"The new canvas is conversation. Human language is the new UI, bots are the new apps and digital assistants are meta apps.
- Stuart Greif, Senior Executive Travel/Hospitality,
OSR & Transportation
Industry Solutions, Microsoft
Emotional activity is twice as high when consumers voice a brand question rather than type it. Fifty percent less brain activity occurs when processing an answer delivered by voice, meaning people find it much easier to use.
study, February 2017.
The Rise of a Voice Activated World
We’ve been speaking to machines since the old days of automated customer service loops, though now they are no longer limited to painfully pre-scripted paths. Voice is the most natural and intuitive form of tech-based interactions — our most efficient way to communicate.
After decades of developments in natural language processing, we can now go talk to computers in ways sure to impress yesterday’s writers of sci-fi thrillers. And, with neuroscience showing how thoroughly our brains imprint verbal communication of any kind, including AI, things are getting interesting.
“Our relationship with technology is changing, as it’s becoming a lot more conversational and relational,” says Rana el Kaliouby, co-founder and CEO of Affectiva, an emotion measurement technology company that grew out of MIT's Media Lab. She predicts AI will soon sense and adapt to emotions like humans do, eventually analyzing changes in facial expression, gestures and physiology.
Voice: A Brief History
If the history of technology is defined by how long humans have been interacting with machines, then this timeline starts in a little shop in southern Europe more than 230 years ago, a humble beginning for an idea that has made its way into 100 million living rooms (and counting) around the world.*
Hungarian inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen produces the Acoustic-Mechanical Speech Machine.
English mathematician Alan Turing creates the imitation game, a test that evaluates a computer’s ability to generate human-like responses.
Thomas Edison invents the phonograph, the first device for recording sound.
"It will be our voices that will lead the way; it will be a revolution and it will change everything."
Founder of Multiplex Magazine
What is Voice?
Voice is the ability of artificial intelligence to interpret words in order to understand and perform commands. We break down the category into several areas: voice brands, voice platforms and voice assistants.
of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.
SOURCE: Recode, 2018
Analyzing the Field
With tech giants jockeying to increase market share and shouting the latest developments to the masses, the voice arena is crowded and noisy. Currently, smart speakers drive most of the growth in the AI market — Amazon and Google are clear leaders.
Two-thirds of U.S. smart speaker users will use an Amazon Echo in 2018, but its share of the market will shrink as Google Home and other brands grow.
SOURCE: eMarketer, 2018.
Powered by Alexa, Echo has sold more than 11 million units globally. The voice assistant supports dozens of smart-home products and hosts more than 15,000 skills that function like apps to deliver entertainment and information, perform functions and control other devices.
Powered by Assistant, Google Home allows third parties to create conversation actions, equal to Alexa’s skills, and also exists in Android devices. Fueled by its powerful search engine, Google Assistant has access to five times as much information than Alexa; the company also just announced a new partnership with Walmart.
Though the voice pioneer launched Siri in 2011 and integrated her into wearable devices, Apple’s strict privacy policies on user data affect her learning capabilities, while the hefty price tag of the HomePod products have slowed consumer adoption.
Facebook’s Assistant M:
Stalled the launch of its new smart speaker in May 2018 due to privacy concerns.
Available on Galaxy phones, the tech company is looking to build voice interfaces into all consumer products.
The voice assistant lacks a strong mobile platform or smart speaker to achieve scale.
From Barriers To Love
90% of people have at least tried using voice commands that came with purchased devices, but only 6% have done so in public.
Trust Comes First:
Data protection is one of the biggest concerns. 43% of consumers expressed concern that voice assistants could be used to listen in on their conversations.
9% said they were too expensive/not worth the money.
Complexity Leads to Less Usability:
People were also not clear on the purpose and potential of the technology, with 40% saying they were yet to understand the benefits.
Fear of the Unknown:
People fear the impending wave of artificial intelligence and the unknown implications it brings.
21% said their smartphones have the functionality they need.
80% of users like the fact they can use voice assistants without having to touch a device.
Just For Fun:
62% said they are fun to use, and the top used skills reflect the desire to have fun interactions with voice assistants.
It Just Comes Naturally:
60% found using spoken language a more natural way to interact with services than physical typing.
While novelty and convenience add to the allure of voice, a number of barriers still impact widespread adoption. Brands and marketers should be wary especially of privacy concerns and look for ways to help consumers cross those barriers as tech improves.
From novelty to necessity, the explosive popularity of voice technology is uncontested, no matter what device you choose. While much of this growth is from Alexa-style devices, it also comes from phones, appliances, cars, dolls and digital storybooks — anything with a microphone, a Wi-Fi connection and a creative innovation team.
CASE IN POINT:
Starbucks has even introduced a barista bot to feature voice-activated customer service, while carmakers like Volkswagen and Hyundai provide hands-free multitasking opportunities by baking Alexa into vehicles’ sound systems.
The Rise of a Voice Activated World
US Smart Speaker Users, 2017-2020 (Millions)
Note: Individuals of any age who use a smart speaker at least once per month.
SOURCE: eMarketer, April 2018
Q2 2017 (OLD)
Q2 2017 (NEW)
"Consumers want to have dialogue and conversation, and the ability to give feedback to what the brand is saying,
to create a conversation. Great voice experiences will ultimately simplify tasks and deliver shortcuts so the cognitive load of the mundane is minimal.”
Kenton Langstroth, Voice Innovator and Vice President at Intersection
STRONGER-THAN-EXPECTED ADOPTION OF DEVICES:
Data from eMarketer indicates
a stronger-than-expected adoption of such devices, with an estimated 76.5 million users adopting the tech by 2020. This adoption rate has outpaced that of smart phones, tablets and wearable devices.
MASSIVE GROWTH ESTIMATES DRIVE DEVELOPMENTS IN VIRTUAL ASSISTANT MARKET AND RETAIL SPENDING THROUGH VOICE.
With the virtual assistant market expected to be worth more than $3B by 2020, and retail spending to hit an estimated $7.3B in 2022, a study from Juniper research suggests more than 1200 brands have already turned these lucrative projections into apps and products that interface with Amazon Echo and Google Home.
BETTER HABITS, NOT JUST MORE SKILLS
While it took a bit for brands to find ways to use podcasts to connect with audiences, marketers are finally catching on: Podcast advertising hit a record $314M in 2017. Branded podcasts are also now a thing, with brands creating content people actually want to listen to, a step-up from the mid-episode interruptions in your favorite series.
Adding voice technology to what was already shaping up to be a prosperous venture, Gimlet Media and Oral-B joined forces to create the first-ever, Cannes Lion award-winning audio skill by starting a micro-podcast for kids called Chompers. The goal: for Alexa to help kids brush their teeth through trivia kids actually find interesting.
“The way I think about Gimlet is that we’re trying to build a new kind of modern media company where everything begins in audio,” Matt Lieber, co-founder and president of Gimlet Media told the Wall Street Journal. “This is our first go at it, but we’re making real investments.”
Goes to show how voice can have a dramatic impact on families looking for solutions to everyday challenges.