Key myths about voice technology

Posted by Susan Crowe on

Today voice enabled devices are growing and forecast to be the next big appliance after mobile phones. Deloitte Global recently predicted that the market will be 164 million units in 2019, with 95% of units sold in 2017 being sold in English speaking countries alone. However some current myths are hindering wider adoptions but these will fall away as convenience and functionality will win out. Below we outline 3 key myths hindering adoption today.

1. Voice assistants are recording everything! 

This statement is not accurate. Part of the problem is around the lack of understanding of how this new technology works. For example there is a clear distinction between listening and recording. Voice enabled devices are always on and "listening" waiting to be activated by the key phrases or wake words such as "Hey Google..." or "Alexa ... which is their voice cue to capture the voice commands and activate the device to respond to a request or perform a specific action(s). Unless the wake-word has been spoken in the vicinity of the device, the voice string is not captured and recorded. Greater education is needed around this issue to assist adoption, however as more and more devices are voice enabled concerns re recording and privacy will fall away. For example voice technologies in cars I believe will be a key enabler of voice adoption as convenience of voice commands will overcome privacy concerns facilitating wider user adoption in other areas of our personal lives. Note how comfortable we are with mobile phones which have more sensors and tracking features in them than voice assistants.  

2. Voice Never Understands my Commands!

While the accuracy of speech recognition isn’t perfect, the latest far-field voice capture technologies can detect voice commands to an extremely high degree of accuracy. Surprisingly this is even when a command is delivered from across the room in a busy environment or when a user speaks softly.

In the latest Loup Ventures "Annual digital Assistant IQ test"  Google Assistant scored 100% Understanding of questions with a 87.9% accuracy of answers. Accuracy rates are and will only improve as the technology is refined and matures. After all, voice is still in its relative infancy, which is often forgotten due to the success of the global smart speaker market. 

However voice will and is becoming more common as some studies report as many as 60% of owners of smart speakers use them for voice search as it is quicker and easier then typing. The accuracy of these devices is improving all the time and variations in dialect are being facilitated allowing for greater accuracy and learning of your own voice. Indeed voice assistants will in future not only understand what you’re saying, but precisely who is speaking, and even why. As AI develops voice assistants will adapt to your idiosyncrasy's and coordinate itself with the user’s preferences, schedule and specific needs delivering more accurately. Indeed Alexa allows you to train your smart speaker to recognise your voice via a series of predefined statements. 

3. Voice assistants are just glorified Speakers

Yes, smart speakers are the early adopter technology for voice assistants enabling connection to search, weather, traffic and dairy updates and reminders. But the reality is smart speakers are only a small part of the true potential for voice assistants. Think of the commercial applications in all sorts of industries such as your local McDonald's drive in, bus timetables at bus stops, your in car controls and entertainment systems, interactive exhibitions to healthcare companion robots to set-top boxes. The commercial possibilities are endless. 

Also as the voice technology advances and Google, Amazon and Microsoft licence it, it is already becoming easier than ever for manufacturers to integrate voice functionality into many smart devices. Advances in this area are spanning a wave of product implementations transforming the way humans interact with their devices.

The key myths are certainly not helping early adoption but as more and more devices become voice enabled and common place they will blend into the  ambient background and become as omnipresent as mobile phones. The future is voice. 


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