Future Technological Advances in Voice Technology for Virtual Personal Assistants through Natural Language Processing 

Nowadays, thanks to natural language processing, virtual personal assistants can perform a variety of actions after hearing a wake word or a command. The action can be performed on the device itself, when we ask for setting an alarm, playing music from an app, setting up an appointment on the calendar, or it may need an Internet connection to communicate with the server and give us information taken from the web. 

Siri by Apple became the first virtual personal assistant available on a smartphone, when the iPhone 4s came out in 2011. Google Assistant on Android and Microsoft Cortana followed, respectively in 2012 and 2014. Then, the smart speakers came along, and “Alexa” and “Hey Google” became a part of many household conversations. Today, they are so integrated into our life that we refer them as “she” instead of “it”, considered their default somewhat female-sounding voices. 

But, at what point of future technological advances are we now and what is the perspective for the future?

Current Improvements in Voice Tech Solutions 

As mentioned before, voice assistants have already entered our lives and homes. However we just recently discovered the big impact that the voice tech solutions would have in cars. In the United States, around 77 million people already use voice assistants in cars every month, compared to the 45.7 million people using them at home, based on the survey from Voicebot.ai. There are three main reasons for this great market opportunity. Firstly, every family has at least one car and, mainly in big cities, they spend much time driving. Secondly, voice technology in cars is not as recent as in houses. And thirdly, because of driving prohibition, using voice in cars is much more practical than using touchscreens. 

Besides our private life, voice assistants have changed work environments: for instance, it is not practical for workers wearing thick gloves for safety reasons to type or push buttons on the screen, but voice technology could change their daily work by automating tasks. Personal virtual assistants are also extremely useful to companies that embrace the technology to perform a great variety of tasks during meetings. They can take notes, record action items, set meetings on calendars, and create to-do and follow-up lists. All of these actions save time and help people to be focused on the meeting itself.

Next Steps in Voice Tech Solutions

Voice assistants can “learn” new words and tasks thanks to machine learning. Developers are constantly creating new features and integrating them into our lives in order to automate tasks we do throughout the day. It is expected that voice assistants might get so smart that they will automatically order a pizza if we say that we are hungry. They will use existing data from your previous purchases to come to the conclusion that saying that you are hungry equals ordering a pizza. Many technologies, such as televisions, vending machines and refrigerators, will have their own voice assistants. Our grandchildren will probably not understand that there was a world where you could not talk to things. virtual-assistant

Everything will be so digitally connected that the virtual personal assistants will remind us, as we drive home, that we should stop for milk because there is no more left in the fridge. Once they have shown they are smart enough to be trusted with the little things, we will find ourselves entrusting them with more and more tasks of our lives. One interesting trend that is being developed is enhancing the ability to have a conversation with a voice assistant. Last year, Alexa released a follow-up mode wh ich allows the device to respond to multiple queries in a row, without having to repeat the command to wake it up. Google Assistant can now understand two different commands at the same time. It won’t be long before voice assistants can sustain much longer conversations with users, answering more follow-up questions and providing seemingly limitless information. However, these are just a few assumptions about how our lives will change in the future. As for the real results, we just need to wait and get amazed by what technology will be able to do.

If you are interested in this topic, feel free to share it on your social media. You can learn about what natural language processing can do on the a blog post written by Willem Beckmann.

Thank you for reading and we look forward to reading your comments below.

Written by Gabriella Stefano, TCLoc Master’s 

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