Daniel Burrus on this matter, he makes a strong point:
“Searching for an app that is hidden in a folder of apps on page 3 of our phones is no longer deemed productive in an age of instant gratification. Our quest for personalization and simplicity has the potential to make 99 percent of apps in their current form completely irrelevant over the next couple of years.”
You might wonder how that is possible? Aren’t we excited any more about these applications that help us to order food, get the nearest taxi, play the music we like, or connect with our friends? Simplicity is really the big question. The reality today is that most of us start having too many options and what was convenience at first is often becoming a distraction. Each application you install has to learn about your preferences, your needs and you have to learn how the application works. The mobile phone in itself is not the ideal UX either. To many apps, too much data to enter… can we do better?
Converging trends in AI, Language Recognition and IoT
Language recognition is going to help with some of the problems applications are facing today. If you want to personalise your application experience you need to know the context of the user. This is today done by automatically collecting historical data, or collecting data through social login or directly from your phone with location information for instance. But entering anything additional manually is often cumbersome, if we could use natural to provide data to clarify our requests then the interactions will become much smoother.
Just think about Apple’s Siri, trying to answer any type of questions… The voice recognition is getting better and better and Google Home or Amazon Echo are doing the same. Amazon Echo and their latest product the Amazon Echo Dot is actually quite amazing, because it is a device that aims to control your home and interact with you using only voice controls. Who needs a mobile app to order a pizza from home in that case? Don’t need an Uber app either. The interesting thing with Amazon’s echo is that this is an IoT device that can learn new skills! The programmability is what differentiates it from many of its competitors. You can teach it, provide rules on how a new skill is learned. This is how you start building up artificial intelligence. When you ask for certain things, especially when using skills or ordering items from Amazon, you may have to answer questions using the magic word “Alexa” to fully understand what you’re looking for. But that’s it. You’re typically just answering questions to help Alexa better figure things out. Effectively this is like having a platform that can load chat bots dealing with different needs. This has the potential to replace many applications through a single interface…
Google Home provides similar capabilities. It is voice controlled and you can ask additional questions which are contextually based on the original question. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon have all heavily invested in AI, IoT, Cloud and language recognition to a point where it will be difficult for others to compete with these giants. What we see here is a battle for the home environment, which is today very fragmented, but the technology in itself will certainly become ubiquitous and be available anywhere: in the car, at work or on the move. For Startup founders, this is certainly something to consider when thinking about how to reach out and engage their customers.
User interfaces will evolve
User interfaces are evolving as well! We have seen the emergence of wearables in the last couple of years, but these are often combined with a mobile application for the interaction. But if you add voice interaction to these devices, where is the need for a mobile app, right? You might still want to visualise the data from fitness exercises on graphs and charts… but you could equally well render this on any other screen like the TV. The point is that with voice control many devices can be interacted with directly in a much simpler ways than with a phone today. Similarly Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality can become better ways to render information, than a mobile application on a phone. Think about this what is the best way to present and consume the data, what is the best way to collect data..
Chat Bots, AI and Extreme Automation
One more thing to consider for startup founders is how they will interact with potential and existing customers. Many companies are today experimenting with chat bots to reduce their customer support costs, and serve customers faster and better. Here again with AI you can be assured that this can lead to increased productivity as long as the bots learn properly. You might remember Microsofts failed attempt earlier this year when their chat bot turn crazy in less than 24hours. But this is normal learning curve. As mentioned with Amazon’s approach where you teach Echo Dot new skills the risk is lesser that this goes as wrong as in the Microsoft experiment. Now combine that learning capability with the voice recognition, and you can start automating many customer oriented processes. I believe that all startups working with marketplaces that have created enough traction should start thinking about these opportunities to automate more and more of their processes.
Now you are probably thinking that today everybody has a mobile phone, but not everybody has an Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home device. True, but if your horizon is two-three years from now, then that could be different. This technologies will also enter phone platforms much quicker than we think. I am sure their are already plenty of startups out there that have seen this opportunity, and are working with language recognition, chatbots and AI. I would like to here from you! Are you building anything using language recognition, AI, chatbots, then tell us your story! What are you thoughts on this topic? Do you see these trends taking more time or happening quicker?
Don’t hesitate also to reach out to me directly. I am available for one-on-one startup coaching or just a casual chat. You can reach me at email@example.com