Amazon Alexa, the voice assistant of Amazon was everywhere on CES 2017.Integrated in cars, refrigerators, assistant devices and a lot more. An emerging trend which requires us to talk to devices. But are we actually going to talk to machines on a structural level?
The first sales forecasts of only the Amazon echo are good. The Google’s voice assistant also had significant sales numbers last Christmas. Google’s voice enabled devices go beyond only their Google home device. Their latest smartphones are enabled with the Google assistant and Google is integrating their assistant in TV’s. Apple’s Siri is installed on every Apple device and Microsoft Cortana is on every windows 10 machine. There is no doubt that the big tech companies want us to use these voice enabled devices. And sales number are promising, but sales numbers are not the same as numbers of actual usage. So, will we really be using them?
Sales numbers are not the same as numbers of actual usage
Obviously there are not a lot of numbers out there about actual numbers of voice commands for any of these devices. Microsoft reported that 100 million people used Cortana on Windows 10 to answer 8 billion questions. Not specifying how many of these were voice enabled and which where typed. In the meanwhile Google announced that they will add keyboard support for their Google assistant on their smartphones. This is an indication that Google thinks the usage of the smartphone assistant will increase with a keyboard function.
Google thinks the usage of the smartphone assistant will increase with a keyboard function
Probably yes. In certain circumstances. As Business Insider stated, people feel uncomfortable talking to devices. But there are also circumstances where we don’t feel uncomfortable. Usually being in an lone environment. In the car or at home. But once people are around us, we stop talking to devices. The feeling of uncomfort weighs in higher than the useful feeling of interacting and getting rewarded with the information you need. For now, because this might be a matter of generations. Kids seem to talk to voice assistants all the time.
At the moment two things undermine talking to devices. First the answers you get are the reward of your interactions. Once you overcome the uncomfort and you get a spot-on answer you feel rewarded and your uncomfort decreases. But if you don’t get the right answer, you don’t get rewarded for you uncomfortable action. This will enhance your uncomfort. This is an important issue for the adoption of voice enabled devices. They need to produce great answers in order to overcome the uncomfortable barrier.
If you don’t get the right answer, you don’t get rewarded for you uncomfortable action
The second reason why talking to devices needs time is that people are simply used to typing. Controlling devices and keyboards is so fast, that you can argue whether prompting a voice command is faster and easier than typing the question and finding the answer through a search engine or website. People tend to choose the faster and easier way of interaction. If typing is perceived as faster and easier, they may only use voice commands when they are unable to use their hands (e.g. driving, cooking, biking).
So, will we really talk to devices? It needs time. Answers of voice interactions need to increasingly be spot-on and more reliable. And generations to come will feel more comfortable. In the meanwhile people will (when being alone) enjoy talking to devices and feel rewarded by good answers.