Cathy Pearl is head of conversation design outreach at Google and design manager for Google Assistant, so among other things, she basically oversees all things Google Assistant and voice user interface design related.
At Project Voice 2020, she sat down with QuHarrison Terry and I to discuss the amazing things voice technology is facilitating in the world right now, as well as what it should bring in the future.
Oh, and we discussed her book, Designing Voice User Interfaces, why she wrote it and her overall process for writing the book.
Cathy was recently named one of the top leaders in Voice and AI by voicebot.ai.
For the full transcript of the interview, scroll down...
Paul Hickey, Founder / CEO / Lead Strategist at Data Driven Design, LLC and founder of The Voice Event, and The Voice Designer, has created and grown businesses via digital strategy and internet marketing for more than 15 years. His sweet spot is using analytics to design and build websites and grow the audience and revenue of businesses via SEO/Blogging, Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Facebook and Instagram Ads, Social Media Content Marketing, Email Marketing and most recently, Voice App Design and Development – Alexa Skills and Google Actions. The part that he’s most passionate about is quantifying next marketing actions based on real data.
Paul: What's up everybody. Paul Hickey here with Data Driven Design and the Nashville Voice Conference, I'm here with Qu Harrison Terry from Inevitable Human and Cathy Pearl of Google. Cathy, we're so excited to be talking to you today.
Cathy: Thanks for having me.
Paul: So yeah, absolutely. So, we're excited about your book. You've written a very influential book. Can you take us through your process in writing such an influential book in the voice space?
Cathy: It was, it was quite a challenging process. I've never written a book before and basically, I was working full time at a startup, had a young son and I just had to really use a lot of just self-discipline. Every night after my son went to bed, I would sit down in front of computer for an hour and sometimes I would be like not in the mood to write so I would maybe re-read something I'd written or do some research. But usually eventually I'll get into it, but it was a real rollercoaster. Somedays I would be like why did I do this and then somedays I would be like yay I am writing a book. So, it was quite a process.
Cathy: Thank you.
Qu: So, for the people that don’t know, what is the title of your book and what is it about? There are a lot of first-time viewers to Cathy.
Cathy: The title is Designing Voice User Interfaces and it is essentially meant to be a how-to guidebook. Like if you are interested in building a conversational experience whether it is voice of chatbot or whatever. It is a way to get to you like how do you do it. There are design best practices that you can apply, it is not just random stuff.
Cathy: So it is really supposed to be a helpful way to get people started and also do more advanced design as well.
Qu: Wonderful, thank you for that.
Paul: Cathy, I want to know why do you believe in voice? Why are you so passionate about it and why are you doing what you do?
Cathy: To me the magic of voice is really or the goal of voice is to make things just work. So we’ve all had frustrations with technology all the time – sometimes with voice technology. But the goal is to really be able to ask for what you want and not have to learn some esoteric app or some new way of interacting. Especially for people who maybe aren’t super tech savvy, or they don’t have the latest smart phone. Everyone can have a conversation and if you can just apply that to the problem and get what you want, it’s much better.
Paul: Awesome, thank you.
Qu: And you work at Google, right?
Cathy: That’s right.
Qu: At Google, what is your exact title? For the people that don’t know. Voice is a new, fascinating industry for us all.
Cathy: My title is a bit of a mouthful. So it’s Head of Conversation Design Outreach.
Qu: Head of Conversation Design Outreach.
Qu: Wow. Alright, what exactly do you do then?
Cathy: So I spend a lot of my time out in the world, talking to people about conversational design, voice user interfaces, giving talks, writing articles. Inside Google, I also do that as well. I meet with teams who are thinking about designing something conversational. I might say, what is it that you are trying to build? Here are some principles. Let’s brainstorm. Just a lot about teaching and awareness and that kind of thing.
Qu: It’s not every day you get to sit down and talk to a Googler, right?
Cathy: I do. I get to that.
Qu: You do. You get the luxury of doing that.
Paul: You do, not me.
Qu: That’s an every day thing for you but for myself, I am not at Google. So what’s the fascinating voice technology, that get’s you excited at Google day in and day out? How do you think about voice behind the Googleplex?
Cathy: Right now, the stuff I am most excited and passionate about is voice in accessibility and inclusion.
Cathy: So we launched a few things recently, such as Live Transcribe, which is an app you can get on Android that basically when you are talking, it’s just transcribing and writing down on the screen what you are saying.
Qu: We can use that here.
Cathy: Yeah, you can use that here. If you are in a noisy environment, if you’re deaf or hard of hearing, it’s great. I use it a lot with my aunt who is deaf. It’s a great communication tool. There’s just the fact that people with mobility issues, like maybe you have muscular dystrophy, and you can’t use your hands very well to control your environment. Now, instead of asking someone to turn on the tv or adjust your bed or do whatever, you can just ask the Google Assistant. And I love that aspect of bringing about more independence to people who may not have had that.
Qu: That’s super empowering to a user that might feel disadvantaged and may be skeptical of technology because they have an impediment already. And that’s a fascinating outlook just on voice technology at large. I got to use that. Yeah
Paul: Yeah, I know what I am excited about in 2020 coming up. I am excited about using Google Actions and other voice apps to help small business owners and mid-level marketers. What are you most excited about for voice coming up in 2020?
Cathy: I think, kind of based on what we were just talking about. We announced a project called Project Euphonia which seeks to teach the Google Assistant to understand people who might have non-standard speech. For example, if you have ALS, your voice degrades over time and the voice assistant won’t work for you. I mean that’s such a shame because those are the folks who could benefit the most. So Project Euphonia is trying to solve that problem by collecting more data from people with different speech patterns so that we can really let everybody use the technology.
Paul: That’s amazing.
Cathy: Yeah, I’m excited about that.
Qu: That’s interesting. Well, at large when it comes to 2020, are there any milestones in voice, you personally, just looking at the market at large just take in and have some observations? This is your opportunity to be a futurist. What are you seeing? What are the trends? Where do you …?
Cathy: I think the trend is that there is no trend. I think the trend is that this space is so new that businesses and brands haven’t yet entirely figured out the right places to go. And so, what I am looking forward to is more people trying things out. Really trying to figure out where is it that people want to interact with your brand with voice. Because there is a place, but it might not be the same as what they do on your website, might not even be the same as they do on your chatbot. So, I just really look forward to creative and interesting ways that businesses are approaching this and finding ways to connect with their customers in this space with voice.
Qu: Wonderful. Thank you for your time Cathy. Paul, any last questions?
Paul: Thank you so much. I really learned a lot this week and look forward to seeing what’s up next from Google.
Cathy: Thank you very much.
Qu: Indeed. Thank you, Google, for granting us access to Cathy.
Paul: Yes, thank you.
Qu: This outreach was phenomenal, and we’ll catch you all on our Google Assistants in the future.