The world of voice
The story of Voice and Natural Language Processing began a long time ago in the traditional sense, right back in the 1960’s when IBM first began testing computers capabilities with Shoebox that recognised just 16 words, but the time that all of us are most interested in wasn’t until 2011 when IBM, once again, led the way with Watson winning Jeopardy and then Apple releasing Siri as the first mainstream Voice first Digital Assistant in their iPhones.
The medium came along fairly quickly from there with Google releasing Google Now in 2012 and Microsoft debuting Cortana in 2013 but it wasn’t until Amazon delivered the first Smart Speaker to their Prime members in 2014 that people really saw any day to day utility from them.
After Alexa was embedded in people’s homes all of the big technology players saw where Voice was going and why Digital Assistants were going to be the next big thing. People who had Alexa were more likely to rebuy their products from Amazon, there was less friction and in 2015 Amazon opened the Alexa Skills Kits to developers allowing for 3rd Parties to be accessed via Alexa powered speakers.
From these humble beginnings Digital Assistants are now all pervasive being found in Speakers, Smartphones, Cars, TVs, Headphones, Watches, Fridges and even Microwaves.
Right now in early 2019 Google Assistant can be found on close to 1 Billion devices globally, Siri can be found on 500 Million and Alexa is on 100 Million, these figures don’t include those that have Samsung’s Bixby Assistant, Alibaba’s TMall Genie or Xiaomi’s speakers.
Smart Speakers are already the fastest adopted product to date far exceeding the time it took for Mobile Phones, TV’s Radio or the Internet to be in most people’s homes in the US.
Voice is becoming a consumer expectation so brands need to be available and able to communicate with consumers via the medium of their choice. If a consumer asks their Smart Speaker or Digital Assistant for a Brand by name and they don’t have a custom made Voice enabled method of contact via that device then Amazon, Google and others will either reply with a Wikipedia answer or, worse yet, they may push the user to someone who does have one.
Lastly search engines have already started to alter their algorithms to take into account the medium that the user has started the interaction with. This means that if the user has chosen to “talk” to a Speaker or Assistant then they will return a result in the native environment. If Brands haven’t taken this into account then they will cease to even appear in some methods of search and as Voice Search grows to the projected 50% by 2020 then that’s a lot of lost opportunity for Brands and Companies to be discovered.
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