Tech giants are investing heavily in the voice recognition industry, which will undoubtedly become a significant part of our lives in the future. Google created ‘Google Home’ and Amazon launched Alexa, while Apple, Microsoft, Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu have also joined the race for the crown of the voice recognition industry.
In fact, voice recognition and interaction have attracted companies’ attention since the 1990s when computers were first able to accept and reply to voice commands. Yet, it wasn’t until recent years that voice technology entered public consciousness with the likes of Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana, all of which are accessible via our PCs and smartphones. Nowadays, more and more people have come to realize the potential of voice, as well as keyboardless interaction.
Tech giants focusing on the development and commercialization of voice technologies not only want to integrate it into their own businesses to attract more users; they also aim to spread these functionalities to other industries. At its I/O 2017 conference, Google claimed that the word error rate of its voice-processing technology has been reduced to 4.5 percent thanks to deep-learning algorithms. In China, we can now input 400 words per minute on our smartphones with iFlytek’s voice recognition support with a word error rate lower than 4 percent.
Aside from inputting words, voice recognition and interaction will bring manifold benefits across various industries. Here are a few examples of how consumers’ interactions with a diverse range of products will radically change in the coming years.
Due to safety considerations, our hands have limited use while driving. But hand-free voice interaction will not only give drivers more options; it will also increase safety.
In the future, voice interaction will be a major aspect of the driving experience, as cars will be equipped with more features, such as personal computers, games, and so on. Several hours a day spent commuting will not be so boring because your car will be an important part of your life and work, as you can ask it to do more things for you, and it will be ‘smarter’ in the sense that it will comprehend all your words. For example, you can free your hands from the steering wheel after inputting your destination by voice. Productivity and entertainment options will be plentiful, allowing for a more efficient and enjoyable time in the car.
Thanks to voice technology, screenless wearable gadgets will continue to capture people’s attention, and we can expect more people to start using them. So far, hundreds of millions of customers have purchased gadgets like the Apple Watch, Fitbit, Mi Band, and so on. These gadgets work with voice technology to support users with additional features, such as accepting calls, receiving notifications on time, as well as monitoring various health indexes, etc.
Smart customer service
Voice technology is likewise impacting the customer service industry, as traditional human-to-human conversation can be replaced by voice recognition and interaction support. For example, call centers can use voice recognition technology to increase their conversational abilities; front desk clerks can carve out more time for important tasks when a device like Amazon Alexa or Apple Siri eliminates simple tasks for them; retailers will save on employee costs if their stores are equipped with a voice interface.
It will be interesting to see which companies embrace this technology and the effect it will have on customer experience. One thing is sure: investment in Voice User Interfaces (VUIs) now could save money down the line when the public is more comfortable speaking to a digital assistant.
Voice support for the visually impaired
Many of us have heard about iPhone’s ‘Voice Over’ feature, which aids visually impaired users by enabling them to interact with their iPhone via voice recognition and interactions. Currently, these types of features are drawing eyes from across many industries. For the first time, the visibly impaired can can take full advantage of smartphones and other smart devices as the rest of us with sight and the ability to use a touchscreens have been able to for years. This is one of the most exciting aspects of voice recognition and interaction technology, for it has the power to change lives.
Real-time language translation
With the rise of voice recognition, language translation will likely also experience a boom. Companies like Google and Microsoft are investing in smarter voice processing systems, and many other industries can be expected to adapt accordingly. Already we can process real-time translation on our smartphones via Google’s translation app, which also supports listening capabilities.
We can expect to someday be able to understand every language on the planet through a simple gadget, whether smartphone, watch, or some other device that has yet to be created.
Though voice recognition has been slow to develop over the past half century, its rate of development has accelerated tremendously in recent years with the advance of big data and machine learning. Now, advanced voice recognition and interaction technologies are integrating with our basic human communication, and, at some point in the future, voice recognition will likely surpass and replace keyboards and screens.
As these industries begin to see the potential in voice recognition technology, tech firms will continue to seek opportunities and pursue innovation. On the one hand, we will see a huge demand for talent in voice recognition and interaction-relevant aspects. One the other hand, the world of the future will be dramatically different than the one we know today.
(Top photo from Baidu Images.)