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Why marketers need to read this before adopting Voice

Voice user interface is one crucial technology that’s being underestimated, with many industries still having a very strong focus on blockchain, AI and AI replacing human workers as the “next big thing”. 

Research by comScore suggests that 50 per cent of search queries will be done through Voice search by 2020. Voice UI with small improvements has the potential to completely shift the current human-computer interaction paradigm. 

With devices such as Alexa or Google Home, Voice UI allows people to communicate with devices in spoken language. 

Most tech experts agree on the fact that Voice will evolve in the current technology ecosystem and will also improve as the technology improves. What shouldn’t be ignored is that Voice UI has the potential to dominate our interaction with software and devices and might even become as important as the graphical user interface itself. 

Although there are many experts who might think otherwise, there is the aspect wherein Voice technology might always be very niche until generalised AI is achieved. 

Because of the many current limitations of Voice assistants, it’s hard for people to imagine Voice as the next wave of technology and the great potential that it offers. Voice can be compared to what cellphones were in the 90’s – a device that allowed people to make and receive calls, as opposed to the omnipotent technology around which our lives revolve today. 

Many people are still very conservative today with their expectations for Voice, also because how rough the experience still is. The main reason for this also is that chatbots might never achieve greatness unless and until they achieve a close-to-human conversation with the user. 

However, Himanshu Arya, Founder and CEO, Grapes Digital, feels otherwise, as he says, “Voice technology has already been integrated in devices like Alexa and Google Assistant and also cars. Typically, Voice has seen a lot of traction here. The next level for Voice is the integration into smart home technologies and using it from a technology standpoint having many applications. This front is still yet to see the light of the day. Voice as a technology has a lot of future and Voice recognition systems are much smarter now and the scope is tremendous. Google has done a very fair job in this space along with Alexa.” 

With growth in technology, it is very much possible to have human-like conversations on Google by also asking it follow-up questions. However, it is very difficult to have smart bots like this build themselves without any human involvement as that technology simply doesn’t exist today. 

However, a way by which these bots can achieve near-human level conversations is by majorly narrowing their scope. Developers can make the attempt of creating sophisticated bots for specific task and manually program them to engage in meaningful conversation. 

These sort of bots can create a major breakthrough for Voice and also create bigger opportunities for first movers and brands from a marketing perspective too. 

Issues with today’s Voice bots 

Interactions with a Voice bot are still very poor today. You have to activate the device with a specific word like “Ok Google” or “Hey Alexa” and then you have to wait and see if the bot was successfully activated or not. If it is, you’ll then need to speak with a very clear voice and pronunciation and formulate your sentences very slowly to include all the necessary key words or parameters. Pausing to think isn’t an option here as the interaction will fail and you will need to start it again. 

This experience is full of delays, potential errors and can require many restarts to accomplish tasks. In addition, the Voice bot is not yet smart and won’t respond to related commands or queries regarding what you’re doing. 

Future of Voice bots 

Interaction with smart bots of the future can be something like an interaction with a human operator controlling the device. The speed of interaction can be very human-like with no pauses or delays in respond and with no problem if you pause mid-sentence. You might not even need to use specific words for activation like “Hey Alexa” and can also change your sentence in the middle. For example, “I want to listen to music on Spot... umm, no, Alexa switch on Netflix instead.” 

The future of bot interaction is seamless, smooth and easy to converse with on any task or topic. These bots along with cheap and commoditised Voice devices will almost feel like having human operators in every room. Graphical UIs will be much easier to use through these bots. As mentioned, this will create great opportunity for brands from a marketing and advertising perspective. 

People constantly use their devices wherever they are. Integrating this kind of Voice technology can benefit brands by tapping into consumer needs. As Pranabir Singh, Director - Media (Offline/Online), DCMN India, puts it, “It is very important for this technology to be consumer-centric. It should help make people’s lives better rather than being a hindrance. Consumers’ wants, needs and convenience are of high importance here.” 

Voice still has to fill a lot of need gaps, especially in a country like India. With so many languages and dialects, Voice still needs to improve upon understanding and interacting in these languages, which will create a much bigger market for Voice UIs as well brands looking to cash in on this. 

Grapes Digital’s Arya remarks, “Voice as a technology is here. The more people use it, the more it will get refined along with growth in technology. A much more integrated and smarter ecosystem can be made as more people and brands use this technology and the devices learn more about these interactions.” 

Brands are adapting to it in various way. In 2018, Maruti Suzuki had a Voice-enabled chatbot for their expo, which had got tremendous response with people interacting with the chatbot. Google Assistant was used in the backend technology. Brands are very open to Voice bots, and backed by the technology of Google Assistant and Alexa, brands are very confident about it. 

This technology has massive implications for business operations, marketing, branding, sales, product distribution and more. 

Once the needs gaps are filled along with growth of technology, we can almost imagine a world like Marvel’s superhero, Iron Man, who interacts with his Voice AI Jarvis for all his needs in life. 

That is the future, where a Voice bot will be embedded in or accessible to every device or service you want to engage with and will instantly follow your orders. There might be no need to get out your phone or laptop to get something done and all you need to do is say what you need aloud.

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