The market for voice assistants and smart speakers continue to expand along with the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The full use and future development of AI is still to be known to us humans in the years to come. But for now, we continue to make the best use of it for our benefit. And of course, the more we use it, the better they get.
The smart speaker market has expanded from an estimated usage of 33.2 million devices in 2017 to 114 million installed devices in 2018. By the end of this year, the estimate is that it will reach 200 million. That’s an amazing growth of 82.4% and it’s unprecedented.
This growth trend is being observed not only by the manufacturers but also other businesses and personal users as well. Businesses look forward to improving the functionality of their office tasks with voice commands to boost productivity in the office. As sales personnel travel their routes, voice assistants help them to connect with their office as well as their web functions. This gives them access to their company’s site and its products available to the market.
The United States takes the lead with 42.2% smart speaker usage globally. Definitely they are early adopters, but there is a complication for international users. The myriad of varying accents internationally makes it complicated to use the voice assistants everywhere. These challenges are complex as there are so many languages as countries. We will explore this challenge of accents further.
Challenge of Accents
Most voice assistants are initially enabled for American English, but the various international accents cause a problem. Lots of work is being put into the efforts to get these assistants to understand multiple accents, but that is certainly a challenge. For people outside the US, the struggle is that they have grown up somewhere other than the United States. Users elsewhere find it frustrating as their rate of error is much higher, and cannot get their smart speakers to respond appropriately.
The problem is clearly understood and is being addressed by Google’s Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Sri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Samsung’s Bixby. Each manufacturer has recognized the problem and they’ve put sufficient focus on meeting this challenge. They have hired and incorporated a variety of people across the globe to do the research and do what is necessary to develop its international flexibility.
They are all on a quest to develop the AI further in a way that it will eventually be able to make all the adjustments necessary to understand any accent. They have understood that this is the wave of the future, and are clearly intent on riding that wave. That will be quite a feat, and maybe one day, Artificial Intelligence will develop and “learn” its way to mastery of all international accents. Once that happens, the possibilities are limitless for these voice assistants.
The abilities of AI have been expanded to include more than just smart speakers. This same technology is the regular feature of table top touch screen devices that look like tabs but with a different focus. They also show up in TVs, cars, mirrors, clocks, and on toilets. Get a load of that! Their presence will eventually be endless.
The full extent of the “omnipresence” is yet to be known, but it may be limitless. It’s the forward thinkers and the initial adopters who drive this trend. As AI is built into various devices, we begin to get the sense that it is literally limitless what will happen in the future. It will become such a part of our daily lives that we won’t even think of it anymore. But in some sense, this is already a reality. We use products regularly and only think later of the full extent and functionality and how AI has a role.
Generally all smart phones will feature one of the various options such as Google’s Assistant, Apple’s Sri, and Windows’ Cortana on Windows computers. The number of people actually putting this to use may vary according to which country they live in. Of course, the early adopters will take the first step, but people in countries outside the US will be at a disadvantage.
Voice assistants and voice activated device research and manufacturing is definitely dominated by tech companies from the US, but Asia is coming up. The boost in Asia is mostly through Alibaba’s Tmall Genie, Xiaomi’s XiaoAI and those of Baidu’s DuerOS. While the development is dominated by the US, the Asian impact must not be avoided. The population of Asia compared to the Western nations is astounding. If these companies are able to develop technology specific to Asia, the results could be amazing, considering the much higher buy-in that they would experience.
As researchers predict 8 billion voice assistants to be installed and in use by 2023, the implications for the international market is astounding. Of course, the number above does not imply the number of users. Obviously each user may have several devices, and it’s difficult to track the number of devices being used by each individual to estimate the actual coverage of the population.
One of the key takeaways for businesses is to begin incorporating voice search into their websites. The invariable increase in voice usage indicates that this is a must. Along with regular search engine optimization to ensure better search results, voice search will help to increase customer response with their websites.
Taking into account how people use voice search is important to determine how they would optimize their websites for voice queries. Questions asked by voice may be of different length and of varying types from text. These differences must be taken into account as they develop their site further from this perspective.
