Amid talk of earbuds with cords that don’t tangle and a universal product scanner called Firefly, the inclusion of spontaneously invoked tech support called MayDay may have been glossed over at the launch party for Amazon’s “Fire” mobile phone. You’ll recall that the video assistance service launched as a much touted feature of the Kindle Fire XDS last September. The 24/7/365 service agent can be contacted through a pull down menu from any page or app running on the phone. Amazon continues to promise
“less than 15 second” response time before a phone user can engage with a video assistant.
At the launch event, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos positioned MayDay as an alternative to the dreaded “Droid Forums” – referring to the support communities that Google expects Android users to turn to for technical support. Given that the Fire phone is positioned as the ultimate electronic catalog and order entry device for the broad range of products and electronic content that Amazon can deliver, the real question is “how long will it take for MayDay to morph into the ultimate intelligent assistant and electronic personal shopper.
If the MayDay “rep” continues to be a live agent, it will be a matter of training, workforce optimization and knowledge management. Yet I still maintain that, for MayDay to be done right, it is just a matter of time before it turns into a fully automated intelligent assistant, in which case it will depend on advances in life-like automated speech, natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). The pace of technological development in each of these disciplines has been dramatic. Amazon has a formidable set of intellectual property and demonstrable technical prowess and personnel thanks to a series of acquisitions, including Yap (speech recognition/transcription), Ivona (text-to-speech rendering) and Evi (formerly TrueKnowledge, for NLP, AI and ML).
Given all the other exciting features announced at the product launch, the short shrift allocated to MayDay is understandable; but my guess is that it will be one of the most important features of the new line of Amazon mobile phones.