File picture: Pixabay
File picture: Pixabay

Will social distancing usher in the golden era of voice interface?

By Zunaid Omar Time of article published Apr 14, 2020

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When we were first introduced to Siri in 2011, no one could have predicted that this, then emerging novelty would become a driver for tech innovation.

Voice interfaces are advancing at a rapid rate across industries of all kinds, ranging from healthcare to financial services as companies race to bring to market their own voice technology integrations. Major players the likes of Amazon and Google continue to fuel this trend as they compete for market share in a demanding end user environment.

This significant shift towards voice user interface can be attributed to an increased awareness and higher acceptance levels of the tech, in conjunction with more end users’ incorporating artificial intelligence into their everyday lives. Many industry experts even predict that nearly every application will integrate voice technology in some form in the next couple of years. 

Now all of this was pre-Covid-19, when social distancing was a choice and not enforced. When we voluntarily made trips to busy malls and shopping centres, when we, without hesitation handled devices other than our own without fear. 

Given the current social landscape, I dare say, it makes sense that voice interface in its current form will enjoy a premier position as an integral part of a smart, connected and safe lifestyle.

In a world of social distancing and self-isolation which currently is looking to technology and digitisation to provide a myriad of solutions. Adding personality and personalisation options to voice offerings makes for a warmer more familiar interaction and experience – voila, a cybernetic companion at a crucial time.

Consumer behaviour statistics for voice search devices 

  • People communicate with voice-activated speakers like if they were talking to a human, using courtesy words like “please,” and “thank you,” and even “sorry.”
  • 62% of those who regularly use their voice-activated speakers are likely to buy something through the device.
  • 44% of regular users order groceries and other items using their voice-activated speaker on a weekly basis.
  • 52% of voice-activated speaker owners are open to information about promotions and deals.
  • 48% of voice-activated speaker owners are open to personalised tips and information.
  • 53% of people who own a voice-activated speaker had a natural feeling while speaking with it.

-Asaad Butt

The difference is that this companion connects with you whilst connecting you digitally. As journalist Judith Shulevitz wrote in a recent Atlantic article, “Is Alexa
Dangerous?”:

Within our lifetimes, these devices will likely become much more adroit conversationalists. By the time they do, they will have fully insinuated themselves into
our lives. With their perfect cloud-based memories, they will be omniscient; with their occupation of our most intimate spaces, they’ll be omnipresent. And with their eerie ability to elicit confessions, they could acquire a remarkable power over our emotional lives. What will that be like?

On the surface it all sounds a bit risky, like you’ll be exposing yourself. What these days isn’t? Why is this important to businesses and consumers, well maybe because “by 2021, there will be almost as many personal-assistant bots on the planet as people” – The Atlantic. 

For me, in the cheesiest and most cliché way, it begs the question: Who will we hear from next?

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