Image: Jarno Koponen
Jarno Koponen
First in the world: Yle’s smart news assistant Voitto ensures that you don’t miss the news you want to read
Voitto is the first smart news assistant in the world to appear and learn directly on your lock screen.

“Hey Jarno!”


“This might be of interest to you: neuroscientists have found a new way to understand the human mind.”

“Thanks Voitto, sounds interesting! I’ll listen to the story as soon as I get on my run.”

The smart speaker quiets down and my phone vibrates in my pocket, as a sign of a notification. I tie my shoelaces and put my headphones on. As soon as I take my first running steps the story starts playing.

This might be true in a very near future. A totally automated news assistant, that recommends content on its own without you needing to ask, timing its recommendations perfectly, in just the right format for you. Our Voitto assistant recognizes that you are going for a run and won’t therefore recommend news videos or lengthy news articles.

Smart Voitto assistant arrived to NewsWatch

We are heading towards this vision with the Yle NewsWatch app. Digital services have become more personal and we are striving to develop pioneering personalized services in accordance with Yle’s journalistic values and mission.

Just now, we have launched the smart Voitto news assistant in the NewsWatch app on Android. Voitto is the first news assistant in the world to give smart news recommendations using notifications on your lock screen.

Voitto’s smart recommendations can be activated in the NewsWatch app’s notification settings. When you turn Voitto’s notifications on, it starts to recommend interesting stories based on news content you have consumed before. You can also actively give feedback to Voitto on the lock screen by telling it how interesting you think the recommendations are. Significantly, Voitto is learning without you needing to open the NewsWatch app itself.

Additionally, NewsWatch gives you the option to emphasize different news topics in the app. This means that you can tell Voitto directly what kind of news you are interested in, be it for example neuroscience, pop culture, sushi or mountaineering.

What's next?

Voitto’s journey has just started; this is the first version of Yle’s smart news assistant. Now that Voitto lives in the NewsWatch app, we continue the development in the real world, constantly learning from our real customers. We do this with a human-centric and user-oriented way.

What is Voitto’s look and feel, or its tone of voice? How can it serve the users in the best possible way? There are no exact benchmarks to be found. When it comes to smart, personalized news notifications on the lock screen, Yle and the NewsWatch team are doing pioneering work on an international level in combining user experience and machine learning directly on your lock screen.

The development of the Voitto news assistant consists of two main focus areas: the development of user experience and the “intelligence”, or AI, if you will. To move forward we need to have a deep understanding of both of these areas. It requires a constant search for new ways to combine user experience design, storytelling and machine learning in a meaningful and impactful manner. Simultaneously, we need to build a method that allows us to develop user experience and machine intelligence side by side, in unison, in order to understand how user experience influences machine learning, and vice versa.

Näyttökuva 2018-10-8 kello 9.53.33 We use real-time data to see how well Voitto succeeds in recommending news content. We do A/B testing, comparing two different recommendation models and monitor how well the model fulfills the value proposition and how satisfied our customers are with the recommendations.

We use quantitative and qualitative methods, and their combinations, to understand the connections between user experience and machine intelligence. We are using several data points to understand how our users evaluate Voitto’s recommendations and interact with them. It’s also important for us to ensure that Voitto makes the right amount of recommendations based on users' interests and preferences. We are also mapping the words or concepts that people are using to describe Voitto and how they evaluate the quality and quantity of the recommendations.

Our goal is to make Voitto’s smart recommendations as interesting as possible. To teach Voitto to identify if the news is about a world changing event, the success of a famous Finnish athlete or for example the latest breakthroughs in science.

It’s Voitto’s job to ensure that you don’t miss anything really important. First on your mobile device and directly on its lock screen. In the future, your immaterial Voitto assistant can live in many different places simultaneously, according to your needs and preferences, and just seamlessly jump from your smart speaker to your headphones when you head out of the door to your daily run.

The writer is the Product Owner of Yle NewsWatch.

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