by My Nguyen

July 11, 2016

Smartwatch With Voice Interaction- Interview With Product Director Ying Zhou

Ying Zhou is product and business director for Ticwatch2 international edition, which is the most interactive smart watch created by Mobvoi. She will be speaking at our WT | Wearable Technologies Conference 2016 USA this year! Get a first idea of her presentation in our exclusive interview with her:

In your opinion what is the most important when using voice in a wearable and what are the biggest difficulties when designing this feature into a product?

We believe that the voice feature should be the shortest user path to the information you look for under appropriate user cases, and shouldn’t have any learning cost. Users should be able to talk to the device as if they were talking to an assistant: using natural language, asking for information/service with complex query criteria. The assistant should be responsive and knowledgeable within certain predefined domains. That’s why we are putting a lot of efforts on natural language processing and full integration with information providers. Today our voice engine can answer queries such as “find me some Japanese restaurants that are open now and with moderate spending nearby” – you can try it when it’s available.

Yet the openness brings also the biggest difficulty in implementing such feature into our device: the user habit takes time to build. Ironically, we found it hard to educate users something that should not have learning cost. Users sometimes will freeze in front of a voice assistant that prompts them to ask any question, or they will never go beyond the demonstrated questions. However, I believe that we, together with many players in this field such as Alexa, Siri and Google Now, will eventually bring this change to user behavior.

What makes your watch different from other watches in the market?

First, Ticwatch is arguably the most compact smart watch designed. We believe that smart watches should first be a beautiful time piece to wear. It shouldn’t be too big or too bulky to accommodate engineering requirement. Our designing team and engineering team worked hard to achieve the highest screen-to-watch face ratio (73.5%) in all smart watches, fully respecting Ticwatch’s design philosophy of simplicity and elegance, while keeping it a powerful one in terms of engineering capabilities.

Second, Ticwatch has the most ways to interact with: you can talk to it, tilt it, touch it, and “Tickle” it. This makes it really fun to use and practical under different user cases. What’s especially worth mentioning is Tickle, a patented design of Mobvoi. Smart watches carry a lot of information with limited display area, and touching the screen with your fingers covers most of the information. To make the info browsing more efficient, we designed a touch strip, Tickle, on the side of the watch to help scroll up and down, and zoom in and out.

Third, the Ticwatch OS, Ticwear, is our own Android based watch Operation System. It features a five-layer User Interface called Cubic UI, focusing on the shortest user path to get to the information needed. We have released our beta version to some users in the U.S. Market, and they claim Ticwear to be the most easy-to-use Watch OS they have ever experienced.

Lastly, our voice search engine focuses on bringing customers the most relevant information / service where using wearable to acquire such information / service makes the most sense. Today, Ticwatch partners with over 70 service providers directly in China in their respectful domains, to shorten the user path for search, and we are actively building that capability in the U.S. ; Ticwatch can complete some services that are needed on the go, such as calling for a Uber, in both China and U.S. Market.

Which is currently your favorite wearable?

It has to be Ticwatch right? If we don’t count Ticwatch, I actually find Nike’s HyperAdapt 1.0 very interesting. Seemingly simple idea, it focuses on removing one of the big friction during sports, and let athletes focus on things they love. I admire such philosophy because it drives home the idea that technology is supposed to make life simpler, not more complex. I need to remind myself of that sometimes.

Meet Ying in person in San Francisco on July 12 and 13! Join us for WTUS16!