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Normal interpersonal engagements involve both sight and sound. Yet when it comes to voice technology we continue to yell into the air towards feature-less black boxes. And because these little boxes sit silently in the corners of our homes, we're never quite sure if they are listening or not. For these reasons we believe voice technology in the home and the workplace has not yet reached its full potential. It's not just a technology problem. It's a design problem and we have an idea to share.

  • The Wink mock-up one a kitchen counter.

We call our idea Wink. The name comes from its “winking” lens that endows the concept with much of its personality.

Wink is a voice assistant that reacts to you and its environment. In normal conversations between people, we look at each other. This indicates we're paying attention. It also creates a shorthand for understanding. When we nod we show understanding, agreement. Our gaze provides a shorthand within our conversations. Even our pets are capable of much of this kind of audiovisual interaction.

Wink is designed to leverage these attributes to create a richer interaction experience with voice technology. When you look at Wink, it responds by looking at you. When you address Wink, it responds, tracks your gaze, and shows that it is listening. This interaction not only endows Wink with personality and charm, it serves as a distinct signal that Wink is listening and ready to take commands.

A person communicates with a Wink prototype at a table
  • An Embodied approach to the voice assistant encourages more trustworthy engagement. By giving the device the power of gaze, we give it body language, allowing for more humanistic interaction.
  • Wink has ambient awareness. It knows who is in a space and which devices are in that space. This allows for more casual interactions without the cumbersome explicit commands often required of current voice assistants. If you want to turn off lights or unlock doors, looking towards those objects allows you to issue much more informal commands such as ‘turn that off’ or ‘unlock that (door)’
  • Wink has focus. It knows when people are talking to each other, rather than to it, and won't listen, record, or respond unless it is directly addressed by someone. This helps alleviate false positives and endows Wink with a sense of trust about when it is and is not listening.

It's more trustworthy and fun.

It's Wink.


A mock up of Wink, a conceptual virtual assistant, with lens open

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