Her skills are vast and varied. She speaks eight languages, delivers play-by-play results as the Trailblazers crush the Lakers (we hope), and predicts the day’s chances of rain in the voice of Samuel L. Jackson. She listens to your conversations (for AI development or as evidence in double murder investigations). And this fall, Travel Oregon has added one more skill to her repertoire: “Alexa, Play the Oregon Wine Quiz!”
Yes, it’s a marketing tool paid for by the state’s tourism agency, but it’s also educational. The test begins with simple questions: do you choose wine based on the label or the year? Based on your answer, the logic tree branches into one of several routes and depending on whether you can recall how many grape varieties grow in Southern Oregon or if you should swirl your wine before tasting, you are deemed anywhere from a pinot noir novice to the connoisseur of viticulture.
If you play long enough unlock one of four potential five-minute single-episode podcasts that narrate the history of Oregon wine culture through interviews with industry professionals like Troon Vineyard’s general manager Craig Camp, ¡Salud!’s event coordinator Stephanie Baker, or HillCrest Vineyard’s (Oregon’s oldest estate winery) owner Dyson Demara. Other topics include biodynamic farming practices and ¡Salud!’s health care program for migrant workers. Maybe start by learning about the journey of the tempranillo grape, which has made its way from the northern plateaus of the Iberian Peninsula to Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley as the state’s hottest up-and-coming grape variety.
“People think it’s cool,” says Mo Sherifdeen of Travel Oregon. “In just two weeks we’ve seen quiz-takers double in numbers. If all goes well, we might consider exploring other evergreen topics like waterfalls, wildflower hikes, or the Oregon coast.”
Sherifdeen says this is also the first pilot program of a US tourism agency to test the waters of content distribution via speech. But it may not be the last. According to researchers at Gartner, two-thirds of American households are expected to have smart speakers by 2022.
“We meet fairly regularly to talk about kind of the future of content and how people are finding and discovering content,” he says. “The use of smart speakers is growing—everything from your fridge to clothes and cars now come with voice-enabled platforms. We saw research that 50 percent of searches will be made through voice [enabled] devices by next year. And so there's a lot of impact when it comes to content discovery and how you structure content for natural language. That's what led us to experiment.”
For those who have yet to install Echo in their living rooms, the wine podcasts are also accessible via the Travel Oregon website, which also hosts a number of spine-chilling ghost stories set in Oregon, perfect to listen to on a cool autumn evening with a glass of deep, whirling Merlot.