kind of product can we apply it to? 2)
Product first: We have this product
idea. What kind of technology do
we need? It costs more time and
resources to develop new technology.
We may already have technology
that has not yet shown its value. So,
we will start with the first approach
to build a product enabled by the
current technology. Then we will
shift to the second approach to work
with the research and engineering
teams to build new technology to serve
But applying technology is not as
simple as an add-on or a plug-in. The
example products above all use ASR. Is
the value of ASR the same across every
product? Does ASR even bring value?
Adding AI to existing products can
have a range of outcomes, including:
• Fails to solve the problem and
hurts the user experience
• Fails to solve the problem
• Solves the problem
• Solves the problem and improves
the user experience
• Solves the problem, improves the
user experience, and brings extra value
or creates new experiences.
We should avoid one and two. Three
is not recommended. Four already can
bring real value. Five is the goal—then
AI is truly the new electricity!
Business value is as important as
user value. But if we pay too much
attention to business value, we may
impose unwanted constraints. If our
product can reach the level of bullets
four and five, the business value will
The two sides of AI. Microsoft
Tay became a racist in less than a day;
Google Photos appallingly identified
two black people as gorillas. The more
value AI brings, the more risks it has.
Even a 1 percent error rate for an
autonomous car can lead to deaths. At
the other extreme, a smart light bulb
may fail to turn on when someone
arrives home; that person might then
become a bit mad and yell at the bulb.
But no big deal, right? The value it
brings is small. Life continues.
The creator of Microsoft Tay
ignored human nature, especially its
bad side. There are two approaches to
create Tay-like chatbots. The machine
gets answers from rules based on user
input. Or the machine will self-learn
from the data. Tay uses the second
approach. It is so smart that it learned
User. Who is our target user?
Those cool young kids who love
technology and must be hungry for
new things? It turns out that’s wrong.
From our data (user feedback and
reviews), we noticed that there are
a lot of not so young and even senior
users. “Got this for my 92-year-old
great grandfather and he loves it.”
This review made my entire week.
Users appreciate that Talk Type solves
their problems. For example, they
might have shaky hands or fat fingers,
or they are nearsighted.
“Speech to text” is the most
searched keyword among all voice-keyboard-related searches. People who
are looking for a solution must have a
problem. They are the real users.
“I can type very fast with my eyes
closed. Cuz I remembered every
key!” said a young girl, holding her
Samsung and showing us the default
Samsung keyboard. Those cool young
kids do not have a problem and they
do not need another input tool. They
are looking for cool new things. They
are eager to express their unique
personalities via the cool new things.
Use case. A use case defines the
context for a problem as well as the
relationship between the user and the
problem. For example, note-taking
has various use cases, such as class
lectures, interviews, and jotting down
random ideas. There is a balance
between scoping the problem and
scaling the solution. We can build a
target solution for a specific use case,
but since there are similarities among
different use cases, we may lose the
opportunity to scale up.
The following products (Figure 3)
are solving a similar problem across
different scenarios. They all use
automatic speech recognition (ASR):
• Chatbaka Voice Messenger – the
safer way to send messages while
driving ( http://chatbaka.com/)
• Cassette – transcribe, record,
and share conversations (http://www.
• Recorder – voice journaling
made easy ( https://itunes.apple.com/
Test the value of AI. There are two
broad contrasting approaches to build
AI-enabled products. 1) Technology
first: We have this technology. What
There is a balance between scoping
the problem and scaling the solution.
We can build a target solution for
a specific use case, but since there are
similarities among different use cases,
we may lose the opportunity to scale up.
Figure 3. AppStore pages for Chatbaka, Cassette, and Recorder.