The current usage of voice assistants is primarily based on requests to play music and answering fun questions. Along with this, 30% of the customers also use it for shopping. That trend is significant as the initial interest in making the device work and having fun with it may have peaked. Now, people are moving on toward the next step to further uses.
Business owners have the option to get on the trajectory of movement towards shopping with voice assistants. They have the opportunity to capitalize on this and begin to revamp websites and apps to fit with the voice assistants. This begins with the type of questions that potential customers may have and ask to the voice assistant devices.
Voice assistants are increasingly being used by businesses for their daily tasks. Initiating phone calls, sending text messages, emails, and other communications have become a simple matter of a few words. It replaces a Dictaphone, notebook, and even a secretarial assistant who would send emails and messages.
Google, Amazon, Apple, and each of these manufacturers are scrambling to get things ready for businesses to use these smart devices. They are ever expanding the “skills” used by these smart voice devices to get more work done in the office. The manufacturers clearly recognize the limitless uses for businesses and they scramble to get things in order.
Getting businesses on board will be a vital part of their future. These manufacturers understand this challenge and look forward to further research and integration of business functions. Although similar functions can be used for home and business, it won’t be as simple. Businesses will need to integrate their website, inventory, and their entire client list as part of the process.
It’s quite productive for Amazon, Google, and other manufacturers of smart speakers to spread its wings and allow for third-party skills. This builds its capability much beyond its basic usage. Instead of only their group of technicians and thinkers putting their ideas together, they open up and allow for many others as well.
Each manufacturer has their own website dedicated to displaying a variety of commands that help boost productivity. Opening up various categories on their sites will present your with a wide array of commands.
The number of commands and processes can be quite surprising. It will be difficult to know where to begin, but that’s the best part: options. For new users, using such a list can be quite difficult, but once the users gets familiar with the usage, they can explore further.
In the home front, the most loved feature is the ability to control various devices in the home with your voice. Your smartphone or tablet can be used to set up the smart devices of your home and to integrate them together.
There are numerous customers focused on purchasing only smart devices for their home. This intentional focus makes it possible to integrate their entire home. The process is no longer as complicated as before.
It has become almost as easy as setting up your printer. Just search for all the smart devices in the setup. One by one, you’ll be able to add devices and integrate them all together. The apps will ask you for your location to determine various features that may be specific to your location as they connect to the web services.
Once this is completed, you set up nicknames for each item. Then, voice commands will be sufficient to put all your devices to work. The appropriate websites will give further instructions regarding the specific commands to operate the devices.
Turning lights on and off with various effects has been a favorite for many people. They enjoy the flexibility of sitting in any part of their home and just command the lights and the atmosphere of the home.
You have the same flexibility with your taste for music. Select your music provider in advance and get moving with your favorite genre. Of course, each manufacturer wants to get the piece of the action in this regard as they provide their own options for music.
Apple, Google, and Amazon each have their own music capability. Independent providers such as Spotify and others struggle to keep up and compete with these giants. But of course, each product manufacturer has to give the option for users to select their own music providers.
Home security is another huge benefit. From any enabled device, you’ll be able to monitor the security of your home. You can be practically anywhere in the world and have that functionality. You can see who is at the door, and who is walking on your property.
Although some users have complained that they are often disturbed with movements of small rodents, birds, or other movements that are not a concern. Till date, there is not much that can be done regarding this as all movement is monitored.
Smart homes, devices, and the future of smart assistants have created a new business model to drive profits beyond music streaming and audio content. There is also a developing trend towards healthcare, assisted living, government services and just about anything that is beneficial to the public.
Vendors have a great challenge before them as they develop products and processes for the new generation of users with varying tastes and interests. They won’t be satisfied with the general trend of controlling products in the home. They need that extra “Wow” effect for things to be appealing to them.
With the increased rate of change in the society, manufacturers have their job cut out for them as they continuously reinvent themselves for the never ending future.
Writer for Technology, Leadership, and Spirituality. Along with writing, Alexi is a pastor, and teacher who is passionately involved in raising up another generation of leaders. He is an avid reader focused on a variety of topics. He also blogs regularly on Leadership and Life on his own blog, barnabas.in.