For a trip down Memory Lane and as an exercise in self-flagellation, I read a VCR manual from 20 years ago. It was to read up on the Zenith’s SpeakEZ functionality — a text to speech feature that explained how to program the VCR to record shows.
A small diversion…
In my teens, we had a VCR that had a message center feature. With it, and with a lot of patience, you could write out a message for family — scrolling through one of 50 characters at a time through the arrows on the remote. The idea is that if there was a message waiting, a family member sitting down to watch TV would see a blinking light and have to check it out.
It was a great concept but very impractical to use.
Fast forward to today and over the next two years, households with voice first devices will likely exceed those of VCRs in the late 1990s.
For voice first device, the message center is a perfect fit. Yes, there are likely quite a few Skills and Actions that either support this now or will support them soon, however, this is a type of feature that should be native to the device.
Scenario 1 — You arrive home and see a yellow circle on your Echo. “Alexa, play messages…” and it’s a message someone left for you either at home or through the device.
Scenario 2 — You want to leave a message for the kids who are still asleep. “Alexa, record a message… Hey guys, remember to take your lunch and that I’m picking you up from practice.”
Ideally, in Scenario 2, this message would be propagated to all devices and not just the Echo. However, the best thing for any early feature is simplicity.
Why not a message center for voice first devices?