Please turn your device

How COVID-19 is Rebooting Digital Voice Technology

Digital voice technology has been around for a long time but it just never caught on the way you would imagine it should. The idea of using speech to interact with tech on a daily basis sounds fantastic but despite the valiant efforts of the tech industry to provide this luxury, people don’t seem compelled or convinced to use it. Maybe a worldwide pandemic was the unfortunate push that digital voice technology always needed to come out of the shadows. 

Why Has Digital Voice Technology Failed to Deliver? 

Voice-activated systems have been in our lives for quite some time now with the most prominent examples being Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple’s Siri. Whilst tech giants have done everything in their power to perfect their offering, the reality is that it’s not there just yet. Problems with accents and how fast we deliver the spoken word, make the interaction between machine and human clunky and cumbersome. 

Apart from the tech itself, what has always been attached to digital voice technology is concerns about privacy. A recent Bloomberg article shed light to the fact that Amazon workers are listening to what you tell Alexa in order to improve the product. A Guardian article on a similar vein goes even deeper in exploring the dark side of voice assistant technology and giving us a better understanding as to why a great idea has never managed to translate in real life. 

And Then, There Was a Pandemic

Perception is reality. Once something or someone acquires a certain reputation, it’s hard to get rid of it no matter how much they try to change it. The same applies to digital voice technology. Billed as a flop, this specific type of tech would have to cover a lot of ground to fight and overcome the negativity and disinterest associated with it. Improving its ability to perform and perfecting its output would be the easy part for tech companies. Changing the perception about it would be a tall task though. Unless…

Unless a worldwide event did the dirty work for them. The Coronavirus pandemic might just be the kind of event that digital voice technology needed to change the prevailing perception about its usability. Social distancing, remote working and the purposeful decrease of physical interactions are all playing into the strengths of digital voice technology. What the pandemic has managed to do, is re-package and re-imagine the use of digital assistants. What was previously seen as a luxury, is now becoming a necessity and a way of life. Smart homes and weather commands on a smartphone will now take on a completely different identity as people will be incentivized to use the technology for their health and needs. 

Industries like hospitality might have to restructure their offering around digital voice technology. Walking into a hotel room in a post-COVID world, you’ll aim to have as little interaction with the space around you as possible. The fewer  the touchpoints for the consumer, the safer the experience. How do you achieve that? By implementing smart speakers and sensors that allow the customer to interact with the room using their voice instead of touch. 

The new reality is not a figment of the imagination but more of an educated guess. A new report from Juniper Research has found that consumers will interact with voice assistants on over 8.4 billion devices by 2024; overtaking the world’s population and growing 113% compared to the 4.2 billion devices expected to be in use by year end 2020. What will happen remains to be seen but what we can say with absolute certainty is that the tide has completely shifted and that digital voice technology is getting a fresh start and new momentum in the market.