Amazon’s voice activated assistants ‘Alexa’ could mean big trouble for brands and other tech giants, according to Chris Messina, the man who invented the hashtag.

Speaking at the Web Directions Summit in Sydney, Messina said voice activated technology and personalisation was fundamentally changing communication, including how consumers perceive brands.


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Amazon’s ‘Alexa’ was the main culprit according to Messina. The voice recognition technology combined with Amazon’s dominance is presenting a major threat to their competitors.

“Google is kind of f**ked. In terms of the distribution of Alexa, most users are going to Amazon to start their searches. So Alexa represents a foothold, if not a kick in the nuts to Google – to basically say now there’s another game in town that’s able to do a lot more things than previously,” Messina said.

“As we’ve given loads and loads of data to these big platforms like Google, Amazon and Microsoft, they’ve been able to pattern our behaviour using advances in Moore’s law… to improve speech recognition accuracy to beyond human ability.”

It means increasingly accurate voice assistants are the new “battleground” in same way browsers compete for users, Messina said. Amazon’s echo enabled devices already have a 70 per cent market share, which could also spell trouble for brands, according to Messina.

Endangered Brands

Voice technology is “even more accessible [than mobile interfaces],” and means people can be less descriptive about their desires, Messina said. This “laziness” in voice enabled ordering is putting brands are at risk. Messina showed a video from Scott Galloway, Clinical Professor at NYU, to illustrate the point.

The one-to-many communication system of broadcast technology meant brand image was critical, but increasing personalisation and voice technology calls that into question, Messina said.

The issue is compounded by Amazon’s dominant market share and their continued push into other markets, he said. “Amazon is willing to spend its way into every possible market… Amazon is like; screw profit, we’re going to own the market.”

Combined with increasing wearable technology it means there is now a race to get inside the consumers head, Messina said.

A New Reality

The shift to voice is part of our ever evolving communication systems. But the pace of change now means technology is disturbing things like relationships, human connections and what reality is, Messina said. It raises questions for people today, but for future generations it’s reality, according to Messina.

“Kids are going to grow up believing in this. Because this reality is preferable to the alternative… The difference [for future generations] is the degree to which people are willing to believe that these things are real,” he said.

“We are moving into an era where the separation between reality and augmented reality and fake news is completely being blurred based on your own subjective experience.”

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