You would be hard pressed in today’s world, in either personal or professional spheres, to find an area completely untouched by voice technology. Voice tech emerged relatively recently, with many citing the introduction of Apple’s Siri in 2011 as the first appearance. Since then, voice technology has continued to improve, and it is now employed in a variety of different business situations and personal applications.
One such application is voice controlled personal assistants like Google Assistant and Amazon Echo. A 2018 prediction puts the number of in-home voice tech devices at 225 million for 2020 – and the numbers are expected to continue to increase year-over-year.
As we enter into 2020, it’s clear that the use of voice technology will continue to expand. We have landed on five ways that we expect voice technology will impact you:
- More seamless engagement across devices
- Easier searching, thanks to the addition of visual feedback
- More personalization for each user
- Proactive, not just reactive, assistance
- Access to more specialized knowledge
Voice Tech will Offer More Seamless Engagement
Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant has led the march for integrating voice technology into other home products. This type of integration allows homeowners to create a “smart home” and remotely control lights, thermostats, fridges, and other appliances. While Amazon made the initial push with these capabilities, other leaders like Google are keeping pace with their own compatibility-enabled assistants.
This integration with multiple products has pushed voice tech to refine how assistants speak with you. While earlier voice assistants required the use of a “wake word” for each command or inquiry, newer models require only one. So, you can now say “OK, Google, what is today’s weather?” and then immediately follow with a command to increase the thermostat setting. In other words, voice technology is moving towards smoother, more natural conversations.
Voice Technology will Become Visual too
While voice tech enables you to easily tap into massive amounts of searchable information by simply asking a question, responses with multiple answers can be tiresome to evaluate — think of a shopping query where getting results means you hear every product option individually listed out.
Some of the newest voice enabled products, like the Echo Show, address this by integrating a screen into the device itself. This technique has helped the point-of-purchase for voice technology by making it easier to evaluate a list. Benefits like this helped to drive the number of smart displays from 1.3 million at the start of 2018 to more than 8.7 million by the end of the year.
Voice Assistants will be Increasingly Personalized
In addition to offering smoother conversational skills, voice technology is getting more sophisticated in its ability to recognize individual users. Most voice controlled in-home personal assistants already allow multiple user accounts within the same household. Users can fill out profiles and preferences that help their voice assistants provide an individual experience to each person.
This individualized trend will continue as voice tech grows more sophisticated with how it learns from data. The more you interact with your voice assistant, the more it will be able to tailor your personal experience and differentiate you from your friends and family. While this capability remains in early stages, the tech world even foresees smart devices that pick up on your speech patterns and adapt their own to meet your needs.
Voice Technology will Move from Reactive to Proactive
Where voice technology stands today, virtual assistant devices can listen to you and answer your questions and respond to your commands. Moving forward, voice technology has the potential to be able to recognize your needs before you ask. As algorithms become increasingly intelligent at recognizing and connecting words and phrases, voice tech could learn how to anticipate a task a consumer wants done, but has yet to ask directly.
This could look like saying you’re running late and your assistant rescheduling an appointment, or mentioning you feel cold and having your voice device adjust the temperature of your house. Further applications could encourage you to make healthier eating choices or help with household budgeting.
Voice Tech will Offer more Specialized Knowledge
As mentioned, one strength of voice technology is that it easily taps vast stores of information. The associated challenge is that lots of information means lots of filtering, in order to give a salient response. As we have seen over the past few years, though, voice technology has refined algorithms to streamline the search of resources.
This streamlining could help industries like healthcare and the legal system, as they seek to digitize certain aspects of their business and quickly offer relevant business critical insights. For example, one new device recognizes the names of prescription drugs as doctor’s call them out, and can identify potential issues before the doctor writes a patient prescription. Consumers could also directly experience benefits; Apple has announced a goal for Siri to have the ability to talk with consumers about health by 2021.
Potential Drawbacks of Voice Technology
Security represents the greatest hurdle for voice technology moving into 2020. Recently, people have raised concerns about whether or not devices are “always listening to you,” and what companies are doing with the data they collect from listening. As voice assistants become smarter and gain new abilities, privacy will become a growing issue.
Similarly, while personalization in voice technology can make for better user experiences, not all consumers will feel comfortable with devices that can “know” them to a greater extent. A device that can proactively anticipate your needs means ceding a type of control. Likewise, using voice technology for health consulting might create legal or ethical issues relating to medical records.
While these are significant obstacles and concerns that voice technology will need to address, there is no doubt it is here to stay and will continue to grow. These trends also impact people’s expectations around how they want to interact with apps; contact us today to learn more about how to create a voice-savvy interface for your web or mobile app.