Amazon Echo products are predicted to be a hot holiday gift this year, with many wanting to tap into the promise of a digital home assistant. As the Amazon Alexa ecosystem continues to evolve and become a key platform for many third-party products, it is putting pressure on these third-party vendors, as well as Amazon, to deliver a seamless experience to the end user.
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The internet of things is bringing technology directly into everyone’s lives, and exponentially increasing the demands on the user experience and quality. Systems are now highly distributed and heterogeneous, and getting everything to work — including graphically rich systems — requires testing to reinvent itself.
Echo products are a great example of how humans no longer simply interact with technology via a controlled environment, such as a keyboard, and user interfaces are no longer simply digital forms, i.e., collections of text boxes, labels and buttons. As voice and video are layered in through services, such as Spotify and smart home controls, this requires testing the entire system from the end user perspective to ensure that the experience delights time after time. The days of a tester saying something is “out of scope” just because it wasn’t developed internally are very much in the rearview mirror. Ongoing monitoring of the user experience is now a prerequisite for success in a digital world.
With voice, you need to be able to test the end user experience and, for example, how Alexa deals with accents to ensure the correct response. No one wants lights turned on at 7:00 am rather than 7:00 pm, or the garage door opening instead of closing. As vendors add Alexa skills into the ecosystem, they need to be able to test the entire experience rather than simply their particular component. This requires testing the user experience at multiple levels rather than just looking at the code.
So, if Amazon wants to continue to grow its share of the digital home assistant market, it needs to think about putting in place a set of standards that must be met from the user experience perspective before it allows other service providers to become part of the Echo ecosystem — and it must enable those providers to easily achieve that user experience. This is no small task.
The ability of users to easily and accurately interact with any IoT product or service will determine its success. If the Echo want to be more than a one-season wonder, ensuring an experience that delights will be key to it becoming an essential tool for years to come, rather than a toy.
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