It is clear that mobile is the future of tech. What isn’t so clear, though, is what form that technology will take. Aaron Shapiro, CEO of Huge, Inc., predicts that there will be less reliance on screens and more on speech. We recently discussed the rise of mobile messaging as a solution. Shapiro thinks digital communication is headed another direction.
Aaron Shapiro’s hypothesis is this:
“Once everyone gets their hands on an iPhone X, it won’t just mark the device’s 10th year of incremental evolution; it will also represent “peak iPhone”—the point at which it will never be more influential, ubiquitous, or dominant. Not long after the X makes its way onto the mass market, the iPhone will begin to make way for its little sister: the Apple Watch, a product that has been much maligned but little understood.”
Shapiro says the change will fundamentally rewire the way we think about marketing, experience design and the world around us over the next several years. He says the new Apple Watch’s LTE cellular connectivity make it the first truly credible post-phone internet device. We rely on our phones for playing music, texting, making phone calls, getting directions, or checking a fact on Wikipedia. The Apple Watch does it all, and without a phone screen.
Voice Interfaces Have Improved Drastically
Earlier this year, Google announced that its word error rate had fallen by more than 30 percent since 2012. IBM, a leader in AI & voice-recognition, said its word error rate recently dropped to 5.5 percent from 6.9 percent. This improvement will likely improve voice assistants, like Siri and Alexa, across the board.
For humans, the word error rate is about 5.1%. The tech companies, like Microsoft, IBM and Google are inching closer to that figure, but are still a ways off. The progress they are making though has ramped up of late.
Shawn DuBravac, chief economist for the Consumer Technology Associate, said, “We’ve seen more progress in this technology in the last 30 months than we saw in the last 30 years.”
Smart Home Devices’ Full-Capabilities Yet To Be Seen
Huge Inc. polled users of Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot, and Google Home. The three most common uses of the devices were playing music, checking the weather and finding out the news.
A key difference between voice controlled devices and devices with screens is the “presence” of options. On a screen, GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces) present users with their options and the users picks based on their needs. Companies using voice, like Amazon and Google, have yet to effectively show, or tell, users their options. This is a limiting factor for widespread adoption of the devices and the technology contained in them.
Voice Won’t Replace GUIs Anytime Soon
Des Traynor, Chief Strategy Officer at Intercom, weighed in on the issue on the Intercom Blog. He notes that it is rare that a technology will simply replace its predecessors.
“Voice won’t kill touchscreens. Touchscreens didn’t kill the mouse. The mouse didn’t kill the command line. Analysts yearn for a simple narrative where the birth of every new technology instantly heralds the death of the previous one, but interfaces are inherently multimodal. The more the merrier.
Every new technology starts in a new, under-served niche and slowly expands until it finds all the areas it’s best suited for. And voice has a great niche to start in…”
As Is True For Most Things: Context Is Key
Another valuable thought that Traynor explains, is the idea of “place-onas“. Canadian computer scientist, Bill Buxton explains that your location determines which technology you should use. Traynor provides these scenarios:
- In a library, wearing headphones: Hands free, eyes free, voice restricted, ears free
- Cooking: Hands dirty, eyes free, ears free, voice free
- Nightclub: Hands free, eyes free, ears busy (loud environment), voice busy (can’t be heard)
- Driving: Hands busy, eyes busy, ears free, voice free
These placeonas account for how users can realistically input and receive information. If users are going to do more than check the weather using voice interfaces, the devices must account for context. A key entry-point into users’ habits is the moment when other interfaces aren’t an option.
Limiters of Voice as User-Interface
Right now, most messaging solutions make users receive messages in the form they were sent. One user may be driving, while the other may be at a noisy restaurant, but they must agree on a single mode of conversation. In most cases, users must receive voice messages as voice messages and text messages as text messages. Communication must be translatable to and from voice to encourage more common use.
Advertisers Consider How To Use Voice
Voice isn’t the only platform advertisers should consider, but it’s something for brands to think about. More people using voice interfaces will completely change how content is used. As websites begin to see traffic from voice users, they will have to shift away from traditional practices. Companies that recently transformed their content strategy for mobile, may be well served by repeating the process for voice interfaces.
People often address new technology with skepticism, though later use the technology anyway. Advertisers are working to reach mobile users more effectively, but this may be a short-lived trend. Those who don’t make some effort to reach customers using voice interfaces risk being left behind.
While voice may seem like a long-shot for becoming a staple, just read these early reactions to the computer mouse. They may seem ridiculous now, but likely seemed rational at the time. What the mouse did to completely overhaul user interfaces was huge and its possible voice could provide the next big change.
Voice Is An Alternative To Visual Noise, Ironically
Advertisers that have difficulty reaching their customers via display ads could see benefit in voice advertising. Voice as an interface, by nature, maintains focus. Websites are cluttered with ads, multiple headlines, and tons of content. Voice, on the other hand, can really only address one topic at a time.
People already use it for quick searches of the web, and simple questions. As of mid-2016, 20% of Android searches were voice-based, and Apple’s Siri received 2 billion requests per week. Those numbers will continue to rise as voice assistants become more user-friendly. More use will improve confidence in the platform, however users are still unfamiliar with many of the technology’s capabilities.