How voice technology is changing our world

The progress we are making toward ambient assistance and VSO with Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and more

Today, almost every person with a laptop or smartphone has had some sort of experience with voice technology. Maybe you used Siri to set your alarm last night or to request a certain song on your way to work. Or maybe you asked Cortana to remind you about an upcoming meeting.

Voice technology is slowly but surely transforming the ways we interact with our devices, enabling us to complete a number of different tasks, such as checking the weather or ordering a pizza, using just our voice.

Why now?

Voice is the original “user interface.” Most of us grew up learning how to communicate this way, making it the preferred method of communication because it is what we are most comfortable with. Now, we are finally circling back to voice after years of emails, IMs, texting, type-to-search, etc.

It seems to be the perfect storm for voice technology to take off. Speech recognition has finally reached 99% (compared to the rate at which humans understand each other’s words only being about 92%). Technology adoption rates are happening more rapidly compared to many years ago, and the voice tech industry is projected to quadruple in revenue by 2022. And finally, the world is fast approaching an “ecosystem of tech” where your phone, laptop, TV, car, and home devices can all communicate with each other within the Internet of Things.

Last month, the comms team here at CA had the chance to speak with Andrew Howlett of RAIN, a digital consulting firm that focuses on voice technology and AI. We discussed what is going on in the world of voice tech and what opportunities exist in this rapidly-growing industry.

What is Voice Search Optimization (VSO)?

One interesting example is Voice Search Optimization. Similar to SEO (search engine optimization), VSO is a process used to improve visibility and increase awareness of who we are and what we do. Companies can determine which category(ies) they want to own, and contribute useful, relevant content to drive VSO and ensure that they appear at the top of a search, so they are recommended by the voice assistant.

Say you are a busy parent who just moved to a new city and your child gets sick. Instead of spending time combing through thousands of search results of “best doctor near me”, you could ask your AI device “Where is the best place to take my sick child?” Rather than being provided with a laundry list of options, you will be given the name of the best-reviewed doctor in your area.

Businesses big and small are fighting to be that number-one ranked search result, whether it be for a doctor’s office or for a company like Apple who may want to be the answer to “What phone maker has the best customer support?” to improve awareness or to drive further business.

So why does this matter?

We are moving closer toward the idea of “ambient assistance” where smart devices are omnipresent and ready to help us with our needs and answer our questions. There are already systems in place to help with this “and…and…” thinking. Back to the original example of a busy parent with a sick child: once you get a recommendation for the best pediatric doctor nearby, you can receive driving directions on your phone and eventually will even be able to have a virtual assistant set up the appointment for you.

VSO is a way for companies to get involved in this seamless device integration, helping consumers to live their lives more efficiently while also gaining insight into user personality, which in turn provides more relevant content or products, ultimately improving revenue. If done correctly, both personal users and businesses will benefit from the power of voice tech.

Thinking bigger picture

There is an element of trust that plays into this too, and many companies are in the process of battling it out to be the smart device you choose to have in your home. Amazon currently leads the industry, maintaining over half of the revenue. Google owns about a quarter, and the combination of Apple, Sonos, and others make up the last 11% of the market.

As a consumer, you also need to trust that the results you receive from your AI-powered device are accurate and will allow for greater efficiency rather than causing a headache by giving you the name of the best doctor three towns over, requiring you to manually search yourself.

This trust component requires companies to now, more so than ever before, put the consumer first. They must think of ways to increase value and drive revenue, while also keeping the customer’s needs and wants at the forefront. Otherwise, their integration with voice tech and VSO will never be successful.

Bringing it all together

Voice technology is useful in so many ways. It can be used as a predictive tool to help you reorder household items with a simple voice command. It can allow you to order your usual Starbucks drink on your way to work through the voice AI system in your car. The opportunities for businesses are immense, but only if they can optimize for voice search and keep trust as the foundation.

The possibilities are endless, and this digital transformation has just begun.


Amanda Connor
Amanda is a rising junior at Wake Forest University, majoring in marketing and minoring in…

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