Voice Technology with Kesha Williams #30

Tue Jun 12 2018 (31:33)

In this episode, Teri welcomes Kesha Williams. Kesha is a software engineer, mentor, professor, speaker, tech blogger, and S.T.E.M. advocate. She is the Founder of Colors of STEM & the Inventor of SAM (a predictive policing machine inspired by Minority Report that predicts the likelihood of crime) & Live Plan Eat (an Amazon Alexa skill that takes the stress out of meal planning).

Welcome Kesha Williams!

Kesha’s love for technology started a long time ago. In fact, as a child, she referred to coding as “playing on the computer.” And play she did. Starting in middle school, and all the way through high school, she spent hours coding so that when it came to choosing her major, she chose Computer Science without a second thought.

What are you doing now?

Kesha has been an Engineer Manager at Chick-fil-A for thirteen years. She currently leads a team that builds custom software applications for both corporate and customers. Her team researches cool and emerging technology, and that’s how they came to know Alexa. Kesha has won the “Think Different” award from Chick-fil-A for the three Alexa skills her team has created.

What kind of skills are they?

One of them is for Chick-fil-A customers so they can get nutritional information, such as how many calories are in a Chick-fil-A sandwich. The other two skills are more for the business side. One is for sales, so operators can see what their breakfast, lunch or dinner sales are, and help them make real-time business decisions based on the data. The other skill is an “on-the-clock” skill. This skill allows operators to know who is on the clock and who should be on the clock but isn’t!

Tell us more about Live Plan Eat.

Live Plan Eat is a complete meal-planning skill that Kesha developed to help with her own meal planning for her family. The skill helps create a meal plan/schedule and helps choose a variety of dishes from different cuisines.

What makes Alexa a smartspeaker?

There’s a lot goes on behind the scenes. A.I is a branch of Computer Science that teaches machines how to operate with little to no human intervention. In A.I, there’s a sub-field called machine-learning, where a computer looks at a bunch of data and finds pasterns and trends. In order to teach Alexa how to understand human language, there’s a lot of machine learning that needs to happen. Alexa takes what the user is saying, then parses it to understand what the user is saying and after that, the speech is sent to the skill or app and a response comes through.

How do you and your family use Alexa?

As a very busy person, Kesha Williams uses the Echo Show to plan her week ahead, and to listen to music and to relax. Her boys use it for setting timers, specially when they are helping in the kitchen. Along with her daughter, Kesha has developed spelling and multiplication skills to help her daughter with her school work.

Tell us about your passion for promoting S.T.E.M.?

Kesha says that she unfortunately doesn’t see a lot of women in the technology field, but hopes that this changes in the future. Kesha leads the Georgia Chapter of Technovation, a global computer program that teaches middle and highschool girls to build mobile apps for their communities. One Saturday each month, Kesha teaches programming to children. She also mentors with the New York Academy of Sciences, along with other women.

What’s your personal take on voice tech and its future?

Kesha says she is very excited about where voice tech is now and where it’s going in the future. When she got the first echo device, she felt like she was in Star Trek. She thinks Alexa will be at her best when its integrated in every area of life, like vehicles, for example.

Where is Kesha speaking next?

Kesha Williams will be the keynote speaker in the Alexa Conference, in Chattanooga TN, in January 2019.

List of resources mentioned in this episode: