Voice technology has come a long way since being an automated prompt. While Siri, Bixby and Amazon has given us AI assistants, businesses – such as Wynn Las Vegas and Capital One – are now using voice-enabled solutions.
Anyone can command a voice assistant. This gives voice technology a huge potential for a variety of applications. True enough, innovators, tech experts, and even marketers, are projected to re-shape the technology in different ways, giving rise to different trends.
The Pursuit for the Likeable AI Voice
Voice assistants are continuously being improved to sound more human. Communications-analytics company Quantified Communications found that Siri has a pitch that’s 21% lower than the average woman. It is believed that this setting sounds pleasing and reflects masculine qualities. In the attempt to become competitive, tech companies craft the pitch and tone of their voice assistants to appeal to listeners, which unfortunately end up perpetrating ingrained gender biases.
While a male voice would be a logical choice for [an] initial sales function, the complaint line might be ‘staffed’ by a female voice, because women are perceived as more emotionally responsive, people-oriented, understanding, cooperative and kind.
However, if the call center has a rigid policy of ‘no refunds, no returns,’ the interface would benefit from a male voice as females are harshly evaluated when they adopt a position of dominance.
Wired for Speech: How Voice Activates and Advances the Human–Computer Relationship by Clifford Nass and Scott Brave
The AI Voice May Transcend the Uncanny Valley
Artificial intelligence creates a lot of potential for voice technology as tech companies attempt to make conversations feel more realistic.
Lyrebird uses artificial intelligence to clone a voice. Deep learning algorithms disassemble, sort, and copy a recorded audio. This can be anyone from a street-talking millennial for a lifestyle brand to a British woman giving financial advice for a start-up company.
Typically a company wants us to create a high-quality voice that represents their brand
Co-founder Jose Sotelo in an interview with Wired
Amazon on the other hand, is trying to equip Alexa with emotional intelligence. Chief scientist Rohit Prasad and his team are analyzing users’ voice to recognize mood and emotional state. They hope that sometime in the future, Alexa can do the same without being told and provide the right pre-programmed response.
The Rise of Smarter Voice-enabled Technology
Aided by innovators and IOT, voice technology is being integrated into other essentials beyond the phone. According to Nielsen findings, 24% of US household own a smart home device.
Google, Amazon and Apple have partnered with different brands to integrate with their voice assistants. This includes the sous vid machine Precision Cooker that you can control from another room to make the perfect medium-rare rib eye steak. There’s a shopping-button helper called Hiku that helps you create a grocery list and check it against your local Walmart inventory. The Whirlpool stove has “scan-to-cook” features that can scan the barcode of a frozen meal and preheat it to the right temperature.
In the Philippines, Google Home and Amazon Echo are available, but it’s features are still limited because integration isn’t fully supported yet. So for now, you can’t order a smart speaker to order pizza.
A New Challenge in Data Security
Voice recognition has unwittingly lead to a new cyberthreat as tech companies personalize and humanize their products to increase usage.
Alexa recorded a private conversation of a family in Oregon and sent it to a contact in their address book. Users have also reported accidental orders made as smart speakers listened to their conversation. China found out that they can send commands to voice assistants that humans can’t hear.
Tech companies are still adapting to these security risks as voice technology is still in its infancy. For now, users need to keep in mind that they have smart speakers in their home.
The Integration of Advertising with Voice-activated Content
The evolution of voice technology opens a new medium for marketers. Voice assistants enable owners to execute a variety of tasks. These commands include voice search, where ads are built around content users frequently ask.
Google Home informed a user that Beauty and the Beast had opened in a local theater after its owner used the My Day feature. Amazon has already talked with major retail companies including Procter and Gamble for placing voice ads as a response to relevant user queries.
In five years’ time, at least 50% of all searches are going to be either through images or speech.
Andrew Ng, chief scientist at Baidu, in his September 2014 interview with Fast Company
Each of these trends lead to new challenges in the ICT industry. While the Philippines still has to catch up, local businesses can already take advantage of existing voice technology to engage customers.
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