SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Newark summit showcases cutting-edge voice technology

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Voice technology’s moved way beyond dictating texts. During the first Voice Summit, 2,500 people and more than 1,000 companies gathered at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark to talk about how voice will transform digital communication.

“We got use to now using our smartphones. We got use to, over the last ten years, tapping, swiping, pinching. Well, now we’re going to start using our voice to run everything,” said Peter Erickson, the founder and CEO of Modev.

Forget your medicine? Try Orbita’s interactive tool for medical reminders. There’s no need to login; the Boston-based company’s chatty app cheerfully asks: “Have you taken your medication?”

“What voice does is that instead of you navigating and trying to learn each screen, it starts to talk to you,” said Orbita Co-founder and CEO Bill Rogers. “It can have a conversation with the person about why is their blood glucose high.”

“It’s just incredible. I’ve worked in web and I’ve worked in mobile, but I’ve never seen that connection, that conversation and voice, and that empowerment that this can bring,” said David Isbitski, chief evangelist for Alexa and Echo at Amazon.

In his keynote, Isbitski explained voice will increasingly replace touch screens as computers keep learning better ways to interpret speech. They’re figuring out the difference between “forty times”, “for tea times” and “four tee times” through context.

“Machines now are finally catching up to the point, and it’s very early days, but we can begin to understand context with the help of all of us talking about what type of conversation that context happens in,” Isbitski said.

That NJIT and Newark landed this plum of an inaugural summit is no mean feat.

“We’re going to have a major impact on the community and companies are going to start popping up. People are going to be getting jobs in this sector, and really it’s going to be one of the smartest cities in the world when it comes to voice-first technology,” said Erickson.

“We have so many developers and programmers here today that we’re hoping look at Newark and tap into Newark for their start-ups. We’re open-arms,” said Aisha Glover, president and CEO of the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation.

And ready to embrace companies like Earplay, which markets interactive storytelling. You can explore Jurassic Park where the boat captain’s demanding payment.

“The technology is kind of new, and the devices are just now getting out to people, the market is very early. So this is a chance for all those who are participating who want to drive that forward, to come together to talk, to share ideas and to make the future happen,” said CEO Jon Myers, who came to the summit from Boston.

This summit’s just getting started. It’ll run for two more days of demos, displays and hopefully deals for thousands of entrepreneurs.