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 either 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 a server and give 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. Then followed Google Assistant on Android and Microsoft Cortana, in 2012 and 2014. Finally, smart speakers came along, and “Alexa” and “Hey Google” became a part of many household conversations. They are so prevalent in our lives that we refer to them as “she” instead of “it”, due to their default somewhat female-sounding voices.
But at what point of future technological advances are we now? And what is the future going to look like?
Current Improvements in Voice Tech Solutions
Voice assistants have already entered our lives and homes. However, we just recently discovered the impact that voice tech solutions could have on cars. In the United States, around 77 million people already use voice assistants in their car every month, compared to the 45.7 million people using them at home, according to a 2019 survey from Voicebot.ai. There are three main reasons for this great market opportunity. First, every family owns at least one car and spend much time driving, especially in large cities. Moreover, voice technology in cars is not as recent as in houses. Finally, because of driving prohibition, using voice in cars is much more convenient than using touchscreens.
Besides our private life, voice assistants have transformed work environment. For instance, workers wearing thick gloves for safety reasons cannot easily type or push buttons on screens. Thus voice technology could change their daily work by automating tasks. Personal virtual assistants are also extremely useful to company meetings, during which they can perform a great variety of tasks. Indeed, 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 daily tasks. It is expected that voice assistants might get so smart that they will automatically order a pizza if we say that we are hungry. By using data from previous purchases they can 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 be familiar with a world where you could not talk to things.
Everything might be so digitally connected that 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 which 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. Soon voice assistants will be able to sustain much longer conversations, 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 see 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 with this blog post written by Willem Beckmann.
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Written by Gabriella Stefano, TCLoc Master’s