Voice control has hit mainstream and will continue to increase in popularity and so fundamentally impact our use of the internet and internet-connected devices. As a result brands, their online assets and digital marketing will have to adjust the way they work to capitalise on the magic of this new human/machine interface.
To make this really work there’s a number of other technologies that have had to develop simultaneously.
Firstly speech recognition has improved because machine learning is now a practical reality. Amazon’s Alexa has a far more limited remit than Siri but seems to be better at comprehension. The understanding of language has improved to the level that it matches humans in normal general speech.
Secondly, the Internet of Things has developed so we have a good number of physical things connected to the internet around our home and office. These products provide the magic which drives early adoption and sharing, vital if a technology is to reach mass adoption.
With keyboard entry, brevity and precision are important for an efficient search to deliver the appropriate results - with voice, search will be longer and free form. Results will need to be shorter and clearly selectable. With “No Graphical Interface” (NGI) systems, results will have to be clear and controllable by voice.
Brands and service companies will publish apps that are opened and operated by voice, these are called “Skills” by Amazon. Skills will be opened and interrogated by voice.
Voice assistants like Alexa will initially only be accessed from specialised physical devices and then via any internet microphone, in particular mobile phone. Whilst the price of these microphones will fall to as little as £5 the role for specialised access hardware is hard to sustain when everyone has intelligent internet access via mobile.
NGI and voice control will change the way web works, there’ll an expectation that a site or an app can understand voice interrogation and control in the same way children swipe TV screens in the complete expectation of a touch interface.
So, what to do now?
● Start experimenting and playing with this stuff. Buy an Echo or Echo dot, tie it to your Spotify account and have some fun impressing your friends and family.
● Start preparing for the coming change in interaction, think how voice would work with your site or app
● Build a Skill, just to test out the potential
● Play with natural language search terms and start optimising your web pages
● Do it now and steal a march on your competitors
Voice control is coming, it will be mainstream and it will change the internet, whilst not fundamental (like the mobile), it will change the way consumers interact and to ignore the implications would be a dangerous game to play.
By Ashley Bolser, managing director at Bolser Agency
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