How is Voice in Technology Going to Change the Way We Work? | A Q&A with James Poulter

16 March 2020

Our February 2020 edition of the Knowledge Guild brought together experts who discussed how technology gains our trust online, the enormous potential Voice User Experience and AI can bring to our work and personal lives, and why a hybrid of emerging technologies has led to superhuman abilities.

We caught up with former Head of Lego Group’s Emerging Platform team, James Poulter, a highly regarded and passionate thought leader exciting audiences on the future of work, voice technology, conversational AI and social media.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m James Poulter , most people call me 'JP'. I’m the CEO and co-founder of Vixen Labs, which ais a voice technology consultancy and design studio based in London.

I’m talking about the idea of what the future of computing might look like, which is what I like to call ambient computing, an idea that technology doesn’t always have to be something that we go searching for but that can often come and find us. In a world where sensors are enabled and connected, where the future might be more autonomous than it is today, and where we are more involved with our own technology usage, when we add all of those things together, that’s what the future might look like.

Could you share a story about how has the evolution of technology affected your work?

A couple of weeks ago we went down to the south coast where my parents have a caravan, and in that caravan they an apple tv and my four year old daughter Hazel walked up to it and said ‘Alexa, turn on the TV’, and nothing happened. She was disappointed and turned around to me and said: Daddy, where is Alexa?’ And I had to explain to her, ‘well, she’s not actually here’ and that to me just sums up the expectation that the next generation are going to have of what this technology could mean for them.

What do you think is the most pressing issues facing the future of technology?

One of the most pressing problems with this new form of technology that we’re engaging with every day now is that we don’t yet know the full extent of where it can go to. By that I mean we don’t yet know how much information is the right amount of information to give to Amazon, Google, Apple, to Samsung and all of the other companies that are gathering massive amounts of data about us.

Right now they sit in these little pockets and silos, they’re not connected up, they don’t know everything your doctor knows about you or everything the government knows about you or everything Amazon knows about you, but one day they might. It could be the utopia is down the line where things get done for us, we have more time to have more leisure where we don’t have to work so hard. Actually, all of these ‘time-saving’ technologies have been developing for the past 3-4 decades actually do end up giving us back more time rather than more time to do email, but we don’t yet know.

How is voice in tech going to change the way we work?

Voice technology might change the way we work fundamentally because we don’t have to try and work out how to use computers anymore. When you can just ask for a spreadsheet to give you information you need, when you can book a meeting room instantly rather than worrying about who’s got an HDMI cable that plugs into a screen, when you can do all of these things just by asking for it, you lower the barrier to entry for so many people who struggle with technology today. Which maybe opens up the ability for more people to work in these high-tech environments than we’ve ever had before.

We worry right now that robots are going to steal our jobs, but we forget the fact that they might make it easier for everybody to have jobs and we’re really excited about their prospects of what it means for new people to begin to enter the voice technology industry as people pivot their old careers from UX or marketing or strategy into this new discipline, it requires new skills. We’re excited to be training them up through our new voice master’s program, as well as also helping some of the biggest businesses in the world like Sony Music adopt this kind of technology for themselves.

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