Voice. We have all heard about it or maybe even used it in one form or another. The tech-giants Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon have all launched products that support the voice technology. We see more and more companies exploring the area in app development and in the tech-business, and the more it is adapted and used by businesses, the more we see an increase in usage and awareness from consumers. In fact, a study released by PwC, states that the adoption of voice technology is high. 90% of the subjects questioned knew about Voice, and 72% of those who knew, had also used a voice assistant. Today, there are over 2 billion devices that can talk.
There is no denying that Voice is the future. The technology will continue to shift consumer behaviour and businesses better prepare to meet consumer needs. Maybe you are not sure what Voice is, what it entails, how it is being used at the moment? Now is the time to get in the know and potentially take advantage of Voice in your company’s digital transformation.
What is Voice?
Speaker recognition, voice recognition, audio engineering, speech technology, voice technology, voice computing, in short called Voice, is the ability of a machine or program to receive and interpret dictation or to understand and carry out spoken commands. It enables consumers to interact with technology simply by speaking to it, enabling hands-free requests. It enables dictation, transcription or reading out loud. Other functions include book cinema tickets, place online orders, controlling other smart devices, send emails, make calls, etc.. All without lifting a finger.
As AI, Machine Learning and acceptance from consumers as well as businesses have evolved and matured, the uses of Voice have grown quickly. The most well-known cases today are Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana, which are all voice activated assistants.
You can use voice assistant for iOS via Siri and voice assistant for Android through Google Assistant. Amazon was the first to market a smart speaker, Amazon Echo, with Alexa built in. Apple and Google followed soon thereafter with the launch of their own smart speakers or smart assistants, HomePod and Google Home, while Microsoft teamed up with Harman Kardon to launch the smart speaker, Invoke, featuring their Cortana.
You activate these voice assistants by saying for example: “Hi Siri, what will the weather be like today?”, “Alexa, play Hello by Adele” or “OK Google, when is Avengers – End Game playing?”. Hereafter, the assistant will answer these questions by either displaying links on the screen, reading the answers aloud or playing that song you requested.
How does Voice work?
Voice recognition requires the device to be able to convert analog audio to digital signals (analog-to-digital conversion). This is largely dependent on the digital database of vocabulary of words and syllables, making up speech patterns, which are stored on the harddrive and loaded into memory when the program is in use. The digital signals are then run through a pattern recognition, which then returns an answer.
What are the advantages of Voice?
By enabling hands-free access to many functions, as well as using only the voice to activate them, makes it easier and faster to do certain things. The aforementioned report from PwC shows that consumers are often using Voice while for example cooking, multitasking and watching TV. See figure below. There are several demographic groups where voice assistants could greatly benefit their value of life, namely elderly, children and disabled people. This also means that it is very accessible: anyone could interact with it and use it without having to learn something new. Hence, the high adoption rate for Voice mentioned earlier. This poses great potential for companies that are able to utilise the technology to their advantage.
As voice expert and Nodes’ Global Head of Voice, Maarten Lens-FitzGerald, puts it:
“With Voice you sit on people’s lap. There is no device in between. Anyone who has a smart device or smartphone at home just needs to talk and there is direct contact with any organization or brand that is ready for it. As a result, there is a huge opportunity for companies to enter into a deeper connection or service with customers.”
What are the disadvantages and risks of Voice?
While the advantages of Voice are many, there are still some disadvantages in the eyes of the consumers. In general, we see consumer concerns and issues relating to:
Needless to say, it would require an enormous database to be able to accommodate to all words, syllables and sentences that are spoken in the daily lives of humans, let alone different dialects and accents. This might generate negative experiences for consumers and they might give up on using it altogether. Voice assistants can only comprehend and do simple tasks at the moment, but seeing the speed of development nowadays, it is evolving quickly. The latest Google I/O keynote is a testament to that.
Furthermore, while consumers might buy many types of products, like groceries, take-out, cinema tickets etc. through Voice, one could imagine that buying more personal or larger items like clothing, hotels, consumer electronics and so on, might generate some concerns. If the voice assistant is accessible for the entire household, children could potentially get access to credit cards and intentionally or unintentionally order things online. Perhaps an ability to distinguish voices from each other in the household could be the solution?
Another drawback, is regarding privacy. Nowadays, consumers are getting more and more protective and conscious of how their data is being used. This is backed up widely by research into this field, meaning that privacy terms need to be clearly defined in order to make consumers feel secure about using voice assistants.
During Internet Week Denmark 2019, we hosted a talk featuring our Global Head of Voice, Maarten Lenz-Fitzgerald, where he took the audience through the risks of using Google Assistant and other smart speakers and voice assistants. If you did not have the chance to attend, we have recorded it all on video. Watch the summary of the talk including a short video from Google I/O 2019 below.
How to integrate Voice into your digital transformation?
If businesses want to use voice in their digital transformation, it is important to address the above consumer concerns and risks when developing their technologies. At Nodes, we believe that having a seamless UX and technology behind any digital service or product you launch, is the way forward, and the same goes for the use of Voice. All signs indicate that consumers are ready to embrace Voice, and the technologies are developing as we speak, so why not start now?
Do you want to learn more about Voice and how to integrate it into your digital transformation? Make sure to check out our digital transformation page and get in contact with us so we can help you get started. Otherwise, watch this space for more articles and events, as we continue to explore subjects relating to digital transformation over the coming months. Perhaps we will soon be hosting an event near you about Voice and other rising technologies with some of the leading experts in the area, and you do not want to miss out on that!