Alexa, run my life: Gurus predict even smarter voice technology in 2018

As businesses keep pushing toward innovation that boosts consumer convenience — and applying bots and AI toward working on clients’ behalf — voice search and voice-activated technology is becoming increasingly important.

Pundits predict 2018 will be huge for advancement of the capabilities already popular within the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Already, says Google, some 20 to 25 percent of all mobile queries come from voice, while comScore predicts half of all searches will be made via voice tech by 2020.

“Voice engagement is the most likely scenario that will challenge the biggest players in search for supremacy,” predicts Industry Insights exec Duane Forrester in a recent SearchEngineLand.com interview. “It’s inevitable we’ll see new devices reach our shores next year, driving prices down and adoption up. Voice will conquer all.”

Other predictions of how bots, AI and voice technology will evolve over the coming year:

  • Much market expansion will come from voice technology built into devices such as TVs, washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, vacuums, smartphones, watches, thermostats and cars. “Simplicity and usability will be key to adoption and success,” writes Greg Sterling on SearchEngineLand.com. “But make no mistake; we are now living in an episode of ‘The Jetsons.’”
  • For many devices, keyboards, search boxes and browsers will become unnecessary as their function is replaced by the spoken word applied to AI.
  • By 2020, the average person will be having more conversations with bots than with their spouses, Gartner says.
  • Devices will increasingly understand everyday speech patterns instead of requiring a specific language. Comcast is already working to implement natural language processing and deep learning to help identify the intent behind customers’ questions. “Techniques that have produced spectacular progress in voice and image recognition, among other areas, may also help computers parse and generate language more effectively,” writes Will Knight in MIT Technology Review. “But the challenge is a formidable one given the complexity, subtlety and power of language. Don’t expect to get into deep and meaningful conversation with your smartphone for a while.”
  • Consumer-facing businesses in retail and financial services will increasingly build voice capabilities into their mobile apps.
  • Visual elements will be introduced into smart speakers; for example, ask Alexa where a certain movie is playing and she may display a video clip of the trailer or a map to the movie theater. Gartner believes that by 2021, early-adopter brands that redesign websites to support visual and voice search will see digital commerce revenue skyrocket 30 percent.
  • Previous optional marketing capabilities such as mobile friendliness and online security will no longer be optional.
  • More firms will need the services of digital knowledge managers who can learn about and optimize emerging technologies.

On SearchEngineLand.com, Eric Enge says much advancement in the coming years rests on the capabilities of Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.

“How quickly can the highly active use of personal assistants get to one billion users? That depends largely on how complete their service offerings become,” he speculates. “Each of the major players is doing everything they can to make their personal assistant offerings as comprehensive as they possibly can, and it’s this fact that creates new opportunities for all of us as digital marketers.”

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