The future of voice interfaces & more at SXSW
Browse Blog Topics

The future of voice interfaces & more at SXSW

The way people interact with computing devices has changed dramatically over time, as users have evolved from text-based input in the early personal computing era to touch navigation as mobile phones took over.

On a SXSW panel entitled Touch, Voice, Gesture: What’s Next?, Samsung NEXT’s Patrick Chang, Dashbot’s Arte Merritt, and Gracenote’s Tim Cutting discussed voice-based mobile assistants and hardware devices, including the rise of chatbots, the limits of artificial intelligence, and what all this tells us about the future of user interfaces.

The rise in voice assistants and chatbots is due in part to that fact that those technologies are finally beginning to live up to their promise. As Cutting noted, anyone who tried out Dragon Naturally Speaking in the late 90s understands that natural language processing is not a new technology. What makes this moment unique is that today’s voice-controlled interfaces are generally good at doing what they’re told, so long as users are precise about what they’re asking for. But as Chang pointed out, context awareness is key.

“When you create a personality for your bot, you increase engagement.” — Arte Merritt, CEO of Dashbot

Merritt’s company Dashbot provides analytics to chatbot makers so they can better understand how users are interacting with new, conversational interfaces. One of the key takeaways is that users want to feel like they’re talking to a human rather than a machine, and frequently ask questions to test the limits of the AI.

While voice interfaces are finally starting to catch on, the panelists agreed that it will be some time before they’ll be able to match human intelligence and context awareness.

Also at SXSW…

That panel was just one highlight from our long weekend at SXSW, but only one of the events we participated in. On Friday, Patrick Chang joined a panel of crypto experts to discuss how blockchain technology will touch everyday consumers in the future.

* * * * *

On Saturday we partnered with Techstars to host a brunch where female founders could meet and ask questions of some of the top women in venture. The panel featured Samsung NEXT’s Siggi Hindrichs, along with Techstars’ Maya Baratz, Cross Culture Ventures’ Suzy Ryoo, Lightspeed’s Nicole Quinn, Open Road Holdings’ Katherine Cheun, Female Founders Fund’s Sutian Dong, and August Capital’s Lisa Marrone.

The conversation ranged from high-level questions around what those investors look for in the companies they invest in to more tactical advice for founders currently looking to raise funding.


In the late afternoon we held a meetup in the same space where founders, investors, and mentors from the Techstars and Samsung NEXT communities from across the globe could get to know one another.

At the American Cities House that night, Samsung NEXT’s Siggi Hindrichs helped judge the Startup Night pitch competition. The competition, which featured 25 different startups, was also backed by the Kauffman Foundation and TechCo.

* * * * *

On Sunday, we sponsored the all-day #CultureHouse event hosted by LISNR and Cross-Culture Ventures, where I interviewed Baron Davis about his journey from the NBA to becoming an entrepreneur and investor. We also discussed what types of company he is interested in backing and what he looks for in a startup and founder.

We also partnered with DFlash & KITE at the Inclusion Innovation House @ Galvanize Austin, which featured a full-day gathering of  female speakers and presenters from across the tech industry. Samsung NEXT’s Bhavna Kumar participated on a panel around corporate innovation and startups, while Alicia Garabedian participated in a pitch competition.

Related Stories