Alexa, what time is my next train to work?”
“There is a 20-minute delay. The next train departs from Berlin Central Station at 9:42 and will arrive at Westkreuz at 9:54.”
“Alexa, please email Janet and Tim to say: Sorry, my train is delayed. I’ll be 10 minutes late for our meeting, can we start at 10:10 a.m.?”
Conversational interactions like this one will undoubtedly be part of our future. Tech giants like Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are heavily investing in the race to become the leader in voice technology.
Voice interactions have been catapulted into the limelight in the past year, but why is this decade-old technology only now becoming a big deal? Although computers have been able to accept voice commands since the ‘90s, these interfaces never lived up to their potential. Thanks to the advancement of cloud data and AI, we are finally capable of delivering on the promise of a truly conversational interface.
The growing popularity of voice services like Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana have made conversational interfaces the number one priority for today’s tech giants. These applications seek to create a complex, keyboardless interaction using the simplest tool available — the human voice.
Top tech players’ renewed focus on advancing voice processing technology will be the main driver in spreading voice interfaces throughout other industries. Touchscreen interfaces existed before the iPhone, but the technology and interactions weren’t at the level to create widespread adoption until Apple made its move. Voice is now reaching a similar tipping point.
At its I/O 2017 conference, Google claimed to have reduced its Word Error Rate from 8.9 percent to 4.5 percent in one year using deep learning algorithms. Such improvements in voice-processing technology are generating high hopes for voice user interfaces. This is good news for any industry that stands to benefit from voice interactions.
Here’s a look at some of the industries where voice technology will completely transform how consumers use products and services.
Drivers are currently very limited in what they can do while driving. Because of safety regulations, the auto industry has only been able to offer limited tactile interactions. Hands-free voice interfaces will give carmakers a plethora of new options. This technology will also increase safety by allowing drivers to keep their eyes on the road.
Many drivers already use voice interactions on their phones while they drive. If the auto industry acts quickly, it could become the primary interface for an audience that is often captive for several hours a day during commutes. Driving will be a very different experience in the future, and your car could soon function as the interface layer for your life.
Digital assistants are competing for the attention of consumers interested in voice command, and the automotive industry could have a piece of the action. Our behavior in cars of the future will likely resemble our behavior in the office or the living room. This means voice interactions will be key.
2. High-tech wearables
Screenless wearables will enjoy continued success thanks to voice technology. So far, devices like Fitbit have worked as sensors that require an additional mobile interface. With voice, these wearables can begin to function independently of operating systems.
Even small screen devices like Google Glass will benefit from voice commands. Part of the failure of Google Glass was that wearing the tech felt conspicuous. Without the need for physical buttons or displays, devices like Glass will become smaller, lighter, and less distracting. Voice control will increase adoption of wearable tech and allow these devices to be integrated into consumers’ daily lives.
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