Typetalks presents: Cofounder David Okuniev on conversational tech

4 min read

Has the time come to take conversational technology seriously? And is anyone doing it well?

4 min read

David Okuniev is cofounder and joint CEO of Typeform.

We talked to David about why conversational technology is starting to make its way to more and more consumers. Has the time come to take this technology seriously?

PC: Why do you think conversational technology is so hot right now?

DAVID: Let’s maybe take a step back and look at it from a higher plane. I think technology is going through a transition to become more and more human. It’s more natural to interact in a conversational way, so you’re seeing technology follow this trend. Soon we’ll be interacting with computers by having conversations with them.

PC: If you’re in business, why should you be paying attention to conversational technology?

DAVID: Companies are pushing to become more personal, and people will come to expect that. And when you shift people’s expectations, a business needs to adapt fast.

David Okuniev

PC: What companies are doing this well? 

DAVID: Amazon and Google are going the right way. Slack and Facebook Messenger too. Messaging has been around for a long time. It’s not a new thing. I think what’s changing is that messaging used to be for communication between two people. Now brands are using it, and it’s being used to access services as well. That’s the shift.

PC: There’s also this shift to contextual business, where commerce takes place wherever the people are. If I happen to be in Facebook Messenger, and a friend wants to meet, we can order an Uber, for example.

DAVID: I think it’s inevitable. We’ve created a culture of convenience where everything needs to be more and more efficient. It will just become the norm.

Like in 50 years, or even less, the idea of going to a store will seem obsolete. Same is true for work. People will think, “Why do I need to even go to work if I can be anywhere?”

Essentially, people will recreate experiences virtually, and you won’t have to travel anywhere to get them. Maybe it will make us lazy and fat, I don’t know.

PC: Speaking of convenience, we’re already close to eliminating check-out clerks. Did you see Amazon’s new store?

DAVID: Yeah, exactly. Just go in, grab your stuff, and walk out.

PC: It’s a great example of the future of commerce. In your mind, what’s the next big thing?

DAVID: Augmented reality. For example, we’ll see screens in our field of view—interfaces will move around with us.

Maybe we won’t have phones anymore. I’ll be walking down the street and just say, “Call Paul.” Then, “Hey dude, how you doing?” I won’t need to be holding anything or looking down.

PC: So what will the next sensors be if you’re not talking into a phone?

DAVID: It will be an ear piece.

PC: Maybe some glasses?

DAVID: Contact lenses. Sony has patents, Google has patents. That’ll be a big shift when it happens.

PC: We become cyborgs? (laughs)

DAVID: Our world becomes more enhanced, for sure. We won’t have a physical screen, but we’ll be looking at the same things.

PC: Interesting. Are you optimistic about the future?

DAVID: I think we can only move forward and get better. I don’t believe we’ll be fighting against each other, because we will evolve to know that fighting is just not good for our survival. We’ll look back on this time and have the same perspective that we have of Stone Age men or people in the Middle Ages.

Inequality, war, racism—I think those will go away over time.

I guess I’m hopeful, I don’t know. I don’t even like think about it in those terms. We’re all just trying to carve out our slice of happiness. I hope people get it.

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